Mankind's best friend
My current WIP, “Then God said, 'Take your son, your only son, whom you love...’”
This is quickly turning into one of the most elaborate pieces I've done in years. Whoops.
Bonus points if you find the Easter egg (which should be easy if you're at all familiar with the show).
And yes, I had to do a whole separate miniature painting just for that one detail.
The Gendo & Rei Question: Part II
For the Intro and Part I, go here.
Part II: Wife Husbandry, or the Genetic Pygmalion
Where we last left Gendo, he was reeling from the shock and grief of losing the love of his life, and a week after her absorption into Unit-01 he submitted his proposal for the Human Instrumentality Project to the SEELE board members. His plan for the HIP from the beginning was clearly to use it to reunite with Yui, but he let SEELE believe that he was submitting the direction of the Project to them (though they did, of course, catch on).
So where does Rei come in, exactly?
To backtrack a bit, we learn through Fuyutsuki’s memories that Yui volunteered for the experiment that ended with her soul’s absorption into Unit-01 and her body’s dissolution into LCL. Did she know that is what would happen to her? She at the very least knew it was dangerous, surely, and she accepted those dangers. In End of Evangelion, a conversation between Yui and Fuyutsuki suggests that Yui was hoping the experiment could lead eventually to some sort of guaranteed immortality for humanity, or at the very least for one individual. However, I am not certain I buy the theory that Yui knew exactly what would happen all along. After all, this exact iteration of the experiment had probably never been attempted before.
Furthermore, Gendo was working on this experiment alongside her, and his reaction to her disappearance suggests that it came as a deep shock to him. He didn’t see this scenario coming. Nevertheless, his behaviour in the crucial scene shows that he still knew his wife was taking a risk. This only the second time (chronologically) that Gendo is shown doing his trademark “Gendo pose”. When viewed from the side (that is, Fuyutsuki’s vantage point) we see that his brow is furrowed and his jaw is clenched. He knows this is deeply dangerous, but he respects his wife enough to not only let her try it, but to let Shinji watch. That is not the behaviour of a man who knows something bad will happen, it is the behaviour of a man who is terrified that something bad will happen, but who is taking a risk anyway because he trusts Yui to know what she’s doing.
A side note: across flashbacks throughout the show we see Gendo over time taking on habits and costumes that further and further separate him from the world. He goes from wearing no glasses, to clear spectacles, to tinted spectacles that reflect the light. He goes from being clean-shaven to growing a beard. He dons the gloves. All these things are gradual layers that he dons as he gets older. The “Gendo pose” is part of this: his hands in front of his face shield his expressions, his very identity. On a more basic level, I think this is a habit that he does when he is either very deep in concentration or very anxious about something (or both). And of course, for the majority of the series, this is how we see him. It is his “hedgehog” position, to borrow the motif. He is curling up defensively when he does this, and by the final year of his life he is almost constantly in this shielded posture. It is a physical expression of his own personal AT field.
But back to Yui’s disappearance and Rei’s beginnings.
From other EoE lines from Fuyutsuki, it seems that part of the project of salvaging Yui’s DNA from her LCL was also the attempt to extract her soul from Unit-01. However, Yui’s soul refused extraction. There is no way to tell if this was a conscious refusal on her part or not, but Yui’s behaviour when she is Unit-01 suggests that her consciousness has reverted to something more primal within the Eva. Fuyutsuki frames her refusal to be extracted from the Eva as “the will to live,” suggesting that perhaps Yui, in this altered state, perceived the attempted extraction as death, resulting in this resistance to it. It is likely that this was attempted before Gendo’s week-long disappearance and his re-emergence with the proposal for the HIP. While it’s clear that the HIP was already a subject of discussion among the scientists (Fuyutsuki guesses at it immediately), it was likely only one potential direction for research up until Yui’s absorption by the Eva and her soul’s refusal to be salvaged. Having failed at the first method, Gendo is now prepared to do something even more extreme to get her back: become a god via Instrumentality.
