Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance Review
Please Note: The following review focuses mostly on the difference between the original Neon Genesis Evangelion and this second film in the planned Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy, for a more detailed opinion on the overall Evangelion franchise and background information on the Rebuild of Evangelion then please refer to my review of Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone
The Rebuild of Evangelion continues, and if fans of the original TV show felt that the "rebuild" tag was in reference to the new snazzy CGI-enhanced animation and faithful condensation of the Neon Genesis series that was: Evangelion: 1.11, then not five minutes into Evangelion: 2..22 You Can (Not) Advance you're in for a rude awakening, because now we start to see how Writer/Supervising Director Hideaki Anno is beginning to mould a fresh new vision from the old franchise.
Evangelion: 2.22 picks up almost immediately after the first film with Shinji finally settling into his new home and responsibilities as pilot of the second Eva unit, fighting the persistent threat of the mysterious life forms known as Angels. Now, with Shinji and Rei firmly established as an Angel thwarting duo, Gendo introduces Eva-02 and its prodigious and conceited pilot: Asuka Langley Shikinami to the team. Asuka is feisty, fiercely proud and in Shinji's face 24-7 once she moves into Misato's apartment and turns his world upside down, but her arrival soon starts to establish a tentative but awkward "love" triangle between the pilots. Otherwise the Angels continue to descend upon New Tokyo-3 and SEELE continues to act according to their Dead Sea Scrolls, with their motives and goals becoming the focus of investigation for newly-arrived NERV secret agent: Ryoji Kaji, whilst a new Eva pilot from a rival nation infiltrates the city...
The plot and impetus of Evangelion: 2..22 You Can (Not) Advance will probably seem a little confusing and slightly hurried for newcomers to the franchise, as there's considerably more episodes of the original series condensed into one film this time around and also the establishment of more and more complex world politics and shady organisations pulling the strings behind the scenes. As a fan of the original series however, I was surprised at just how easy going and natural Evangelion: 2.22's pacing feels given the sheer amount of TV material that has had to be dropped. I have to give Hideaki Anno credit as I'm not usually a fan of films that condense a whole season or half a season's worth of TV anime episodes into one feature film, but the reformation into Evangelion: 2.22 genuinely feels totally organic.
Anno has not only had the balls to make massive changes to his fiercely-adored opus, introducing a new character in ambiguous rival Eva Pilot: Mari Makinami and in some areas almost completely reworking the development and characterisation of the central roles (Asuka Langley in particular has whole knew character traits to match her new surname), but he's also clearly put a lot of thought into the best way to tear apart the original narrative and piece everything back together with a healthy dollop of original writing to develop the same plotline in a much more efficient manner. Of course, this IS a much shorter body of work at the end of the day so sacrifices are inevitable; mostly to the screentime and development of the adult characters: Misato, Kaji, and Ritsuko, but it's possible Anno is saving their backstories for the next entry in the series.
The major changes - at least thematically - are consistent with the changes to the first film: Anno has slightly softened the edges of the three Evangelion pilots: Shinji, Rei, and Asuka, making Shinji a little less self-pitying, Rei a little more human and Asuka less damaged - even Gendo seems more human this time around! However, if Anno has added more humanistic touches and seemingly "softened" Evangelion to effect an almost feel-good factor to the story, it's to further compound the tragedy later on when Gendo starts pulling on the strings, forcing Shinji and his co-pilots into the black hole of warfare as he ruthlessly attempts to instigate the mysterious: Human Instrumentality project. So while Evangelion: 2.22 hints at there possibly being more hope and perhaps even happiness at the end of the series, it still has that dark and gloomy underbelly suggesting otherwise.
PresentationEvangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone was blessed with an excellent transfer on Blu-ray here in the UK, and Manga's HD release of the second instalment is basically an exact match, the AVC encode has a slightly lower bitrate this time at 29.92Mbps but the compression is as good if not slightly better, although banding is still a little too intrusive in places. Everything else about the transfer is first rate, the image is sharp and pristine, the colour scheme is beautifully saturated, and the contrast and brightness levels are nicely balanced. For the audio I will just quote my review for the previous film:
"On the audio front we have a choice between the original Japanese or a newly recorded/translated English dub that are both presented in DolbyTrueHD 6.1. While the Japanese track is only 16-bit it certainly sounds extremely lively during the action sequences, with every speaker given lots to do by a pleasantly enveloping remix. Audio dynamics are very good and dialogue is clean and smooth throughout, but if I had to gripe about this track I would say that bass could do with being tightened up somewhat. In comparison to other recently remastered/remixed Sci-Fi classics on Blu-ray (Akira, Ghost in the Shell) then this release is found lacking slightly, not that this means you’re not getting a good sonic presentation in any way.
In comparison the newly produced English dub is 24-bit and provides more aggressive, weighty bass levels which mean in general the audio sounds less reserved and ballsier when the action kicks in. As for the dub; I’ve never liked the old English dub for Neon Genesis Evangelion and so would have been happy to see an all new cast hired for this one. Saying that though the old cast do a slightly better job on this film than they did before so how attached you were the old dub and its translation will decide how you react to this new one."
Optional English subtitles are provided, with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall.
ExtrasWe've got a slightly more substantial selection of extras for the second film in the Rebuild of Evangelion, not least of which being an audio commentary with the US dub cast and crew that should be welcomed by fans of the English dub. Here's the rubdown:
U.S. Cast Commentary
ADR Director/Line Producer (and voice of the film's bespectacled Computer Technician: Makato Hyuga) Mike McFarland has put together an audio commentary with the cast and crew that thankfully eschews the usual trend of putting a bunch of dub actors in a recording booth so they can prattle on about who dubbed who and how much fun they had at the various Anime conventions they all met up at. Instead what we have is basically a series of one-on-one interviews with each member of the primary cast, who come in alone to talk to Mike for ten or fifteen minutes before leaving for the next actor to arrive.
The result is a commentary track that is pretty focussed on the acting process during the production of an English dub as well as each actor's analyses of the film's characters; yes there's also frequent talk of Anime conventions but with Mike on board to steer the discussion in the right areas the commentary never feels like it is derailed. The final "commentator is Senior Engineer & Audio Mixer: Nathaniel Harrison, who offers information on the different approach to mixing Anime in the East and West, a perspective that is rarely seen on Western DVD/BD releases. Unfortunately they appear to have stopped one or two actors/crew members too short as Mike signs off around 25 minutes before the end of the film!
Rebuild of Evangelion 2.02 (22m:27s, 1080p, Dolby TrueHD 2.0)
As with the first film's Blu-ray we are given a featurette which uses Animatics in montage to show how a number of the film's CGI-enhanced shots were built up from storyboard to final shot . The featurette plays out to music, there is no dialogue.
"I would Give You Anything" Scene NOGUCHI ver. (04m:55s, 1080p, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 6.1, Removable English Subs)
The musical sequence from the film's closing scenes is played out here as a short clip.
Omitted Scenes (03m:14s, 1080p, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 6.1, Removable English Subs)
Four very short deleted scenes, none of which are particular noteworthy and all of which are presented as very crude animation mock ups from storyboards and early CG animatics.
Original Trailer (01m:27s, 1080p, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Removable English Subs)
Pretty straightforward this one, just a few TV Spots that played on Japanese TV in 2007. They’re not particularly interesting.
Train Channel Spot (00m:14s, 1080p, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Removable English Subs)
In Japan they have LCD monitors on some trainlines that operate their own viewer channel, which this "TV" spot must have ran on.
Japanese TV Spots (01m:38s, 1080p, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Removable English Subs)
Can you guess what this is?
Blu-ray & DVD (02m:31s, 1080p, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Removable English Subs)
A couple of TV spots and a two-minute promotion reel advertising the Japanese Blu-ray/DVD release.
Trailer (06m:56s, 1080p, English/Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Non-removable English Subs)
Although this is a MangaUK release, this collection of Anime film trailers (Summer Wars, Evangelion: 1.11, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) comes courtesy of Madman, complete with their Anti Piracy Trailer and Australian Classification Board ratings before each trailer!