Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance: A Branching Point

Evangelion 2.0 is such an interesting beast of a film. I feel like this is the film where the true intentions of the Rebuild films became much clearer. At least that is how it works in my mind. The titles of each film meant the angle the film was going for and deciding what conflict Shinji was facing this time. So Shinji couldn’t advance, what does that really mean? Maybe we can find out. The ending moment with Kaworu in 1.0 caused a question of whether the films were in a loop based on what he said and some other signs in the film itself. No matter whether that was true or not, there was something meta about the second film which made it something more then a casual watch. As usual, Hideaki Anno has loftier goals then just telling a story again.

There is some obviously blatant symbolism in the way Funimation packaged the Evangelion rebuild films too. I am sure it was the way Studio Khara wanted them be packaged, but there was a huge impact to them. Each one focused on one of the other children besides Shinji. I remember when the original disc of Evangelion 2.0 came out, there was a see of loud, minimalist orange red slip covers on all sorts of shelves everywhere I looked. I mean, of course I bought one, but the release was so huge that it was around for much longer afterwards. Its solid way of selling a disc collection because it got the searcher’s attention very easily in a powerful minimalistic way. It also was a great way to symbolize who the disc set was more about. Orange red is Asuka’s color, so clearly this movie is going to focus on her a little bit. Guess what the film does. No seriously, guess.

I can’t even say from a practical stand point that Evangelion 2.0 is almost the same as Evangelion 1.0 is with the first six episodes. 2.0 does have the same skeleton structure as the rest of a lot of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Shinji’s story is almost the same because he goes through similar traumas. The difference is how. Shinji handles situations is a little more gar and an actual backbone though. Still, everything around the film couldn’t be completely different. It’s a ship of Theseus kind of thing that if you have a boat that has all its parts replaced over time due to damage and ware and tear, is it the same boat? Is Evangelion 2.0 the same as Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 7 through whatever? Yes but also no. The core of Eva will always be there because the core is Hideaki Anno himself. The difference comes from how he matured.

So, what happens in the story itself now that I’ve discussed something about the meta elements of it? Well, the first scene featuring Shinji is him and Gendo at Yui’s grave talking to each other. Outside of that, Asuka Shikinami (not Soryu) shows up near Tokyo 3 with Evangelion Unit 2 in an excellent action sequence that shows her skill. She also shows herself confidence in that moment by automatically looking down on Rei who just showed up in her Evangelion unit and Shinji is just there to watch it all. Then there are some scenes where Shinji, Rei, Asuka, Tohji, and Kensuke go to a treatment plant for the ocean where it’s blue. Also, there was the catching angel scene where the three have to work together. Besides the moment where Asuka appeared in a naval fleet is changed, most of that was in the series.

The difference is once again the execution. The crazy thing about 2.0 is that Rei actually gets development. You know, unlike in the series itself where Rei just disappears from the plot? Shinji being a good cook explodes all over the place and creates some good tension through out the cast. Rei being handed Shinji’s food at the water treatment plant changes her a bit. Soon enough, Rei does her own experiments with cooking and you can see her and Shinji getting closer. Rei also tries to get Gendo and Shinji to appear at a dinner party together by herself. There is also the attempted more adult Asuka who also tries to cook, but notices that Rei and Shinji like each other and decided to test the new Evangelion unit instead of going to it. We all know how this turns out, right? This is Evangelion after all.

Instead of that dinner party that Rei set up, the Evangelion unit that Asuka tests turns into an Angel and Gendo Ikari himself is in charge of the operation himself. First, Rei attempts to fight it off and fails. Immediately afterwards, Shinji fights it knowing that Asuka is inside. When he refuses, Gendo uses the new remote-control system on Evangelion Unit 1 which not only destroys the angel, but eats it. So obviously, the scene that was supposed to bring Gendo and Shinji together again leads to them being further apart then ever before. I loved the scene where Shinji actually stomps on Nerv headquarters instead of just standing there in the original series. There is a lot more forwardness in his actions here that he was much more reassured and justified on.

The ending was great too even if it did bring about the end of the Earth. Shinji never gets a lot of time to be hot blooded at any point in Evangelion at all. I mean, Neon Genesis Evangelion is always mean to him and doesn’t allow him to have any confidence because the show stomps it all down. Shinji returning to Nerv headquarters after running away from it more determined then ever and then his efforts of rescuing Rei who was absorbed by the angel are fantastic. I liked the fact that Misato was cheering him on doing it. I mean, all that hard work and effort did bring about the end of the world again with the third impact, but at least Shinji finally knows what he wants in life. Also, the world itself doesn’t end completely because Kaworu stopped it in the end. A lot to think about in regards to this anime.

