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Rei Ayanami (綾波 レイ Ayanami Rei?) is a fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. She is the First Child (First Children in the Japanese version) and pilot of the Evangelion Unit 00.

At the beginning of the series, Rei is an enigmatic figure whose unusual behavior confounds her peers. As the series progresses, her personality evolves and she becomes more involved with the people around her, particularly her classmate and fellow Eva pilot Shinji Ikari. She is revealed to be a key factor in the events that conclude the storyline. Her role in this conclusion is not made clear in the TV series, but is one of the principal plot points of The End of Evangelion.

Background

No specific information is given about Rei's origin or heritage. Ritsuko Akagi states that Rei was born in a certain room deep in the lower levels of Nerv headquarters, but this is all that is explicitly revealed in the series about her creation.[1] The Red Cross Book stated that Rei was created from the "salvaged remains" of Yui Ikari after Yui's absorption into Unit 01 in 2004. The connection between Rei and Yui is implied a few times during the series. Gendo introduces Rei to the Nerv staff in 2010 as an "acquaintance's child" whom he is temporarily taking care of. In episode 21, Naoko Akagi says that Rei physically resembles Yui. The character model used in the 2010 scenes is based on development materials in which her age is only 4.[2]

Kaworu Nagisa cryptically mentions in their only conversation that she is "the same" as him.[3] This statement was expanded in the "director's cut" of the episode, in which Kaworu goes on to say that he and Rei are human vessels for the souls of Adam and Lilith, respectively. Later in the episode, she generates an external AT field which is as strong as Kaworu's. In a pseudo-hallucinatory scene in episode 25, "Gendo" tells "Rei" that the day of Third Impact is the day for which she was created. In The End of Evangelion, she plays an important role in Third Impact, although not in the fashion that was intended by Gendo.

Rei is shown spending unknown lengths of time in an LCL-filled tube underneath a structure resembling a giant brain in the Dummy System room, the reasons for which are not revealed. The circular wall of this room is originally depicted as being covered with DNA sequences, but near the end of the series, it is revealed to be an LCL-filled tank in which dozens of soulless clones of Rei are held. The clones are said by Ritsuko to be the cores of the dummy plugs; she also refers to them as "spare parts" and later as "vessels" for Rei. The movie pamphlet and volume 11 of the manga states she can be replaced entirely, with her soul being transferred to a new clone body every time she dies, although her memory becomes muddled with each transfer. Other supporting evidence in the anime include her earlier line that "if I die, I can be replaced."
File:Rei I.jpg

These different incarnations are commonly referred to as "Rei I," "Rei II," and "Rei III," after episodes and musical pieces with the same names. In episode 23, the controller that Ritsuko uses to destroy the clones lists numbered clones from "Rei 004" and upwards. Rei I was the very first clone. She was murdered by Naoko Akagi in 2010 (as shown in Episode 21). Rei II is the clone introduced in the first episode and who appears in most episodes of the series. She dies when she sacrifices herself and Unit 00 to destroy Armisael in episode 23.Rei III is the version seen from the second half of episode 23 through to The End of Evangelion.

In the final episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the audience is introduced to a pseudo-hallucinatory alternate reality, with a different Rei. This Rei's personality is completely different, and her behavior is more "normal" (for example, she shows embarrassment and anger when she thinks Shinji looked up her skirt, in stark contrast to her emotionless reaction to the incident with Shinji in episode 5). The Evangelion spin-off manga Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days is set in this alternate universe, and its version of Rei is a central character.

In The End of Evangelion, a shining figure of Rei is shown for a few frames looking down at Misato and Ritsuko moments before they die. These spectral images also appear over the corpses of the slain Nerv personnel.