When Yui disappeared, Unit-01 was still being grown from Lilith, and Lilith’s genetic materials were apparently also harvested to create Rei. Was Gendo (or perhaps Fuyutsuki) hoping that perhaps something of Yui was now merged with Lilith as a whole, and that by sampling Lilith’s material he could get a fraction of Yui’s spirit and personality back into Rei? Perhaps. In fact, he may have been right, since several moments in the show hint at Rei having some subconscious sense of “being” Yui. Regardless, it seems like most of what was actually put into Rei was Lilith’s soul, or at the very least a portion of it.
Although the first successful iteration of Rei Ayanami (Rei I) does not appear until 2010, I think it is safe to assume that the salvaging began immediately after Yui’s death in 2004, and that this quickly turned from a salvage project into a pure DNA-based cloning project once it was ascertained that Yui’s soul could not be recovered. This is noteworthy: despite knowing that it will never truly bring Yui back to him, Gendo pushes the cloning project forward for six years until it is successful, and then again for five additional years after Rei I’s death. Was it strictly necessary that Yui’s leftover human DNA be used to create a Lilith-human hybrid for the dummy plug project or the HIP? After all, Yui’s human DNA from her LCL was not, so far as we know, uniquely compatible with Lilith’s DNA. Surely there were other candidates for DNA selection.
Or is the choice to repeatedly use Yui’s DNA for these projects an outcome of Gendo’s repeated refusals to let go of his wife? Is her repeated physical resurrection via the Rei clones his means of keeping his beloved Yui alive and with him, at least in body if not in spirit? Personally, given Gendo’s other obsessive behaviours regarding Rei’s body (which I will delve into in later essays), I’m inclined to say that this is yet another manifestation of Gendo attempting to cope with his grief by keeping the things he can control firmly in his grasp—and this now includes his dead wife’s very DNA.
In Episode 23, Fuyutsuki describes Rei: “She was the product of my despair, and she remains the vessel of all your hopes.” This tells us three things: first, that it was Fuyutsuki (an esteemed biologist) who was (at least initially) tasked with the cloning process. Second, it shows where Fuyutsuki was emotionally when creating her. He was quietly grieving for Yui himself, but I would argue that he was probably also despairing because he knew that this would make things more difficult both for Gendo and for Rei herself. Despite his mixed feelings towards Gendo as a person, it is apparent that he did eventually come to care about Gendo as a person. No doubt Fuyutsuki, who is shown to be an observant and sensitive man, had (correctly) guessed that this cloning project was going to be deeply harmful for all parties involved. Finally, and most importantly, this line tells us that Rei was created specifically to serve Gendo’s needs from the very beginning. The obvious answer is that she was created for Gendo’s Instrumentality plans, but ultimately the use of the word “hopes” supports my theory that she was fundamentally created to meet Gendo’s emotional needs as well.
And so, in 2010, Rei I is perfected and introduced to the world as a four-year-old girl. Though the clone is not successful until then, she is “birthed” at what was approximately Shinji’s age when the cloning process began in ~2004. She is furthermore given the name that Gendo and Yui had intended on giving a possible daughter: Rei. This suggests that Gendo was, in his grief, attempting to create a new, ideal child who had never witnessed his traumatizing failures the way Shinji had.
And yet Rei I is not long for the world. After her murder in 2010, perhaps only days or even hours after she is introduced to the rest of NERV, a new phase of the cloning project begins. According to the official timeline, the next iteration of Rei Ayanami (Rei II) begins her public schooling in 2014, in the body of a thirteen-year-old. No doubt by this time Gendo had realised that the ace in his sleeve, being made directly from Lilith’s DNA and entirely under his control (and possibly even sharing a divided soul with Unit-00 at this point), would make the ideal First Child. Just as important, however, is how clearly this demonstrates the level of control Gendo truly does have over her. He does not only dictate her very existence, but he can forcibly age her as he pleases, skipping most of her childhood and thrusting her body directly into puberty.
