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Anime Reviews: Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance
While there are many radical changes made to the Evangelion story, 2.0 knows when to keep iconic older scenes and when to create innovative new ones.
Title: Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance a.k.a. Evangelion Shin Gekijouban: Ha
Production: GAINAX / Studio Khara / KlockWorx
Film Length: 108 minutes
Air Dates: 6/27/2009
Age Rating: 17+ (strong and often disturbing violence, brief strong language, some nudity and suggestive content)
Summary: Inside NERV's arctic Bethany Base, tests are being run on the newest prototype Evangelion model, Unit 05, piloted by a spunky young woman named Mari Illustrious Makinami. The target is the resurrected Angel Shamshel, which had been cleanly killed by Unit 01 several months earlier. Because of its tenacious nature, Mari has no choice but to attach Unit 05 to it with the intent of self-destructing it, safely ejecting at the last minute. Elsewhere, Shinji visits his mother's grave along with his father, Gendou. On the way home, another Angel suddenly attacks, but just as suddenly, the blazing-red Evangelion Unit 02 drops out of the sky and dispatches the Angel with ease. Afterwards, Shinji meets Unit 02's pilot: a hot-headed and aggressive girl named Asuka Langley Shikinami. Though NERV has a powerful new pilot under its command, the challenges they'll face in the upcoming days will bring them to their knees.
The Good: Art and animation are beyond gorgeous; solid voice acting; clever use of soundtrack; radical, yet smart, changes to story and characters
The Bad: More questionable direction choices; more techno-babble
The Ugly: Attempting to explain to the FBI why you shouldn't be taken to Federal prison for having yet another naked 14-year-old girl on your computer screen
So after the first Rebuild film, we had to ask ourselves where the second one would end up going. Was it going to be a remake with some small changes like its predecessor, or was it going to start dishing out some major changes with the familiar portions being in the minority? The answer lies somewhere in between, actually, as there are some major changes made to the story we've all come to know and love/hate, but there are still many scenes familiar to older fans. As you may have seen on my profile, Rebuild 2.0 is among my favorite films while Rebuild 1.0 isn't, so, obviously, I think it's good. Why? Let's find out~
First and foremost, there's the visual look of the movie. Remember in my previous review how I gushed about those visuals? Multiply that by about a factor of ten. There is literally not a single frame of this movie that didn't have tons of money thrown at it. Character movements are fluid and nuanced, the CGI remains flawlessly integrated (save for a scene where a bunch of CGI people are walking along the roads, that doesn't look right), and the action scenes are an unrestrained, joyous affair. Though they were always adept at giving us a good fight, GAINAX upped their game with FLCL when it came to framing, animating, and choreographing action, and it seems that, ever since then, that insanely high bar has just kept getting higher and higher, culminating with this film. If for no other reason, Rebuild 2.0's animation is well worth the price of admission.
Luckily, that isn't the sole highlight of the movie. Like the previous installment, there is a plethora of great voice acting going on in this film, in both the English and Japanese versions. Standout performances in the Japanese version include the talented Maaya Sakamoto as newcomer Mari Makinami, whom she plays with a very mischievous tone, Megumi Ogata, reprising her role once again as Shinji Ikari, who ends the film with several character acting moments that will surprise just about everyone, and the always marvelous Megumi Hayashibara as Rei Ayanami, who moves away from the character's usual low key and delivers some more passionate lines later in the film. Not to be outdone, the English version has spectacular performances as well, including Spike Spencer as Shinji, delivering powerfully on the same surprising notes that his Japanese counterpart did, Brina Palencia as Rei, who also like her Japanese counterpart adds a lot of emotion during crucial scenes, and Tiffany Grant as Asuka, who finds the right balance between quiet/disaffected and loud/manic. And then everyone else is good, too.
Going along with the voice acting, the music is also rock-solid, though it has its quirks. Going once again with the bombastic orchestral score, we have revamps of more classic Evangelion tunes, such as "The Beast II" and "Decisive Battle (Alterna)". There are also more new songs this time around, like the ominous "The Final Decision We All Must Take" and "Fate," the important-sounding "Keep Your Head Above the Mayhem," and the somewhat unsettling "Today is the Day for Goodbye," which becomes nearly nightmare-inducing when you hear it in the context it's given here. However, there are a few tracks that boggle the mind...
Does this sound familiar? Or how about this? If you said, "That's the Kare Kano soundtrack!" then you must be cheating, because that's exactly where they're from. While I can't really fault GAINAX for this, because those tracks were written by the same guy who does the music for Evangelion (Shiro Sagisu) so they already belong to the company and they're used to great effect during the more peaceful moments of the film, but it's still weird! Just...weird!
And now for the meat of the film...you know, come to think of it, I can think of several parallels between the film's soundtrack and its story/characters. There is a lot that is familiar, there is even more that's new, and there are a few surreal moments that have been borrowed from other anime. While it's tricky to discuss what's new and what's familiar without getting into grievous amounts of spoilers, I will say this: most of the changes made are for the better. For one thing, Shinji is no longer the insufferable bag of whine he was in the original TV series; instead, he's a lot easier to sympathize with, and when something bothers him, it's perfectly understandable. Also, the relationship between Shinji and Rei, which has always been something the series hinted at, gets more attention than ever before. Once again, spoilers, but I and many others were satisfied with the results. And the climax of the film--man, what a climax! The more astute amongst us will notice the extended shout-out to Revolutionary Girl Utena accompanying the final scenes, so keep an eye out.
Unfortunately, the same exact problems that haunted Rebuild 1.0 haunt 2.0 as well. There are, once again, a few changes made to the story that didn't jive with me the first few times I watched the movie. First off, Asuka has been totally reimagined, down to and including her name (Asuka Langley Sohryu -> Asuka Langley Shikinami). In the TV series, Asuka was bratty and always needed to be the center of attention, while in Rebuild, Asuka is bratty and aggressively antisocial (at least she's still bratty). Also, while the inclusion of new character Mari Makinami was a breath of fresh air, she is woefully underused. She's in the first few minutes, shows up again 45 minutes later for less than a minute, and then returns for the climax. Pro-Tip: If you're gonna add a new character to your story, use them.
And also like the first film, there's just way too much techno-babble going on in this movie. I understand that a lot of it is necessary to tell us what's going on inside the cockpit, but when Ritsuko and Maya spend the entire last 15 minutes of the film talking about technological and mystical mumbo-jumbo, it's time to take another look at the screenplay, guys. Clearly something has gone awry.
Luckily, those problems aren't as prevalent as they were in 1.0, and the highlights of 2.0 far exceed those of its predecessor, making it the superior film. With the 3rd film in the tetralogy scheduled for release this November, now is the perfect time to check out the Evangelion franchise if you haven't already, or brush up on it if you already have seen it. With any luck, you'll be a converted fan just in time for the next installment! After all, I myself wasn't the biggest fan of the series until I caught the Rebuild movies, and that should serve as a testament to their quality.
Final Score: 9.5 out of 10. Though there are a few changes that will baffle and confuse veteran fans, Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance is a visual marvel of a film that hits all the right buttons that a remake/reimagining/sequel(?) should hit.