This is something that caught my attention recently and it’s been low-key preoccupying me ever since.
First, let me refresh everyone’s memory on this part from Eva 3.0, just so we’re all on the same page.
^ The 12th Angel, upon being exposed to Lilith’s LCL, starts transforming.
^ Rei sits back in her seat as the lights in the cockpit go out and her screens are taken over by the Seele program.
(Note: I intentionally made the GIF hold extra long on the shot's first frame.)
^ The 12th Angel finishes turning into a Lilith head.
^ Rei, staring forward in appalled terror, starts questioning the nature of her existence.
Now, the way this scene is boarded, you’re obviously supposed to think that Rei is looking at and talking about the 12th Angel which has reshaped itself into a distorted effigy of herself. That makes sense, right?
What doesn’t make sense, though, is her saying this right after her cockpit is taken over! If you watch carefully, she starts off leaning forward and staring at the Angel to see what it turns into — and then, soon as the screens go dark, she sits back and her eyeline goes up, toward something else.
We’re never shown what’s on the screen directly in front of her following the takeover. (Possibly suspicious?) Later on, it seems quite evident that she can’t see outside of the cockpit; the Seele Program is similar to the dummy system in that regard. She reacts entirely to sound and impact. When she asks, “Who’s there?”, it’s after Eva-02 has tackled Mark.09 and caused the entire entry plug to shake.
If she can’t see outside, then that means the staging earlier was meant to deliberately trick us. When Rei says
What is this?
This is... me.
Then what am I?
She’s not talking about the Lilith head. (Though we in the audience are free to make that additional connection due to the extra information we have.) She’s talking about the Seele program!
Wait. Why on Lilith’s Red Earth would Rei say that a piece of malware is her?
I was pretty baffled by this until I remembered some dialogue that had been trimmed from 3.0 at the storyboard stage. (Translation by Numbers-kun.)
The clone that brought you here was the Ayanami type experimental prototype number six, prepared as the provisional pilot of Mark.09. As Yui-kun's information has not been transferred to it, it seems not to interest Ikari. That clone operates according to Seele's program. It is not our concern.
In addition to an actual number for this poor Rei, we get two important things here:
(A) Rei clones can act as recipients for data.
(B) Rei 6 “operates according to Seele’s program”.
(The original phrase is ゼーレのプログラムで動いている; I wonder if that could also mean “runs on Seele’s program”…)
From what we know of Rei 6’s behavior in the final film, she doesn’t seem to interact with anyone. By her own admission, she just “waits for orders”. Makes one wonder, then, what’s really going on here:
Or, for that matter, what was actually going on back here…
Back in NGE, the dummy system was being made at Nerv HQ, and so Rei’s time in the capsule was explained that way. Her “personality data” was being uploaded. In NTE, this is no longer true. The dummy system was created at an entirely different Nerv base, Golgotha, and, whatever the hell it is, it means Rei’s giant facility has to be for something else.
It’s sounding an awful lot like the script was flipped here. Instead of Rei’s data being uploaded into a machine, Rei is downloading data from a machine. At least, in the case of Rei 6. (Rei 2 was wearing some strange, kinky equipment and her capsule, unlike 6’s, has glyphs on it, so there’s no guarantee she was doing the same thing in there.) She’s probably getting “orders” from Seele through that device.
But the fact that believes the Seele program to be herself tells us it’s far more than just an occasional upload into her head. She somehow had Seele OS installed inside her head early on. She’s meatware for malware.
This raises an awful lot of weird and uncomfortable questions. So, presumably, this means her relationship with Mark.09 at the end there was kind of like a thumb drive? She had the data inside her, so with her slotted inside Mark.09’s USB drive, the program went off the way Seele designed it to. Mark.09’s own setup could explain why Rei’s ejection didn’t seem to have any effect; its core-based body seems to provide extensive backups for its main core that can set in as needed, and ultimately that’s all data. The core-body acting in the capacity of RAM as well doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.
I’m less clear on the discrepancy between Rei being fully compliant where her “orders” are concerned — which, the cut lines imply, is part of Seele’s programming as well — only to rebel against what’s in her head when the program is fully unleashed and takes on a life outside of her. The program ‘othering’ her is peculiar, in and of itself. Is there something really obvious that I’m missing here?
In any case, if Rei still has this program inside her head — why wouldn’t it still be there? — then it doesn’t seem like such a stretch that this could come back in 3+1 in a major way. Maybe breaking free of it isn’t as simple as that first act of personal volition. And if its “malware” feature was lurking inside her waiting for the 12th Angel to be set free until it went off, there could exist other contingencies waiting for their moment.
It was a little hard to believe that Seele would let themselves walk offstage so … preemptively, and perhaps we don’t have to believe it. In a sense, Seele still exist inside her. Reminds me of this, mostly in a “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” way:
Even when a soul is lost,
its aspirations and curses remain in this world.
Human will is conveyed as information
throughout the world, and changes it.
In time, we rewrite who we are.
This little speech of his is SUPER weird and doesn’t answer Shinji’s question “What should I do?” even a little, but it does at least prepare the audience for another bizarre shift in gears from NGE to NTE. That being, a shift in metaphysical interest toward the concept of “living data”. Life can be reduced to raw information; both meat-based life and core-based life is a medium for containing and transmitting information; that information can be transformed along the way; etc. I’ve been trying to slowly piece together the “big picture” the movies are maybe getting at, but it’s such a dramatic change and we have so little that’s concrete to work with, it’s hard to do much other than ‘vaguely anticipate’. We might be going full Metal Gear Solid 2 here, though… (Who’ll be the first character to utter the word “meme”, you think?)
Kaworu, in his own bizarre way, seems to be saying that extraspiritual means of propagating “life data” confer more immortality than the soul itself. We saw Seele’s monoliths, the things they’ve been using as containers for their “transformed souls”. They looked heavily degraded in 3.0, far from the clean core texture they once were. Perhaps turning them off was a mere formality and they were all doomed anyway. Ensuring some way for their will to carry on after their deaths only makes sense. Rei 6 could be once such means.
But if we can rewrite who we are, then maybe Rei still has a chance. We know that in the world of NTE, technology for “brainwashing” and “memory erasing” exists. Maybe a form of this same technology is involved in Rei’s facility. What this means, though, is that there are ways to alter the data written to the brain. Maybe these tools that have been used to ruthlessly manipulate people like Shinji could actually be used for good, for once.
Well, this has been thoroughly strange. Thoughts?