Movie Review: Evangelion 2.0 – You Can (Not) Advance (2011)
Director: Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Official Website
Plot: Where to begin….?

The second in a four movie series providing a new ending to the Evangelion saga. While the first flick followed the events of the anime series rather closely, this movie deviates quite a bit. But I’ll get into that in a moment.

After having saved Tokyo-3 (and the world) from the onslaught of the Angels in the first flick, Shinji Ikari has fallen into a routine of sync practice with his Eva (a giant robot he pilots to battle big monsters called Angels), and his schoolwork. Still living with Misato (his commanding officer) and having a slightly better relationship with Gendo (his estranged father), Shinji’s world has never really been better.

Then his world gets rocked by one event after another. Beginning with the loss of Unit-04 in the USA, causing the Euro division to send a new pilot to Japan. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone, as the brash Asuka Langley Shikinami makes a grand entrance (completely different from the series) and becomes the third pilot for Nerv in Japan. What follows is a series of comedic events that mirror Shinji’s arrival in Tokyo-3, and a budding love triangle between Rei (another Eva pilot), Asuka, and Shinji.

However, when a new pilot (Mari) secretly arrives in Japan with her own agenda, and Misato’s old college flame (Kaji) delivers a secret package to Gendo, suddenly the Angels increase their rate of attack on the Nerv headquarters.

Ultimately, Shinji must make the decision to protect what he loves most – even if that means losing everything he’s gained – and make the ultimate sacrifice to save those closest to him.

***SPOILER WARNING***
This flick deviates quite a bit from the series, especially with the introduction of a new Eva pilot who’s in the flick so little, I’m questioning why she’s in it at all.

These deviations aren’t bad, per se, but it has put the series back at square one. Like when I first watched the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, I once again am questioning everything I thought I knew and am trying to put the pieces back together again.

“Where does the movie deviate?” you ask. Well, let me tell you:

1) Eva Unit-05: In the series, the Marduke Report was pulling students from Shinji’s school to be assigned as pilots, and Toji was secretly chosen to pilot Unit-05. In exchange, Toji’s sister (injured in an previous Angel attack) would be taken care of by Nerv doctors. However, Toji’s Eva unit is attacked by an Angel “virus” and transforms into another Angel that Shinji must battle. When Shinji refused to fight, Gendo activates the Dummy Plug system (a type of auto-pilot) and Eva-01 beats the crap out of Unit-05, crushing the entry plug with Toji inside.

In the movie the same events happen…only instead of Toji, it’s Asuka in Unit-05. Apparently, there’s a treaty that says a single country can only have three Eva pilots, so her Eva is put into storage while she test pilots this new unit. The scene is significantly less emotional and disturbing in the flick, which was a little disappointing.

2) Because of the above mentioned event, there’s no chance for Shinji and Asuka to have to “live, sleep, and eat together” to battle the Angel twins like in the series. However, I didn’t feel like this was missing from the flick per se, since they replaced it with –

3) – the love triangle. In the manga series they developed the relationship between Shinji and Rei more, and they hinted this would deepen in the second movie. And it does. In fact, Asuka and Rei start battling for Shinji’s affections – with food! It helps to get to know these characters more, and it fun to see unfold.

4) Supporting characters stories are summarized this time around. For example, they sum up Misato’s origin with her father in a few brief words and a hazy flashback that would probably confuse anyone who hadn’t seen the series. Many of the supporting characters are taking a back seat to the kids in these flicks – which is fine, but it really means these movies are more compliments to the original series, than a spiritual successor or outright replacement.

5) Mari, the new girl, pilots Eva-02 and transforms it into ‘Berserk’ mode with just a thought. This takes the place of the otherwise disturbing scene from the series where Shiji merges with 01 and starts eating an Angel. Instead, Mari gets her ass handed to her and Shinji has to come in and save the day. This causes –

6) – Third Impact. While it didn’t happen until the End of Eva movie, the timetable here has certainly been pushed forward. The reveal of Kaoru at the end of the first flick showcases that Seele’s timetable has been pushed forward considerably, and whatever Mari’s role in that may be has yet to be revealed completely. However, since we know so little about Gendo and Seele, it’s difficult to pick a side – or even know why or how their goals differ.

These changes aren’t bad, they just don’t quite fit into what I had imagined the rebuild would be. I had thought (I had hoped) it would answer all our questions and provide a nice neat package instead of the crazy and deranged (and dare I say, angry?) ending we got in End of Eva. I’m all for the psychological aspect of the series and the social, mental, and spiritual journey that Shinji had to take, but also want to make sure we get answers about the Human Instrumentality Project, Seele, and why Gendo’s goals differ (and how he found out what their goals were in the first place).

Basically, I wanted more Eva – and in that respect, the movie hasn’t disappointed. However, while I could follow the first movie and fill in the blanks with what I knew from the series, the second movie was a kick in the face. It takes you right back to where you were when you first watched the show – frustrated and confused – which is all fine and dandy, but again wasn’t what I expected the new flicks to be.

So let’s cast that aside for a moment and talk about the movie itself. The thing is GORGEOUS. The entire time I watched it I was like a kid in a candy store. Everything in the movie is top quality, from the animation and (Japanese) voice acting, to the music and CG.

There were a few moments where the story dragged a bit, but we got to see new aspects of this world (a restored ocean field trip with the kids and Kaji), we get to see the people interacting and going about their day in Tokyo-3 (a montage scene, but helps establish setting), and we get to know the kids more as people, and not just their psychosis. This is, of course, a bit of a trade off.

So my summary of the flick: awesome, but not as cool as the first movie. The change in direction and the faster timetable of Seele does make for an interesting twist, but again this feels more like a companion to the series than a replacement for it. In fact, with the fact the ocean’s red (like at the end of End of Eva), I wouldn’t be surprised if this world is somehow the result of Third-Impact….

But I digress. Hardcore Eva fans, go out and buy the thing (it’s $14 at Best Buy this week), and people unfamiliar with Eva may want to go buy the series first. Because chances are you’ll be totally and completely lost.

Also, there’s a slightly different version of “Beautiful World” during the end credits. Clearly this song has become their new “Fly me to the Moon,” which I don’t mind at all. In fact, I like this song better.