Hindsight brings a whole other perspective to Evangelion. To this day, conversations on the series brings up many different opinions among anime fans. I think it's true that Evangelion overstepped its bounds with breaking some of them down (poor Asuka), but at the same time it explored them in ways that had never really been done before. Love them or hate them, the cast of Evangelion had a huge impact on anime. Some characters would move beyond simple popularity. Rei Ayanami became one of the most influential characters in anime as a prototype in what would eventually become known as "moe", while Gendo Ikari's stone cold gaze through his glasses behind his interlocked fingers has become an iconic image.
Rei is the first Evangelion pilot and has been with the program since the early test phases. Due to serious injuries sustained during one of the tests, and mental instabilities caused when she synchronizes with an Eva, Shinji is chosen to pilot Unit 1. Rei is much like a doll. She never smiles, has no interest in what others think, is aloof, yet always does as she is told. The only person close to Rei is Gendo Ikari, and he's the only person to get her to smile. While Rei lives a sparse life, she starts to question her existence. Her past is the key to not only her existence, but may play a part in the future of mankind.
Asuka is 1/4 German and chosen as the pilot for Unit 2 which was constructed in Germany. While fluent in Japanese, she reverts to German when frustrated. She's an outgoing, confident girl with a bossy personality. Asuka is a classic over achiever. She excels in everything she does, but only does so for the praise of others. As her self worth is so tightly linked to being "the best", her world starts to crumble with any failure or when she can't outdo others. When Asuka ends up staying with Misato and living around Shinji, teenage hormones also start causing her troubles (but more so for him).
Much of Evangelion revolves around Shinji Ikari. One of the things which makes this series do different, is the extent which his character is explored. Shinji is often depressed, not assertive, and gets through life by doing what he is told. This is a big part of why he decided to pilot Evangelion Unit 1. Even with the stress of being an Eva pilot, he continues because people tell him to do so. Shinji ends up living with Misato, but their relationship is a bit awkward. The two form a bond, but are kept at a distance by the nature of their jobs. Misato's frank handling of Shinji's problems cause him to re-evaluate many things in his life once he can no longer run away from them. Much of Evangelion deals with Shinji coming out of his shell and moving into adulthood. And man, what a stressful way to do it.
Information pending. Meganekko inbound. Moe troupe launch!
Misato is the field commander of NERV in charge of coordinating all operations for defeating the angels. When Misato is in command, she is collected, resourceful and will kick the ass of anyone or anything that gets in her way. When not in charge of saving all of humanity, Misato has a cheerful carefree personality. She's single, she's hot, and she's got a career that seems to be keeping her single. Her home life seems to be an extension of her college days with junk and clothing strewn out everywhere. Her diet consists of beer, instant food, snacks and more beer. Misato decides to become Shinji's guardian to better keep an eye on him. She doesn't exactly act like a mother towards him, nor is she like a big sister either. Despite intentionally distancing herself from him, the two become a family of sorts. Things get interesting when old flame Kaji shows up out of nowhere. Their relationship is complicated, and while Misato puts up a good front, it's obvious that she still feels something for him.
Gendo is the Chief Commander of NERV. What the public is told, is that NERV is an organization which will prevent the third impact and that they are needed to fight off the angels. The secret goal behind NERV is that it will carry out the will of the instrumentality project, and guide the evolution of mankind. The true intent of Gendo Ikari is something else however, and professor Fiyutsuki is probably the only other person who really knows what that is. It is clear that he's a man driven to the point of zealotry in order to see his vision come to fruition. Gendo is cold and emotionless, only using people as tools to attain his goals. This also includes his son Shinji. Rei is the only person he shows any humanity towards, although the nature of their relationship is unclear. In his past Gendo seemed to be a different person when he met Shinji's mother. Her death caused a complete transformation in his personality.
Ritsuko is the head scientist in charge of Evangelion development. She has a brilliant mind and is always cool and composed under pressure. She and Misato go way back to their college days, and they've been friends ever since. Her interest in NERV comes from her natural scientific curiosity and she doesn't appear to agree with what the organization does, but doesn't seem to care either. Her mother was responsible for the development of the Magi super computers which govern Tokyo-3, with her mothers mind imprinted on the systems. While no longer alive, Ritsuko thinks of the Magi as being a part of who her mother once was.
Kaji comes to NERV along with Asuka (who has a huge crush on him). He also brings the life form known as "Adam" to NERV headquarters. As it turns out he attended college with Misato and Ritsuko, and they were all good friends. In fact he and Misato dated for a long time. Despite many years apart, their romance rekindles quickly. Things get complicated however as Kaji knows a lot about the true purpose of NERV, and is also a spy for the Japanese government. Kaji gets himself caught in a game that becomes more and more dangerous, and while Misato starts to suspect he's not forthcoming with his true intentions. The bigger problem is if NERV will finally consider him too troublesome to have around and dispose of him.
Touji is another student at the same school as Shinji, and also a friend of the more geeky Kensuke. Touji's sister was injured during Shinji's first battle with an angel, and he harbors a grudge against him. After seeing first hand the kind of grueling tasks and high pressure of being an Eva pilot, changes his mind about Shinji, and both he and Kensuke include them in their group. Touji is a typical jock type of guy noted for having more brawn than brains and acting before he he thinks.