Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance

Double the intensity with half the Asuka

Note: This is aimed at insiders, as nobody else would watch this movie.

Evangelion 2.0
Evangelion (c) Gainax

The first Rebuild of Evangelion, You Are (Not) Alone (a.k.a. Evangelion Shin-gekijoban: Jo), was essentially an upgraded distillation of the first six episodes of the original Shin Seiki Evangelion television series. Little was lost or added, and key scenes were recreated shot-for-shot, all the way down to the most famous 'fan service' peek-a-boo angles.

The second installation of the four-part Rebuild series, You Can (Not) Advance, sets itself an almost impossible task: To condense seven hours of the TV anime, episodes 7 to 20, into a single 108-minute feature.

Continuing the tradition from the first Rebuild film, upgrades are everywhere. Both the bomb-Angel Sahaquiel and the satellite defenses deployed against it are unfurled with aplomb, and there's a fresh exhilaration to the Eva units desperately sprinting to the Angel's projected point of landfall. The preamble to the battle against the infected Unit 3 has been shortened, favoring instead an extended sequence of bloody desecration accompanied by a chillingly ironic selection of background music. The film concludes with a disturbingly metamorphic version of the unstoppable Angel Zeruel, and when Rei attempts to blow it up at close range, this time her N-2 bomb isn't just a cute little canister.

Beyond these three points, however, the film is more an impressionistic retelling of the series than a literal one. In place of those strained scenes where Anno had characters stand stock-still for long, awkward moments, we have elaborate images of people moving about and living in Tokyo 3, and there's a pleasant sub-plot written in to unite all the main characters. Shinji is allowed to be slightly stronger, even revealing a useful domestic skill, and we lose much of his protracted soul-searching, though we still get a taste of it toward the end of the film.

While the TV series was sometimes criticized for its tendency to stop and navel-gaze, with the reduced run-time there is inevitably a rushed feeling to You Can (Not) Advance, and nobody suffers for it more than Asuka.

Asuka arrives frenetically and with minimal introduction, seeming to have been given license to chew the scenery in exchange for the little time she's allowed on it. Her 'Sohryu' inexplicably replaced by 'Shikinami,' Asuka retains variants of a few of her most memorable scenes, but her early arguments with Shinji feel forced, and we lose delightful sequences like the synchronized battle against the splitting Angel Israfel. Asuka shows more depth more quickly than she did in the series, but it feels as though she has to fight for every moment of screen time.

Rather than bringing anything unique to the franchise, new character Makinami Mari Illustrious seems to be little more than a bloodthirsty stand-in for Asuka. Where Asuka has been toned down, Mari has gone over-the-top, and her scenes could just as easily have been written for the redheaded half-German girl.

Sadly, while the TV series had remarkably good incidental English (if horrible incidental German), You Can (Not) Advance opens with a lengthy sequence dubbed by English speakers who were clearly phoning it in. Kaji gives it his best shot, but he's given lines that are well beyond the capabilities of seiyu Yamadera Koichi.

Like its predecessor, You Can (Not) Advance aims for nothing less than shock-and-awe. The lack of breathing time, coupled with some wrenching twists to the original story, enhance the intensity tenfold. Be sure to stick around until the end of the credits, where you will find not only an ad for the next film, but a very important concluding scene as well.

Published as Tinulthin on imdb, June 30, 2009.