A Personal Essay: Rei: Why I Find Her Beautiful
Ayanami Rei, the First Child and pilot of Evangelion Unit-00, is often targeted by fans of Soryu Asuka Langley as a doll who should be done away with, so that everyone would see their way that Asuka is the "better" of the two female pilots in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Often, the same kind of attitude goes the other way, to my dismay. I used to believe and would still like to believe that people who could see qualities in Rei could show at least a little exemplification of her traits and be a bit more mature than to retort with the same vulgar arguments presented by the other side. But I digress, and it is only human nature that people feel that they are right and that others should see things their way.
In my opinion, Ayanami Rei of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a very beautiful character. While on the surface Rei's personality may seem bland, there is no doubt as to the depth of Rei's thoughts and emotions to anyone who is not completely biased against her. Rei holds extreme patience with other people (although it may be in a more literal sense than moral one) and realizes the value of many simple things in life to their greatest extent. Finally, Rei is also a very well-portrayed character, and I am surprised that more poems about her person have not been written. Rei is very much like a poem or a scene of elegance (not the elegance most readers probably think I'm referring to right now).
Although Rei may not know it, her thinking method is very solution-seeking (a lot like a male's, if anyone's read a bit of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus), and it's a very comforting attribute to have. Rei, to me, seems like someone who one can express to in times of dire need, not because she'd listen (that's not a valid argument for Rei since she doesn't give this kind of patience in a morally intentional way, but rather in a confused one), but because she does not dress up the truth in false pretense and give words people want to hear. As proven by her statements in the infamous "elevator scene" with Asuka, Rei knew the problem with Asuka's disposition and gave her answer to Langley without even being asked (definitely due to the development of her character). Rei looks at things the way they are and does not try to read between the lines of any given statement, giving her a feeling of innocence that few characters and people can share. Of course, this may seem idiotic at given times, but it hopefully would not drill that type of impression permanently into a viewer's mind--unless, of course, bias is once again involved. Every time Rei's straight thinking prompts her to ask a question that others may find obvious, I find it very innocent. Notice how many of the questions Rei ask are things that people generally think they understand, yet no one can ever give her a simple and straight answer.
Ayanami Rei's view of human emotion and value is never cheap. I do not agree with someone who believes that Rei is simple and merely tries to imitate humans. Rei is special, yet she does not try to act or present herself as being special. She does not put on a false pretense for others to follow with her actions. Asuka goes entirely the other way. Asuka is actually as simple as Rei when it comes to outward actions, and is just as understandable. Also, both have their respective backgrounds to get them where they are today. So in the end, the argument that Rei is simple is answered with this: Rei's simplicity can be a plus, not necessarily a fault, and Asuka shares Rei's simplicity to quite an extent. Not to mention, for all you WAFF and introspection lovers, that both Rei and Asuka have yet to come to terms with their feelings. Rei's thoughts of humanity and human traits ask many questions, and although they don't give any answers, the feeling I get from these questions is that if Rei were to ever love somebody, it would mean something. It would mean something very big and beautiful. I also believe that if Rei were to make such a breakthrough that her love would not be fickle or with doubt. For someone like the First Child to make such development would be something I would like to witness. Rei does not try to imitate humans; she just doesn't understand them.
Rei is the kind of person who would find beauty and satisfaction in the smallest things. There is a song by Faye Wong called "Red Bean" where the singer expresses how the person she loves want to see the world and would leave her behind to do it. The singer then says "maybe after he's seen it all, he'd be willing to settle down with me and watch the river flow by." I think I'd be very attracted to a person who would be content sitting at the edge of a mountain during a sunset, watching the thin rivers below sparkle and pass by. I also think Rei would be the kind of person who would find symbols and keepsakes extremely valuable. Thus, a smile from Rei would mean so much more to me than a random smile from someone who always smiles (not that that is a bad thing, far from it).
The beauty of Rei is that the audience does get to see Rei grow to the point she could understand much more about her humanity than she did before within the span of a few months. When Rei sacrificed herself in the battle with the sixteenth Angel, I was touched. When she stated what she wanted to "unite with Ikari-kun," I believe that she meant it in a more loving way than a lustful way. I can't see Rei being very lustful. Heck, I think we'd all agree that Rei has the least hormones among everyone. At any rate, it'd be beautiful if Rei just said "I love you" just once in the series. My friends can attest to the fact that I listen to the Megumi Hayashibara version of "Fly Me to the Moon" a lot, just to hear Rei's voice say those things (isn't Rei/Megumi's voice just beautiful?).
