DIRECTED BY: Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno
FEATURING: , Allison Keith-Shipp (English dub)
PLOT: Following the events of Evangelion 1.11, the Angel incursions against Tokyo-3 increase in intensity, and two new teenage Evangelion pilots are integrated into the NERV defense team. Also, the world ends, I think.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: What to do with Evangelion? A combo teen soap opera/end-of-the-world saga starring giant robots, the series is weird, but in a way that’s actually sort of conventional (in anime terms). Even worse, there are now four movies (and a long running TV series) telling essentially the same story—with two more on the way. Should all the movies make the List? None? Only the weirdest one? Whatever the case, I don’t think this installment is capable of being counted among the best weird movies ever made; but I’m also thankful we get to defer the issue until we’ve checked out the series’ entire run.
COMMENTS: Here’s a typical battle between an Angel (periodically appearing bad guy) and an Evangelion (giant robot that can only be piloted by a teenager). Battleships fire pink and yellow shells at the Angel, a wire-frame robot with a pendulum hanging between its legs, as it marches towards them, instantly freezing the blood red sea with every stride and leaving a huge snowflake as a footstep. It shoots laser beams from a globe and blows the battleships, causing the scarlet water to erupt into cross-shaped spouts. A warplane drops a giant robot (hereafter “Eva”); it evades the green-tipped black lines the Angel fires at it as it falls. The Eva blows up the Angel with a gun, but it immediately reconstitutes itself. The Eva next stomps on the Angel’s laser-firing spike, which causes translucent pink and yellow auras to fill up the sky. Eventually the Eva’s foot forces the spike all the way into its command globe, and the Angel explodes into a pink cross. Each melee shot lasts for a second or less, increasing the confusion as to what the hell is supposed to be going on. In Evangelion Angels can take any form, including scuttling robots with dinosaur-skull heads and 1970s-era Pink Floyd laser light shows, and they operate according to rules that are never explained. (I’m fairly sure the Angels have no actual protocols or limitations—they simply perform whatever act the director thinks will look most awesome at the moment.)
The fight scenes are psychedelically beautiful; but the overall plot is about as muddled as an Eva/Angel smackdown. Viewers hoping for clarification on what the Angels (or the Evas, for that matter) actually are should steel themselves for further confusion and hints of biblical conspiracy instead. By way of exposition, NERV chief and jerkwad pop Gendo explains, “Our only desire is the true Evangelion. It’s awakening will coincide with the resurrection of Lilith and usher in the Time of the Covenant. It is crucial that the necessary rites be performed by then, for the sake of the Human Instrumentality Project.” As wimpy teen hero Shinji responds after his father delivers a generically profound—but in on way on-target—speech about sacrificing for your dreams, “You say that, but I don’t even know what it’s supposed to mean.” You also may not even know what scraps of dialogue like “I prefer the living chaos of man, instead of this barren wasteland of death” and “it’s transcending the boundaries of humanity!” are supposed to mean, either.
It’s easier to follow the soap opera side of the story, which in this second installment explores a developing love triangle between emo Shinji, mysteriously catatonic, blue-haired Rei, and brash newcomer Asuka, a blue-eyed, Japan-insulting American hottie with a love-hate thing for Shinji and a hate-hate thing for Rei. Complicating the sexual dynamic is the fact that Shinji is terrified of the fairer sex. And you would be too, if you were him: naked women kickbox him in the head, and when he’s just minding his own business random babes parachute down from the sky and smother him with their cleavage. Although Shinji has grown up a tiny amount since the prior episode, and no longer spends the entire movie moping in his room, his shameless self-absorption in his morass of daddy issues is still the primary obstacle for adults (and well-adjusted teens) to enjoying the series. How can you root for a character who refuses to stop the apocalypse because he’s off throwing a tantrum? If you’re in tune with anime conventions, or only crave eye candy and fanservice, you’ll see Evangelion as a paragon of the art form. It’s not a crossover series that will entice the average adult viewer, however.
I originally understood this second cinematic version of the Evangelion saga was to be a straightforward quartet, but according to Twitch’s Ard Vijn (who knows a lot more about these things than I do), the reality is far stranger. First, despite the unanswered questions, the storyline is apparently complete with this second film (!) Secondly, there will be two more episodes, which will cover the same events, but from different characters perspectives (!!) Sometimes I can’t decide whether I’m more confused watching an Evangelion movie, or trying to sort out the chronology and canonicity of this sprawling franchise. The series seems to be stuck in a perpetual reboot cycle.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: