This week's entry might be a shock to some people who know me, but nevertheless here it is.
Number 07: Rei Ayanami
Show: Rebuild of Evangelion
Background: It is hard to really say what the fictional history of Rei Ayanami is at this point, because we don't really know. Now, I can tell you her complete history from the original Neon Genesis Evangelion story. Her body is a clone from a scientist who invented the Evangelions, Yui Ikari, the mother of the protagonist, Shinji Ikari. From her remains, many many souless clones were made and stuck in a giant tub of LCL (the primordial soup humans came from). In one of these cloned shells of Yui, the soul of the mother of humanity, Lilith, was placed, thus filling Rei with two motherly roles: the mother of the hero, and the mother of the human race.
Now in Rebuild, we can't take anything for granted. We can assume a lot of what I stated above is true, but it also could be completely false. There is some evidence that some things are the same. Shinji directly says, "The smell of Ayanami... The smell of my mother." That, and when Gendou looks at Rei he sees his dead wife. Also when she realizes Shinji is about to destroy the world just to save her, she pleads, "There are more of me. I can be replaced." So we can probably assume Gendou has a stockpile of Rei Real Dolls stashed somewhere under NERV.
So the main question is, is Lilith's soul still inside Rei? I sure hope so, but I'll get into that in a bit.
Why she is on this list: I get labeled as a Rei hater, because I am so madly in love with Asuka. I've defended myself on this position in the past. The reason I am putting Rebuild Rei on this list and not the original, is because I feel all the things I didn't like about NGE Rei has been fixed with Rebuild.
This is the opposite for Asuka. Unlike a lot of people, I do like Asuka Shikinami, but not as much as Asuka Soryu. That's a topic for another day. Asuka only has a little bit of time to develop as a character, but Rei has two whole movies with her as a focus, and the results are evident in her improved personality.
In the original series, up until Asuka arrived, I loved Rei. She was so mysterious, and had such an aura around her, but after Asuka did show up, she fell to the background completely. The problem partly had to do with her being so painfully introverted against Asuka's outgoing personality that she just couldn't compete. Also, a lot of Rei had to remain a mystery because so much of her past dealt with the mysteries of the entire show.
Which brings us to Lilith. In End of Evangelion, Rei finally comes into her own, once she figures out, "I'll be damned, I have the soul of a God." Then she becomes the embodiment of awesomeness, when she goes to each and every character, basically saying, "Still hung up on your own personal shit? I'll turn you into Tang." But sadly, this doesn't last long. She helps Shinji and then the movie ends.
This brings us to Rebuild. As I stated before, Rei has one entire movie all to herself to develop. This made us identify with her much quicker and gain sympathy for her as we see how she is treated as a science experiment and a doll. By the time 2.0 came out, it doesn't matter that bombastic Asuka comes onto the scene because Rei is already established, and she can safely do her own thing, hang out with Gendou and eat pills.
But then something magical happens for Rei Ayanami. She eats Shinji's Miso soup.
Seriously, eating Shinji's Miso soup must be like a spiritual awakening. The man can pilot an Eva, sure, but he can really make a damn fine cup of soup.
After Rei eats that Miso soup, her life changes completely. She takes her first proactive roll ever (not counting destroying the world in End of Eva), in that she wants to do the unthinkable, get Shinji and Gendou to patch up their relationship.
No longer is Rei the autistic doll she is in the original series. She is an actual real girl with aspirations and curiosities, and an actual drive and a goal, even if it is futile.
By the end of 2.0, something has happened to Rei, and I am partially hoping that her awakening as Lilith happens a lot sooner. Rei walking around, realizing that she is the mother of humanity, could be a very interesting prospect. On top of that, in the preview for part 3, she is seen with a bunch of little cute chibi Rei's looking out from behind her. So something is stirring with Eva's blue haired cutie.
Other versions of Rei that are worth mentioning, are her Human Instrumentality version, where is is a clutzy and outgoing Japanese school girl. 100% different then the version everyone likes. Also in the novel series being written right now called Evangelion Anima, a world that survived Third Impact, Rei III is alive and well as well as an evil Rei made by SEELE called Quatra who wears black leather, and then another cute preteen Rei who follows Ritsuko around.
Also worth mentioning is the game Ayanami Raising Project. Fans have translated this game, where you play as a NERV officer who gets to take Rei around, dress her, and show her a good time.
Seiyuu: Megumi Hayashibara
Megumi has been Rei's voice since the beginning of the television series in 1995, but that was by no means the start of her career. She started voice acting in 1986, doing bit parts for the show, Maison Ikkoku. After Maison Ikkoku, and before Evangelion, she starred in shows such as, Ranma 1/2, Patlabor, Samurai Pizza Cats, and YuYu Hakusho to name a few.
In the same year Eva premiered, she also voiced two of my other favorite anime women, who should probably be on this list as well, but aren't: Lina Inverse from Slayers, and Tira Misu from Sorcerer Hunters.
Most anime fans will also recognize her as the voice of the sultry and sexy Feye Valentine in Cowboy Bebop. In other words, Megumi is a big name in the voice acting business with so many top tier anime's under her belt, I'm hardly even scratching the surface here.
She is also a well established singer, with dozen of album releases and hit singles. This woman has had an amazing career. It is no wonder she is known by many fans to be the hardest working woman in anime.
Honorable mention: Mari Illustrious Makinami
I like to announce my fondness for Mari, any chance I get, if only to anger and annoy Rebuild haters. Just like any good Eva fan, I was very apprehensive about her inclusion in my beloved Evangelion. The main point of contention was that Asuka was to be introduced in 2.0, and if this new girl is going to be introduced as well, then she was going to steal some of Asuka's thunder.
In the final product however, Mari was hardly in the film, and she was in there just enough to make her a very interesting addition.
Hideki Anno, the director of Evangelion, told Mari's Seiyuu, Maaya Sakamoto, that her job was to destroy the world of Evangelion. And really, that is all we know about Mari. Her inclusion in Rebuild of Eva 2.0 seems odd, and she does indeed feel like an intruder. By the end of the film all we want to know about Mari is more. What is her plan? Where does she come from? And we only want to know the answers to these questions because she is so compelling and strange.
The criticisms for Mari, are pretty obvious. Her entire character design is curtailing and pandering to the moe stereotype. But personally I feel that is part of the joke of her entire creation.
It also helps that I see her as the other half of Asuka. It is like they took Asuka Soryu from the original series and performed osmosis on her, with one part becoming Asuka Shikinami, the toned down sweeter version of Asuka, and the other part becoming Mari Makinami, the hard core Eva pilot who exists only to destroy and pilot her Eva.
In the end I don't know enough about her to give her an actual number on this list, but one day after the two other films are finished, she might have earned a spot.