The Million Ayanami Rei Fan March

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.”

Our Lady of Sorrows?

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

3 thoughts on “The Million Ayanami Rei Fan March

  1. I dunno, let’s see here…

    *lonely, usually withdrawn
    *lack of social skills
    *easily brainwashed

    …yeah, Rei is so similar to otaku, it’s no wonder they worship her :V

  2. Bah, I’ve always been more of a Misato fan anyway. You’ve gotta respect a woman who has beer for breakfast…and yes, I will be listing my religion as ‘jedi’ at the next census. Just for the lulz.

    In all seriousness though, if NGE was a reflection of a culture itself inspired by movies and TV…the ad infinitum back and forth ‘art imitates life/life imitates art’ idea is beginning to make my brain hurt. The idea of a childlike society was interesting too – there’s the nanny state thing that’s always in the news in my nek of the woods, plus the times I’ve seen footie fans in the pub in tears when England crash out of an international tournament. It all does make me think we’re a nation of kids too. Stop blubbering and wishing it was 1966 again, okay?

  3. @DrmChsr0 – makes sense. 🙂 Though, for this otaku, it was Shinji’s appallingly accurate depiction of the withdrawn and depressed mind that drew me in to Eva and anime in general. But Rei is a good way to externalize that in a more physically attractive, um, package.

    @Martin – well, it does seem that lots of the “Jedi” respondents were doing it for lulz too! And I agree that there has been a general decline in all Westernized societies (Japan is included) in tact, reserve, and general courtesy–things which were once signs of maturity and adulthood. Rather than lashing out like Anno did and point to the salarymen reading manga on the train (people like that ARE helping to feed him, after all, along with the 1,000,000 Rei fans!) we need to rediscover what kind of character is necessary to be “grown up.”

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