One curious note here is a line from “Rei’s Poem” from Episode 14. She mentions “a woman who does not shed blood.” Is she referring to Yui, in whom she sits during her interchangeability test with Unit-01? Or is she perhaps euphemistically referring to herself? We know she bleeds when wounded, but given her age, does this mean she cannot menstruate, and therefore not bear children? If so, is this an accident of the cloning process, or was it intentional? If so, was this Gendo’s choice?
Or, perhaps, did Fuyutsuki (or maybe even Ritsuko) genetically nip that prospect in the bud out of fear of what could come from it?
This, of course, is all speculation, but there are few possibilities here that paint Gendo’s intentions (or others’ suspicions about Gendo’s intentions) in a very good light. Even at the most benign, it again shows a deeply invasive command over even the most personal aspect of an adolescent girl’s body.
Furthermore, Gendo’s use of solely Yui’s DNA (mixed with Lilith’s, but not with his own) means that in fact he is just cloning his wife rather than actually creating a unique child of them both in the same way Shinji is. This again speaks to his considerable self-hatred: given the throwaway lines about Shinji’s similarity to Gendo, we can assume that these are some of the very traits he demonstrably cannot stand to see in Shinji. No doubt Gendo probably thinks that putting more of his own DNA out into the world would only make things worse, creating yet another “unlovable” child. So for his “new” child he uses just the DNA that he can find lovable—Yui’s—and yet simultaneously ensures that Rei can never be “fully” an individual in the way others are. In his effort to recreate perfection (or at least what he perceives to be perfection) he, ironically, only further objectifies his wife’s DNA—and the girl who now carries it.
Over. And over. And over.
Even if she is made of Yui’s DNA, Rei is not Yui: she is a creation. As a result, Gendo cultivates a disturbing level of ownership over her every atom of her physical being even as he uses her as an emotional refuge and indulgence for his guilt, grief, and hope.
To be continued in Part III: The Gaze of the Prodigal Son
The Gendo & Rei Question: Intro & Part I
A couple nights ago I received this question and ever since I’ve been working to answer it, except it turns out that I have a hell of a lot more to say than I originally thought I did. It’s thus turned into a multi-part series, so stay tuned for coming installations. I have been curious about the odd relationship between Gendo Ikari and Rei Ayanami ever since I was a fourteen-year-old myself, but my latest Evangelion rewatch at the ripe old age of thirty-three has brought it all surging back and provided me with a lot more insight that I had in my past watches (first as a teenager, then as a twenty-something). It’s also really the perfect archetype of a type of fictional relationship that has always absolutely fascinated me, which I’m sure anyone who’s followed this blog and read my work for long enough can tell. In an anime that really centres on characters’ relationships it’s definitely the one that I think is the most interesting, and part of that is its deep ambiguity and flirtation with being openly taboo.
I should first note that I’m mainly going by the canon for the 26-episode anime and End of Evangelion here as that’s mostly what I care about in terms of the franchise and it’s what I’m personally most familiar with. There’s been lots of things given Word-of-God since, and there’s plenty of additional detail in the manga (once I’m done reading the manga I may do a separate post on that, since the manga really makes explicit the implicit), and that’s not even counting the many alternate universe stories and the Rebuild series. For brevity’s sake I’m thus primarily using what we see in the anime. Also, I may get things wrong since the lore is so uncertain and at times contradictory.
Gendo’s textual treatment of Rei from the anime and EoE alone speaks volumes about the nature of their dynamic, even if many of the exact events that developed that dynamic are unclear. And to understand Gendo’s relationship with Rei, we first have to understand his relationship with his dead wife, Yui Ikari.
Part I: The Girl Who Got (Absorbed) Away
Gendo’s story with Yui starts when he is introduced to Professor Kozo Fuyutsuki, who says that he knows Gendo Rokubungi by reputation and then goes to pick him up from the slammer. Gendo is (presumably) a PhD student like Yui, and take it from a PhD: this is definitely unusual. Us academics aren’t really the bar brawl sort. And yet here’s Gendo, his face bruised, arm sprained, and looking like he’s had quite a long night in the drunk tank. He states that the other guy started it, that he’s not exactly a people person, and that he’s used to others’ disdain. On their first meeting, Fuyutsuki finds him “thoroughly unpleasant” even though the intense young man has apparently been excited to meet the professor ever since he heard about Fuyutsuki from a “mutual friend.” Gendo is a stark contrast to the charming, kind, and well-presented Yui that we met alongside Fuyutsuki earlier. To Fuyutsuki’s shock, he soon learns that Gendo and Yui have been involved for a while despite being apparent polar opposites.