Personality

"Whatever else, she needs to be painted in as a bitterly unhappy young girl with little sense of presence." Hideaki Anno, to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto on Rei's character design[4]

At the start of the series, Rei is socially withdrawn, seemingly emotionless, and rarely interacts with anyone, except for Gendo, to whom she initially displays loyalty but with whom she has a generally distant relationship. She lives by herself in a dull sparsely-furnished apartment in Tokyo-3. Toward the end of the series, Shinji comments that her apartment is very similar to the place where Ritsuko says Rei was born.

"An emotional change causes certain muscles in the face to tense, producing an "expression". Rei is expressionless but is it that she doesn't feel emotion, or that she is merely unable to express it?" Yoshiyuki Sadamoto on Rei [emphasis in original].[5]

As the series progresses, she begins to develop relationships with others and to show moments of genuine emotion,[6] to even become sad and cry.[7] Her English voice actor, Amanda Winn-Lee describes her saying, '"Rei is not totally devoid of personality, otherwise she would not be interesting." There is a small spark of humanity, but it is "clouded by this huge sense of negative self-worth and the realization that she is expendable." The joy of playing Rei is exploring that small spark.'[8] And also said: "I got into a weird mode - I can't describe it. It's a good thing I'm in a little padded room when I'm doing it because that's where she belongs.She knows she's expendable, but the thing is, she's still human so you can't do her totally catatonic."[9]

Alternate continuities

Rebuild of Evangelion

Main article: Rebuild of Evangelion

Currently, as far as Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone goes, Rei has not shown much change from her previous incarnation. The most drastic change is that when Shinji smiles at her after the battle with Ramiel, she does not see a flash of Gendo Ikari. In this version, at least, she is genuinely smiling at Shinji.

In Rebuild 2.0 her character begins to develop further and her relationship with Shinji is shown much more openly than in the original series. She attempts to host a dinner party for her fellow pilots and is shown to work very hard while preparing the food. During the climax she is devoured along with Unit-00 by Zeruel. When Unit-01 goes berserk, Shinji is shown forcing his way into the angel and pulling her out and the two embrace each other. At the end of the film, they are both trapped within Unit-01. In the preview of at the end of Evangelion 2.22, There are three child Rei's and one adult Rei in what appears to be a prison cell alongside Mari. The children appear to have pink eyes as opposed to the red of the older one.

Manga adaptation

In the manga adaptation, Rei appears to respond more readily to human contact than her anime version. Shinji's interactions with her are implied as the main reason of her change; by the time of the battle with the Angel Armisael, it is strongly hinted that Rei is in love with Shinji. Shinji reciprocates this affection to some degree, but is unsure of what he feels for Rei and where their relationship is going. In volume 9, he acknowledges that the gap between them has been considerably reduced since they first met; still, he hopes that this gap can be reduced further. Her desire to be recognized as a person, rather than as a "doll," puts her in some awkward, even dangerous situations. At one point, Ritsuko tries to strangle her when she talks back to the doctor.

In the battle against Armisael, when the Angel communicates with Rei, it attempts to make Rei believe that her soul is evil; that she does want Shinji for herself and is angry at Asuka for drawing Shinji's attention away. Rei denies this though and ,as in the anime, she self-destructs Unit 00 to destroy the Angel. However, it's hinted that the "new" Rei still has some residual memories as she wonders to herself why she is alive again after returning to her quarters.

Shinji Ikari Raising Project

In this series, Rei is a distant relative of Shinji's (from Yui's side of the family, in homage to the original). She's the first person the reader sees as she comes to Tokyo-3.

Here, she's portrayed as an intelligent girl (on par with Asuka in the series) and appears of having emotions,as opposed to her original counterpart, smiling a few times and become confused when Shinji becomes flustered after she asks him whether she looked good in a swimsuit. She even laughs in one instance at Shinji and Asuka's constant bickering and defended herself with "It just seemed amusing". However, due to her unhappy childhood, she's also somewhat cold to others. In another homage to the series, Shinji again sees her stepping out of the shower naked. This time, however, she gave the boy a cold smile before adding a tight slap which sent him to the floor.

