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|“||You won't die because I will protect you||”|
Rei Ayanami (綾波 レイ, "Ayanami Rei") is a fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise. She is the First Child, (referred as the First Children in the Japanese version), the pilot of Evangelion Unit-00 and one of the central characters.
At the beginning of the series, little is known about Rei and her stoic personality puzzles 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. In the concluding events of the storyline, the audience learns that Rei's mysterious origins tie into the story's resolution. 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.
- 1 Appearance
- 2 Background
- 3 Personality
- 4 Appearances
- 5 Character notes
- 6 Reception
- 7 See also
- 8 References
Appearance[edit | edit source]
Rei has short pale blue hair with bangs centered to the middle and has red eyes. At the beginning of the series, she would wear bandages such as her arm and her eye one. She wears the same school uniform but wears white loafers instead, and black ankle socks.
Her plugsuit is mostly white, with black, red, and dark green accents stylized in most places of her plugsuit. She sometimes wears other plugsuits. In 3.0, she is given a new grey plugsuit for her newly-assigned Eva unit: Mark 09.
Background[edit | edit source]
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. 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.
Kaworu Nagisa cryptically mentions in their only conversation that she is "the same" as him. 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 A.T. 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 the 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 state that 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 includes her earlier line that "if I die, I can be replaced."
While they are the same character, 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 incarnation and was murdered by Naoko Akagi in 2010 (as shown in Episode 21). Rei II is introduced in the first episode and appears in the most episodes of the incarnations. She dies when she sacrifices herself and Unit-00 to destroy Armisael in episode 23. Rei III is 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. Here 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 05). 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. During Third Impact, multiple Reis appear in the NERV control room, seemingly apparitions created by Lilith. She also briefly watches over Shinji and Asuka in the final scene of the movie.
Personality[edit | edit source]
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].
As the series progresses, she begins to develop relationships with others and to show moments of genuine emotion, to even become sad and cry. 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.' 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."
Appearances[edit | edit source]
Rebuild of Evangelion[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Rebuild of Evangelion
In Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, Rei did not show much change from her previous incarnation. However, her relationship with Gendo seems to be closer than in NGE as Shinji sees Rei and Gendo chatting happily from his Eva. The most drastic change was that when Shinji smiled at her after the battle with Ramiel, she did not see a flash of Gendo Ikari. In this version, at least, she is genuinely smiling at Shinji.
In Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, 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 Shinji and his Father and is shown to work very hard while preparing the food, she is seen having multiple (bandaged) knife cuts on her fingers. During the climax, she is devoured along with Unit-00 by Zeruel after her attempt to kill the Angel with N² Missile.
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 at the end of Evangelion 2.22, there are three child Reis 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 purple of the older one.
The Rei that appears in the first two movies does not return in Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, instead being replaced by a clone from the Ayanami Series, mostly referred as Rei Ayanami (tentative name) (アヤナミレイ(仮称)). This Rei is very different from Rei Ayanami in the two previous movies, as well as the original. She is mostly seen wearing a grey plugsuit for Mark 09. Her hair is slightly longer, and her facial expression looks more inexpressive. "Rei" is neither emotional, nor does she remember her past self, like her interests or the people she have met before. The only thing she does is to carry out orders from Gendo Ikari. Her emotionless personality annoys Asuka, and devastates Shinji, causing the latter to suffer a mental breakdown. Rei starts feeling doubtful about her condition and wonders about the original Rei when she fails to regain control of the puppeted Mark 09.
In Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time, the new Rei clone arrives with Shinji and Asuka at the survivor's village. She slowly adjusts to village life, assisted primarily by Hikari Horaki, whom together with Tōji Suzuhara call her "lookalike", realizing she is not the same Rei they knew. She expresses curiosity at her daughter Tsubame Suzuhara, and exhibits an almost child-like behaviour of sheer wonder. Rei settles as a farmer and goes to school, befriending the children of the village, as she starts to learn to socialize and finds her own individuality, distinct from the earlier Rei, and finds purpose in her life. Asuka maintains antipathy at her when she asks about Shinji's whereabouts. She goes to meet him, but he remains despondent and guilty over not saving the original Rei. Rei keeps trying to find her own individuality, and tries on new clothes, and wants a proper name for herself. At Shinji's suggestions, she settles on simply "Ayanami". However, Rei cannot maintain her form without constant exposure to LCL, and decomposes in front of Shinji, further motivating his determination to take responsibility.
