Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review - Evangelion 2.22 You can (not) advance

ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版: 破
Original Release: June 28, 2009
USA Blu-Ray release: March 30, 2011
Directed by: Hideaki Anno
Animation Studio: GAINAX
USA Publisher: Funimation


When Neon Genesis Evangelion came out in 1995, it changed the landscape of anime forever. It was an epic and dark anime using esoteric dialogue with a flawed cast of characters. The anime turned the mecha subgenre on its head with its unique take on the genre. The anime and the ensuing movies left such an indelible impression on the anime market that it still has a very strong and loyal following almost 16 years after it was initially released. In late 2002, work started on the rebuild of Evangelion. In December 2006 the tetralogy was announced, with the original creator saying that he can finally recreate Evangelion the way he wanted it to be. Evangelion 1.0 felt very similar to those who are used to the original TV series, but it had a more cinematic feel. Evangelion 2.0 moves in a completely different direction than the TV series, changing the role of characters, changing scenarios, and introducing brand new ones that will change the dynamic of the future movies. Evangelion 2.0 is a great movie for new fans and for old fans alike, it has great productions, excellent pacing, but it is hampered by its weak musical score and esoteric dialog.

It is difficult writing a summary for Evangelion 2.0 because whatever summary I write will do the story little justice. The movie open with the new Evangelion pilot, Mari as she destroys an Angel by self destructing Provisional Unit 05. After that sequence, we see a large number of tombstones with Gendo and Shinji visiting the grave of Yui Ikari. On the way back Shinji and Misato spot an angel, that is quickly dispatched by Eva Unit 02. The audience is introduced to the pilot of Unit 02, Asuka Langley Shikinami, who quickly collides with Shinji. She starts living with Shinji and Misato, with some very interesting dynamics between them. After that, they go with Kaji to an aquarium to look at all the sea life that was almost completely destroyed during the second impact. The eighth angel arrives from space and all three Evengelion units are dispatched to deal with it. After sustaining heavy damage Unit 01 is sent for repairs. NERV's American branch is destroyed by an explosion, and they send Eva Unit 03 to Japan. Due to the Vatican Treaty, a country can only have 3 working Evangelion units, so they put Asuka's unit away. Rei wants to have a dinner party to bring Shinji closer to his father, so Asuka volunteers to test Eva Unit 03. The Evangelion unit goes crazy and get declared to be the ninth angel. After a series of events, Shinji decides to leave NERV due to the events. The tenth angel arrives and the stakes get higher as the tenth angel destroys the geofront. The movie ends with Ritsuko saying that the end of the world has just begun.

As you can see, the main story completely deviates from the storyline in the original Evangelion TV series. The booklet in the Blu Ray disc uses a fascinating metaphor to describe the difference. They compare the Evangelion TV series and the Rebuild of Evangelion as a set of trains leaving the train station the same time. They start off in the same area, and early on they may even follow the same direction. As they head off to a different destination they start deviating from each other and go into a completely different direction. From Evangelion 2.0 the movies will be going a completely different direction than the anime and it is quite exciting to see what will result in the end.

One of the strong deviations was the development of the characters and how they are in this new world of Evangelion. The series is about watching flawed, broken people trying to do their best in their situation, so it is interesting to see how these broken characters will be developed in this world of Evangelion. I will admit, I had always been a fan of Asuka Langley Shikinami (Asuka Langley Soryu in the original Anime) in the original Evangelion series, I love her fiery personality and spirit. I was quite interested to see how they developed Asuka in Evangelion 2.0. To be frank, I do like how Asuka is in this the Evangelion movies. Asuka is strong and well-developed compared to her TV counterpart. She is misanthropic, being alone and pushing people away, more so than her TV counterpart. Asuka is a self proclaimed genius from the European Union, and all she cares about is herself. She is not obsessed with Kaji like in the original TV series, in fact the closest character she develops a relationship with is Shinji and Misato. While I would have preferred her to get more screen time, what screen time she gets is great and rewarding for longtime fans of hers. I hate saying these words, but Shinji Ikari is far more relatable in the Evangelion movies, I dare say even likable. I say that because in the TV series, Shinji is the most unlikable whiny character you can think of, but the movies tone down his whiny nature which puts him in the relm of likability. Considering his broken relationship with his father and the insane situations that are pushed on him, he reacts in a more believable manner. Rei Ayanami shines in the Evangelion movies, she doesn't have as much screen time as the first movie, but every scene she is in she steals the show. It is especially jarring to see her say hi and be less cold to Shinji ans Asuka. In the Evangelion fandom, there seems to be a strong divide between Asuka fans and Rei fans, but I think that Rei and Asuka are both very well represented in Eva 2.0. That rounds out the Evangelion pilots from the original and how I think they changed in the rebuild of Evangelion.

