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Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance UK Anime Blu-ray Review

Here comes the second installment of the Evangelion reboot, and this is where we begin to see some major deviations from what went before – and some new Eva robots, too. While Shinji continues to struggle with the whole idea of being an Eva pilot, there’s a new pilot on the scene who positively thrives on it – and someone else who seems to have her own agenda…

What They Say:
The impressive 21st Century makeover of one of the most revered and influential anime series of all time continues apace with the DVD and Blu-ray release of the feature-length Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance.

The second of four planned movies based on the original anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, this latest instalment introduces new pilots, new Evas and new Angels as the ongoing story involves to new heights of intensity. Written by “Neon Genesis Evangelion” creator Hideaki Anno and directed by regular “Evangelion” collaborator Kazuya Tsurumaki, Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance presents a thrilling and visually spectacular new experience for anime aficionados and fans of all-out giant robot destruction.

In this explosive new story, brutal action and primal emotion clash as a group of young pilots manoeuvre their towering cyborg Eva Units into combat against a deadly and disturbing enemy.

In the battle to prevent the apocalyptic Third Impact, Shinji and Rei were forced to carry humanity’s hopes on their shoulders. Now, as the onslaught of the bizarre, monstrous Angels escalates, they find their burden shared by two new Eva pilots, the fiery Asuka and the mysterious Mari. As the young pilots fight desperately to save mankind, they must also struggle to save themselves.

The Review:
Audio:
Audio is provided in English and Japanese versions, both in Dolby TrueHD 6.1. I listened to the Japanese track for this review, and it’s a joy to listen to. Dialogue is clear, effects are well-placed around the soundstage, and the action scenes carry the oomph you’d expect from them. There were no apparent problems.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen format, and uses the AVC codec at 1080p. Colours are strong and vibrant, with no apparent encoding issues – simply a joy to look at.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main menu features a montage of clips from the movie, set to a piece of melodic theme music, and with options for Play Movie, Scene Selection, Audio Setup and Extras arrayed along the bottom. Selecting an option merely alters the menu bar accordingly – no transitions of any sort – so it’s as simple as possible to use. I could do without the clicks that accompany each action, though.

Extras:
There’s a huge array of extras included here. First up is a US cast commentary track; there’s also a 22-minute making-of documentary, showcasing the development of many scenes from the movie from production sketch to finished product – there’s no spoken commentary or anything to this, it’s simply clips set to music, but I still found it completely fascinating). “I Would Give You Anything” is an alternate version of a key 5-minute scene from the movie; it’s joined by four deleted scenes (which were clearly dropped at a very early stage). A large collection of trailers and TV spots rounds things out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the Angels continue their string of attacks on Earth, Shinji continues to struggle, both with the pressure that’s being placed on him in his role as an Eva pilot, and with the lack of emotion (or perhaps appreciation) that his father shows towards his efforts. In contrast, newly-arrived pilot Asuka Langley Shikinami is his complete opposite – having come to Japan from Germany where she’d been piloting Unit-02 for a while already, she’s thriving on her role and the attention it brings her, and has an ego to match her achievements. Which means that putting her and Shinji in the same living quarters could either be very therapeutic for him, or a complete disaster. Asuka isn’t the only new pilot on the scene, either, as Unit-05′s pilot Mari Illustrious Makinami also appears on the scene – and appears to have an agenda of her own that’s quite separate from NERV’s and SEELE’s. Meanwhile, Gendo continues to work towards the “awakening” of the Eva units – and event that carries clearly ominous consequences – while Rei attempts to build on the beginnings of her friendship with Shinji…

Hard to write a summary for this one without going on forever, as there’s a lot going on in this installment – a lot of it pretty major stuff. While the first movie stuck fairly closely to the TV series storyline, this movie sees things begin to diverge in some major ways, with Mari being the main beneficiary as she appears on the scene and quickly seems to take control of NERV’s direction; and to the detriment of Asuka. If you’re an Asuka fan, you’re not going to like what happens in this movie one little bit. There’s also some significant work done with Shinji, particularly on his relationship with his father, and with Rei, who shows signs here of wanting to become more than the emotionless marionette that she’s often portrayed as.