Later on, her relationship with Shinji gradually warmed, which Asuka felt was a "threat" of sorts. Interestingly, she even invited the boy to shop for a swimsuit with her (for a beach outing), much to his embarrassment and even blushes slightly at the idea of him massaging oil onto her at the beach. She's also the first person shown in this series to wear a plug-suit.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days

In Angelic Days, Rei is a transfer student to Shinji's school. Her personality is notably very different from her incarnations in the anime, Sadamoto's adaption, and Shinji Ikari Raising Project, and mirrors the one she has in Girlfriend of Steel 2 and the alternate reality from the final episode of the original series. She is an easily excitable extrovert, but socially inept and unaware of everyday social conventions. She takes a liking to Shinji and confides her feelings in Asuka.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gakuen Datenroku

This version of Rei, while still distant, seems more expressive than other versions. She is a student at Shinji's school and is apparently his love interest. She leads a secret life, working as a "Shamash Guardian" for a group hidden in the school and dedicated to fighting against Angels. Rei wields the Lance of Longinus in combat. She has shown more emotion than most other versions of the character, such as shock at the discovery of Shinji's powers and boredom while reading a textbook. She is known in her class as being attractive but gloomy, and is also apparently very eccentric. She is very fond of a horse's head mask she had to wear for a Christmas pageant and was quite happy (in contrast to her usual personality) when she was allowed to keep it. She gets along with Asuka much better than in other versions, the latter part of Angelic Days notwithstanding.

Petit Eva: Evangelion@School

In Petit Eva: Evangelion@School, three different versions of Rei exist, and all live together as sisters. The three Rei sisters use a different numbering system. Rei I is the 'normal' Rei, shown in her standard school uniform. Rei II is the 'alternate reality' Rei, from Shinji's imagined world where Rei was a normal girl, shown in a different school uniform. Rei III is the 'child' Rei, basically the first Rei from the normal Evangelion universe prior to her death, who carries various toys and dolls. Rei I's personality is fairly distant, but responds more readily to everyone, especially Shinji. Rei II's personality is very excitable. Rei III is child-like, and cries when she does not get her way or is bullied.

Character notes

Like many of Evangelion's characters, Ayanami's surname comes from a Japanese WWII naval vessel, the Fubuki class destroyer Ayanami. The exact meaning of the name is intentionally unclear, but is supposedly a reference to the Sailor Moon character Rei Hino.[10] It is also notable that the Japanese word "rei" can mean "zero" (?) , as well as "spirit/ghost" (?),"cool/cold" (?), or "actor".

Reception

Frenchy Lunning has described Rei as being Shinji's anima.[11] Rei Ayanami's success as a character, according to Hiroki Azuma, became a catalyst in the anime industry to shift away from storytelling and towards depicting characters with moe-inspiring traits.[12][13] As Rei became a more prominent character among fans, she "changed the rules" governing what people regarded as moe-inspiring. The industry then created many characters which share her traits of pale skin, shortish bluish hair and a "quiet personality". Azuma regards Ruri Hoshino of Martian Successor Nadesico as being directly influenced by Rei.[14] IGN ranked Rei 10th in "Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time" with writer Chris Mackenzie noting Rei to be one of the most influential character in anime series, but he still commented that she was different from similar characters since "She's a mystery we never really solve, when you think about it."[15] She had the same place in Mania Entertainment's 10 Iconic Anime Heroines written by Thomas Zoth who commented on the large number of merchandising based on her and that she started "the moe boom in anime."[16] In the survey "friendship" developed by rankingjapan.com in which people had to choose what anime character they would like to have as a friend, Rei ranked 9th.[17] While reviewing the films Rebuild of Evangelion, writers from Anime News Network commented on Rei; while in the first title, Carlo Santos criticized that Rei's personality is the same as the one from the TV series, Justin Sevakis praised Rei's response to Shinji's kindness.[18][19]

Sadamoto's design of the three female leads created extremely high sales of merchandise. Figurines of a bandaged Rei "were the most popular, outselling all else".[20] Due to her popularity driving sales of merchandise, Rei was called the "Premium Girl" by the media.[21]) The June 2010 issue of Newtype Magazine ranked Rei #5 in its monthly top 10 character survey.

