I mentioned a few posts back that I was going to an anime movie ‘festival’ of sorts where, amongst other things, they were screening the two new Evangelion movies. This was pretty big stuff seeing as the second movie, Evangelion 2.0, hasn’t been released on BD in Japan yet so it hasn’t been fansubbed and relatively few people have seen it outside of Japan. It was also the first time I had touched Evangelion since all those years ago (about 2 years, which is pretty big in my minuscule fandom lifetime) and a lot of what made it great had escaped my mind. I’ve kept this review as spoiler-free as possible.
First up, Evangelion 1.11, since this was my first time seeing that, was pretty much the exact same as the tv series, except maybe a bit more streamlined. Thanks to it’s monster-of-the-week format, I think it lends itself better to a TV series format, compared to say, Lagann-hen, which is essentially two continuous battles. That isn’t to say the movie isn’t fantastic though. Because it stopped before Asuka enters the story, you get the entire movie that focuses on Shinji’s struggle. Now some of you might say ‘oh great, an entire movie of that wimp’ but it was watching this movie that made me realise what a fantastically done character he is. The fear he has of piloting that robot and how he tries to deaden his mind when he goes in, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the same position acting any differently.
Evangelion 2.0 though…I have my problems with. Honestly it felt like they had hired a bunch of the Gurren Lagann script writers onto the team. Shinji, when tearing into a robot, no longer had a primal scream of absolute terror, it was a cry of sheer determination and spirit. The ‘I mustn’t run away’ line felt like it had changed. It was no longer fear that drove him but determination. His robot stands up again when he gets serious. There was even a line spoken between the two female NERV members that went something along the lines of “there’s a 99% chance of failure” “we’ll succeed with are human spirit”. There was also a level of self-parody to 2.0. I know Gainax have built their career on that sort of stuff but in Evangelion it more annoyed me than anything. Basically, the entire tone of the series had altered quite noticeably from the first movie to that of a more upbeat package.
In short, I didn’t like it because it was different. Which is the most fanboyingly stupid response you can possibly imagine and coming from me, the guy who constantly finds himself getting annoyed at fans who whine when an anime adaption of a manga isn’t the exact same, it adds in that extra layer of hypocrisy. Even during the movie I found myself thinking ‘why can you not just enjoy it for what it is. Stop forcing your expectations on it’. The problem here comes with the fact that it’s meant as a direct sequel to 1.11. The tone of the two movies is very different to the point that it was jarring to move from one to the other.
Before I’d seen these two movies I’d never considered myself an EVA fanboy, despite the series ranking in my top 30. An EVA fanboy, in my mind, was someone who actually liked the ending. However the first movie, combined with my reaction to the second one’s change in tone, confirmed that I was, at heart, an EVA fanboy. The main flaw I had with EVA was its underlying plot. It didn’t make the slightest bit of sense by the end and was basically made up as it went along (anyone who tries denying this hasn’t done their EVA homework). The problem was not the oppression felt by the wimpy characters, that’s what made the series great, and in that is what my main problem with 2.0 is. It’s like leaving your house to some interior designers to re-do your kitchen only for them to do up every other room in the house.
Really though, I’m being overly harsh and fanboyish here. By no means is it a bad movie. Instead of the gradual oppression that is standard EVA, this version is more train-wreck style where they build up everyone’s hopes before then throwing everything against them at once (oh great, more hypocrisy. Disliking a train-wreck style anime from a guy whose blog is named after Code Geass). Even with the inclusion of Asuka, who was my favourite character from the tv series, it is Shinji who steals the show yet again. It’s a slightly different Shinji, who gets openly angry at one stage rather than the usual heaping it inside himself, which is what results in ‘manly spirit’ robot piloting he does later on, but it’s done fantastically well, especially combined with the usual indifference of Gendo Ikari. And whatever I might say about Gainax winking at its fans, I still laughed at Asuka’s conveniently placed straw. It is a good movie, it really is. I just find it impossible to lay aside my preconceptions as to what Evangelion should be like.
One part that is absoultely terrible though is the first angel of 2.0. It’s like those robots at the start of Transformers 2. They’re just plopped in to show an action scene at the start, are beaten stupidly quickly and destroyed the beautiful pattern the Angels follow. Each Angel gets progressively creepier and more difficult to beat as the opression heaps on each character, never subsiding and heaped on further with which Angel appearing. This Angel was so stupidly easily beaten compared to the Angel that finished off 1.11 that it ruined the cycle of Angels. Again though, this is me placing my preconceptions of how it should be like like the bloody idiot fanboy that I am.