In the final battle against Nerv, Shinji finds the original Rei clone inside Unit-01, now with long hair. Rei apologizes that she was not able to make it so that he wouldn't have to get into a Eva again, but Shinji tells her it's alright and that he'll take care of the rest. During Instrumentality, there is a flashback to Gendo and Yui Ikari talking to each other, and reflecting on how, if they had a daughter, she'd be named Rei. Rei talks with Shinji and accepts going to the survivor's village as a new place to be happy, freeing herself from her dependency on Eva and Shinji. At the ending, Rei and Kaworu are seen as adults talking to each other.
Manga adaptation[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Neon Genesis Evangelion (manga)
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. 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.
Sadamoto claims, however, that no character was able to connect fully with Shinji. Sadamoto also claims Asuka would be Shinji's symbol for his longing for the opposite sex, differently from Rei's "motherly" existence.
Neon Genesis Evangelion: ANIMA[edit | edit source]
In Neon Genesis Evangelion: ANIMA, the third Rei from the anime is present. She is also sometimes called "Rei No. Trois" ("trois" being French for "three") and is able to link to the other Reis, Quatre, Cinq and Six, via mental link. This however put a lot of strain on her and therefore, her vital data has to be regularly analyzed by Magi.
Now that she is 17, she more and more resembles Yui Ikari. Because of that, she tries to stay distant with Shinji: she fears that she may become Yui herself. This fear is accentuated by the fact that she lost Gendo when the Instrumentality Project was interrupted.
The second Rei is also mentioned, designated as "No. Deux" ("deux" being French for "two").
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Neon Genesis Evangelion: 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 expresses emotions, as opposed to her original counterpart, smiling a few times and even becoming 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 smiled coldly at Shinji before slapping him 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[edit | edit source]
- Main article: 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[edit | edit source]
- Main article: 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. In the final volume, Rei is revealed to be a clone of Yui Ikari, meant to take her place in the Tree of Yggdrasil, an artifact that keeps reality from collapsing. After befriending Shinji, she chooses not to go along with Gendo's plans, resulting in him angrily shooting her. In the final chapter, she is revealed to have survived her wounds and is now shown attending school alongside Shinji and Asuka, who have returned to normal lives following Gendo's death and the defeat of the Angels. She gets along with Asuka much better than in other versions, the latter part of Angelic Days notwithstanding.
Petit Eva: Evangelion@School[edit | edit source]
- Main article: 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 childlike, and cries when she does not get her way or is bullied.
In Other Media[edit | edit source]
- In the 2007 anime Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, Rei, alongside Asuka, as well other female characters from other Gainax works, appear in episode 6, dressed in bunny outfits working in a bathhouse. However, it is revealed by the end of the episode that those girls were instead beastmen in disguise.
- Other characters include Mahoro from Mahoromatic, Nono, and Lal'c from Diebuster.
- Rei makes a cameo appearance alongside Asuka, Kaworu and Shinji in the fifth chapter of Marvel's Edge of Spider-Verse storyline.
Character notes[edit | edit source]
Like many of Evangelion's characters, Ayanami's surname comes from a Japanese World War II naval vessel, the Fubuki-class destroyer Ayanami. Her first name comes from the character Rei Hino of the anime and manga series Sailor Moon. This was done to get one of Sailor Moon's directors, Kunihiko Ikuhara, to work on Evangelion. Written in kanji, Rei (零) can also mean "zero", "null" and is a pun on her Evangelion 00. The band Kinniku Shōjo Tai's theme song Doko e demo ikeru kitte and its line "hotai de masshiro na shojo" (lit. "the white girl with bandages") inspired Sadamoto to draw Rei. The same band produced a song named Fumimi no kodomo (福耳の子供), in which a female monologue is audible, and Sadamoto tried to portray a girl with a similar voice. Ukina, a character from Sadamoto's previous work Koto, served as Rei's model, giving her "shaggy, bobbed, wolf-like hair". Another source of inspiration was The Snow Goose, a novella written by Paul Gallico; the story describes a painting portraying the protagonist, a thin and pale girl in an empty room, and the artist tried to create a character similar to her. Anno required a "cool character with short hair" and designed Rei originally as a brunette with dark eyes; however, it was necessary to distinguish her from the other female protagonist Asuka Langley Soryu, so Sadamoto designed her with eye and hair colors opposite to those of Asuka. While Asuka was conceived as "an idol-like figure" in Neon Genesis Evangelion and a symbol of "heterosexual desire", Sadamoto designed Rei as a "mother figure", thinking of her as "the Yin opposed to Asuka". Anno also suggested that Rei's eye color be red, a feature he believed would give her more personality and distinguish her design from those of the other characters. Her hair color changed to blue, similarly to the main character from Aoki Uru, the movie sequel to The Wings of Honneamise which was never made. Sadamoto also gave her black socks, inspired by a women's handball team he saw playing when he was still in middle school.
