She never came across as particularly blunt either
Well, episode 6 for example - Rei stands out for not judging/pressuring Shinji, but neither does she coddle him.
"What if I don't wanna pilot the EVA"?
"then we do it without you." Bam. Logically stating the consequences, no cushion.
she's still one of the most obedient characters in the original show and Rebuilds alike
There's a difference between being submissive (doing whatever others tell you to, struggling with making decisions, yielding to any push & aggression) and being dedicated to a mission/cause. We don't really call soldiers "submissive", though they follow orders. Rei is like a soldier.
There's one interview where she's compared to... no, not a housewife, but a terrorist cult member
. (which is kind of literally what she is - Gendo told her instrumentality is for the good of everyone...)
She doesn't do what Gendo says because she does whatever anyone
tells her, but because she has actual loyalty & faith in him specifically... at least at first; All the while she never had too many illusions about being special to him (this is very clear in ep 11), he was just all she had.
She's almost still a child; of course she wants the attention of her parental figure.
But of course that faith crumbles the more Gendo shows himself to be not so good.
She's far from mechanically doing anything anyone tells her - whenever someone gets hurt she gets concerned & when there may be casualties she questions it - like when Misato orders them to pull back in ep 16, or when in ep 18 she gets defeated precisely because she was reluctant/hesitant to blast Touji.
She also markedly doesn't like people touching her stuff (explicitly described as such in the script in eps 5 and 17)
I feel like I'm making this same post over and over again, but why not do one more definite version? Then I can link to it in the future. How Rei was supposed to come across
I guess a lot of people just parrot/ roll with the reading that Ritsuko and/or Asuka state out loud during the elevator & requarium scenes respectively and then give it a pseudo-feminist spin in the vein of what I like to call the finger interpretation of eva
, (as if writing a female character as a 'trap' to teach a dude a lesson or pitting girls against each other and labelling one as 'real' isn't the very opposite of feminism - just femme fatale with a new hat)
It's all neatly spelled out in one place, wheres comparing & verifying it against what's actually portrayed throughout the show takes either attention or interest because Rei is often just mysteriously hanging in the background and her responses & reactions to things are very subtle.
If your eyes aren't on her you could just easily miss the whole story.
Of course detail observations are by nature vague fuzzy & subjective, so instead of arguing about fine nuances in the vocal delivery of one-liners, lets see what the makers themselves have disclosed to us about the process of coming up with Rei.
"Whatever else, she needs to be painted in as a bitterly unhappy young girl with little sense of presence." - Anno
"Specially educated and trained the same as Asuka.
Lacks emotion and speaks few words. Nihilist without feelings.
Learned about emotions and feelings after falling in “love” with someone.
Important secret behind her birth is hidden (she has no parents)." - The Proposal
"Rei is someone who is aware of the fact that even if she dies, there'll be another to replace her, so she doesn't value her life very highly. Her presence, her existence, "ostensible existence," is ephemeral. She's a very sad girl. She only has the barest minimum of what she needs to have. She's damaged in some way; she hurts herself. She doesn't need friends." - Anno
"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... [...] Let's go back at last to Rei. She doesn't know emotion, so there's no difference between what she says and feels; there's nothing ulterior about her. At first sight, then, you may theorize: that is where her very great beauty comes from, this surface, not without depth, but with the absence of its necessity—someone truly mystical.
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 depth—that, I believe, is where we truly become alive, truly become human beings. And when I found the warmth below the coldness in her words, I synchronized with Rei for the first time. " - Hayashibara
Hayashibara's chapter on voicing Rei Ayanami is focused on her attempts to understand why the voice directors kept telling her to "suppress your voice" while playing the Evangelion Unit-00 pilot. Because she was constantly told to restrain her expressiveness while playing Rei, Hayashibara initially began to wonder if Rei was a character who lacked emotions. However, when she asked Hideaki Anno about Rei's character, the director gave the response, "Rei is not emotionless. She is just unfamiliar with emotions."
What exactly it means to be "unfamiliar with emotions" without being "emotionless" puzzled Hayashibara, so she went to psychology textbooks to better understand Rei. After a lot of analysis and personal soul-searching, the voice actress ultimately came to the conclusion that most displays of emotional expression are meant for other people's sake and that as a result, there is often a disconnect between the emotions people feel and the ones they express. Rei Ayanami, in contrast, is unable to create such a distinction.
"[Rei's] feelings and words are directly connected," Hayashibara writes. "If she doesn't know something, that's that. She can't pretend to do otherwise. If she hates something, she can't pretend to like it. Her pain and anguish are real. But she doesn't put on an act of that suffering to get other people to worry about her. Deceit, dramatics, exaggeration, manipulation -- she doesn't do any of that!" - Another article featuring her
One of my favorite bands is called the Buff Girl Team and in one of their songs, there's this line a white girl in bandages. I had an image of her even before I started Evangelion. Like a girl with a dark past. I thought it'll be interesting to have a girl in bandages. And maybe she'll have the antibacterial smell like hospitals. If I had known her when I was 14, I would have hesitated to get close to her. She's cute, but her world's the farthest away from mine. - Sadamoto
in the case of Rei, the director gave me as an indication "a cool character with short hair" [...]