So, what have I skipped out on? Well, I obviously haven’t brought up anything about Misato in this movie yet because she hasn’t been as prominent here as she used to be. She is still the parental figure at large and knows about the sacrifice Asuka was making by being the test pilot of the new Evangelion unit. Misato didn’t interrupt the love triangle thing because she knows its all healthy kids stuff. Also, there is some conflict between her and Kaiji still in play. Kaiji is still a notorious pervert who flirted with Ritsuko right in front of him. Plus, Misato never went to the ocean treatment plant that Kaiji was running. Something about never looking back. What I didn’t see happening that the other films show is Kaiji is the guy behind all the environmental things in the rebuild films. He is in charge of this plant and some things afterwards. So, besides Gendo still sucking, that is the adult stuff worthy of talking about in this film.

I also haven’t talked about Mari yet at all. It’s kind of hard to do that because she is such a stranger here. Yes, Evangelion 2.0 does open up with Mari piloting an Evangelion unit that is cobbled together from scrap against an Angel to defeat, which is a bit of a cinematic parallel for later films, but she doesn’t do much of note besides infiltrate Nerv during the last fight in Unit 2 to fight alongside Rei. She does have a massive and suggestive collision with Shinji while he is on top of the school, but that’s about it. That’s the only interaction that the two have at this point. So basically in 2.0, she isn’t anything yet. Just an outsider that has big boobs and had some excellent action scenes. I mean, she even took one of Asuka’s action sequences during the finale of that battle in the tv series by piloting Unit 2 in the first place. It’s rather strange. For all those moments. She is that extra bit of spice we never expected to see yet.

There is also a lot of fanservice in 2.0 as well. I mean, 1.0 had the moment when Shinji walked in on Rei in it and Neon Genesis Evangelion is known for fanservice itself, but it’s a lot more pointed here? Like, the plug suits themselves are fanservicey because they are skin tight, but why does Asuka’s new one has to look like she’s more naked than she was before? Also why was a certain scene when Asuka showed up replaced with a replication of Shinji’s shower interrupt completely naked in the apartment instead? The film is great, but these moments make me question a bit of it’s decisions. Anno and crew still horny after 14 years. I mean, clearly there is a more mature and thoughtful thinking in this film then the series, right? The short encounter between Shinji and Gendo felt a lot more genuine. Why did they push the fanservice as much as they did regardless of that? It’s really kind of makes you think.

Also, there is certainly a simplicity to how Evangelion approached a lot of its mystery elements from the original series in 2.0 as well. I mean, mystery elements as in, they aren’t mystery elements anymore because the characters just blatantly tell Shinji everything or it’s pointed out for the audience more. In 1.0, we learn immediately that the Evangelion units are biomecha. Then there is that moment where Rei told Shinji in the Water Treatment Plant that she came from a tank just like the fish. Also, all we get from Asuka’s story in 2.0 is her playing with a doll and talking about her mother and that’s it. So obviously, some of the weight of the series itself has to come into the movies. Eventually, there was a point for all the vagueness. Only hints, no meat yet. For now, it’s kind of puzzling besides obvious movie run time issues why the film couldn’t have dug into these character’s live as much as it could. Later on, we know. It just takes years between films to get there.

Evangelion 2.0, on a visual front, is amazing once again. I do think some of the limited bits of animation that Gainax can do on a tv budget are a bit more grounded and charming, but sometimes more bombast is needed. Unlike the original series when they didn’t have time to do all this, a lot of the scenes in Evangelion 2.0 are either rotoscoped very well or motion captured. Why? The film feels very live action to me. These characters have so much more physical and weight then they were before? At least I’ve noticed that with sequences the characters moved because they moved more naturally then ever before. The Evangelion Units themselves also feel this way when running through Tokyo 3 or all the crazy moments of other action that happen through out 2.0. It’s crazy and I really do dig it. Anno and Studio Khara really playing with some excellent pieces of technology.

In conclusion, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance is a solid film. Of course, it has its problems with some more creepy then usual fanservice and some of the vagueness of the film that it didn’t want to dig into. But, for all the things brought into it that are wrong, if we look at the film as a film by itself without any connections with Evangelion, it does everything right. It has great action, a good emotional core that works great to tie all the elements together, and characters that you want to succeed working hard to achieve anything. That’s the way I chose to judge Evangelion 2.0 at this point and the rebuild films themselves. Breaking away from the cannon of the series makes it a bit special because there is an emotional point somewhere in this film that has to be discussed. It builds here and the pay off comes later in great ways. Anyway, see you guys later for a talk about Evangelion 3.0 next week!

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      1. To me what stood out the most about Evangelion was how deep it was with the philosophy. It was a show that didn’t need to go overdose on robot action to make itself stand out, but just the characters, their plights and the whole atmosphere that made it what it is. Rebuilds felt way too generic compared to the original in that regard and at times it seemed like it was playing off say, Gurren Lagann or Gundam. Especially with 3.0 and beyond, it gets pretty flagrant with this.

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