Despite his rough appearance and almost arrogant mannerisms, we already know three things about how Gendo views Yui: he automatically values and trusts the mentor she admires (enough to ask Fuyutsuki to come pick him up from jail), he doesn’t call Yui his girlfriend even though they probably are already involved by this point, and he asked his girlfriend’s mentor to come pick him up instead of just asking his actual girlfriend.
Now, this seems on its surface a pretty odd cluster of facts, and some of them could have multiple valid explanations. For example, perhaps he doesn’t tell Fuyutsuki of their true relationship simply out of a sense of privacy or decorum. But it all comes together when the final piece of the puzzle is revealed in EoE: Gendo hates himself. Deeply, passionately hates himself. And just as much as he despises himself, he adores Yui and sees her as the only person capable of loving him for who he truly is. And that kind of self-hatred starts young. My theory for this scene is that Gendo doesn’t feel worthy to call Yui his girlfriend and despite his casual swagger, he doesn’t want her to see him this way. After all, this is a prestigious university and Yui is a rising star among her colleagues. It’s clear—and we see this in Fuyutsuki’s reaction—that Gendo is a step down in terms of dating. And I’m certain that nobody believed this more than Gendo himself.
Also important to note is that once they get married, Gendo Rokubungi takes Yui’s name via the practice of mukoyoshi, which occurs when a son-in-law is adopted into his marital family. This is frequently done when the head of a corporation lacks a male heir, but so far as we know the Ikaris weren’t a business family. However, mukoyoshi can also happen when the groom is lower-class than the bride, his biological family has a shameful background, or he’s been disowned by his biological family. So while it tends to go over the English audience’s heads, this detail would have signalled to the original Japanese audience that Gendo is probably the one who got very lucky in marrying Yui—lucky enough that he gave up everything of his background to be with her. Again we get the sense that he views himself as unworthy in this relationship.
Immediately after revealing that he’s now Gendo Ikari, he reveals a new detail: Yui is at home, caring for their newborn. And when he says this, he smiles in joy. Earlier, Yui had said—to Fuyutsuki’s surprise—that she was open to a domestic role as well as an academic or research job. Thus, her staying home with their newborn child is already framed not as her being the submissive half of the couple, but simply as a woman doing something she’s always wanted to do just as much as scientific work. And Gendo, bless him, looks incredibly proud of her (he is, as I’ve said before, essentially a wifeguy gone bad). Just as notable is the fact that once Shinji is old enough, Yui happily returns to work alongside her husband at Gehirn, and they seem to function as a team. Throughout the show, their relationship is implied to have been incredibly equal and balanced…outside of the rumours that he murdered her, of course. Yui is Gendo’s redemption from a murky, unpleasant past, and now they’re working together to save mankind from coming doom.
And then, just like that, she’s gone. The redeeming light of his life blinks out in an instant, and Gendo becomes a man obsessed with recapturing that light. He disappears for a week without giving notice, and when he comes back he is a man transformed by a new purpose. The symbolism in the scene is obvious: he is not only bearing a cross, but impaled by it.
The Gendo we meet in Episode 1 of Evangelion is thus a man trapped in an endless grief cycle of hoping for reunion with the love of his life on the one hand, and on the other, despair of ever connecting with anyone else or finding meaning without her. His entire world is built on this obsession over grief and his refusal to grow past it. As a result, virtually all his other relationships grind to a halt, and he holds everyone in his life at a rigid distance…except for Rei Ayanami. Rei becomes a “safe space” from that grief cycle even as her existence enables him to perpetuate it, and I’ll dig into that in coming installments.
