To get some background on this new Quadrilogy called ‘The Rebuild of Evangelion” by HideakI Anno please read my review of Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone. To make things short this new trilogy was conceived as a summary of the critically-acclaimed Japanese anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” boasting of retouched animation, re-mastered resolution and the promise of a more definitive ending to the “Evangelion” saga. “Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance” is a true sequel to “1.11” so if you haven’t seen the first installment you need to before you sit down to watch this one. This is a highly complex feature and it is not likely that one can appreciate it as a stand-alone film. The characters are deep and if you don’t understand them then your chances of understanding its premise is hopeless.
“Evangelion 2.22” collects the next episodes of “Neon Genesis” in a re-edited and compressed format. It begins as we see a lone Eva unit piloted by Mari Makinami (Maaya Sakamoto) in a struggle against a monstrous angel that is intent on escaping into the surrounding area. Mari is an addition to the series and is similar to Asuka (Yuko Miyamura) whose character is so bad ass as a cute girl in glasses. Soon after we then see Asuka as she introduced as the cocky lone EVA-Unit 02 pilot who seems to have something to prove to her fellow EVA pilots Shinji Ikari (Megumi Ogata) and Rei Ayanami (Yuko Miyamura). However the threat of the “Angels” seem to be getting more dangerous and each country must comply with the Vatican code that each country must possess only three EVA units at a time. Soon, Asuko learns the importance of camaraderie as she also learns to respect the bond between Shinji and Rei under fire…but the EVA Robotic-organic units are undergoing changes themselves.
“1.11” was more on the introductions of Shinji and his relationship to Rei. It was also about ‘building’ Tokyo and this time, “2.22” seems to have taken a much darker and more mature mood and tone in the expression of its themes. The most obvious additions have to be Mari which as far as I could remember wasn’t in “Neon” (I could be mistaken since it has been many years since I saw the series). Mari was just a good character as she embodies the warrior that revels in being an EVA pilot, she wants to prove that her destiny lies inside the EVA and that she defines the meaning of a EVA pilot. Mari is very similar to Asuka; but what makes Asuka different is that she uses a defense mechanism the need to be ‘alone’ and that she doesn’t rely on any help, whereas Mari maybe a little more friendlier (in a way). This is a good move on the part of the direction to express an opposite to Shinji’s reluctance and to Rei’s ‘call of duty’. Asuka and Mari are dedicated soldiers although they are a little more reckless which makes them effective, but this can also be their one flaw. Of course, being under combat, one will soon form a bond no matter what and they will find respect among their companions. In a way, the film is about self-respect, the need to be accepted, to care about something and the importance of working together.
“Evangelion 2.22” can be rather alienating as the film does feel episodic at certain points. There were times that I felt that some of its elements came from right field but I immediately connected the dots since I saw the original series. The film is very complex, and while it does lose some opportunity at solid story development (loses some of the politics of this time), it does answer a lot of questions. The nature of the Angels and their aims to destroy this world are more developed and the bond between humans and the bio-mechanical EVA units become more defined, and the psychological pressures of being a pilot is further developed here. It makes the film much more than a robot fighting alien monsters and it gives “2.22” a lot of intricacies as we see the interesting effects of being an EVA operator.
The stakes in the film are extremely high as the definitions of a life and death struggle are firmly rooted in its premise. It also has a lot of Christian symbolism as references to Gods and Man are rich in its dialogue and some images carry strong references to the cross as if to express the burden of an EVA pilot whose main role is to sacrifice oneself for the good of humanity. As with its predecessor, “2.22” has an amazing animation work that blends 3D CGI animation and traditional cell animation. The set designs were quite ingenious as this "Tokyo" is indeed a city ready to react to any attack with the use of walls, underground shelters and even bridges that are well-protected. One other thing that I always loved about “Evangelion” was the thoughtful way it renders the creatures; the Angels have their own properties and those properties define them. They have become a lot nastier and more dangerous than in the first movie, so expect the battles to be a lot more intense, gripping and brutal too.
“Evangelion 2.22” is a fantastic anime feature. Sure, it would be easy to dismiss it since it may form a slight disconnection to non-”Neon Genesis Evangelion” fans but I do think it is still a compelling, intuitive, intelligent and competent film that has a lot of visceral punch that maintains a powerful emotional connection to its viewers. I have to say that I am very optimistic going forward to the next installment; “2.22” matched the first film and even improved on its pacing, while taking it to the next level of action and emotional drama. “Evangelion 2.22” ups the stakes and expresses the epic grandeur of the struggle between humanity and the monstrous alien beings who threaten to end all life on earth.
Highly Recommended! [4+ Out of 5 Stars]
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