Rei Ayanami

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Name: Rei Ayanami
Occupation: Pilot of Evangelion Unit 00, Lilith
Relationships: Gendo Ikari (creator, commander)
Yui Ikari (derivative)
Shinji Ikari (blood relative)
Fandom: Neon Genesis Evangelion
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Rei Ayanami is a primary character in the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. She is a blue haired, red eyed, pale girl, the product of cloning Yui Ikari, the mother of series protagonist Shinji Ikari , embedded with the soul of Lilith, the 2nd Angel. She is one of the most popular anime characters of all time, having greatly influenced subsequent anime characters and even the industry as a whole.[1]



Not dissimilar to Asuka, Rei is one of the most popular characters in the fandom. Her fans like her mysterious, philosophical personality, as well as what they perceive as innocence through her shyness and lack of understanding of societal norms. Others however think she is emotionless, cold, uncaring or even arrogant. In numbers, she usually divides her popularity with Asuka as one one of the most popular anime characters of the 1990s.[2] Her popularity peaked in the 90s[3], but slowly faded in the 2000s while Asuka's remained. She peaked again with Evangelion 1.0 and 2.0 in 2007 and 2009 respectively, but experienced another fall in popularity after Evangelion 3.0, which gave way to renewed popularity for Asuka and an explosion for Kaworu. Series creator Hideaki Anno attributes most of this to the fact that Rei, endlessly copied, had already lost her "mystery" and thus wasn't as alluring as she used to be.[4][5][6]



Rei is one of the three main female characters in Eva, and is usually disliked by more exclusive Asuka fans and occasionally Misato fans. Kaworu fans tend to largely ignore or disregard her, as in fact a large portion of Rei's lost popularity after Evangelion 3.0 was picked up by Kaworu and related ships.


Her pairing with Evangelion protagonist Shinji, Reishin, is still the main pairing for Rei, thanks to their numerous interactions, particularly in the first story arcs of the series, much like Asushin is the main pairing for Asuka. Unlike Asushin however, Reishin is greatly expanded in the manga adaptation of the anime and also receives a great amount of extra attention in the Rebuilds, particularly Evangelion 2.0. Her relationship with Shinji was so strong in that movie that many fans, including non-Reishin fans, believed it was now going to be endgame, unlike the series and End of Evangelion which featured an (inconclusive and open-ended) ending with Asuka and Shinji. This means that the larger franchise puts Reishin on more of an equal footing compared to the original series, though Asushin still tends to get significantly more material overall. However, Evangelion 3.0 featured a new Rei, Rei Q, which grew further apart from him. In the final film, Evangelion 3.0+1.0, Rei Q gets closer to Shinji but is unable to survive. Her interactions and death are one of the major motivators for Shinji's recovery. Shinji reunites with the original Rei near the ending, and she apologizes to him. Shinji sends her back to the village as he does with Asuka and Kaworu, but they do not share any unambiguously romantic dynamics. Rei is seen by Shinji in the rebuilt world talking to Kaworu, all now as adults, which some fans have interpreted as evidence for Kaworei, but the ending itself is variously debated as open-ended itself. It seems to be regaining popularity in recent years.

Unlike Asuka, however, Rei's alternative ships are far more prevalent than ships for Asuka that are not Asushin. The two main contenders are Kaworei and Asurei. The former is shipped by fans who find their potential dynamics more interesting than Reishin, and is also often shipped as a side ship by Asuka and Asushin fans who also like Rei and wish to see her end up with someone, and some Kaworu fans still prefer it to Kawoshin, with this having more common among these fans before 3.0 than it is now. It enjoys a fair amount of official and fan material. Unlike Marishin and Asuken, other ships debated as possibly supported by the final Rebuild film, it is not usually used as a troll ship. Reishin fans have also pointed out at some staff statements to rebuff these, such as the repeated denial of Mari being based on Anno's wife. though there is no later comment from staff on Reishin itself, much like Kawoshin but unlike Asushin. Kaworei, however, has long enjoyed significant popularity as one of the "secondary" fandom ships and is not usually used as a troll ship.

Asurei is a femslash ship, though it is very rarely taken seriously and is more of a crack ship since in canon Asuka and Rei rarely get along and in fact develop mutual antipathy towards one another. However, because of its obvious sex appeal, it is quite frequent in fanart and licenced material. In the 2000s, a fairly popular alternative ship was between her and Kensuke Aida, also present in many Asushin-centric fics as a secondary pairing. Similarly to Asuka/Kaji, Gendo has a close relationship with her in canon, but pairing them is also rare.





Archives and Fannish Links



  1. ^ See Rei Ayanami Expy on TV Tropes
  2. ^ "On his favorite Evangelion character... ANNO: Asuka , because she's cute. When told that the American audience favors Misato ... ANNO: I'm surprised. In Japan, the overwhelming favorite is Rei . They can't handle strong women such as Misato and Asuka ."
  3. ^ Rei's merchandise sales were so strong at the time she was called the "Premium Girl" inside the industry
  4. ^
  5. ^ Eva Store's Character Popularity Poll Yields Surprising Results
  6. ^ This 2020 NHK poll has Asuka, Kaworu, Rei, Shinji, Misato and Mari as the most popular characters.