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.
Below is a brief translation of the column:
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.
Today is the premier of the new Evangelion movie. The Evangelion series started in 1995 as an anime. The popularity of this sub-main character (Rei) still has not gone down despite the anime's age. I walked down the streets of Akihabara seeking Ayanami, yet all Ayanami figurines were sold out, and some of the premium ones were being traded several hundred thousand yen on auction websites.
In the real world, vigorous people become popular and attract other people, so why are our minds caught by such a dark and obsessed character?
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?
Go here for a review of the new Eva movie.
In other news, a replica of the Spear of Longinus from Evangelion hits 10 billion yen (actually 9,999,999,999 yen, the maximum value allowed for a bid) on Yahoo! Auctions.
Update: In the end, the spear was sold for 13.7 million yen ($121,000 USD).