I should also make a note here of Gendo’s immense guilt, which goes hand-in-hand with his grief. It’s surprising to think that someone like Gendo, who expresses virtually no remorse for the majority of the story, is in fact wrapped up in guilt as well as grief, but he is—at least according to my reading of him. I think a large part of it is survivor’s guilt: both he and Yui were working on Project E, but she’s the one who got killed doing it. What’s more, despite their equal footing in a lot of things, he seems to have been the one helming the project, which in turn would make him directly responsible for his wife’s accident. I sincerely think that he is unable to reconcile himself to the fact that she died instead of him, and that he was sitting at a safe distance watching as she was destroyed. This is accentuated by the rumours that spread about Gendo murdering his own wife, and it is very likely—based on his behaviour—that he thinks he did, too. This becomes his excuse for every other atrocity he commits. After all, he’s already committed the worst crime he could’ve ever conceived of: he got Yui killed. No other cruel, brutal, or vicious act could ever possibly compare to that. All other wrongs become justified in the pursuit of undoing his single greatest sin.
And just as with his grief, Rei becomes a simultaneous escape from and excuse for his guilt and self-hatred.
To be continued in Part II: Wife Husbandry, or the Genetic Pygmalion
Whoooo that was an old ask. Thank you for your interpretation! I think you're right but I also think the text fails at communicating here, because "it's apparent that everyone else present already agrees with him" doesn't feel like the natural conclusion readers in 1990s catholic, conservative Poland would be expected to make. I can very much see it interpreted as Geralt getting angry at 'it's a woman's choice', because he thinks aborting children is murder. :/ But, well, that's on the author.
And yeah I can see that criticism, though Geralt and Cahir have already stated it explicitly in-text (Geralt in earlier stories iirc) and Regis implicitly. But yes, it could easily be interpreted the wrong way, though in the original Polish there may be some nuances that didn't carry over.
You're one of the few who read the books and I gotta gripe to someone: remember the part where Geralt, Regis and Jaskier are discussing Milva's pregnancy, and they start talking about her options? It's generally pro-choice, and Jaskier very strongly says it's obviously exclusively the woman's decision and Geralt shuts him down as rudely as if he'd said something really stupid, which for once he didn't. I can't figure that bit out and it annoys me. Do you have any interpretations? Thoughts?
First of all I am SO sorry that I only just saw this now. I don't check this blog too often anymore compared to my other blog for random stuff
In the context of that chapter, Cahir has just stated that in the Empire, the woman decides whether or not to keep it, but he admits that he doesn't know anything about Northern customs regarding such things. Dandelion isn't so much speaking up for Milva and other women, he's getting defensive and turning it into an argument about nationalism/ethnicity ("Do you think we're savages, Nilfgaardian?"). He then begins devolving into preaching about women's right to choose.
While Dandelion is on the side of justice here, he's bloviating and pontificating rather than doing any good, as it is apparent that everyone else present already agrees with him and don't need their minds changed.
The actual problem, however, is entirely different, as Cahir has pointed out already, and Dandelion (being Dandelion) has missed this as he's more of an idealist than a pragmatist like the others. In this scene, they aren't truly discussing whether or not Milva should be allowed to make their own decision, they're trying to decide what to do, because either way, whatever Milva chooses, it is no longer just herself and her potential child that will be impacted. The entire hansa will be impacted, meaning Ciri and thus the whole of the Continent could be potentially impacted.
If Milva decides to keep the pregnancy, that will pose serious risks on the road as they're travelling through a war zone and pregnang women tend to have very specific health needs and risks. Furthermore, what if they get all the way into Nilfgaard and Milva is 8 or 9 months along and now they have to deal with sneaking a baby through enemy territory? At the same time, abortion--even under Regis's skilled hands--would pose its own health risks out in the wilderness and in a war zone (infections, illness, etc). It also has political implications for Milva and the others since this is a child of the Scoia'tael resistance and thus a member of a race already enduring ongoing genocide. Pressuring her into it would thus also lead them into a political quandry, especially from Milva's perspective. Finally, abandoning her or making her turn back is out of the question: it'd be too dangerous for her to turn back alone at this point and it would be heartless of them.