The rest of the cast are fairly similar to the original versions as seen in the TV show. Misato Katsuragi provides the flawed adult figure who tries to delicately balance her position as an adult with her ability to relate to Shinji's broken relationship with his dad. She sees herself in Shinji, but her motivations are completely different. The eternal playboy Kaji Ryoji makes a strong impact whenever he is on screen, he is essentially identical to his Anime counterpart, which is a good thing. Gendo Ikari is as dark and secretive as ever in the Eva movie. The new Eva Pilot is Mari Illustrious Makinami, a British girl from the European Union. She has terrible eyesight and seems to be the most well-endowed of the Evangelion pilots. She got very little screen time and little to no character development in Evangelion 2.0, so we don't know much about her personality and her motivations. Evangelion has a cast of flawed and messed up characters, so there is no doubt that Mari's skeletons will make her interesting to compared to the rest of the Evangelion cast.

The Japanese voice acting is excellent, with most of the original Japanese cast reprising their legendary roles. Megumi Ogata was great as Shinji Ikari, as good as I remember. Megumi Hayashibara is absolutely incredible as Rei Ayanami, she will always be Rei in my mind. Yoko Miyamura does an excellent job reprising her role as Asuka. Fumihiko Tachiki is reprises his role as the domineering Gendo Ikari. Mari Illustrious Makinami is voiced by Maaya Sakimoto, Anime Expo guest of Honor in 2005. Maaya Sakimoto does a great job as Mari.

The movie's production values are incredible, the animation is fluid and dynamic. Evangelion 2.0 looks amazing in Blu Ray. The animation is very fluid from one frame to another. It is really interesting to see the fluidity and detail of seeing Shinji's Eva unit run through the city and destorying everything in sight. There is a tremendous amount of detail in the scenes, with less static "filler" scenes than a typical anime series. The movie has sky high production values and it shows in the movie. There is no one in this green planet who will confuse the production values of the Evangelion movies with the low budget production of the Evangelion TV show.

The movie is not without its flaws, notably the esoteric dialog and the bland music. Evangelion is about having confusing dialog using christian references. It doesn't work as well when watching a 110 minute movie compared to a 26-episode TV show since there is such a long time difference between movie releases (around 2 years). Obscure and esoteric dialog may work with a TV show because the time difference between episodes are a week, but there is so much to forget in the long movie releases. My other complaint is the music, the instrumental music doesn't have any incredible highlights like in Evangelion 1.0. In fact, there are some songs that are ripped right out of Kare Kano. It felt so out of place it just made me a little uncomfortable. The three vocal songs are great, with Utada Hikaru doing a slightly different version of Eva 1.0's "Beautiful World."

The second movie of the four evangelion remakes is excellent. It presents the story differently enough that it warrants multiple watches from people who seen it back when it stormed the world in 1995. The different direction is welcome and the new characterization of the characters make the experience far better and more focused. While it does have flaws, its flaws are not as glaring as the great aspects of it. If you want to watch a series about flawed people dealing with a crazy world, evangelion is the way to go. The movie's relevance shows just how popular the franchise is. It also shows the power of having a great concept that leaves an indelible impact on the audience that watches it. I am looking forward to watching Evangelion 3.0 and 4.0. If history is any indication, prepare for progressively darker and more fascinating movies.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What bothers me is that Asuka was treated horribly in the movie version, I expected better.