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Evangelion 2.0: You can (not) advance (Evangelion Shin Gekijōban: Ha) September 7, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.
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While in Japan, I was lucky enough to catch the second Renewal of Evangelion movie at the Human Trust Cinema in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Evangelion Shin Gekijōban: Ha (Renewal of Evangelion: Ha or Evangelion 2.0: You can (not) advance as it is alternately known) is the next in GAINAX’s remakes/reimaginings/cash-in rip-off’s of their popular, controversial anime series.

Despite my misgivings about reanimating and redoing an otaku favourite, I was really impressed by the first film (Evangelion 1.0: You are (not) alone). Yes, the story was exactly the same as the first six or so episodes of the series, but it had been a long time since I’d rewatched the TV anime and the newly animated footage was stunning. To see everything rendered in new, 21st Century colours and CG was a treat for the eyes, and the story still holds — in some ways it was even better without the filler fluff that comes with a TV series.

Yet, while the story was essentially the same, it did hint at big changes to the original plot — Kaworu, for example, made a few taster appearances.

This is carried on in the second film, which while going through essentially the same hoops as the original anime, takes a different route in getting there.

(SPOILER ALERT: If you really don’t want to know, stop reading here)

Let’s do the otaku thing and run through some of the major changes:

  • New character: Horikita Maki. Gets the opening scene, dusting off an unknown angel in an prototype for the Eva mass-production model. Fans may have recoiled in horror at the idea of a new character inserted into their beloved story, but Maki fits in well, albein in a deux ex machina kind of way. She’s not actually in it that much, to be fair. She just pops up in the opening, drops in on Tokyo-3 (and Shinji) in typical harem-anime style (rooftop, boy, parachute; you can imagine the scene) and then crops up for the final battle at the end. All we know about her is she’s a mysterious SEELE test pilot, with a surprising amount of maturity (at least combat-wise). No doubt we’ll find out more about her in the final two movies (which really will be all new plot).
  • Asuka Langley Soryu is now Asuka Langley Shinikami. She’s now a Captain and she gets an awesome introduction, launching out of a plane to take out an angel in mid-flight with a spray of bullets and gymnastics. That’s my Asuka!
  • It’s Asuka, not Touji who pilots Eva-03 in the ill-fated test. This gives an emotional plot point even more weight. Fans would have had the bad feeling as soon as they saw she was the one prepping for it. From the trailer for Evangelion 3.0 she seems to have survived (as Touji did) but I did genuinely think she might have been killed off, which goes to show how out of the familiar-plot comfort zone Eva 2.0 got me.
  • Kaworu continues his teaser appearances, culminating in him donning a plug-suit and boarding his own Eva model to confront the berserker Eva 01 at the film’s cliffhanger climax.

So my verdict on the film? I loved it. It was an absolute gripping joy from start to finish. The animation continues to be spectacular. All the lush of Eva 1.0 is there and then some with the fight scenes particularly fabulous and some stunning cut-scenes of everyday life around Tokyo-3 (one in particular, set to a short piece of OST, Yamashita, is just beautiful).

A big shout out has to go to Sagisa Shirou’s soundtrack too. Again, he’s outdone himself. The pieces are a mix of both the familiar TV series themes, some remixes and some fantastic new tracks (Yamashita being the pick of them). There’s also some disturbing choices of, actually quite beautiful, ‘kids’ songs mixed over the violent scenes in the movie’s climax (very akin to End of Evangelion). But the icing on the cake for me was Shirou’s ressurrection of the Kare Kano BGM for much of this film. Those tracks of strings and pianos are emotionally poignant, full of angst, loneliness, romance and hope — essentially all themes of Eva. I’d forgotten how much I love the Kare Kano OSTs and to hear Shirou bringing them to a new audience brought joy to my heart.

On a side note, watching a major anime film in a proper Japanese cinema was a joy. The spectacular animation looked beautiful on the big screen and the surround sound was wonderful. Plus, the Human Trust cinema is a properly comfortable one.

I was excited about testing my Japanese ability with a native, non-subtitled movie and largely, it didn’t let me down. Of course I didn’t understand everything — as soon as anyone went into technological/philosophical/theological jargon I had no chance, and I’m sure I lost some major elements of the plot toward the end. But in a way Eva was the perfect film to go and see, as I knew the characters and the vague direction that the plot was headed in. Plus, teenage hi-jinks are fairly easy to get the gist of no matter what the language :p

It was also nice to watch it with a Japanese audience. It was surprisingly full, despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon on a weekday and the film had been on release for two weeks. Plus, shock, horror, not all were otaku! I hadn’t heard wrong, Eva really is fairly well known and does have a (fairly) a wider appeal, audience-wise.

I highly recommend Eva 2.0, particularly if it makes it over to a cinema near you (Eva 1.0 is getting a UK release soon I believe, and I hope it gets a short run in the cinemas). I can’t wait to see what Eva 3.0 and 4.0 bring, but wait I shall have to, with the next not due until next year (Plus, we non-Japanese otaku have to wait for the DVD release to even get the fansubs >_<).

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