See also

Neon Genesis Evangelion

References

  1. "Rei III". Director: Hideaki Anno. Neon Genesis Evangelion. TV Tokyo. 13 March 1996. No. 23.
  2. Script error
  3. "The Beginning and the End, or "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"". Director: Hideaki Anno. Neon Genesis Evangelion. TV Tokyo. 13 March 1996. No. 24.
  4. pg 97 of Fujie 2004
  5. pg 165, afterword, of Neon Genesis Evangelion, volume 3
  6. "It began when the director told me, "It's not that she doesn't have emotion, but that she doesn't know what it is." His technical request was that I should read my lines as flat as possible. But she's obviously not a machine; she's a human being, flesh and blood." It's a huge difference between "not having emotion" and "not knowing emotion." After all, she could develop feelings, once she learned..." Quote from Megumi Hayashibara, in her "What I learned from meeting a girl who didn't know", 1996. Translated in Neon Genesis Evangelion, volume 3
  7. "No; Rei's beauty comes from the truth that she has feelings. When she cried, it meant the waters of the pool were coming out at last. The struggle to draw your feelings forth, the reconciliation between your surface and your death - that, I believe, is where we truly become alive, truly become human begins." Hayashibara, "What I learned from meeting a girl who didn't know." Ibid.
  8. "Meet the Voice of AD Vision: Amanda Winn". Ex.org. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  9. http://web.archive.org/web/20080617215942/www.fansview.com/080798h.htm
  10. "Evangelion character names". Translation of essay by Hideaki Anno about character name origins; includes a link to the original essay in Japanese. Retrieved August 19, 2007. 
  11. Lunning, Frenchy (2006) "Between the Child and the Mecha" Mechademia 2 p.281
  12. "ejcjs - Moe and the Potential of Fantasy in Post-Millennial Japan". Japanesestudies.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  13. Azuma, Hiroki. (2007) "The Animalization of Otaku Culture" Mechademia 2 175-188.
  14. Azuma, Hiroki. (2009) Otaku: Japan's Database Animals. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press pp. 48-52
  15. "Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time". IGN. 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  16. Zoth, Thomas (January 19, 2010). "10 Iconic Anime Heroines". Mania Entertainment. Retrieved January 22, 2010. 
  17. "Which Anime Character Do You Wish You Could Be Friends With?". Anime News Network. 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  18. Santos, Carlo (July 9, 2009). "Evangelion: 1.0.1 You Are [Not] Alone (dub version)". Anime News Network. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  19. Sevakis, Justin (November 24, 2009). "Evangelion: 2.0 You Can [Not] Advance". Anime News Network. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  20. "The release in October 1995 of Neon Genesis Evangelion on Japanese TV ignited a boom in merchandise unprecedented in a country already awash with such goods. As if overnight, well over 600 different items were made to commemorate the event. Figures were the most popular, with the inimitable bandaged Rei outselling all else. The Eva girls, kitted out in swimwear and striking suggestive poses, were, overall, a huge success, and things went a bit too far…" pg 126 of Fujie 2004. See also: "Arguably, it is because of Anno's dictates on design that few Evangelion toys were initially made. But figures of Rei, in all her bandaged beauty, sold like wild fire. This is probably the first and only example of an animated [mecha] series where reproductions of the human characters outsold those of the robots." pg 98.
  21. "Rei's popularity soared in Japan, with books featuring her image on the cover selling like hot cakes. She was christened by the media, "The girl who manipulates magazine sales at will", "The fastest route to the sold-out sign!" And even, "The Premium Girl."" pg 39 of Fujie 2004
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Unofficial Guide, by Kazuhisa Fujie and Martin Foster, 2004, ISBN 0-9745961-4-0
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