Fantasia 2010: EVANGELION 2.0 YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE Review

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Fantasia 2010: EVANGELION 2.0 YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE Review
[With the latest Evangelion feature taking a bow at Fantasia today now seems a good time to revisit my earlier review from Sitges.]

When the five feature revisioning / relaunch of Hideaki Anno's seminal anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion was announced a few years back the response amongst fans was immediate.  Though none were quite certain whether this would be a simple re-edit / re-animation of the original show or something larger and more involved the prospect of the show finally being given the visuals to truly match the scope of Anno's vision was cause for celebration.  Official talk was that this was not a mere buff and polish, but there was skepticism that the changes would not run more than skin deep.  After all, why spend the money to completely recreate something already enormously successful?

But then the first of the new features arrived.  Though dominantly a compression of the first block of television episodes, Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone featured a slightly altered approach to its protagonist - youthful pilot Shinji Ikari, pressed into service piloting a massive robot to battle invading Angels by the father who abandoned him years before - and a sharper focus on the core elements of the story that promised good things to come.  Perhaps the PR line about major changes being in the works was more than just a line.  And with the arrival of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance that hope is richly rewarded. 

Straddling the line between honoring the original source material and a full re-imagining, this new feature is where the shifted focus becomes abundantly clear.  While the core mythology of the epic remains untouched, as do the relationships between the principal characters - producers have sharpened and focused things dramatically here.  Eva 2.0 heralds the arrival of not just fan favorite Asuka Langley - plunging Shinji into a confusing world between two attractive young women - but also of an entirely new character, a new pilot who appears on the scene from Europe.  More attention is paid to the relationship between Shinji and his father, while the true aims of military organization NERV and the shadowy power behind the scenes begin to come in to focus.  Eva 2.0 pushes the story along so efficiently that it appears clear that the third film should bring us to the end of the story as presented in the television series before moving on to the final two films for the finale.

The changes to the story are all wise ones, all moves that bring the core ideas and themes into sharper focus while jettisoning some of the more frivolous elements.  And, likewise, the new animation is a big step forward from the original series - a made for tv production whose humble budget often placed serious limits on what director Hideaki Anno and company were able to achieve.  This new Evangelion is simply gorgeous to look at.  Whether an epic robot battle - of which there are many - or a more quiet moment, the visual work is absolutely top notch and a wonder to behold.

The negative side to Evangelion remains the same as it has always been.  With its incredibly dense mythology - a fusion of scifi tropes with Kabbalah - Evangelion was always a show that demanded its audience stick with it right from the beginning.  This is as true now as ever.  Fans of the original series will be able to keep up with this feature fine but to truly grasp everything that's happening it is best if you watch Eva 1.0 first and those who have not yet been introduced to the saga very definitely need not bother with this film at all until they have started properly from the beginning.  Eva is not really an experience for casual viewing.  It is - much like the graphic novel incarnation of Watchmen - a watershed moment in its particular genre, a dense and challenging work that manipulates and transcends many of the typical themes of these types of stories.  And, like any work of literature, it demands that you conform to the demands that it makes upon you.  Put the time in and you will be richly rewarded, with all signs being that this new series of features will truly be the definitive version, but make sure to start at the beginning.

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MasayukiKazuya TsurumakiHideaki AnnoBrina PalenciaCherami LeighJ. Michael TatumColleen ClinkenbeardAnimationActionDrama

More about Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance

Around the Internet

Ard VijnOctober 12, 2009 7:00 AM

Everything I hear about Evangelion 2.0 is excellent news.
Lord knows the series as a whole could do with a tightened-up story and an extended ending!

And the last time Hideaki Anno changed the ending it was a blast (literally). "End of Evangelion" was even weirder, far-out and explaining even less than the ending of the series (which was in itself already record-breakingly vague), but it surewas fun to watch it.

Can't wait to see how it all will resolve this time around.

terebi-kunOctober 12, 2009 12:48 PM

I second Ard's feelings... unfortunately I read some of the plot of Eva 2.0, but at least is clear that this isn't just a facelift, but a bona fide remake.

The animation in 1.0 is beautiful, and in 2.0 it seems that is almost completely new scenes.

I'm really looking forward to these movies.

