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Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance continues the story of Shinji Ikari, who has chosen a path of struggle and combat against the mysterious and awesomely powerful beings known as Angels. Joined by Asuka, Rei and a previously unknown heroine by the name of Mari, the true purpose behind NERV, SEELE, the Angels, and the looming apocalypse begin to be revealed…

Encompassing roughly 14 episodes of the original television series, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance is the second film in the Rebuild of Evangelion theatrical film tetralogy. Considering that the first film in the series, Evangelion 1.0, You Are (Not) Alone was well-received within the anime community as a nostalgic ode to the original series, many fans felt that it was essentially a retelling of the original without many plot improvements to sufficiently stand on its own. Technical achievements abound, the film was still greatly appreciated by various old and new fans alike. Evangelion 2.0, You Can (Not) Advance makes significant improvements towards the original in practically all aspects, while taking some crucial steps to differentiate from it as well.

Evangelion: 2.0 can be viewed as more impressionistic in it’s retelling than the previous film. While the previous film was an adequate retelling for the most part—save for the extension of certain sequences viewed in the original series—Evangelion: 2.0 truly stands out as a film that can be viewed as a true and distinctive re-imaging of the original. From the very beginning, the viewer is unexpectedly thrust into a world of unfamiliarity—a world with new characters, enemies and surprises. The film isn’t afraid to let viewers know that it’s essentially going to revamp the entire source material from henceforth—it remarkably balances itself between combining previous plot elements with that of new ones, while still teasing the viewer with what is to come in the future. Between elaborate action segments and moments of repose, Evangelion: 2.0 is one film that knows what it has to do in order to establish itself—and isn’t ashamed at all to take the risks to do so. There are some rather surprising moments sporadically laid throughout the film that will truly have fans of the original second guessing themselves, and whether this will have any drastic effect on how new fans perceive the film series is definitely speculative, but that’s what makes it all the more interesting.

Similar to the original series, the film is undoubtedly still about exploring its characters. For all the intense—as well as beautifully animated—battle sequences, the film remains focused more on providing substantial character development and depth. This was always a strong point to be found within the original series, but Evangelion: 2.0 not only gives the viewer that same depth seen before, but also provides us with a reevaluation of sorts—more specifically in how we view these characters now compared to their prior states. It’s this reevaluation that is truly daunting, as well as surprising—especially for fans accustomed to how the characters were portrayed in the original source material. For the most part, all the main characters within the film can be viewed with some familiarity, but containing some drastic differences. The character interactions seem more authentic this time around, allowing for their most natural emotions to blossom on screen.

Unlike the original series and to some extent Evangelion: 1.0, the characters this time around can be viewed as more understanding, sincere and discerning—it’s simple to say they appear more genuine. While the characters of the original were viewed more as isolated cases of people with emotional instability, Evangelion: 2.0 rises above the calling to showcase a group of characters that seemingly want to make an effort to understand one another and break down the walls that entrap them. Some of the most striking examples of this are viewed within the main characters themselves, starting with Shinji—who we find as a more courageous individual this time, willing to sacrifice himself and uphold his loyalty to his friends. Even his relationship with his father is given more consideration and depth in the film, presenting a relationship that is still awkwardly viewed, but also redeemable to a degree. Taking a look at Rei, we view a character previously shown as emotionally inept, unable to perform the simplest acts of human interaction. This time we see her as someone interacting with people on a more natural basis, even developing a social relationship with that of Shinji and her classmates. We can also see significant changes in Asuka, a character who was adamantly opposed to allowing others to see her true emotions. Here she is shown more emotionally open and willing to accept others as friends. Even Gendo—one of the harshest characters in the original—is now shown as a father figure who at the very least showcases some effort to reach out to his son. And while the introduction of a new pilot— Mari Makinami Illustrious—is exceptionally well established as a character with spunk and charisma, she is given little-to-no room to explore personality-wise, which is somewhat disappointing, but she can still be viewed as a worthwhile addition and we should expect to see more of her in the future.

It’s these more subtle changes in attitude that truly elevate Evangelion: 2.0 into an entirely new level on its own. Going along with this realization, the film also presents a warmer atmosphere than the previous film did. While still consisting of moments of utter devastation and revelation, there are equally moments of welcomed humor spread throughout. This coupled with an increase in showcasing the slice-of-life happenings that occur within the universe of Evangelion, provide us with more affectionate moments between the characters—in a sense letting us see their more personable side. From daily classroom gossiping, to the intimate moments within Misato’s apartment—the film spends a majority of its time exploring and developing its characters and their relationships. There’s even one fabulous sequence in which we take a great look at Tokyo-3 as city; complete with towering skyscrapers and an assiduous population—this is one city that is alive and active, providing more insight into why the characters feel the need to protect it, which was something not entirely explored in the original series.

