The second installment of the theatrical remake of cult classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion will be released on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow on the 26th of May 2010. After months of procrastination, now is good as any time to a run through Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance.
Those unfamiliar with the Evangelion franchise, can refer to this overview of the previous movie that I wrote last year. Following the success of the first movie, Evangelion 2.0 graced cinemas last year to the rejoice of the eager awaiting fans. I personally caught the movie in November, with a colleague one evening after work. At this time, I was still enamored from watching the series and first movie only recently, so while I wasn’t aware that it was airing in cinemas, I easily agreed to catch it.
Evangelion 2.0 continues with the invasion of Tokyo-3 (Hakone) by the mysterious angels. The first movie left off at around episode 6 of the 26 part television series. Surprisingly, this movie accelerates the plot greatly, covering the story from episode 7 (though most of it is removed) up until about episode 23.
Some who saw Evangelion 1.0 were disappointed that it was a literal rehash of the original story. Those who have already seen the previous rendition of the anime will be glad to know that this time round approximately 50% of Evangelion 2.0 differs from the original story. White some purists may be offended by the liberties taken to the plot, the changes are clearly for the best. Those without a knack for philosophy will find the new Evangelion all the much easier to comprehend.
Perhaps the biggest publicized change to the franchise, is the addition of the new pilot, Mari Illustrious Makinami and her Evangelion Unit-05. Though the unit was briefly mentioned in the television series, this is the first time that we are introduced to the European pilot. The movie opens with Mari launching the EVA in English, so I was initially worried that the movie might had been dubbed. While she does feature prominently, like most characters in the series, Mari plays a secondary role to the protagonist, Shinji. Whether Mari will play a central role in subsequent movies or if she was simply a means to sell more merchandise is still unknown at this point.
Evangelion 2.0 is also the awaited arrival of the second EVA pilot after being absent from the last movie. Asuka is given a flashy introduction early in the movie, in a very different manner from the original story.
In the movie, Souryuu Asuka Langley was renamed Asuka Langley Shikinami to match the other lead characters’ who are named after different Japanese warships (Souryuu was an aircraft carrier). She is also given the rank of captain in the movie but it is unknown if this will have any significance to the plot yet.
A key difference between Evangelion 2.0 and the original, is the increased focus of the relationship between Shinji, Rei and Asuka. Many of the angel battles are removed to make room for character development. The additional action scenes will be sadly missed but for the first time, the characters (even the expressionless Rei) are given more personality beyond their constant clinical depression. It is interesting to see how the three emotionally inept characters react to the new social situations introduced within.
Without spoiling too much about the plot, I can only praise Evangelion 2.0 for a much cleaner story. Throughout the movie, I was truly excited by the differences between Evangelion 2.0 and the original. The improved pace and new imagery helped make the new movie all the more enjoyable for me as a fan. New viewers will also benefit from the more understandable plot.
Evangelion 2.0 builds up to a strong climax and ends with an unexpected surprise ending that will leave viewers wanting more. Hopefully, the next movie in this four part re-imagining of the series isn’t too far off. With this movie already covering most of the entire series, the teasers seem to suggest that the next movie will stray even further from the original.
The DVD and Blu-ray versions of Evangelion 2.0 will be renamed Evangelion 2.22 and will feature additional footage that was cut from theatrical release.
Images courtesy of kodomut and copyright © Gainax Co Ltd 2010.