|Neon Genesis Evangelion character|
|First appearance||"Angel Attack"|
|Voiced by||Japanese: Megumi Hayashibara|
English: Amanda Winn-Lee (ADV dub)
Brina Palencia (Rebuild of Evangelion)
Ryan Bartley (Netflix dub)
|Relatives||Yui Ikari (derived from)|
Shinji Ikari (Yui's son)
Rei Ayanami (綾波 レイ Ayanami Rei) is a fictional character from the Japanese media franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion created by Gainax. 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 astonishes her peers. As the series progresses, 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 entirely clear in the TV series, but is one of the principal plot points of The End of Evangelion.
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 in an effort to get one of the series directors, Kunihiko Ikuhara, to work on Evangelion; however, this effort failed.
Hideaki Anno instructed Yoshiyuki Sadamoto on Rei's character design that "Whatever else, she needs to be painted in as a bitterly unhappy young girl with little sense of presence." Sadamoto was inspired to draw Rei by the band Kinniku Shōjo Tai's theme song "Hotai de Masshiro na Shojo" (lit. "The Girl White with Bandages"). Ukina, a character from Sadamoto's previous work Koto served as Rei's model. Anno required a character "cool with short hair", and Rei was originally designed to be a brunette with dark eyes; however, it was necessary to distinguish her at first sight from the other female protagonist Asuka Langley Soryu, so Sadamoto designed Rei's eye and hair colors inverted compared to Asuka's. Anno also suggested to draw Rei's eye color as red, a feature that he believed would give her more personality as well as distinguish her design from other characters'. Her blue hair comes from the main character of Aoki Uru.
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?
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."
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. 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. In the films, Rei herself suggests a familiarity with the regenerating Lilith and merges with the being, suggesting she has a genetic background matching the Angel.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Rei appears in Neon Genesis Evangelion as a main protagonist and pilot of Evangelion Unit-00. Rei first appears in the first episode of the anime in an injured state after a failed activation test with her Evangelion. After she recovers from her injuries, she goes on to assist Shinji in defeating the Angels with their first major victory being against Ramiel. Rei's next significant Angel encounter occurs during Matarael's attack on Tokyo-3 where she cooperates with Shinji and Asuka to defeat the Angel. She then battles Sahaquiel alongside Shinji and Asuka. She is seen later when creating the dummy plugs for the Evangelions. She, along with Shinji and Asuka, later battle Leliel. She and Asuka attempt to overcome the Angel Zeruel, but are defeated. Rei is seemingly killed saving Shinji from Armisael late in the series yet she returns under mysterious circumstances; it is then revealed that the resurrected Rei is in fact the third incarnation of Rei, the first having been killed years prior to the series and the second having died in the previously stated incident.
The End of Evangelion
In The End of Evangelion, the third Rei acts as the main catalyst behind Third Impact, which is initiated after she merges with Lilith. During the impact, 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.
Rebuild of Evangelion
Rei returns as a primary character in Rebuild of Evangelion and first appears in Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone. Her character remains the same as in the anime, acting as pilot of Evangelion Unit-00 and helping Shinji defeat Ramiel. In Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance her character develops 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 as the act triggers Third Impact. In Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, Rei herself does not appear but has an absent presence as the plot and story is driven by the mystery of Rei's disappearance and apparent re-appearance. A different character named Ayanami Rei (tentative name) (アヤナミレイ（仮称）) is introduced instead, who also happens to be a clone of the same type as Rei, causing a case of mistaken identity. Ayanami Rei (tentative name) acts, thinks and performs very differently to Rei Ayanami.
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 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." 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 the media. A column in the 1 September 2007 issue of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper stated, on the occasion of Evangelion 1.0, that there were over 1 million dedicated Rei fans in Japan and that "This bandaged Goddess is an icon of Japanese anime." The June 2010 issue of Newtype 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. The 20th Animage Grand Prix ranked her the fifth best female character of the year.
For the film Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, Brina Palencia replaced Amanda Winn-Lee as Rei's English dub voice actor. Palencia was very well received by fans for her performance as Rei, and many noted it was on par with Winn-Lee's performance, or in some cases, surpassing hers; Animation Insider described Palencia's voice-acting of Rei as having "subtle hints of emotion lingering under her facade".
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- 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
- Kenneth Lee (1998-09-09). "The Thin Veneer Known as "Evangelion"". Anime News Network. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "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.
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- Director:Tatsuya Watanabe, Writers:Hideaki Anno, Yoji Enokido (1995-12-13). "The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still". Neon Genesis Evangelion. Episode 11. TV Tokyo.
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- Sevakis, Justin (November 24, 2009). "Evangelion: 2.0 You Can [Not] Advance". Anime News Network. Retrieved December 2, 2009.
- "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 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
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