Reviewby Mark Sombillo, Jun 7th 2011
Evangelion: 2.22 - You Can (Not) Advance
Shinji visits his mother's grave which is all but a token monument to remember her by. Indeed he didn't even want to be there if not for the insistence of Misato that this would be a good opportunity to bond with his father. At the end of the day, it does indeed seem like even in some small way, the rift between them has healed. But as the Angels once again attack Tokyo 3 and wreak havoc of untold proportions, this rift only get wider and puts everything that he believes in to the test. Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone finishes where Shinji is a hero after recognising that everyone depended on him but now he's left questioning, what's in it for him. Why should he have to be in pain for the lies and hypocrisy of the world and his father? Why should he care when no one else did for him?
The first film released under the banner of Rebuild of Evangelion astonished both fans and newcomers alike when it first came. Featuring sparkling new animation mixed with some deviating story elements; insofar as expectations were concerned, all bets were off. So when the second instalment to this tetralogy is released, having zero expectations was a good place to start. Forget what you know about Evangelion, from this point onwards we're in uncharted territory!
Is that however a good thing or a bad thing? Purist will be in an uproar over little details such as Asuka Langley Sorhyu now being known as Asuka Langley Shikinami, or how Toji's role has been majorly downplayed. For the most part however, where Evangelion 1.0 only changed some things enough to whet people's appetites, Evangelion 2.22 practically shredded the storyline to a point where even fans with encyclopaedic knowledge of the original show will be left having to re-take some notes to figure out where this is heading all over again. So the argument is moot as to whether the changes are good or bad; it's just easier to think you're watching a unique, non-derivative work.
At its core one can still see some semblance of the original story that was presented in television more than a decade ago. Seele still feel like the hive of old men with malevolent plans, Gendo still has his own agenda and Shinji is still as whiny as ever. At least that's how it is at the start. The triumph of Evangelion 2.22 is not so much in disassembling its predecessor and re-arranging it to form a new story, but more that the characters make more sense now in this reshaped narrative. A lot of the furore and frustration from the TV series was that the characters were perennially angst filled, sometimes incomprehensibly so, to the point that it almost felt like it was included just for effect.
Nothing in this movie however feels like it was thrown in there with no purpose at all. Indeed one thing that could potentially disappoint viewers is the shuffling or re-imaging of some Angels. This is an unexpectedly long movie but even then, you feel as if some of the fat has been trimmed and a plot points are reached without our attention waning. Most of all though it seems is the old formula of “Angel appears, defeat with Eva, then anguish over the results” is still prevalent. Each iteration of this process develops an overarching theme that, mixed with the more dynamic characters, arrives at an ending that will leave you at the edge of your seat (pardon the cliché – I have to confess that for me, this literally happened).
Rei fanboys will delight at being treated to a healthy serving of her presence. Her personality and plight form much more of the core motivation of the story and despite her still tryingly hesitant attempts at communication, there's genuine warmth beneath her actions and it's hard not to be won over by her. The same however can't be said about Asuka, and though we did see some character development, these felt more tacked on to help the others in their own growth instead. Close to no progress was made with the new character Mari. The fact that she was voiced by Maaya Sakamoto and how much of her elements ate in to former Asuka territory, after a fair sprinkling of fan service you'd forgive this critic for shelving her existence purely for the purpose of creating new merchandise.
Shinji's transformation is naturally the most emphasised, and though his issues still make you want to slap him to get over himself, the subtle changes make more sense and at the end of the day makes him easier to empathise with. This is the same with all the other players in that, this subtle tweaking in the dialogues and general plot outline to a more grounded middle point means you no longer need to have a degree in psychology or theology to connect with it (you'll still need one for theoretical physics).
Character and scenery designs are wonderfully vibrant. Almost as if to emphasise that Shinji is no longer as alone as he was in the first movie, the number of people, open spaces and lack of shadowed settings has been increased noticeably; and at least for the first half, there's hardly a gloomy moment. Action choreography is as intense as in the series with arguably more rivers of blood flooding wherever an Angel falls. The tweaks to the Evangelions themselves though, particularly when they are in deformed states, turns already lanky humanoids to positively worm-like oddities. They just don't seem as disturbingly menacing despite the upgrades at times.
The soundtrack has an air of familiarity to it and many of the insert tracks are indeed carbon copies of what was used in the series. It's nevertheless very grand in its execution. In almost trademark Hideaki Anno style, a song sung by children is used to juxtapose the brutality of one of the scenes where Unit 01 goes berserk, chillingly bringing to home that this show is not for those with weak stomachs. The usage of the traditional song of Tsubasa wo Hiroge at the climax is perfect but more than this, the masterful muted moment will bring tears to your eyes if your prone to such things. Most nostalgic of all for me are the return of Spike Spencer and Allison Keith to head a team of voices that have outdone themselves to goose bump inducing levels.
A stand alone movie has to contain everything within itself even in the context of a multi part series. It has to have a certain theme that it runs with from start to finish and dissects it to the point where when we reach the conclusion you can slouch back to your couch and profess “I want nothing more.” The first Rebuild of Evangelion movie, despite its new animation and different plot arrangement, was still criticised for ultimately feeling like just a recap of the series proper. This second film wins through as a better movie because despite the meaty treatise with the subjects it covers, somebody new to Evangelion can realise that this is the simple story of one boy finding out that all it takes is one other person to care for him to make sacrificing himself worth it. Evangelion 2.22 is a story where you just cannot run away.
© khara. All Rights Reserved.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Absolutely mesmerising story and action choreography.
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