Let’s start with Asuka and Mari. Mari seems to be to be a drop-in replacement for Asuka in a lot of ways – she’s feisty, determined, and has her own ideas of how the world should be going, very much like Asuka. Unlike Asuka, she’s also got the means to put her plans into action (although who’s backing her remains a mystery) and her arrival, an Eva pilot outside NERV’s control but clearly with access to their systems, means that she very quickly begins to shake things up. I like her, both because of her general personality, and because she’s a large dose of uncertainty dropped into a story that’s full of the familiar. If there’s anything so far that’s a clear sign that this version of Evangelion is going to try to be its own creature, it’s Mari.

But since her ‘promotion’ to a lead role seems to come at Asuka’s expense, I’m left a little bit conflicted as to whether it’s a good thing or not. I like Asuka, dammit, and what happens to her in this movie (where she takes on a role that had previously been handed to someone else in the TV series) feels like a clear case of Anno saying “Yeah, we know people out there love her. Now let’s piss them off.”. And if that was the aim, he’s succeeded brilliantly.

Away from the action and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, though, the main thrust of this movie is Shinji and friendship: with Asuka, a relationship that quickly takes on its familiar feeling from the TV series, just as it should; with Rei, whose attempts to gather the people she cares for around her seem doomed to failure; and with his father, where the theme is clearly of one step forward (the scene at his mother’s grave, and later moments of praise) and two steps back (his father’s refusal to listen to his concerns and use the dummy plug system – a decision that, while it deals with the immediate danger of an Angel attack, also has devastating consequences at another level). Shinji’s whining reaches what I hope is its peak here, before he realises what it is that destiny has in store for him (a horrible way of putting it, but the closest thing I can think of) and knuckles down to do his job. He’s growing, and becoming less of a brat, and that can only be a good thing. Rei herself is also growing, away from her fixation on Gendo, looking towards the other people around her and beginning to see that there’s value in mixing with them as well, and that’s a development that’s good to see.

One of the criticisms that was levelled against the first Rebuild movie was that it was all action, no character development – this movie makes up for that to a certain extent. Within the time constraints of a movie, you’re never going to be able to cover as much ground as in a 26-episode series, but there’s a good effort made here to cover as much as possible.

None of which means that the action side of things suffers, thankfully. I’ll not go into too much detail here, other than to say that the level of TLC that the first movie displayed towards its action scenes hasn’t changed one bit – this is still high-octane, beautifully-animated stuff, with some genuinely jaw-dropping scenes. Damned impressive stuff.

In Summary:
I suppose how you’ll view this movie depends on how much emotional tie-in you still have with the original. If you’re coming to this having only seen the first movie, all the backstory of the Evangelion universe is missing and in that case I’d say there’s very little to quibble with here. For those of us who have seen and loved the original, the changes made are going to play merry hell with some, as they’re significant both in story terms and in their affect, particularly on Asuka, and I know of a few people whose noses were well put out of joint by what happens to her. I can fully understand that, but on balance I think what we have here ultimately changes Evangelion for the better – and with enough changes made that you can’t hand-on-heart say that you know what’s going to happen next anymore, the final two movies (when they finally appear) have already become an even more appealing prospect. Damn good entertainment.

Features:
Japanese Language 6.1, English Language 6.1, English Subtitles, US Cast Commentary, Rebuild of EVNAGELION 2.02, “I Would Give You Anything” Scene NOGUCHI Ver., Omitted Scenes, Original Trailer, Train Channel Spot, Japanese TV Spots, Blu-ray & DVD TV Spots & Promotion Reel.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 20 June 2011
Running Time: 108 minutes
Video Encoding: H.264/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.