And in promoting the necessary response to protect this city from danger, the action sequences are some of the most visually spectacular set pieces in the film. For fans that remembered the original series for these particular segments, Evangelion: 2.0 doesn’t disappoint. Since the film depicts essentially what is known as the action-arc of the original series, numerous action sequences were expected—and for the most part creatively reconstructed and many invented. And while the battles in the film are exciting and emotionally involving—with some being viewed as extraordinary improvements over the original interpretations—one begins to wonder why they chose to compress 14 episodes into a 108-mintue film without expecting to not leave out elements that made the original series all the more distinctive. Gone is some of the character development heavily explored in the original series, particularly that of the minor characters and even extending to some of the more prominent ones as well. This is not to say that film doesn’t function well without this development, but providing more scenes with certain individuals would’ve allowed the film to truly complement each character that was showcased within the original series. The brisk pacing somewhat hinders this area as well, but it ultimately allows the film to stay on a more focused course, presenting a different view on how certain events transpire.

One thing I must address concerning this particular film is usage of religious symbolism—which is something I believed plagued the original series to a huge extent due to misinterpretation of it. Its supposed implications have led to huge misunderstandings regarding how the original series and The End of Evangelion were to be interpreted and analyzed—essentially a majority of people got caught up in trying to figure out what the religious symbolism meant and forgot to look at the actual true plot. Considering that question, Assistant Director of the original series, Kazuya Tsurumaki, had this to say about the religious symbolism within the series when asked in an interview—“There is no actual Christian meaning to the show, we just thought the visual symbols of Christianity look cool.” This comment can be further qualified by having many of the religious material viewed in the original removed within Evangelion 2.0 in an attempt to provide a more coherent story for some viewers. While there is still religious material hinted at throughout, its handled much more carefully and in many cases actually relevant pertaining to explaining the actual plot—gone are the erroneous ways in which the Kabbalistic understanding of the series/film can taken as a valid argument. Evangelion 2.0 doesn’t allow this to happen, and instead continually focuses on its characters and plot, which will make it hard for people to find any religious symbolism used for any other reason besides being only a superficial element of the plot.

With that aside, I’ll mention perhaps one of the most striking differences between this film and original—the animation. Studio Khara has done yet another amazing job in animating Evangelion 2.0. For the most part, gone are the shot-for-shot scenes reminiscent to those found in Evangelion 1.0, only to be steadily replaced with scenes of artistic prominence. The film is absolutely beautiful to look at, with many scenes integrating elements of CG so well, it’s hard to distinguish at times from it and the usage the traditional animation. This is not say its entirely well implemented—the CG is blatantly noticeable at times—but isn’t viewed as a distraction to the viewer like many other animated projects unfortunately do. Some of the more prominent moments of the film in terms of animation occur during the Angel encounters, but even outside of those, the envisioned world is a delight to view due to its aesthetic values. There is also more natural fluidity seen within the movement of the characters, which again is a significant improvement over the original.

Going along with the visual aspect, even the music is noticeably different this time. Considering the expanded selection of musical freedom heard in this film more so than in original television series, composer Shiro Sagisu has been able to basically bring about an entirely new sound to the Evangelion universe with Evangelion 2.0. With a heavy focus on chorus and powerful orchestrations, Shiro provides a grandiose soundtrack that perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the film. Fans of the original television, End of Evangelion, and Evangelion 1.0 soundtracks will find a totally new and refreshing experience when hearing the selections for this film, and the diversity found here is sure to please fans. Unlike the Evangelion 1.0 soundtrack, this soundtrack is filled to the brim with new compositions, with Sagisu obviously aware of the new direction the series is heading, and composes the music accordingly.

Considering all these aspects, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance doesn’t disappoint. It presents a more focused version of essentially one of the most popular anime series ever produced—which is a powerful testament. While some might disagree with the absence of a few prominent events shown in the original series, the film still showcases incredible talent in everything from its animation quality to its compelling plot twists and alterations, which are upheld to an extraordinary degree. Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance is a special film in this regard, effectively reaffirming Evangelion as a dominant series within the world of Japanese animation.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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Comments

  • Chair

    Excellent article Douglas!

  • Gameday

    Great video review, I definitely have to check this one out for the battles, characters, and beautiful scenes.