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The oddly titled “Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance” is the second in creator Anno Hideaki’s grand, cinematic revisioning of his hugely popular and influential original anime series. Following on from “Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone”, the film again features new and revamped animation and CG work, though this time instead of merely summarising further episodes, it diverges by adding a new character – representing probably the biggest and most talked about event for “Evangelion” fans since the bizarre concluding episode back in the mid 1990s. Originally unleashed in 2009 and nominated for a Japanese Academy Award, the film now arrives on region 2 DVD and Blu ray via Manga Entertainment, and marks the half way point of Anno’s ambitious new four part collection.
The story takes up from where 1.11 left off, with young Shinji Ikari continuing his piloting of EVA-01 against the increasingly bizarre and powerful Angel attacks, while trying to come to terms with his own identity and his relationships with others. His relatively stable existence living with Misato Katsuragi and attempting to figure out the enigmatic Rei Ayanami and her strange bond with his otherwise cold father is thrown into disarray by the arrival of two new pilots called Asuka Langley and Mari Illustrious. A loud girl who lives to fly and fight with her EVA, Asuka immediately unsettles Shinji as she encroaches on his life. If anything, the mysterious Mari seems even more gung-ho, and with tensions between the NERV and STEELE organisations on the rise, it becomes clear that rocky times are ahead.
“Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance” is the first of the new films to genuinely offer something new, not only with the introduction of Mari, but with other significant changes to characters, most notably to Asuka. Whereas in the original series and follow up films, the flame haired, red suited Asuka was an intensely aggressive girl, she has been toned down somewhat, almost to the point where her role, at least at this stage in the new proceedings has been lessened. To an extent, Mari appears to have been introduced to take up the slack, and although she does not have a great to do in the film, she certainly seems to have inherited much of Askua’s former personality. This is by no means a problem, and it hints at interesting developments to come, raising questions as to what part Mari will play, and whether or not Asuka will still go on to fulfil such a key and compelling role.
New characters aside, the film still basically follows the events of the series, focusing on a series of key battles with the Angels. Again, Anno has stripped down much of the material surrounding these clashes, and while some may argue that this results in a loss of some character details, it also helps to condense some of the more ponderous moments into something which though fast moving and exciting, is still thought provoking and highly ambiguous. Certainly, the new series has not so far represented a truncated or dumbed down version by any stretch, and though slicker and revolving more around its action is every bit as imbued with fascinating philosophical meanings and questions. Whether or not this means that answers will be forthcoming still very much remains to be seen.
In visual terms, the film is a definite upgrade, not only being more spectacular, but also showing more attention to detail. As well as resulting in some impressive eye candy, this does help to bring the series’ world to life in more convincing fashion, improving upon some of the unmoving and bland background that accentuated some of the original’s slower moments. The CG work is impeccable, especially during the final scenes, which are arguably amongst some of the most jaw dropping in Japanese animation, bringing the film to an intense and visceral cliff hanger of an ending.
Of course, this in itself is the only real problem with “Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance” – that fans will have to wait another year or so before finding out what happens next. Crucially, as well as notching up the animation, the film illustrates Anno Hideaki’s genuine desire to add something new to the story and characters, making this a must see for fans, and a compelling, exhilarating and wonderfully piece of animated cinema in its own right.
Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki (director) / Hideaki Anno (screenplay)
CAST: Megumi Hayashibara … Rei Ayanami / Pen Pen (voice)
Maaya Sakamoto … Mari Illustrious Makinami (voice)
Kôichi Yamadera … Ryoji Kaji (voice)
Megumi Ogata … Shinji Ikari (voice)
Tomokazu Seki … Toji Suzuhara (voice)
Kotono Mitsuishi … Misato Katsuragi (voice)
Yûko Miyamura … Asuka Langley Shikinami (voice)
Takehito Koyasu … Shigeru Aoba (voice)