Character Analysis: Mari Illustrious Makinami

Okay, I hope everyone has seen Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 by now. If you haven’t, please do. It’s really good.

It’s really good even though it changes the essential Evangelion story. But you knew it would. You knew the rebuild was going in a different direction from the start of 2.22, where we all met Mari Illustrious Makinami.

Okay, yeah, she’s an Evangelion character, so she’s named after a warship or two, HMS Illustrious, ANOTHER World War II aircraft carrier, and the Japanese destroyer Makinami (they join the carriers Langley and Akagi, the destroyers Ayanami, Shinkinami, and Fuyutsuki, the battleship Hyuga, etc., etc., etc.)

But to be honest, Mari’s name is the least interesting thing about her.

When you sit down and try to get a handle on Mari, as a character she’s more slippery than most of the others. We know what motivates Shinji, Gendo, Rei, Asuka, Misato, even Kaworu. What is Mari looking for?

Go ahead. Watch the movies again. I’ll wait. No idea, right?

If we break her down in the usual way, brains, looks, personality, we can start with this: I know she wears glasses. I know she reads. How smart is Mari?

Go ahead. Watch the movies again. I’ll wait. No idea, right?

Now, of course, like all the Eva pilots she’s a pretty good physical specimen, and not just because she describes herself as having big boobs. (Although that will matter in a minute.) She does seem more acrobatic, more athletic, than Shinji or Asuka, who are much more direct in their physical actions. She also seems more physically mature. The others are portrayed as high-school-freshman-aged; Mari isn’t pictured as a high school student but as an adult.

But that’s not really important. Let’s face it: All four EVA pilots are sexualized. That’s about as standard a trope as anime possesses. Every single Evangelion character under the age of roughly 40 is HAWT.

The thing that jumps out about Mari is, of course, her personality. In comparison to the others, to rage-filled Asuka, depressed Shinji, and silent Rei, Mari jumps right out front. She sings constantly, tells jokes constantly. She actually touches the other characters in non-violent ways, and what’s the deal with her sniffing Shinji all the time? (It happens at least three times: She leans over him, takes a good, long sniff, and then tells him what he smells like to her.)

What a nut, right?

Right. Because when you get right down to it, she’s not really a character. She’s a story-telling device. Three of them in fact. Watch me now … nothing up my sleeves …

Mari Illustrious Makinami
  1. She’s the spare heir

Okay, that’s sort of a joke. The “spare heir” is the person second-in-line to the throne. You only need them if the Prince dies.

But that’s what she is in terms of EVA pilots, right? The big three are Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. But what happens when there is a need for action and more than one of the big three isn’t available? There are times when they need an EVA pilot to keep the action going (not the plot, mind you, the action) and they haven’t got one of the big three available. BOOM. Call for Ms. Mari!

Like at the start of 3.0 + 1.0, right? Watch the movie again. I’ll wait.

  1. She’s a “Look at Me” Girl

Mari intrudes on every scene she’s in even when you have no idea what she’s doing or why. And since we don’t know her motivations, we NEVER know why she does anything, except in one regard. Tell you about it in a bit.

The character she reminds me most of is Edward from Cowboy Bebop. Ed’s cool because she walks around funny, sings to herself, wanders through scenes almost at random. Mari’s cool because she does the weird stuff, the singing, the sassy tone, the sniffing thing. Like any Look at Me Girl, she’s there to disguise the plot.

But neither Ed not Mari CONTRIBUTES to the plot. When push comes to shove REDACTED (I’m not going to spoil it) wins the day; Mari’s on the sidelines, cracking wise as always but out of the main action.

She’s so ACTIVE in part to disguise the fact that she contributes nothing to the MOTION of the story. There’s a difference, folks.

Right? She does everything but advance the plot, right? Watch the movie again. I’ll wait.

And that brings us to…

  1. She’s the prize

Sure.

Remember, Evangelion has always been about love, right? When you look at previous endings to the story, though, in the series, in the OVA End of Evangelion, in the manga, there’s always at least one love story unresolved: Shinji’s.

In previous incarnations Shinji never gets love at the end of the story, even though a MAJOR subtext of the story is how much he wants to be loved. At best, in the manga and in End, the story ends in a place where it is possible he might in the future (after the end of the story) find it. But he doesn’t actually get love.

3.0 + 1.0 specifically deals with that in a couple ways that I don’t want to get into here. That’s another essay down the road a ways, after I’ve had a chance to think about it more, and maybe reread the manga 🙂

But it does deal with one aspect of love for Shinji, and that’s eros or romantic love.

Now, as they are constructed, he can’t get that from Asuka or Rei. It’s an essential part of Asuka’s nature that she really can’t love Shinji since she doesn’t understand how to express love. She DOES love him, but she can’t express it. And Rei, as we know, is his mother’s clone and genetically his half-sister. Yeah. Incest. Yuck.

So who’s left?

There’s an afterword to the story. If you don’t want it spoiled, STOP READING NOW. Even if you know it, watch the movie again. I’ll wait.

Ya see, there’s Shinji at the train station, waiting for someone. It parallels the very first scene, where he’s waiting for Misato, right? But this time he’s taller, filled out like an adult. Shinji’s grown up.

And the train pulls in (we have glimpses of Kaworu and Rei on the platform – I wonder what that’s about) and someone, presumably coming off the train, puts her hands across Shinji’s eyes and sings, “Guess who?”

He knows it’s Mari. She did that to him before. He gives her the hints she gave him the first time: “Glasses? Big boobs?”

She goes in front of him, leans over him, and takes another long sniff of him. He smells like an adult and she likes it. They take each others’ hands and dance out of the train station, holding hands.

They are lovers and they are together.

THE END (Roll credits)

THAT’s what Mari’s doing here, and that’s why she’s a plot device, not a character. Because she’s the pot of gold, no, the pot of LOVE, at the end of Shinji’s rainbow. No more, “Well, in this world he might find love.” In this world Shinji DOES find love, one kind of love he finds is romantic love, and the romantic love he finds is Mari.

Works for me.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

6 thoughts on “Character Analysis: Mari Illustrious Makinami

  1. I’m an Asuka/Shinji shipper, so seeing him end up with Mari was a bit disappointing for me, especially as you mentioned that she did nothing and was bland outside of appearance. I even spat out my drink and was like “You gotta be joking me” when I saw it! But at the same time I oddly felt happy because he finally got the ending that he so needed to find his whole life. Even if that ending had to be construed as a confusing 2 hour long visual mecha fight fest 😜

    Pretty much, everything you said made sense in terms of analysis…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like Shinji and Asuka, too. There’s a bit of that implied at the end of the manga. But that had to be a reborn Asuka in a reborn world. As she’s constructed through the series and movies now, she doesn’t understand how to love someone. But what I liked about this new ending was that it completed Shinji’s story. It FEELS right now, right? And all it took was Mari 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked Mari. Your analysis is pretty good.

    Of all the characters, I liked her and I liked Asuka. They both had spirit.

    Shinji spent too much time in a fetal position, crying, to have too much sympathy for. Yeah, it wasn’t his fault, but billions of kids have lived through complete abandonment and became more functional than he was, which speaking of, many shows showcase a bunch of characters that as so one-note that together they only make up one personality, (like House), but that never happened in Evangelion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked that in the new version, instead of getting a stiff talking to, Shinji breaks out of his depressive state and goes on to be the actual hero for the first time in all of the various incarnations of the story. I’ll have an essay about that in a couple weeks, so stay tuned 🙂

      Like

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