The landmark anime Evangelion evolves, reaching new heights of intensity in the feature film: Evangelion 2.22. In this explosive new story, brutal action and primal emotion clash as a group of young pilots maneuver 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. In this thrilling experience for fans of giant robot destruction, the young pilots fight desperately to save mankind - and struggle to save themselves.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance (Hong Kong import)'.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance (Hong Kong import)'.
"The world is about to end."
With 'Evangelion: 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone,' fans got to revisit the show, with a redub, some very much improved visuals, a more taut construction compared to the episodic series, and a few new twists and surprises, some of which were large, though we didn't quite get to see the changes in action, so much as they were teased. The revamp was quite successful, as it did feel like a coherent film, even if fans lost some of the fun eccentricities and nuances of the characters. The bar was set fairly high for 'Evangelion: 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance.'
The bar got obliterated.
The second installment into the four part 'Evangelion' film revision series is a fan's dream come true: all of the best elements were left intact (for the most part, at least), while new content stole the show quite often. While there were many recycled bits in '1.11,' '2.22' is almost completely new, so jam-packed with new scenes, characters, and animation that the show becomes unrecognizable...in a good way.
As Shinji Ikari and Rei Ayanami, the two pilots for the Japanese Evangelion units, have adapted to their new roles in life, and have become more accepting and familiar with each other, the emergence (and dire need) of more of the gifted children brings new conflict to their lives. Mari Illustrious Makinami brings an air of mystery and rebellion to the mix, while Asuka Langley Shikinami (originally Asuka Langley Soryu), a headstrong European, challenges both Rei and Shinji, as people and in battle. Tokyo-3 is still the target for the attacks of a wide-ranging, amazingly powerful set of beings known as Angels, and the only way to stop them is with the Eva units, as they test the capabilities of the machines and their pilots more and more with each appearance. The allusions and dark secrets behind NERV and SEELE will come to fruition. Destinies are met, and lives changed forever.
I cannot put into words how impressed and awe-struck I am having experienced this second chapter in the 'Evangelion' film series. A literal stunner, particularly for longtime fans, 'You Can (Not) Advance' packs a powerful punch, and does an amazing job making the nearly two hour runtime feel like it has passed by in a minute, leaving you dying to keep the story going. There's so much momentum, and so little wasted time, it's amazing that the story developed as cleanly and clearly as it did.
The film begins with our introduction to Mari, and her Provisional Unit-05, perhaps the crappiest Evangelion in existence, as she battles the corpse of an already defeated Third Angel. As we first meet the spectacled young woman, we see the parallel of her perception of her duty as a pilot, compared to that of the adults she takes orders from, a bit of irony, to be sure, showing that these children aren't just your ordinary whiny brats (well....Shinji is a whiny little brat...). Asuka, Unit-02's pilot, is still a firecracker, a dominating personality extremely overcompensating for her own insecurities. That much hasn't changed. However, we no longer meet the German pilot at sea. This time, she drops into battle, being introduced in a battle against the Seventh Angel, a form shifting acid trip of a beast, that is far from powerful...a fodder Angel.
Misato Katsuragi takes a much smaller role, though the introduction to Ryoji Kaji, her past lover, does open the door in future volumes to give the maternal figure in the series some added depth and screen time. Ritsuko Akagi still gets very little screen time (so little that her eventual twists in the original series may seem odd if they show through here), though the brilliantly scheming Gendo Ikari, Shinji's father, the architect of most of the events in the 'Evangelion' series, begins to let more of his intentions come to light, as he visits the lunar base housing Unit-06 and Kaworu Nagisa. Shinji still struggles with his position, trying to please and impress his cold father, while falling victim to the dominating female presences in his life. The secrets about Rei are briefly teased, as we finally see the more human side of the brooding, almost-silent pilot.
The battles in this revision are far more intense than their previous counterparts. The Tenth Angel (previously known as Zeruel, the Fourteenth Angel) is still perhaps the most ominous and amazing monster in the series, with its portruding razor sharp appendages slicing off Evangelion parts at will. The extreme menace he once posed is amplified tremendously, as it truly does test every single pilot available to their very limits. Sahaquiel, the Eighth Angel (previously the Tenth) is reformed in a brilliant, beautiful manner, that is beyond intriguing, while the Ninth Angel has a similar form as before, but much, much different circumstances, due to the removal of two filler characters from the show.
With '2.22,' the larger themes of the Human Instrumentality Project, perhaps the key to the entire anime series, are first mentioned, while some of the more famous bits of imagery (characters, weapons) from the series make their debuts. The entire world is growing more and more troubled as the Angels grow more successful in their attempts to end human existence. At the same time, ironically, the Evangelion pilots and their units slowly lose their humanity, lost in the power at their disposal. The true power of the units are first teased, a surefire fan pleaser, considering the way the changes to the show have been implemented.
The horribly dark themes (which are offset by the most whimsical, awkward soundtrack and score tracks possibly ever) found in this second volume are sickeningly sweet, as we get the nastiest of the nasty from the series this time around, as the themes of love and loss, responsibility, family, and true anger are explored thoroughly. While the destroyed world does have its perks and memories of better times, the destruction constantly levied in the battles facing Tokyo-3 can be taken as a commentary against the extreme industrialization of the world, as man continues to ruin his home. Characters are profoundly deep, even without all the filler, giving them time to breathe and flesh out their pasts and futures, particularly Rei, the character who was possibly the most shallow in the early parts of the series (due to her reserved, subservient, unquestioning nature).
