With my recent examination of RahXephon, it was only a matter of time before I said something specifically about Evangelion. With the US DVD release of Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, I’m presented a better opportunity than ever. This is supposed to be where we meet Asuka, except the subtitle of this movie within the Rebuild of Evangelion is “Break.” This is the moment where the plot begins to steer away from the original Neon Genesis Evangelion, allowing it to become something more.
Picking up shortly after Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, the worldwide threat of the Angels is quickly reestablished, not by having another attack on Tokyo-3, but by having the Third Angel escape a facility where it’s being dissected. It’s not an easy escape for the creature, especially it has to deal with Eva Unit 5 and it’s pilot:
Mari is 100% battle junkie. It’s the core of her role in the movie. To date, this is the only appearance the character has ever made. Her existence and that of her Eva, is the first major addition to Evangelion. I found her funny and close to light-hearted. She’s kind, loves her pubescent nature, and loves being an Eva pilot more than Asuka. Mari fights at the very edge of control, though she doesn’t go berserk–she is in control. The opening battle is fantastic, a purely stunning fight for the ages.
Of course, Mari is only in maybe five scenes of the entire movie, but her contribution is vital, especially with some of the changes made to the pilots we are familiar with. No time is wasted introducing Asuka, who enters in an aerial battle where she and Unit 2 are dropped from a plane. Despite the alteration to Asuka’s name (her name is now Asuka Langley Shikinami rather than Soryu), she is outwardly the same Asuka. When she is alone, she gives more consistent clues to her damaged psyche, as I imagine her background is at least close to what it originally was.
Rei has also been changed. She’s still shy and quiet, but when she talks, she says more. Rei is no longer a pure riddle machine, nor is she dependent upon others to explain her motivations. She’s an active part of the plot and the team, making Shinji’s curiosity and Asuka’s rivalry a stronger part of their relationships.
Like Evangelion 1.0, this is Shinji’s story. He has been further removed from the role of “whiny mech pilot,” which he’s been the poster child of for decades. Shinji’s motivations are further explored and he compares his mindset to that of Asuka and Rei. He has growing relationships with both girls, though neither turns the full corner into young romance, not even for a moment.
The trio engages the Eight Angel (Tenth in the series, the one that drops parts of itself as bombs), demonstrating a loose, but willful amount of teamwork. Some of their teamwork is through necessity, some through competitive spirit, but it is there and, without it, the last act of the movie doesn’t work.
Shinji is confronted with the horror of an Angel possessing Eva Unit 3, just as he did in the original series. The battle is more horrific this time, partially through changing its pilot from Toji to Asuka, and allowing Shinji to figure out the situation on his own. He hates the conflict he is forced into, especially with the orders his father, Gendo, gives him. Shinji refuses to kill his friend and is replaced with a dummy plug. The carnage following, is nightmarish and causes Shinji to vocally and publically stand against his father’s decisions.
During the next attack, Tokyo-3 is close to defenseless as the enemy Angel makes its way into the heart of NERV. This is where Mari returns to the story, having parachuted onto Shinji about halfway through the movie. Mari is acting as a spy of sorts, but she saves the city through her actions and her speaking. She steals Unit 2 and fights the Angel in a spectacular visual display. She then hacks the Eva’s control circuits and controls its berserker mode, nearly losing her humanity in the process. Her failure, even with Rei’s help leads to another horrific scene where Unit 0 is devoured after setting off an N2 mine at point blank range.
Mari accidentally crashes into the shelter where Shinji is hiding. Mari remembers Shinji and how he smelled like LCL. She forces him to see the destruction and goads him into piloting Unit 1. Again Shinji must fight an Angel with one of his friends trapped inside. It’s a spectacular battle, one that pulls on the heartstrings as much as the eyes.
Evangelion 2.0 is full of amazing images. Some are the rippled patterns left on the Earth after Second Impact, others are complex views of Tokyo-3, depicting a highly populated city. There’s been a distinct movement toward CG animation in recent years, but it’s main use is to show the horrors of battle and the scars left behind. The characters are still designed magnificently, just as the symbols used throughout. If you wanted to watch simply for the visuals, you would not be disappointed.
The story is strong as well and I want to know more. My hope is that Evangelion 3.0 will see Japanese theaters soon. I have enough questions and am a firm supporter of what Hideaki Anno and his team are doing. Check it out if you get a chance.