The most "simple" director I’ve Ever worked with was Anno, who would typically work with exactly what Sadamoto gave him. The only information Anno told him about Rei was her age, blood type and that she was "gloomy".
I played around with this character I called "Ukina." She came from a story I wrote a long time ago for NewType magazine called Koto no Oni [The Ogre on the Desert Isle]. You take Ukina, give her shaggy, bobbed, wolf-like hair, and it's Rei. Really, I just played with her a bit -- with the way the eyes are drawn. The basic character is the same. Her character was locked in as translucent -- like a shadow, or the air. The kind of girl you can't touch. The girl you long for, but there is nothing about her that you can hold.
- Various Statements from Sadamoto
Anno: When creating the characters for Eva - in the case of Asuka, [when I had] the lines “Anta Baka!?” and “Chance…”, I thought, ah, this is going to work. In the case of Rei, it was the line in episode six: “You won’t die. I will protect you.” And also at the end, when Rei says, “I don’t know what kind of expression I should have at a time like this,” and Shinji says, “I think you should smile,” and Rei smiles. I felt like, ah, this is going to work. At those two points, Rei’s character was created. However, when I thought about it afterwards, I cursed. I thought, in short, that if she has [already] communicated with Shinji there, then isn’t she over with? At that moment, Rei, for me, was finished, all at once.
- From Shizo/Parano
Oizumi: When I look at Rei Ayanami, I’m reminded of the girls in Aum. In short, they’re all dependent upon their Guru, Asahara.
Takekuma: [She devotes herself] wholeheartedly, with a heart like a hard shell.
Oizumi: Exactly. And, on the topic of substitutions, can we think of Rei Ayanami as being a person like your mother?
Anno: That’s not quite right.
Takekuma: There’s also nothing like the image of a girl you previously dated [in her], right?
Anno: No. Well, Rei is probably [the character] closest to my deep psyche. I don’t really understand her. … The truth is, I have no emotional attachment to her at all.
Takekuma: Huh? Is that right?
Anno: Yeah. I have no emotional attachment to her. Well, Nobita-san wrote [about her] as being a symbol of schizophrenia. There were parts where that was actually what I wanted to do [with her].
Takekuma: But she is the character best received by the fans in the outside world. Even I was drawn in by Rei at the beginning.
Oizumi: That’s right. Megumi Hayashibara’s voice was also incredible.
Anno: But Rei is [the character] I least understand. In addition, I’m not really that interested in her. There were parts where that’s what I was consciously doing, actively trying to put aside my presuppositions, trying to bring out the most primitive, the most core, the purest parts within me.
Oizumi: So Rei is perhaps [something] embedded in your unconscious [that] can’t be expressed in words.
-Part of the appeal of "Eva" is its characters with strong personalities. They seem to resemble someone around them, but in fact, they are nowhere to be found. You want to know more about them, and that's one of the things that attracts you to "Eva". It is often said that a part of director Anno is projected onto each character.
Anno: I feel especially close to Shinji, Misato and Asuka. And Kaworu as the shadow. Rei is made from the deepest part of me, the core of my being. I try to avoid interfering in myself as much as possible, and only give shape to what oozes out.
Ueno: I'm a big fan of Rei. For example, I really want Four Murasame from "Z Gundam" to exist. I really want to meet him in person. But that's not the case with Rei. It's not a 2D Complex thing, even if it's the same artificially created one, Rei is a complete being that doesn't exist in front of you.
Anno: Well, it's crazy (laughs). It was difficult, but I wanted Rei to be like that. Only a crazy person can draw it. So I had to go crazy.
Ueno: People talk about psychoanalysis and personality seminars, but have you always had a strong interest in psychology in general?
Anno: I wasn't interested in it at all.
Ueno: Did the process of working on Eva lead you in that direction?
Anno: Right, without being aware of it. I didn't read any books on psychoanalysis before. I only learned a little bit as a general education at university. It was the most interesting subject though.
Ueno: So there must have been some kind of important word or interest that stuck in your mind.
Anno: I guess I wasn't really interested in people. But when I started to tell my story, I needed words to convey it in the middle of the process. I concluded that the term psychological terms in common use are the easiest to use. I started reading a lot of books. I never thought I'd be interested in psychology until then.
-Rei, who was inside EVA-01's entry plug, overlaped Shinji's information from EVA-01 with her own memories and asked herself the question. The series of honest words spoken there is the very image of Rei, transparent and non-fragile.
“Rei Ayanami limits her association with others as much as possible.The only one she seems to open up to is Commander Ikari.”
