REVIEW: Rei I/Rei II (Evangelion)
Rei Ayanami is the first pilot of Evangelion. The last time she tried to sync with her Eva, prototype model Unit-00, the robot rejected her completely as she was about to pass the borderline, going utterly berserk. More actions taken without regards to consequences. It breaks free of its restraints, switching to standby power and takes aim at the observation deck with its fists. The entry plug is ejected forcibly. Gendo Ikari shows his first signs of emotion, deeply and primally concerned for her wellbeing. Funny, he doesn’t act that way with his own son. Gendo runs downstairs to where the entry plug landed and opens the door with his bare hands, badly burning them and breaking his glasses. He and Rei are rather close, it seems.
After this comes a mostly technobabble filled scene ending in the biggest punchline I missed my first time through: the Angels, those mechanical, inhuman and otherworldly creatures perpetually attacking Tokyo-3? Their DNA is 99.89% similar to ours. Shinji’s as surprised to hear about how his father burned his hands as we are.
At this point, the show tells us we should be interested in Rei by having the characters be interested in Rei. Thankfully, for an albino girl, she’s extraordinarily sexy. The story behind her character is that Anno wanted a girl who landed deep in the uncanny valley. She was supposed to be a facsimile of humanity. That’s why she’s always alone, as Shinji ponders out loud. However, the character designer “accidentally” made all the girls of the series legitimately beautiful. Combined with their angsty backstories, the guys went wild. Not exactly what Anno had in mind.
It’s time for some light comic relief! Misato’s drunk and an awful cook! Shinji can’t stop staring at Rei! Ritsuko’s over and gets all psychedelic inner monologue at the revelation of how lethal Misato’s cooking really is! Pen-Pen takes a bite of curry and keels over unconscious! Get it? This series can be light and fluffy! Ritsuko gives Shinji something to drop off at Rei’s house.
Where some factory in the distance is making a terrible racket at all times. Where there are boxes upon boxes filled with bloody bandages. Where the sheets on her bed have bloodstains on them. Where Gendo’s glasses are sitting on her bedside table. And where Rei has just gotten out of the shower. Uncanny valley, eh, Anno-sama? So that’s why, in what’s possibly the most un-fanservicey grope of all time, Shinji lands with his hand on her moist, steamy breast. Rei shows no reaction. She dresses and they head off to NERV.
He, very deservedly, tells Rei that Commander Ikari is a jerk on the escalator. So she slaps him. Yeah, there’s something going on there. That’s kinda freaky. The fifth Angel crashes the party during Rei’s successful sync-test with her Eva, so they send Shinji out to fight it. Where he’s promptly boiled alive in his entry plug. Cliffhanger!
This is Rei’s first featured episode, and it has some of my favourite moments of the early series in it. It’s cool.
This is Rei’s second featured episode, and it has one of my favourite moments from the entire series in it. It’s also cool.
The episode opens and Shinji’s being boiled alive in his entry plug! Something tells me this Angel is rather more deadly than the last couple. Maybe the fact that it’s a giant floating double pyramid that has its own choir should have filled them all in. The episode then puts the Angel through the Worf Exam, pitting it against several weapons, each of which it destroys. They have a time limit to defeating it, as it’s currently drilling into the geofront below Tokyo-3. That’s sort of a Noah’s ark for an Earth ecosystem. Underground.
Anyway, Misato finds a way to defeat it, at least in theory. Use a positron rifle from outside its firing range, using all the power from Japan at once. There’s quite a funny moment where Rei takes the rifle away from its makers. In Unit-00. Priceless! This episode is the first to focus almost exclusively on coming up with a strategy to defeat the Angel of the week. As such, it still feels rather fresh and clean. Trust me, this will become standard operating procedure in a few weeks. There’s still character interaction, such as a particularly touching scene between Shinji and Rei. Shinji’s naked this time, which is partly why it’s funnier this time around.
Eva is known both for its rich, dark and psychological drama and its budget cuts. Both are on display between Rei and Shinji in this sequence. When Rei briefs Shinji on how they’re going to defeat the Angel, she’s holding a book in front of her mouth. How to Save Money on Mouthwags and Alienate People by Hideaki Anno–available in stores today! There are a lot of static shots of people from too far away to make out their mouths, or backlit and in silhouette where you can’t see their mouths. Shinji is briefed in one of these almost all static sequences. The gist is, he has to kill the Angel with his first shot. They’re blacking out all of Japan a block at a time for this–it’s gotta be done right. It’s a simple plan, after all.
There’s are more moments between Shinji and Rei this week. When suiting up for the battle, he asks her if she’s afraid they could die. She says that he won’t die, because she’ll protect him. Later, before the operation begins, he asks her why she pilots Eva. She replies that she’s bonded to it. She has nothing else to live for. These conversations are rife with subtext, with the lingering question that two teenagers changing with only a silhouetting screen between them raises.
Simple plans go wrong, Rei takes a face-full of laser protecting Shinji. He forces open her hatch and breaks down crying in front of her. She says that she doesn’t know what to do or feel at a time like this. “Why don’t you just try smiling?”
She does. Yeah. 🙂