The production values of Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance on blu-ray are absolutely top-notch. The sound design is subtle or thundering as required. The animation is nothing short of gorgeous. The cast of voice actors seems pretty good in Japanese (as far as I can tell), and the English dub is passable. All of these aspects put Eva 2.22 are well ahead of their original televised series showings, but there was something that was grossly neglected when all the refinements and upgrades were being made. It’s that special thing that drew me to the genre of sci-fi, and then later to anime in the first place: the story. The plot of Evangelion 2.22 is so bad that I have lost any interest I had in Evangelion as a franchise.
Even when I first watched Evangelion on the ADV-published DVDs the story had some conspicuous flaws. Just what were the angels, and why did they hate humans? Why did anyone bother with the cloak and dagger nonsense? Who shot Kaji? Does a girl cupping her breasts in front of a nerd really make them bigger by miraculous thermal expansion? The first two or three questions really should have been answered, because if there is no motivation on one side of the conflict it’s only half-interesting. When I saw RahXephon after it was released in the states, I had contended that it had a much better story than Evangelion, and even after this reboot it still does.
The nature of Evangelion’s biblical Revelations-inspired plot, the attempt at adding to that plot elements of psychology, and the transformation of the giant robot from friendly companion to fiendish captor were close at making up for the shortcomings. The two post-series movies that put mecha action to the metaphysical head-scratcher of a final episode helped things move into the more positive end of the spectrum. By the End of Evangelion it ended up being a pretty good series that easily invited suspension of disbelief.
Evangelion 2.22 changes that quickly with the introduction of a new character, Mari Illustrious Makinami. I’ve been exposed to some of the fandom surrounding Mari, but instead of seeing her merely as a third pair of tits to increase sales of figurines and body pillows by 33%, I thought I would give her a fair chance. My gut reaction was correct though. Now animu fans can buy Docile and Hysterical like always, and if they want they can pick up Batshit Crazy too. Eva 2.22 wastes no time setting this character up as another pair of breasts, highlighting she serves no other real purpose so far save the writing out of supporting character Toji Suzuhara for a musical chairs of pilots later in the film.
My attention was drawn here specifically (not to the above boobs), and the cracks in the foundation of Evangelion 2.22 became all too apparent to me. In the television series, Shinji pilots the Unit 01 and Toji’s sister is caught in the crossfire of the fight. This made for an interesting conflict when Suzuhara was then made a pilot himself, only to be in a corrupted evangelion that Shinji refused to fight and subsequently had to watch be pulverized, helpless to do anything about it. That scene left me shaken and speechless and it was a beautiful example of how great anime could be.
One of the best moments of storytelling in anime was neutered in Eva 2.22 when Suzuhara left the hospital with his sister and Asuka took his seat in the evil evangelion unit. Considering that she is nothing short of a bully, I almost anticipated that Shinji would relish the opportunity to give Asuka some of her own medicine, but events played out exactly the same. His motivations for staying his hand are considerably weaker in this version of the story, and the scene falls flat as a result. I’d rather see what Suzuhara and his family are up to; hopefully they are getting the fuck out of Tokyo.
The real crime is that Asuka is, in the scenes preceding her ultimate ass-kicking, actually doing something new. Her character is maturing. She has a meaningful conversation and learns that opening up to people and talking is a worthwhile, valuable, feel-good experience. Here, I was excited by the prospect that there might actually be an adult amongst the children pilots of the evangelions and that the changing details were actually meaningful. Alas, that would have been too interesting for contemporary anime it seems, and instead Asuka was punished for growing as a person by getting beaten into a coma. From the previews of the next film, it looks like she even gets a new eyepatch out of the deal too. That translates to even more marketing opportunities I guess.
Even though Asuka’s beating may have been a clever way for the writers to keep Evangelion at the intellectual level of most cartoons, they deserve no special praise. There are too many references in Eva 2.22 alone about the adults resenting the fact that they have to exploit children as a means to their ends. Keep the boobie screenshots above and the next below in mind:
I don’t know if the writers are just being ironic or dense, but they sure do come off as rather stupid when their characters are complaining about using kids while the artists are drawing kids in such a compromising fashion. It feels downright insulting from my seat in the audience as Evangelion 2.22 is commercialization fully realized, and it’s not even a good commercial at that. I read grown men praising My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as being surprisingly good. Taking that a step further, I’d much sooner buy a Rainbow Dash pony versus a Mari action figure, because Rainbow Dash, a talking blue pegasus, has more depth and personality than a one-dimensional crazy person.
There was an interesting exchange between Rei and Gendo that I believe captures the relationship between the viewer of the series and the people profiting off it. I will let those conclude this review: