This post contains massive spoilers for Neon Genesis Evangelion and End of Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a soul-rending series about loneliness, alienation, and the inevitable end of the world. It’s a supreme work of art and more emotionally vivid than anything else I’ve seen. And its mascot is a giant metal purple unicorn.
Evangelion Unit-01 has my favorite design in any character or piece of technology in fiction. Its color design and decorations embody anime’s potential to bring silliness to serious situations, while its shape is that of a human. Unit-01 fights with beastlike fury, humanlike desperation, and a touch of the supernatural.
Unit-01 is actually Yui Ikari. If you want to know my feelings on Yui Ikari, you could read my entry on Rose Quartz from Steven Universe. She’s an absent mother figure, presented as all-loving but with no verbal connection to her child. Shinji and Yui move together as one unit, just as Steven and Rose are one gem.
While she shares Rose’s fighting prowess, Yui’s far less visible. What makes her a fascinating character is the effect and legacy she leaves. Fuyutsuki and Gendo are enraptured by her. Yet Gendo sleeps with the Akagis. She’s the light of his life, but he will use his body whatever way he must to get her back.
She’s the core of what Rei represents to others. Ritsuko’s resentment, Gendo’s longing, and Shinji’s need for a mother. While Rei is her own character, so much of her role in the plot is guided by this one.
It’s interesting to ponder what she’s thinking throughout all of those battles. She’s protecting her child, but it’s not really of her own will. She’s in a bloody fight to the death, after a decade just sitting in a lab. She must be terrified.
“Anywhere can be paradise as long as you have the will to live. After all, you are alive, so you will always have the chance to be happy. As long as the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth exist, everything will be all right.”
This is the main piece of characterization that Yui gets, given in a flashback as Unit-01 floats away into space. At the end of a series detailing the human need for connection, and the immense misery that isolation causes, Yui is sent to survive for all eternity in the endless void. She embraces this opportunity. No matter how bad or how lonely things get, there’s always a chance of happiness.
Yui Ikari made the ultimate statement of hope. She was character with profound effect on the world around her, and an incredibly awesome giant monster. No character means to me quite what she does.