In June I had the opportunity to watch and review the first of four new movies that re-imagine the Neon Genesis Evangelion series. The reworking of this classic came with the promise of not only updated visuals, but new story elements and characters, as well as a real conclusion to the story that hopefully all fans will be happy with.
The first movie did a fantastic job of summarising the first 6 episodes of the original series while staying faithful to the original. It was a great watch, but one that I pointed out was an enhancement rather than a new take on the plot.
The second movie is a completely different beast. From the first frame of it starting you know this is going to be a break away from the original story. Evidence of that is the first character you see being brand new and piloting an experimental Eva unit. You don’t learn her name, but expect to see her turning up throughout the movie.
While she is mysterious, there is another even more unusual new character that also, as far as I can tell, is an Eva pilot. But his character and his story development is only touched upon, and clearly is meant to be an introduction ready for the third movie.
Now on to the actual storyline, which can be broken down into two distinct categories of action and character development. This update excels at both and goes well beyond the original series in a number of areas.
First of all the action, which has seriously been turned up to 11. The fights between the Eva units and the Angels never gets boring and is quite varied in its execution. There’s also the enhanced visuals, animation, and effects that are both fluid and manage to bring out the agility and animal-nature of the Eva units, especially when we get to the use of the dummy unit.
Then we have the character development. Anyone who has seen the original series may remember that the characters were quite defined, but then remained separate from each other throughout. Shinji was the kid who was always upset and reluctant to be a pilot. Rei was the quiet, do anything for the cause First Child. Then we have the addition of Asuka Langley Soryu, the Second Child with a lot of attitude and skill as a pilot. That was how they stayed in the original, as did the other main characters such as Gendo and Misato. But in 2.22 that all changes.
Each character still retains their original definition, but great effort has been put into developing the relationships between them. Shinji still gets quite upset, but you learn more as to why he is like that. Rei actually starts to develop beyond the silent pilot we knew her to be as if learning to be a little more human, and in Asuka’s case we see a child that has always been alone start to embrace others as friends and confidents. Even the hard line father character Gendo shows a few emotional cracks and has his actions explained more throughout the movie. This character development makes it much easier to identify with the cast and react appropriately at the highs and lows of the plotline.
Overall the combination of the enhanced action and character development give the story a brand new feel to it, and that’s no bad thing. The introduction of new characters in the background also adds an element of curiosity as to who they are and what their role is. Before, the story just plays out with the existing characters from previous episodes. This new take certainly means there’s more scope to keep the last two movies fresher.
The fact I have spent most of this review talking about characters and action belies the quality of the actual storyline. Those of you who have watched the original know this is a story worth experiencing, but for anyone new to Evangelion, the first movie should have got you hooked, and 2.22 is more of the same, but different in a very positive way compared to the original series.
I can’t give Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance anything other than a big thumbs up. It does an even better job than the first movie to get you involved in the storyline and leave you wanting more. You certainly need to watch that first movie before sitting down with this, but then that should go without saying.
Overall, this is a must have for your collection, and I have high hopes the next two movies will be more of the same.