The flip-side of this thought is that Rei II shed tears while she died. I don't know about other viewers, but I felt my heart implode at that point. Things got much worse when Rei III didn't remember anything that happened. You would not believe how loud I shouted "Why?!" that day (luckily, I was the only person home). Also, when Rei blushed late in the series (before her death), during the elevator ride with Shinji, I did not find it comical (as it is with most anime characters when they become tomato-heads), but touching. Of course, I could not help but smile very, very widely. When she replied "What are you talking about?" I could've face-faulted through the floor were I Shinji himself. Still, the smiling did not stop (so you can count all the times Rei has shown emotions on one hand, can you? My question is: so what? That's what makes each act of emotion Rei gives special! It should not be difficult to understand that often, the more rare something is, the more precious it is as well).
But even Rei III is a wonderful character. In End of Evangelion, she finally managed to break away from Gendo to Shinji's calling for her. I cheered inside so much, the blood just rushed to my head, and it felt very warm. I said to myself "Umedetou (congratulations) Ayanami Rei, you finally did it."
Another thing about Rei is that although she lacks many human qualities, she thus lacks poor humanlike qualities as part of the deal as well. I cannot see Rei ever becoming a money grubber or an adulterous person. Also, with Rei, it seems like she'd be the kind of person who'd keep her word and promise (even though she may do so in a literal rather than moral sense). Again, there is the idea of Rei's innocence and purity that is striking among her other features.
Rei is not submissive! She may seem that way with Gendo, whom she both loves and hates, but she does not have a choice but to obey him. I hope I don't have to explain that to anyone, because if I do, it would mean that he/she purposely wasn't listening when Rei tried to express why she wanted to die... permanently. Shinji is the one who is submissive (but of course, we all knew that). About emotions. I'm sure Rei has just as many emotions as everyone else in the world. Her difficulty is in understanding and expressing them (I hope everyone can agree with me at least this far). What would Rei be if she were a more "normal" child? She would likely become less interesting (not that she'd become a boring or bland character, but the way she is is more interesting to follow than that of a predictable ditz, wouldn't you agree?).
I have this dream. If I could be the one (if there ever will be one... well, Shinji sort of was the one) to help Rei understand life and well, the beauty of it, I would just be very fulfilled and happy. I don't think I would even care if Rei felt the same way about me. I think it'd just be beautiful to have someone so innocent and open nearby, or at least to have met this person. For me, it's more like watching her grow in that aspect, and hoping and cheering for her, wishing that one day she'd make a breakthrough of sorts. Rei's simplicity is one of the things I find very attractive about her. Didn't Kaji say that most people miss the simple truths for what they think are deeper truths? In the end, people's lives become just a cheap imitation of what's seen on the media, since what's shown on television seems so exciting compared to the seemingly boring lives the viewers lead. Rei's simplicity symbolizes her innocence from these more vulgar influences.
Now I don't know if I'd like to marry a person like Rei (who has even less common sense than me), but one thing is for sure: I'd love to meet this kind of person. It is like a dream that cannot be fulfilled, but still worth dreaming for. It's just that, with someone like Rei, you'd be able to enjoy small things more than you would enjoy having dollar riches. The smallest gesture of pleasantry from Rei would mean more than most anything you might be able to offer back.
Why do people who like Rei like her? If I could leave one image in the minds of you readers I would say that what Rei is is like a stream, whereas most people are like rivers. Rivers charge through life, starting out as individuals, each with their own personality, but eventually follow the flow and meet others in an ocean, where that individuality is lost. Rei, on the other hand, is more like a stream which seems rather boring at first in its easy and simple flow. However, climb up a mountain, the highest one you can find, and now look at the stream. By the time you climb this high, it will be in time for the sunset, and the stream will scintillate and shine with beauty, but only for those willing to look from a grander view and not hang at a closed perspective, ne? It's too bad that this kind of beauty I'm trying to describe is difficult to portray in fanfiction, because the images and feelings that go through the mind (at least, my mind) are difficult to write about and not cause the reader to sleep (oh, if only I could animate). Instead, writers are required to be extremely patient and poetic (poetic meaning choosing the right words) in their writing, and I have yet to see anyone accomplish this (thus is the goal of my writing).
Oh yes, and some people think Rei is just plain ugly (not because of the blue hair and red eyes, either). Well, if you don't find her attractive, then keep in mind that she is meant to be attractive in perspective to the other characters in the story, so there. I don't know, but living in an area where such simple and beautiful things just don't exist with the people around here, Rei is very attractive to me.
Scenes was meant to give a small look at how beautiful a person Rei can be, but I guess that in the end it's what each person's taste is. I also think trying to convince a Rei-fan that Rei is stupid is like telling a pyro to give up fire. The same goes with Asuka-fans. The only thing to do is to express, and that's why I write. Still, in the end, I say that Rei isn't a bland character; she's very complex and detailed. If nothing else, Rei's complexity comes from how unconventional she is, along with the reasons and motivations behind it. Besides, ten thousand fans can't be wrong (of course, how many Rei fans there are total, I don't know), right?