Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

Rundown: In the second film of the “Rebuild” tetrology, Asuka, absent from the first film, is promptly introduced. She, Shinji and Rei must learn to get along and work together to defeat the onslaught of angels. Their proximity and shared experiences lead to an unspoken love triangle. Aside from that, the events of the film depart significantly from the original tv series, with two new Eva pilots, a new climax, and a new cliffhanger for the third film.

While I was in Tokyo, I saw tons of ads in print, audio, and video for the release of the second Evangelion film (the home video version is ‘version 2.22′), which I think prodded me to check it out. I hadn’t seen the first film in almost two years, but this and that are totally different things. Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone was little more than a recap with upgraded visuals and sound, which was fine and dandy for nostalgic types like me, but unadventurous. Like chugging a can of UCC Milk & Coffee, It was extremely refreshing; seeing the characters of Eva not only in new settings, situations and dilemmas, but with tweaked personalities to boot.

Rei is less emotionally inaccessible than the TV version; she even cracks a few smiles. Asuka is still armed with a powerful inferiority complex, but is slightly less abusive of Shinji and more conscious of her feelings (both for him and in general). Shinji is still angsty and desperate for his father’s praise, but is less a coward in the film and more outraged with his role as dad’s deadly weapon.

As expected, the mecha v. angel action is a most un-disappointing feast for the eyes, with some goosebump-inducing moments and some unusual musical choices spliced in with the classic Eva themes we all know and love. Massive, fluid, distinctive, and impressively detailed combatants have been director Hideaki Anno’s M.O. ever since he animated the giant warrior in the 1984 Miyasaki film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

My main gripe would be that the pilot trio’s characterization and relationships were unsurprisingly a bit rushed, as the few slice-of-Tokyo-3-life scenes quickly give way to an unrelenting pace towards the end. The new Eva 05 and 06 pilots are given very little to do or say. Also, while not necessarily a demerit per se, while the action is outstanding, it doesn’t quite reach the levels of over-the-top ridiculousness of other GAINAX creations like FLCL, Diebuster, and Gurren Lagann. Then again, Eva is more serious than all of those. Ultimately, Eva was so influential and has been around so long, I must forgive this film some of its cliches, since it’s responsible for the propagation of many of them.

The ending inevitably cannot be described as anything resembling “happy” or “sad”, but is most definitely an ellipsis and not a period. The third film will likely delve deeper into the Eva mythos than the previous two, give pilots 05 and 06 more to do, and take us further from the Eva we knew. I was satisfied with this film and look forward to what Hideaki Anno has cooked up next…and sincerely hope the fourth and final film has an actual ending…though maybe that’s wishful thinking. Rating: 3.5

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