And you thought Asuka was a handful.
Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance, the latest feature film retelling of the hit Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, arrives in DVD and Blu-ray format with a load of extras, gorgeous animation and a spunky new main character! For those new to the series, Eva was a groundbreaking sci-fi masterpiece of the late nineties that followed teenage pilots of giant cyborg mecha -the Evangelion units. These Evangelion were created by military organization NERV to protect earth from deadly, heaven-sent Angel monstrosities. Full of religious symbolism, psychological exploration and daring visuals, the Eva series is a must-see, along with this latest exciting installment.
Originally titled Evangelion New Theatrical Edition: Break, the film certainly does break away, to some extent, from the series and prior films. 2.22 opens with a brand new character, confident pilot Mari from the Euro Branch and her never-before-seen Eva Provisional Unit-05. The bespectacled brunette’s amazing underground battle with the serpentine third Angel is just one of the film’s many fantastic scenes. Back again are the first two pilots, introvert Shinji and doll-like Rei, at the point in time that they meet fan favorite pilot, the fiery Asuka. Throughout the film there are shot-by-shot identical moments to the series, blended with new story elements and winks to fans, and always in beautiful, vivid animation. Those new to Evangelion will likely be overwhelmed by the many plot events crammed into this feature, but should nonetheless be wowed aesthetically.
Though, it’s tough to point out highlights from a film brimming with action sequences and dramatic plot turns, many of the Angel battles are visual peaks. As mentioned, the first Angel fight that introduces new pilot Mari is a definite standout. The Angel’s design itself is fascinating and executed brilliantly in CG. The scene is even more impressive, if you consider the amount of color and texture layering required for a lit, underground setting. Asuka in her Evangelion Model Unit-02 versus the Seventh Angel is equally spectacular, as the enhanced CG and Eva design allow for more acrobatic movements and dynamic perspective shots. Plus, the form of the Seventh Angel and its power to freeze water is quite intriguing. On the other hand, the Ninth Angel (BIG SPOILER HERE) that possesses Asuka’s Eva, is memorable for the gruesome way Shinji’s father forces the teen to nearly kill Asuka along with the monster. The sheer scope of the Tenth Angel makes for one dramatic ending, with so many light and explosion visuals that the rescue of Rei by Shinji becomes somewhat hard to follow, but no less entertaining.
Evangelion: 2.22 is a two-disc DVD set, one disc consisting entirely of special features! By far the best feature is the “rebuild of Evangelion: 2.02.” (Note: the Japanese release titled the film 2.02, while the US release calls it 2.22, indicating further enhancements made.) The rebuild feature is an animated collage of film clips set to the movie soundtrack. What makes it so fantastic is that the clips break down about every major scene of the film, from storyboard concept to layout and dummy color shots, all the way up to finalized animation blended with CG. Many sequences are additionally in split screen format, so you can see the animation from concept to completion, side-by-side. Certain figures such as the Third Angel that are fully CG are even rotated over blank backgrounds to reveal detail. Rebuild lasts about 30 minutes and is an animation tech otaku’s wet dream.
Extras that aren’t nearly as exciting but still worth a watch are deleted scenes, Japanese TV and other promo spots, trailers and US cast commentary. Also included is a very cool and useful 20 page guidebook to the film. The Evas, pilots, angels, visual works and terms from the series are listed and accompanied by screen shot pictures, along with a film introduction. Even the DVD packaging was given some thought, with a textured slipcase that unfolds to reveal a posing Eva Unit-02. Nice job, Funimation!
Fans should recognize Shiro Sagisu’s energetic, appealing instrumental pieces in the film’s soundtrack that are sometimes identical or expanded versions of music from the Evangelion series (also used in Kare Kano, another awesome anime from studio Gainax). There are additionally two songs featuring light vocals, set to children’s lyrics that cleverly play during the most brutal scenes of the film.
As for DVD audio, both English and Japanese language tracks are in Dolby Digital Surround. For the quality of acting and interesting character detail inevitably lost in the English dub, I recommend watching the film in Japanese. The opening sequence even has many lines originally dubbed in English, as the scene takes place in Europe. The English fluency of all speakers seems dependent on their character’s background, which is a neat touch only noticeable on the Japanese track. This said, the English dub is tolerable. Misato sounds too young and Asuka too bratty, but no voices were outright grating. Due to the complexity of the visuals, watching the film a second time with the track switched to English is a helpful way to take it all in.
Evangelion: 2.22 has the best blend of animation and CG visuals I have ever seen. From intense fighting scenes between towering mecha and Angels, down to quiet shots of trains rolling over landscapes, every sequence is breathtaking. Figures that are noticeably CG never feel intrusive and fit their backgrounds. CG crowd scenes and enhanced backgrounds mix flawlessly with their animated counterparts. Whether or not audiences are familiar with Eva or appreciate the intricacy of the storyline, the visuals alone make the film a viewing pleasure.
For its amazing visuals and expansion of the original storyline, Funimation’s DVD or Blu-ray release of the Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance feature film is an absolute buy. The awesome Rebuild feature and booklet extras seal the deal. If you know the franchise, 2.22 will reignite your Eva fandom and have you dying to marathon the series and earlier films over again. For the newbies, enjoy Gainax at its animation best, then check out Neon Genesis Evangelion the series (the Platinum, slim-case DVD box set was released by ADV) to find out what all the fuss is about.
ComicsOnline.com gives Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance an A.T. field 5 out of 5.
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