SaltonerOctober 12, 2009 12:48 PM

First, I love the series, it is by far the best anime series ever, so I was extremely stoked to see Evangelion 1.0 at Sunset 5 here in Los Angeles. While not a total disappointment, it's not that big of a deal either. To sum up everything in the series so quickly loses a lot of what made the original series so great; those, long, tedious, drawn out moments between the characters punctuated by intense, awesome battle sequences between giant robots and aliens. Their are a lot of new CG added scenes of the city itself and even the angels have gotten a CG refreshing, which looks odd since their animation is so stiff amd mechanical. Though some of the CG movements with the 3rd angel are cool, it wasn't enough to warrant changing them up that way. Adding a CG gun to a 2D Eva is also odd. I know CG is cheap and now easy to do, but it doesn't fit well with classic 2D animation. And their are maybe 2 new 2D scenes which were nice, but you barely notice they're there. However, the ending has a cool new twist which is the only thing that made going out on a Wednesday night after a long work day worth it. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

tetsujin74October 12, 2009 12:51 PM

You know? I really want to agree with this review, but after catching this over the summer, it really feels as if what made the tv series so iconic is being eschewed(it's garage-rock stumble to grace was something that made it great for me anyway)for merely fan service. After rewatching it the next day, the problems only multiplied as any of the quiet that helped make the latter movements of the story potent is gone.

Now I took the bait with 1.0, as it offered (quite cleverly) an open door to another interpretation, but this has essentially turned Evangelion into an amusement park ride for the Akiba-Kei set (the very set that Anno was criticizing in the original series).

If you don't believe me, stop and think about the reasons for the new pilot being there. After that rewatch, it's clear that there aren't any but to sell another set of figures.

Fan service is alright, but this is the very idea of making the audience asphyxiate on it.

Here's hoping the last chapters unfold in a less crass fashion.

Todd BrownOctober 12, 2009 1:24 PM

I don't think we can really speculate anything about the purpose of the new pilot until the new series is complete. And let's be honest - the original series is PACKED with fan service as well. My first impression is that there's actually less of that in this version.

Ard VijnOctober 13, 2009 1:22 PM

Of course I can speculate about the new pilot!
In fact, having seen none of these films yet I cannot do anything BUT speculate!

So here goes: the new pilot is there to deflower Shinji in the next film.
I've said it.

And this is because people were a bit freaked out at what happened in the series: there were strong allusions that Shinji had his first sexual experiences with a (gasp) male character. In true conspiracy-theory mode, this happened exactly one episode before the complete budget collapsed, resulting in two final episodes which were basically slideshows. Never mind the real world of budgetting for a series (hell, Hideaki Anno sure doesn't), this is a fun theory and I'll stick with it.

Is that also why "End of Evangelion" started with a very shocking moment between Shinji and a sleeping Asuka? It certainly shows Shinji hasn't lost his interest in women yet...

Back to the new "rebuild" movies: summing up why none of the existing women from the television series would be able to do "the job" would be going deep into spoiler territory, but rest assured the only one available would be Asuka. Alas, she needs to remain around as some sort of "unobtainable goal". Therefore it makes sense to insert a new girl. And if she's going to cuddle Shinji, better have her originate from those notorious freethinking nations over in Europe!

The above is, of course, in jest.

But seriously: is there any news yet concerning a release date for part three? Knowing Hideaki Anno, he may change his mind about twenty times while making up new storylines so I wouldn't be surprised to see big delays coming up...

tetsujin74October 14, 2009 12:41 PM

Not sure about that fan service line, considering that this was a bit of an insider gag where Kotono Mitsuishi (Misato Katsuragi) would promise said service, to only seldom deliver. Whatever the case, this particular film only works as fan candy, and not much else. I really tried to look at it from other angles, and even as an admirer of Studio Kimigabuchi's sprawling RE-TAKE. (something which takes the concept of living trapped within a possibly infinite loop quite seriously, I might add)

And while I can see Ard's point about the need for the new character, with the her actual, lack of screentime use in this film, it comes off terribly shallow, and offers little to nothing for us to work with, except that she's decently multilingual, recognizes smell, and sees our protagonist as NERV's "puppy". That's it. Nothing else. Her action sequences are fun however. But when we're left trying to justify Evangelion's characters merely for cool factor, it's time to worry.

Whatever the case, I'll be looking forward to the next chapter as so much is open at this point. But I highly doubt that anything higher than a glossy b-product will be possible at this point. (the next film would have to actually stop and allow us to stew in things to actually work)There's never enough character time dedicated in these films for any of us to actually care. Nor is there ever any feeling that the changes done to the original narrative hold any real weight. Things just happen. If we must look at it as part of an incomplete whole, then that would personally never work. The same justifications were used in the Star Wars prequels.

Anno/Tsurumaki hopefully have an amazing rabbit to pull out, or this will merely be remembered as one hell of a cash-in/footnote in anime history.

Evangelion Gekijyouban:Q is set for next summer. A bit sooner than expected, which only increases my concern.

aino.senshiJanuary 23, 2011 9:55 PM

Just fyi, Anno's Studio Khara (not Gainax) are making these films. And it's a 4-film series, not 5. (The next two films are Q (Quickening)/3.0 and Final/4.0).

Good review at any rate. ^_^