'You (Can) Not Advance' isn't just a revision for sake of showing off new technology. This is a mixture of art and true beauty into a world of chaos, as the brutal mindfuck that is 'Evangelion' is made a bit more accessible to newcomers. Fans will get more out of the movies, to be sure, as many items and references aren't fleshed out, just referenced in passing, and a few events that are mentioned involve entire episodes of the previous incarnation of the series. But there's no denying the beautiful artistic merits found in the imagery and storytelling for this second film. A brilliant, riveting reimagining, '2.22' may be one of the best "sequels" I've had the pleasure of watching. A completely different, faster, stronger, and smarter adaptation of a wonderful series, the brutal and unforgiving second chapter will bring fans to their knees begging to see more.
The Disc: Vital Stats
FUNimation's release of 'Evangelion 2.22' comes on a BD50 disc coded for Region A and B playback. There is one pre-menu trailer (for 'Eden of the East: The King of Eden'), which is only skippable through the top menu button. The packaging is similar to the Hong Kong import, but inferior, and beyond fragile. The slipcover has a gatefold, which is nice, but the material seems to be a cheap reproduction of that found on the import release, and most copies you'll find in stores will have a ton of white flaking away at the orange layer.
This release is very different in its presentation qualities to the import released almost a full year before America finally got its official copy. Viewers will have to make some tough decisions, in terms of what matters to them more...unless they don't have a high def audio system. It's a shame we can't just have it both ways in one release.
FUNimation's release of 'Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance' is a step up from the Hong Kong release, with the few technical errors being minimized, if not entirely removed. The 1.78:1 framed 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode shines beautifully, retaining all the positives of that release. Since the majority of the positives remain the same, here's the good, sampled from the review of the import:
Detail levels are amazing, again, possibly even more impressive, due to the amount of new animation found within. There are a few moments with human characters being CG that look absolutely horrible and out of place (no, they're never in shots with traditionally animated characters, just a few brief moments), but they're the exception. The film reminds me of 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Complete First Season,' in the way it is somewhat like a moving painting at times, and that's a huge compliment. The CG (outside of those random people) is absolutely phenomenal, blending wonderfully with traditional elements, bringing some serious depth and power when needed. Computer sequences (the graphics on displays for support teams) are absolutely phenomenal, jaw droppingly gorgeous, due to the amount of color and vibrancy on display, on top of the most minute of details, without any problems whatsoever. AT fields, a mainstay of this show, are equally awesome, looking like an ever-moving oil slick, so wonderfully iridescent. Blood reds, they're absolutely perfect. Disgustingly so.
And now, the differences. Banding was an issue with the import disc, as the four audio tracks on a BD25 disc created some compression, whereas this BD50 with only two tracks gives us plenty more room to see the film breathe and be natural. From the opening scenes with Mari, banding proves to be much less prevalent, often times non-existent where it was a slight nuisance before. Skies? Not a single band in sight, whereas before they had a small amount of the effect. Artifacting is gone completely, as well. The lack of a perfect score for this release's video qualities is due to the fact that, while reduced significantly, the banding issue is still present, particularly in moments where skin tones are darker, due to shadows.
The audio? A gem, to be sure, but a tiny step backwards. This release of 'Evangelion 2.22' defaults to the FUNimation authored English dub track, though the traditional and authentic Japanese track is also available, both in blockbuster Dolby TrueHD 6.1 mixes. Personally, I am not a fan of the new English dub, especially with the recasting of Rei being so dramatically different, so this review will focus on the Japanese track.
The Hong Kong release had dual 6.1 mixes, too, but they were both Japanese, with dueling DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD versions. While I was absolutely blown away by the clarity of the DTS track, and preferred it, we're given a lossless mix here that is on par with the Dolby track from before. The problem is, powerful as it may be, it just isn't as jaw dropping or sharp. Bass levels are significantly reduced, while the range of the release doesn't hit the same blistering, ear shattering highs as before. All of the channels are still utilized constantly and brilliantly, with superb editing effects making the disc fill the room completely, with superb prioritization making not a single element get drowned out, not even when the soundtrack goes soft to contrast the extreme blood and guts and screams and moans in the more dramatic moments.
The kicker, though, is we can't have things both ways. On the Hong Kong release, the subtitles were a bit of a mess, with more than a few mistranslations creating awkward sentences that made no sense. That isn't the case on this release, as the subtitles are fantastic in terms of how proper their English is. Another item of note, the English scenes starting the film have subtitles in English, while the Hong Kong English subtitle track did not give us this redundant text.
Another advantage: USA. Extras. Plenty of them.
I absolutely love this second film in the rebuild of 'Evangelion' film series. It's a drastic departure from the original television series at almost every turn, yet it maintains that magic that made the show so jaw-droppingly awesome. Even in my fourth and fifth viewings of the film, now, it still holds up and gets me every damn time. This FUNimation Blu-ray release features better video, but not as good audio, when compared to the Hong Kong import. It also features the English dub, as well as a pile of extras not present anywhere else. Tough choice, fans, what do you want? Excellent video, or excellent audio? You can't have it both ways on this one, but either way, you have to have it!
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.