Misato Katsuragi’s role within Neon Genesis Evangelion goes further than simply being another NERV worker. She was integral in Shinji, Asuka, Rei, Ritsuko, and Ryoji’s lives and character development.
Within the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, Misato was equal parts Operations Director at NERV, caretaker to Shinji, Asuka and Rei, friend and coworker to Ritsuko, and co-investigator and lover to Ryoji. On a general level, she was a messy but functional responsible adult who was incredible at her job despite her personal trauma as well as the young pilots' own trauma bubbling on a subconscious level. Here's the impact she had on the lives around her in the original series.
Misato Helped Shinji Ikari's Confidence Grow
Within her first few minutes of meeting Shinji in Evangelion, Misato covered him with her body to protect him from a landmine explosion. She constantly worried about Shinji’s mental, physical, and emotional health and acted as his guardian. This appeared to initially be motivated by her work but grew into genuine care over time. Misato took it upon herself to bring Shinji into her home and tried her best to provide a level of normalcy and comfort despite the rigorous tasks placed on him during work.
Shinji’s Hedgehog Dilemma wouldn’t have been able to move forward or be processed without her actions, while she also attempted to build his self-confidence and believed in him as an Eva pilot. Misato constantly pushed Shinji to move forward and not run away -- especially when it came to his relationship with his father. It was believed that her physical presence brought Shinji back when his consciousness separated from his body.
Misato Tried to Protect Rei Ayanami From the Worst
As with the rest of the Eva pilots in Evangelion, Misato’s genuine care for their safety and wellbeing translated to Rei as well. While her relationship with Rei was not as strong as with Shinji and Asuka, Misato expressed concern for her and hesitated to put her in harm’s way, especially if her body wasn’t fully recovered. Her frustrations were the loudest when Rei’s Eva was destroyed, taking an Angel with it.
Misato also objected to the multiple Reis making up the Dummy System. As Rei’s physical body could be seen as expendable, Misato was the only person of authority who truly cared for her safety. One could argue Commander Ikari did as well but in a secondary manner, and he looked upon the third version of Rei all the same. Misato, however, viewed Rei as a person and human being.
Misato Gave Asuka Langley the Boundaries She Needed
Misato believed in Asuka’s ability as an Eva pilot and pushed her potential despite Asuka’s tantrums, making a point to not judge her based on her past and only dealing with what Asuka was facing in the moment. She set boundaries for Asuka in the ways of being a woman and tried to not let her mature in that aspect too quickly considering her age.
Misato went so far as to crush Asuka’s romantic fantasies, but without disrespecting her outright. After Asuka’s mind was violated by an Angel, Misato was unable to help as she was grappling with the loss of Ryoji’s presence in her life.
Misato Gave Ritsuko Akagi Balance
Ritsuko shared her personal and professional feelings about her mother during a time of crisis with Misato. If Misato hadn’t been a steady and safe friend, the true nature of Magi would have never been revealed. While Ritsuko did find Misato to be immature and could easily get under her skin, both parties had the utmost respect for one another’s work.
Misato’s lighter nature did well to balance Ritsuko’s more logical and scientific approaches but they constantly clashed as secrets and fears became too big to contain. Ritsuko found it necessary to share the truth about Rei and the Evas while revealing her own tragic mindset to Misato and Shinji.
Misato Brought Out the Softer Side of Ryoji Kaji
Ryoji’s love for Misato was always forward and genuine. He easily got under her skin and was the most unpredictable part of her life in Evangelion. They shared their information while investigating the truth and despite the constant annoyance of his presence, they rekindled their love after years apart. It is unclear if the timing was relevant to his triple agent work or if he was trying to save her from herself, but she was the last person he attempted to communicate with via voicemail prior to being killed.
That last message from Ryoji contained his final wishes, showing his affection by asking her to take care of the plants he'd been growing and promising he’d say the words he couldn’t eight years ago. It also further instilled Misato’s motivation to continue the investigation.