One reason for the widespread appeal of anime is the medium's ability to tell such uniquely innovative and original stories. Neon Genesis Evangelion is a perfect example of this. This series blends the mecha genre with Abrahamic mysticism and a coming-of-age drama set in the aftermath of a nearly-averted apocalypse. The story's protagonist is Shinji Ikari, one of three children who piloted giant mechs called Evangelions (or EVAs) to protect Earth from the Angels attacking it. In this anime where Angels set out to destroy humankind, one of the more destructive characters is actually a red-headed teenage girl, the second EVA pilot, Asuka Soryu.
Evangelion has a reputation for advancing as many uncomfortably regressive ideas as nuanced progressive ones, and among the critiques of the series has been its portrayal of women. It definitely feels harsh to lambast a 14-year-old girl for her actions. However, whether because of her emotional immaturity or other reasons, Asuka has done some things which are pretty reprehensible.
10 First Impressions
There is a saying that first impressions are last impressions. As Evangelion's story took place almost exclusively in Japan, the Japanese characters were the first ones introduced to audiences. The first EVA pilot Rei Ayanami and the third EVA pilot Shinji Ikari featured heavily in early episodes. As the Second Child, Asuka did not appear until the eighth episode of the original anime due to the fact that she grew up in Germany.
When Shinji and two of his friends were being shown a military fleet by his boss and guardian, Misato Katsuragi, there was a strong sea breeze that gave them an unintended glance up a girl's skirt on the boat. That girl was Asuka. She slapped all three of the boys. Since none of the boys could not control the weather, this was definitely an overreaction--the first of many.
9 She Led Shinji On
Part of being a teenager is exploring new emotional and physical feelings, figuring out love, intimacy, and human relationships. Unfortunately, before one emotionally matures, their immaturity is a big part of how they treat their partners. So it was that Asuka's mistreatment of Shinji was a clear example of leading on a guy and then treating his heart like a punching bag.
Asuka tried several times throughout the series to get Shinji's attention, describing her erogenous zones in lurid detail and once forcing a kiss while asphyxiating him. For her to be unsure about how to approach romance would be understandable, as would waffling on her feelings for him. However, she also ridiculed him any time he even vaguely indicated having feelings of any kind. Shinji did not handle this well, and after being repeatedly traumatized, he in turn did something far worse to her in The End of Evangelion.
8 Gaslighting Shinji
Shinji's mental stability was shaky from the beginning of the show. By the end of the series, he became completely shellshocked after repeated emotional abuse from his father and the loss of pretty much everyone he loved while working as a child soldier for the government organization NERV. But among the many people who messed with Shinji's head throughout the series was Asuka.
In the episode "Mind, Matching, Moment," Asuka slept beside Shinji, then rolled close against him. Unused to being so close to a girl, Shinji leant in and almost kissed her while she slept (a serious breach of trust!). Later, Asuka revealed that she was only pretending to sleep and knew he tried to kiss her the previous night.
7 Broken Hospitality
Shortly after Asuka arrived in Japan, she moved into Misato's apartment. As one of the authority figures at NERV, Misato was Asuka's boss who gave orders to her in the field. She also was Shinji's guardian and allowed him to live with her as well.
Asuka showed her lack of gratitude by being rude to Shinji and lying to him about his having been kicked out of the apartment and fired from NERV. She also repeatedly criticized everything from Japanese apartment layouts to Misato's personal habits--not exactly good behavior for a guest living in someone else's home.
6 Her Anti-Japanese Racism
Culture shock is a real phenomenon and it can't be easy for a teenager like Asuka to have moved from Germany to Japan. That said, how she expressed the strain of adapting to a new culture often took on aspects of anti-Japanese racism.
When Shinji was feeling nervous about meeting his emotionally distant father, she criticized his behavior as being too Japanese. When she moved into Misato's apartment, she called Japanese homes tiny crawl spaces incapable of holding all her stuff. She also said that Japanese sliding doors were an indication that Japanese people had no sense of privacy. Overhearing this, Misato tactfully responded that the doors were fine since Japanese people tried to behave with perception and consideration for others--traits Asuka definitely lacked.
5 "Idiot Shinji"
Asuka regularly criticized, well...pretty much everybody. But the person who got the brunt of her verbal onslaughts was Shinji. She attacked his manhood (or lack of it), his emotional sensitivity, and (perhaps most common) his intelligence, referring to him as an idiot or stupid so often that "Idiot Shinji" might as well have been her nickname for him.
Asuka's hostile treatment of other characters is a character flaw unique among the main cast, and her mistreatment of Shinji is downright hostile. Plainly put, between her words and how frequently she hit people, she was an abuser and Shinji was her main victim.
4 She Attempted To Seduce Kaji
Asuka had a massive crush on Ryoji Kaji, an adult who worked at NERV and helped supervise her move from Germany to Japan. Kaji was a bit of a player, being romantically involved with Misato while flirting relentlessly with her friend (and NERV's top scientist) Ritsuko Akagi. Kaji might have been a womanizer, but he had no interest in teenage girls.
Nevertheless, Asuka flirted incessantly with the older man. She constantly tried to seduce him and was infuriated when he pursued his relationship with Misato. To get Kaji's attention, she even left him a voicemail in which she screamed a false accusation of being sexually assaulted by a boy at her school, potentially ruining the life of an innocent classmate!
3 She Disobeyed Direct Orders
Following orders is an essential part of any military operation. As EVA pilots, the three children who worked for NERV were child soldiers fighting to save the planet. If a soldier disobeys direct orders in a conflict between human nations, the cost frequently is the needless loss of human lives. Failure to follow an order given by the higher-ups at NERV could have resulted in the loss of all life.
When an Angel attacked shortly after Asuka arrived in Japan, she and Shinji were ordered by Misato to attack one after the other to defeat it. Determined to win all the glory, Asuka deviated from the plan. The result was that she split the Angel into two separate entities, making it twice as dangerous.
2 She Stole An EVA
When Asuka was moving to Japan, she was transported along with her Unit 02 EVA by a carrier fleet. The fleet was attacked by an Angel while on the high seas. Not waiting for direct orders, Asuka kidnapped Shinji and stole her EVA unit to fight the Angel.
In the end, she was able to defeat the Angel. However, stealing one of the most precious weapons on the planet--an item on which all of humanity's hopes for survival hinge--is more than just a reckless teenage stunt. Furthermore, endangering a second EVA pilot's life by abducting Shinji meant that two-thirds of humanity's defenders could have been lost.
1 She Helped The Angels
Asuka's brash reckless antics repeatedly hurt the people she cared about, but as an EVA pilot, her actions had such high stakes that they could have eventually triggered armageddon. After a while, one might wonder whether she was on the side of humanity of the Angels.
Of course, she was just a kid, incapable of handling the pressure of all that was demanded of her. That still was no comfort to the lives lost by her recklessness. As stated before, when she disobeyed direct orders, she made one of the Angels twice as dangerous. During the events of The End of Evangelion, she accidentally helped the Angels again. This time it was not her recklessness that did it. Rather, she did something all too human: she lost a fight. That alone allowed the group SEELE to use their own Evangelion units to kill off all of humanity, fulfilling the Angels' objective.