How many Ayanami Rei fans do you think there are in Japan? Out of those, how many would you say seem to worship her as a subconscious goddess? Try at least 1,000,000. From ComiPress, via MAL forum poster ReverseHarem:
Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japan Economic Times), one of the most respected economics newspaper in Japan, recently published a column from an otaku who claims (without source) that in Japan over 1 million men are obsessed with Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Rei Ayanami.
The ComiPress article contains a translation of the otaku’s column. (The original Japanese is here.) Highlights:
I believe there are at least one million men in Japan who love Rei Ayanami. She is an icy, quiet, unemotional 14 years old girl. This bandaged Goddess is an icon of Japanese anime. She has a decisive mind inside her fragile appearance….
I heard from an anime figurine expert that most of the collectors of Rei are in their 30’s and early 40’s. Virtual worlds created by anime and the internet have a mysterious power that appeals to a deep corner of our minds.
During the days when Rei “descended to Earth,” Japan was in the middle of a recession, and most people were caught in a mental depression. Sympathy for this wounded, quiet, decisive robot pilot came from such times. The anime figurines were an icon of a “subconscious religion.” Now the Japanese economy has been restored, but have people’s minds been restored?
Mike’s Comment: congratulations, otaku! You just beat the merely 500,000 people who listed “Jedi” as their religion in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand! Now all you have to do is find the millions who are Haruhiists and then you can really start spreading fun and excitement into the world. (Rei is a rather depressing goddess compared to Haruhi, if you ask me. Even Anno prefers Asuka!)
More seriously: in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, icons are meant to be “windows into heaven,” a means to look through the picture to what it represents. The same is true of statues and crosses in Roman Catholicism. The otaku asks an interesting question: just what is it that an otaku sees beyond the plasmo? What is so comforting about it, and does it mean that the mental damage from the “lost decade” of the 1990s is far from over? She seems to have a symbolic quality beyond herself, perhaps externalizing the interior damage many people continue to feel. It makes me think of the Atlantic article where Anno was interviewed, specifically about Rei too.
Maybe Eva really is the definitive portrait of the Japanese psyche in the 1990s after all. And that it’s no accident that the remake movie is called “You are Not Alone.”