|It seems that Kaworu managed to stir up quite a bit
of controversy both in Japan and in English-speaking countries
in his short appearance. In fact, if you search around
the internet, you'll find many messages and pages devoted
to debating just one question: is he gay?
Why a controversy?
There are probably a thousand thought-provoking questions
to ask about the series, but questions about Kaworu's sexuality
keep popping up over and over again. For those experienced
in anime viewing, this may seem odd because there are gay
and "ambiguous" characters all over anime. Why should this
one character's sexuality be such a big deal?
The answer here has everything to do with context. Neon Genesis
Evangelion, on its surface, seems to be a typical shounen
"giant robot" anime, and many viewers took it to be one. As
such, they expected to see a lot of cool fighting, battles,
and other assorted violence, busty women, and not much else.
When it became apparent that Evangelion was something completely
different (and, in our opinion, something much better), it
made some people a little uncomfortable. Something that certainly
added to this discomfort was when Kaworu was introduced and
showed affection toward Shinji and told Shinji that he loved
him, and Shinji accepted and treasured those feelings. What's
more, Shinji showed the classic anime sign of romantic attraction/embarrassment
whenever Kaworu talked to him: blushing.
Well, a significant portion of the audience was very uncomfortable
about the male-male affection, and the fact that it wasn't
just treated as a joke or as a very minor part of the show.
Even more than that, there's still a fairly large stigma for
some people with being labeled as gay, or identifying with
a character who may not be heterosexual. So, there are a lot
of people out there who like Kaworu, or Shinji, or identify
with Shinji in some way, or just like the series, who argue
strenuously that there is absolutely no way that Kaworu is
gay and especially that there is no way that Shinji is gay.
On the other hand, there are those who feel that these clues
all point to something more than a just-friends feeling between
the two, or just like the idea of the two being together,
or want to expose the homophobia of those who want to "defend"
Kaworu and Shinji against "accusations" of being gay. So,
they argue just as strongly that Kaworu *is* gay, and probably
So, is he or isn't he?
Before even trying to address that question, let's address
a few common arguments that are made by those who try to find
an easy answer to this not-so-simple question:
"Kaworu's an angel, and angels have
no gender. Therefore, neither he nor Shinji can be gay because
they're not both male." This has also been presented as "Without
a gender, Kaworu can't have a sexuality."
People presumably are basing their idea of "angels" on standard
Christian interpretations of the term. In Christian mythos,
angels are usually thought of as genderless messengers from
Heaven. There are a couple of problems with equating Evangelion's
version of angels with the standard Christian conception of
them. First, although Evangelion certainly does use many Christian
symbols and some of its terminology, the series plays fast
and loose with these symbols and terms. To put it simply,
Evangelion is about as interested in "staying true" to Christian
mythos as Xena is in being faithful to Greek mythology.
Second, "angel" isn't even the term used in Japanese for the
Angels. The term used in Japanese is "shito," which is more
akin to disciple or follower. So, if you're going to draw
biblical parallels, it's probably more appropriate to draw
them between the Angels and Christ's disciples rather than
the Angels and biblical angels. To confuse matters slightly,
"Angel" is the term that Gainax wanted used in English translations,
so take that as you will.
Getting to what actually happens in the series, Kaworu is
definitely presented as being in a human male form. That's
all we really know. We don't know whether Angels have a gender
or not, but from the information about the amazing similarity
between their DNA and human DNA, it's fairly likely that they
share a lot of things with humans. Also, Kaworu appears to
be a human/angel hybrid, and there's no information that he's
ever been in another form, so it's likely that he is and always
has been basically male. Anime has a long history of playing
with gender, but there's no evidence that that's what's going
on in Kaworu's case.
"Kaworu only said that he 'liked'
Shinji, not loved him. So, it doesn't necessarily mean anything."
This one requires a bit of explanation. Most translations
have Kaworu saying that he "loves" Shinji, not "likes"
him. Strangely enough, AD Vision used two different translations
in their English adaptation. In their subtitled version, Kaworu
says "like," and in the English dubbed version,
he says "love." The Japanese word that is used here
is "suki," which can either mean, or just a liking
or fondness. However, based on the context of the statement
and the way that the word is usually used when referring to
other people, most people have chosen to translate it as "love."
(If you listen for it, "suki" is used very frequently
in other anime in declarations of love.)
Just before Kaworu tells Shinji that he loves him, he tells
him that he is deserving of "koui." This has been
mistakenly heard by many people (including yours truly) as
"koi," which is romantic love. However, in Japanese
scripts and transcriptions, the word clearly is "koui"
"Koui" means "good will" or "favor,"
so basically, in this line, Kaworu is just telling Shinji
that he deserves to be treated well.
"Kaworu and Shinji have a 'pure love,'
and injecting sexuality into their relationship is just wrong!"
I don't know what it is that makes people think that love
with sexual attraction is somehow "dirty," but it
seems to be a fairly common belief. I think that it has more
to do with homophobia than anything else, as no one says the
same sort of thing about male-female relationships. Also,
the whole idea of a "pure" love is pretty silly. Love and
sex are tied up with each other so tightly that an effort
to separate them is impossible.
"In Japan, close male-male friendships
are more common than in Western countries, and they were only
intended to have a friendship."
Well, Kaworu's actions make this option fairly unlikely,
and Shinji's embarrassed, romantic-attraction-like reaction
makes it pretty obvious that there's something more going
on than friendship. Also, the creators fully realized that
they were creating a character that would be seen as gay when
they created Kaworu. In the Evangelion sound drama on the
Evangelion addition cd, Asuka refers to Kaworu as "homo."
Charming, eh? I guess it's just supposed to be Asuka "calling
'em like she sees 'em." Although the sound drama is certainly
not a part of the main Evangelion story, it is a window into
how the creators perceived the characters.
"But Shinji is attracted to women!"
Surprisingly enough, it is possible to be attracted to both
men and women.
"Kaworu is just really naive and he
doesn't know what his actions mean."
Love is love. You don't need an incredible amount of life
experience to fall in love. Also, Kaworu's philosophical conversations
seem to indicate someone who is anything but naive.
So, is he or isn't he?
Ah, yes, there is that question to answer, isn't there?
To put it simply, who knows? Here are the facts: Kaworu loved
Shinji, and told him so. Shinji treasured those feelings of
love, and seemed to return at least some of those feelings.
Does that make Kaworu gay? Does that make Shinji gay? Does
it really matter? Decide for yourself. If you're out to "prove"
things one way or another, you're not going to be able to.
Essays and discussions on the controversy
As was mentioned above, plenty of other people have written
essays and engaged in discussions on this subject. Linking
here is in no way an endorsement of any of the viewpoints
presented in these essays and discussions. If you have an
uncontrollable urge to debate with someone about this, feel
free to go to one of the discussion boards below and write
your heart out.