So while this group of men cares deeply about Milva and want to protect her and her rights, they also know that given the situation every possible choice has massive risks for the entire group. Dandelion, meanwhile, thought the argument was about nationalism (it wasn't, and tensions with Cahir in the group are already so high that they don't need to devolve into fighting about it again) and about whether women have rights or not (which, again, it wasn't--everyone was already in agreement on that front).
Hence why Geralt snaps at Dandelion to shut the fuck up. It's not that he's saying something wrong, necessarily, it's that he's missing both the point and the gravity of the discussion.
Sadly, of course, Fate makes a decision for them.
Looked up your blog after a million years on a whim (v glad you’re still around and writing!!), had a moment of acute brain fail and thought the cute protagonist in that illustration was SSX from dynasty warriors. Er, glad to see our types have remained the same since, what, six years ago? Anyway, if you publish that novel I’ll buy it in a heartbeat, also best wishes re:dealing with the plague and everything! 💕
Yoooooo it's been a while but I know who this is! This blog is basically just for my art and writing these days but follow me on baixueagain for my nonsense if you feel like it!
Also lmao it's been way longer than six years, pretty sure it's more like 12....probably more....
I did a brief comic about the worst thing that’s ever happened to me in my whole entire life
background: my dad and I take an annual road trip out west to the desert because we both love wilderness camping out there, exploring national parks, and checking out old western towns. this was an actual conversation that occurred in one of those towns. i hated it.
also, i later discovered that this exact same guy also thought I was like 18.
Just popping in for a quick update on this blog:
My current novel is sitting at about ~41k/60k. It’s a YA fantasy with enemies-to-lovers, fake marriage, a sad bad man, cannibalism, and big fancy hats.
no you can’t sit with me or my outlaw wizard gang
another quickie of the main 3 characters of my fantasy novel. for some reason I drew all three in Earth clothes even though only Vickie (right) is actually from Earth.
also they act tough but their gang is literally just a magical murderer and the two teenage girls he somehow convinced to hang out with him
a year-end sketch of the heroine and villain (and main couple) of my fantasy novel, Vickie Lewis (left) and Shiftama Takhpari (right). as shitty as this year has been, i’m so, SO happy that i finally sat down and wrote their story. i’m currently querying agents and i hope that very soon i can share their story with all of you.
Barbara Remington, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, Middle-Earth Mural (paperback editions with puzzle board), Ballantine Books, 1965.
Barbara Remington, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Oroboros (paperback edition), Ballantine Books, 1967.
My parents have this edition. I grew up absolutely entranced by the covers.
How did you write a novel in three months I've been working on this fanfic for eight and I'm only six and a bit chapters in
Step one is write a doctoral thesis and after that writing fiction feels like the easiest thing in the world because you can just say like....whatever you want
>be an ancient elf god
>reawakened just in time to help some elf lady save the world
>she’s very cute
>trying not to fall in love, bad idea for me rn
>no harm flirting tho
>she and her crew lose their old place
>offer to help them find a new place
>when we get there, she leaps into my arms out of joy
>i automatically catch her
>hand lands on dat ass
>now my boner has now reawakened too
>the dwarf noticed and now he’s laughing at me
I fell down the DA:I hole. Didn’t actually expect to get attached to the game and was just playing it bc I was in the mood for a Big Stupid Fantasy Game...and then I fell in love with my inquisitor and also Solas, whoops.
Anyway here is Tava Lavellan, a twin-blade rogue. She’s spunky, curious, friendly, has a massive sense of humour, and she always tries to bring out the good in everyone. She’s also a bit of a dirt grub.
I already finished her game and have created a different Lavellan of the exact opposite personality to see how that goes, might draw her eventually too idk.
i ask myself
when i’m heartworn and cold:
just how many sorrows
can one body hold?
and when will god think
i’ve had enough to bear?
when i am like job,
rending my shirt and my hair?
and why, if so many
have it far worse than me,
is sorrow always