As with many other Evangelion characters, Anno transposed some aspects of his life into her character, including the choice to not eat meat and maintain a vegetarian diet. He also took inspiration from Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic concepts and the Oedipus complex in particular, since "there was this replacement by a robot, so the original mother is the robot, but then there is a mother of the same age, Rei Ayanami, by [Shinji's] side, who's also by the side of the real father". In a discarded draft of Rei's character background, Rei was a more sensual character than her final version. Sadamoto, unlike the more frank and explicit Hideaki Anno, decided to give her a much more "enigmatic" and bland eros. According to Sadamoto and assistant director Kazuya Tsurumaki, she was conceived as an alien entity, but Gainax later went on to make her at least genetically human; according to them, Rei should have had both the human genes of Yui Ikari and the genes of the first Angel Adam, associating her condition to a Devilman, a hybrid presented in the manga Devilman by Go Nagai.
During Evangelion's production and first broadcast, Anno encountered many difficulties with her character, not feeling "particularly interested" or relating to her, but he thought of her as a representation of both his and Shinji's mind. For a long time he forgot to "explore Rei's personality". In episode eight she does not appear in any scene, while in episode seven he "finally remembered her" giving Rei a brief appearance in one shot. After many episodes, he decided to focus on her and "explore her emotion", adding Rei's stream of consciousness-like monologue in the fourteenth episode. When he was working on the monologue, he wanted to develop her in a "schizophrenic" direction and wondered how to portray a kind of madness. He was loaned a magazine-like book entitled Bessatsu Takarajima (別冊宝島) on mental illness that contained a poem by someone who suffered from a mental disorder, and that triggered his imagination. In the twenty-first episode, the first Rei clone, killed by Naoko Akagi in the final version of the script, would eventually survive after being strangled and having lost consciousness momentarily, awakening in an empty command room without Dr. Akagi. Anno acted instinctively, without following a well-defined plan for the development of the characters, but from the beginning he had the idea of Rei's death, then presented in the twenty-third episode. During production, Ikuhara, annoyed by the idealized image and the fetishism that some fans built around the character, proposed to Anno that they "betray" fans and show her as a real girl who gets married and "gets pregnant in the last episode", but Anno rejected the suggestion. Anno himself declared he considered her character "already finished" in the episode six smile scene: "In short, if she and Shinji completely 'communicated' there, then isn't she over with? At that moment, Rei, for me, was finished.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Frenchy Lunning has described Rei as being Shinji's anima. 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. 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. 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 characters 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." 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." 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. 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.
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". Due to her popularity driving sales of merchandise, Rei was called the "Premium Girl" by media. The June 2010 issue of Newtype Magazine ranked Rei #5 in its monthly top 10 character survey. In a Newtype poll from March 2010, Rei was voted as the most popular female anime character from the 1990s.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Episode 23 ("Rei III", March 6, 1996)
- Episode 24 ("The Beginning and the End, or 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'", March 13, 1996)
- pg 97 of Fujie 2004
- Shinji/Asuka: Colleague-Complicated Feelings;Colleague-Love/Hate
Kaworu/Shinji: Colleague-Favorable - The Essential Evangelion Chronicle, Side B
- pg 165, afterword, of Neon Genesis Evangelion, volume 3
- "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
- "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.
- Meet the Voice of AD Vision: Amanda Winn from Ex.org.
- All About Kaworu Nagisa interview with Sadamoto
- Sadamoto interview, Newtype 1997
- Lunning, Frenchy (2006) "Between the Child and the Mecha" Mechademia 2 p.281
- ejcjs - Moe and the Potential of Fantasy in Post-Millennial Japan from Japanesestudies.org.uk.
- Azuma, Hiroki. (2007) "The Animalization of Otaku Culture" Mechademia 2 175-188.
- Azuma, Hiroki. (2009) Otaku: Japan's Database Animals. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press pp. 48-52
- Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time from IGN.
- 10 Iconic Anime Heroines from Mania Entertainment.
- Which Anime Character Do You Wish You Could Be Friends With? from Anime News Network.
- Evangelion: 1.0.1 You Are [Not] Alone (dub version) from Anime News Network.
- Evangelion: 2.0 You Can [Not] Advance from Anime News Network.
- "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.
- "Rei's popularity soared in Japan, with books featuring her image on the cover selling like hot cakes. She was christened by 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