Those are the two words that come most readily to mind when describing the second of four Evangelion movies, call Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance. This movie seems to have more new material in it than Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone did, but it is more selective about which episodes it expands upon, and it adds another Eva pilot, Mari, to the mix.
The movie opens with Mari in a Provisional Unit-05 Eva, battling the Third Angel in Europe. Well, its skeleton, since Shinji already killed the Angel in the first movie. At the end of the battle, the creature is destroyed when Mari self-destructs her Eva after ejecting to safety. Kaji Ryoji also appears (initially speaking English!), declaring after the battle, “I feel bad about involving kids to carry out adult agendas.” Then we cut back to Mari, who says, “I feel awkward involving adults for the sake of my own goals.” Kaji soon appears at NERV, where he delivers the Key of Nebuchadnezzer to Gendo and reports that the destruction of Unit-05 went as planned.
Shikinami Langely Asuka is introduced after she destroys the Seventh Angel (in a shorter and less dramatic battle than the one in the TV series, which involved her Eva jumping from ship to ship to stay dry). Like the TV series, Asuka and Shinji are roomed together, but the film infuses Rei with more personality and Asuka with more jealousy. As in the TV series, the three of them must battle the Eighth Angel together, since it’s so huge that all three of them must catch it with their AT Field. Also, the storyline with one of the Eva units becoming an Angel is followed, but the pilot is not Suzuhara Toji (one of Shinji’s friends from school), but someone else that Shinji knows (though, as in the TV show, a dummy plug is used when Shinji refuses to fight it, even when it’s about to kill him). The battle is much bloodier here, with the pilot plug being crushed between the teeth of the Eva. Also, to show what a sick puppy Anno Hideaki is, a happy pop song accompanies the bloodshed (Hayashibara Megumi’s “Farewell for Today”). Another pop song by Hayashibara-san accompanies Shinji’s battle with the Tenth Angel, which knocks Eva-02 out of commission (even after the pilot removes the safeguards on its humanity and attacks the Angel as “The Beast”) and then consumes Rei, along with Eva-00. This battle is more thought-out in its implications than it was in the TV series, so I’m not going to spoil it here. All I’m going to say is not to leave until the credits are finished, as a sequence after the credits features Kaworu, who says that this time, he will make Shinji happy — making me wonder if this commentator is correct in thinking that these movies are a continuation of the original series, rather than a reboot.
Besides some of the changes listed above, there are other departures. All the kids (Rei, Asuka, Shinji, Toji, and Kensuke) get to go to an aquarium, where they see what the oceans and wildlife looked like before Second Impact (following a funny scene in which they go through a multi-part decontamination process). In another sequence, Gendo and Kozo are observing the construction of the Mark.06 series on the moon, but are denied permission to land by Seele. They see Kaworu sitting on the Eva’s hand, and Kaworu says (turning to them), “Nice to meet you, father” (for my reaction, please return to the first two words of this review). There are also more references to the Dead Sea Scrolls (including “undisclosed Apocrypha”), and a more worldly view of the Eva projects, since we not only see Evas which have been put together in Europe and the U.S., but hear about the Vatican Treaty, which stipulates that each country can only have three Evas at one time. And, while Asuka sleepwalks into Shinji’s bed in the series, in the movie she purposely gets into bed with him, which further shows that even though she wants to do things on her own and get all the glory, in reality, she’s lonely (and when I say go to bed, I mean to sleep — she even tells Shinji to turn away from her).
This time, most of the music used is from the series (minus the two pop songs by Hayashibara Megumi, and Utada Hikaru’s end credits song “Beautiful World,” which is from the first movie), except when it’s incidental piano music from Kareshi Kanojo no Jijyo, since Sagisu Shiro did the music for both animes. Like the first movie, however, the Angels are more complexly constructed than they were on TV, often with the help of CGI.
I found myself bewildered when I started watching Evangelion: 2.22, since there is much new information involving Evangelion‘s very complex mythology that is introduced near the beginning of the film. As I continued watching, however, I was able to enjoy the greater attention to character development among all the main characters (there’s actually a character arc to Rei, and even Gendo appears more human here), including more one-on-one time between Shinji and Kaji, who asks Shinji to take care of Misato for him. Plus, the added clarity of Anno actually knowing where he wants these movies to go, rather than the meandering path that the TV series took, helps make the battles more than just exercises in coolness — though I still feel that Shinji not knowing who is in the Eva that he is told to attack as an Angel, and then finding out that it’s his best friend from school (as happens in the series), is much more powerful than what occurs in this movie, both because now Shinji knows ahead of time who’s in the Eva, and because we haven’t gotten to know how important this person is to Shinji as we did with Toji.
Unlike the first film, which is a more or less straightforward retelling of the first six episodes with some new information and elongated battle scenes thrown in, this movie roughly covers episodes 8, 12, (some of) 15, 17-19 while adding much new material, juggling around the order of the some of the events (Shinji and Gendo visit Yui’s grave near the beginning of the movie, before Asuka appears; in the TV show, Asuka appears in episode 8, and they visit the grave in episode 15), and changing certain details in the Evas’ battles with the Angels. Replace the two pop songs (especially the first one) with more dramatic music, and I would feel less ambivalent about the results. Still, I am curious to see where this is going. The third film on DVD and Blu-ray, Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo, is already available on Amazon. Now I just have to wait until it’s available at the library or at Scarecrow Video.
Like its predecessor, 2.22 comes with a second disc of extras (hence the .22; in theaters, the movie was known as Evangelion: 2.0). The extras include “Rebuild of Evangelion 2.02” (which shows the designs from pencil sketches to finished product of some of the sequences in the move), several trailers, DVD and Blu-ray spots, omitted scenes, a remixed scene (the Noguchi version of the end sequence, complete with Hayashibara Megumi’s song “I would give you anything”), and a commentary track (on the first disc) by the U.S. cast. It may also come with a booklet like the first one did; mine didn’t, but I got it from the library. Like the first film, this review is based on seeing the subtitled version, which brings up two points: if people are speaking in English (as they do at a few points in the movie), is there any need to subtitle what they’re saying? And do we really need every background conversation subtitled?