-Episode 5 preview
(Definitely intended as not very approachable)
Shinji is saved......but his injuries make him act spoiled.”Rei pushes him away. Meanwhile, Misato attempts to launch a precision attack against the Angel
- Episode 6 preview
(It's not just my perception that there was no coddling to be had here)
Then there is this
very fun video:
"It's simple - There is a character for all kinds of fans. A relationship triangle. It makes a triangle. 1 boy, two girls, one upbeat, one quiet. It all splits. For fan's og upbeat girls there's Asuka, for fans of quiet girls there's Rei. There's also the hair lenghts - one for short hair fans and one for long hair fans. With that, we could get all the fans. That was the basic plan. That leaves only the curvy girl fans
(I presume, that's Misato. Or, the reason why when they added a new character, they made her curvy. Well. If one had to be the designated curvy one I'd still say it's Misato. Mari is more of a 'hourglass' type, big chest & butt, her waist & limbs are still relatively thin. )
Not sure if he considered female fans but a different array of personalities is sure gonna help with relatability, too.
Nor would I underestimate the capacity of the boys to look as a girl not just as, like, hot, but someone with a shared suffering.
Factoids for which I couldn't find a source right now:
- She got black socks because they were unfashionable at the time, & because someone on the crew associated them with tough tennis playing girls from his school
- Anno got inspired to do the monologue after reading some poems from mental patients, but the thing itself came to him in a dream
- There's one interview where Sadamoto is asked some question about Asuka being a 'strong' character & he says something about how they're both strong in different ways.
- The closest thing remotely to the often parroted narrative is that one bit where Anno says that Rei is "a hard worker who doesn't complain" and that "such girls are very much desired in Japan"(I tried so hard to find the exact words again but couldn't)
Like Japan does indeed have problems with fetishizing overwork & dedication to one's company, family etc. but "hard worker" is something very different from "submissive doll" - It's like somewhere along the way a legit critique of his own society got replaced by a western stereotype of asian women. (Maybe cause the west & especially the USA isn't so great about work/life balance either and it's easier to point the finger)
But to summarize:
- She was designed to come of as 'cool/strong/tough' and unapproachable ('disturbed' applies to all the main characters), not
idealized or pliant
- She's supposed to be sad, pessimistic and damaged
, (but also very honest, genuine and straightforward on some level), not
blank and mechanical
- the central theme here wascommunication
, which is all rather related to her internality not
primarily how others react to her
- they explain much of how she acts by her upbringing & circumstance (like being a tool of an organization, knowing they have a dozen clones in the basement to replace her, knowing she exists to do the plan...) not
primarily starting to talk about concepts relating to, say, aliens or clones
- if attractiveness was a consideration at all, it would be a tragic gloomy victorian heroine kind of way, or as just another personal taste flavor no different from any of the orther main girls, but for the most part it was not
mainly what anyone was thinking about, not even as a 'trap'. They were like too busy exploring the human heart here
It is of deep sadness to me that they never did finish translating all the scripts but you should really look at how often the ep 5 one describes faint facial expressions in detail.
Note also all the ways in that she's basically very autobiographical.
Things we know about Anno:
- lived off of EnergyIns & had little interest in proper food (when this changed for him, well guess what, it changed for Rei too)
- little interest in ppl or earthly passions, doesn't care much about his surroundings
- vegetarian because he's lowkey grossed out by living things
- prefers technological surroundings
- colleagues have described him as an 'Alien'
- once didn't notice something in his house catching on fire (remembering the soot stain in Rei's apartment?)
- doesn't seem to care that much about his own life, puts work first, you kind of want to take care of him (courtesy of Moyoco in the latest NHK documentary)
So, she's a sad lonely shutin who's wholly dedicated to this one thing that gives her purpose. She was written by that sort of dude, and similar ppl liked & related to her.
It's not that complicated really.
Note also that her story is one of toughing it out through horrible experiences while her faith in the one mission that its all supposed to be for gradually crumbles, she starts out knowing basically how everything will end and that its all futile but admits all the horror there is also that bit where she tentatively ventures out of her high tower to experience a fleeting little bit of warmth and connection & meeting someone who's actually interested in her & whats to know what she's thinking - It's not even anything great that happens just the most banal human connection stuff like basic thank yous. just seeing a little bit of whats outside the narrow slice where she stayed for most of her life
& none of that forestalls the inevitable. It all ends. The "promised day" comes.
you know that whole quote by van gogh about wanting to show with his art what a shunned "nobody" has in his heart? I think thats a valuable idea to keep in the back of your head here.
The essence of a good tragedy is that it points at those who dont get lucky, who dont succeed, who arent the right person for the job, & say "your struggle mattered, it was worth depicting & exploring"
we all become tragedies in the end.
EoE goes even a little further here cause the direction that things end up taking ultimately ends up partially pinned to the choice of this neglected doomed nobody & the thoughs, feelings and longings she had in her brief time on earth.