Rei Ayanami

Evangelion ScreenshotName: Rei Ayanami
Age: 5, 14
Birthday: Unknown
Sex: Female
Classification: The First Child
Piloting: Evangelion Unit-00

Note: Rei Ayanami is among the most enigmatic and debated Anime characters of all time. Although few facts are revealed about her in the series, she is nonetheless crucial to the story. This article will attempt to touch upon as many of these debated issues as possible.

Rei Ayanami is the First Child and the pilot of Evangelion Unit-00. Her personality is that of a very reclusive and socially withdrawn child, one who is often misunderstood and believed to lack emotion. This has often garnered her the scorn of her classmates such as Asuka, who repeatedly calls her a doll. The only people Rei trusts is her guardian, NERV Commander Gendo Ikari (whom she cherishes), and eventually his son Shinji Ikari. In fact, it is Gendo who gives Rei her name, which he planned to name Shinji had he been born a girl (in a sense making Rei the sister Shinji never had). Despite of himself, Gendo's behavior and actions suggest that the two eventually develop a genuine emotional bond, one that would last through much of the series.

Evangelion ScreenshotRei's emotional and social problems stem from the fact that she was not born naturally, nor had what one would call a healthy upbringing. Rei is in fact an artificial creation conceived by the Artificial Evolution Laboratory (Gehirn), under the orders and supervision of Gendo Ikari.

It is believed that following Gendo Ikari's failed attempts to recover his wife Yui Ikari (who was absorbed into Evangelion Unit-01 during a contact experiment); he conceived his own version of the Human Instrumentality Project as his sole means of being reunited with her. Rather than using the Lance of Longinus (and later the Eva Series) as SEELE had planned, Gendo would use Adam and Lilith to initiate the Third Impact. Placing Lilith's Soul in an easily influenced vessel (a human child—Rei Ayanami), would ensure him the ability to control the Instrumentality process. While Rei's body is believed to be a clone of Yui Ikari (or possibly a genetic hybrid of both Yui Ikari and Lilith), her Soul is that of Lilith.

Debated Origins

Evangelion ScreenshotIt is debatable whether Rei was created specifically as a result of Yui Ikari's death in 2004, or as a planned component of the Dummy System project. It is possible that following Yui's death, Gendo simply hijacked the Dummy System project for his own purposes (to be reunited with her), and thus used Yui's genetic data to create Rei.

This is plausible since Rei's appearance in 2010 as a five year-old child does indicate that she was conceived only after 2004. This particular theory would also imply that Rei's participation in the Dummy System project may be secondary, possibly as a means of justifying her existence to the Human Instrumentality Committee.

Gendo's unexplained week-long absence following Yui's death and his apparent support of the Human Instrumentality Project immediately thereafter suggests that he may have been supervising the creation of Rei during that time. His defiance of SEELE when asked to present Rei-III for questioning (following the death of Rei-II) also suggests that SEELE is unaware of Rei's true nature.

Rei Clones

Evangelion ScreenshotIn the bowels of Terminal Dogma, NERV maintains numerous soulless clones of Rei to be used as Dummy Plugs and/or spare parts should Rei ever die, in which case her Soul can be transferred to a new body. Although her memories are retained, they appear to become fragmented resulting in a state of confusion following each incarnation.

There are a total of three incarnations of Rei Ayanami throughout the series, and although their Soul is the same (that of Lilith), each incarnation displays an almost distinct personality, leading to speculation that Lilith may be becoming progressively more aware of herself and her place in the world. However it is also possible these changes are purely environmental.

The first Rei (Rei-I) was a five year-old child first presented at Gehirn in 2010 A.D. The same night as the MAGI Super-Computer System is finally completed by Naoko Akagi, she discovers from the young Rei that Gendo (with whom she had a passionate relationship with), is only using her and does not return her affections. In a passionate outburst of rage, Naoko strangles the young Rei and commits suicide shortly after.

Evangelion ScreenshotThe second Rei (Rei-II) was a fourteen year-old child first presented at NERV in 2014 A.D. and is depicted through much of the series. After realizing that she cherished Shinji Ikari as much as she cherished his father Gendo, she sacrifices herself and Evangelion Unit-00 to save him in the battle against Armisael, the Sixteenth Angel.

The third Rei (Rei-III) was the same age as the second, and was reincarnated shortly following her death. It is at this point that Rei begins to wonder why she continues to exist, and her admiration for Gendo Ikari begins to erode. However, it is not until her encounter with Kaworu Nagisa, the Fifth Child and the Seventeenth Angel, that Rei learns the truth about herself, which leads to her rejection and betrayal of Gendo Ikari just prior to her ascension into Lilith as seen in The End of Evangelion.

Analysis

  • Origin of the name Rei Ayanami

    Rei was named after Rei Hino from Sailor Moon in an unsuccessful attempt by Hideaki Anno to get the director of Sailor Moon, Kunihiko Ikuhara, to join the project. Before the name Rei Ayanami was decided upon, Rei was called Yui Ichijyo, after Hikaru Ichijyo from Macross, which Anno also worked on. Rei Ayanami's surname originates from a World War II naval vessel used by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Ayanami was a Fubuki-class destroyer that was sunk in 1942 by the USS Washington.
  • Why is Rei's birthday unknown? Isn't it March 30, 2001?

    This is a common misconception sparked by the real-life release of the album 'Birthday of Rei Ayanami' on March 30, 2001. Fact is that Rei's birthday is explicitly said to be unknown, and for good reason. Rei is a cloned being, and there is strong indication that she can be aged artificially, possibly as part of the Dummy System project. When she is introduced to Gehirn in 2010, Rei is five years-old, not nine had she been born in 2001. Meanwhile in 2015, when the anime series begins, she is fourteen years-old. This age disparity is not addressed in the series, but an artificial aging process, combined with the fact that Gendo is the closest thing Rei has to a parent (he himself is a secluded, anti-social individual), goes far to explain Rei's emotional and social deficiencies. Lastly, if one accepts the theory that Rei was created by Gendo following his wife's death, Yui did not die until 2004.
  • Suicidal Tendencies

    Rei's behavior throughout the series strongly suggests she is suicidal. This is based on her oblivious death to Naoko Akagi as Rei-I; her eagerness to volunteer for some of the most dangerous missions as Rei-II; her unauthorized use of N² Weapons against Zeruel, the Fourteenth Angel; and her eventual suicide following contact with Armisael, the Sixteenth Angel. Many however doubt that this tendency is a conscious one, and theorize that it is perhaps a sub-conscious desire of Lilith herself to be freed of her bonds (her Soul is bound to Rei Ayanami).
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder (Cluster A)

    Rei Ayanami's behavior is consistent with Schizoid Personality Disorder, a psychological condition characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, indifference to either praise or criticism, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, and emotional coldness. SPD is reasonably rare compared with other personality disorders.
  • The Super-Ego of Freudian Psychology Theory

    The first three Children (Rei Ayanami, Asuka Langley Sohryu, Shinji Ikari), are thought to represent the three divisions of the human psyche according to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Rei Ayanami is believed to represent the Super-Ego, which acts as a sort of conscience, maintaining a sense of morality and behavior in line with social norms. The Super-Ego is the aspect of the psyche that prohibits violation of socially-imposed taboos, and often stands in opposition to the desires of the Id.
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Last Updated
July 11, 2014
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