I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear before continuing with this review of the feature-length commercial ridiculously named Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance: I’m not trolling you. Dissenting opinion does not equal “trolling,” and the sooner the anime blogging community realizes this the sooner we might be be able to have actual discussion. Maybe.
With that said, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance isn’t just a terrible movie, it’s a terribly offensive movie and one of the worst animated films in recent memory. It is a disgusting testament to the most shamelessly commercial aspects of the Japanese animation industry, the ineptitude of Hideaki Anno and the crippling stupidity of anime fans. It is a movie made for those who have fooled themselves into thinking that just because it’s Evangelion, and Evangelion is “intellectual,” that they aren’t buying into a scheme of shallow merchandising and pathetic fan-pandering bread and circuses resolutely devoid of any artistic or creative merit.
As you might have guessed, unlike every other reviewer on the Internet, I did not like this movie.
I’m not going to bother giving you a plot summary as they aren’t hard to find. If you’re that curious you could just download the camcorder rip of the video and act like a big shot on the Internet forum of your choice. Suffice it to say, the plot of Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance is pretty similar to that of the TV show, but a little different. It isn’t as painfully uninspired as the shot-for-shot identical Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, but not nearly the radical departure of a film like Macross: Do You Remember Love?
A lot of things from the TV series are cut out, a few things are changed and a new girl character is thrown in (this one has glasses!) who doesn’t serve any purpose. Any character above the age of 15 is largely ignored in the cluttered narrative, with characters like Rei and Asuka being reduced to the anime stereotypes they inspired, rather than the actual characters they once were. The whole endeavor just reeks of Anno changing plot points around for the sake of changing them, rather than having any particular creative reasoning. Even if he did have any creative reason, I’d still scoff and tell him to move the fuck on, because to be quite honest, he’s had two chances to get this story “right,” and the TV series was pretty great (fuck the haters), so there’s no reason to go back and do it again.
I’m being intentionally naive here of course, because there is a reason, and that reason is money.
Anno knows, as we all know, that he will never create another work as successful as Evangelion. And it makes a lot of people a lot of money, so it makes perfect sense for him to go back and milk Rei and Asuka’s tits one more time. Except this time he had the amazing creative genius to change Asuka’s last name and throw in a new pair of tits to milk.
Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance is less Lucas going back and adding in computer-generated Dewbacks to scenes on Tatooine, and more Lucas going back and redoing the three original Star Wars films in uncanny valley, high quality CG, but this time Han Solo has a big-breasted kid sister who tags along and Darth Vader has no back story beyond being a pawn of the Emperor.
Despite being an entirely new film, the pacing and editing makes it feel like a clip show, pathetically trying to cram in as many recognizable moments as possible without any regard to actually making a good film. Compounded with this gimped storytelling is the story boarding, which suggests the creative staff had no idea they were making an actual theatrical movie, as opposed to a TV series where they’re forced to throw in lots of animation-less slow pans over still images to save budget for the reasonably well-animated battle scenes. In the end we’re left with a lot of detailed still images, some decent animation and a film that looks like a TV show–just prettier.
Maybe the people who watched and enjoyed this film were able to turn their brains off and view it with absolutely no cynicism, but even as a guy who buys blatant merchandising enough to have a RX-78 and Zaku II salt and pepper shaker set on his dining room table, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance still managed to make me uncomfortable. It’s painfully clear that the new big-breasted, glasses wearing female Evangelion pilot was tossed in do to the reasoning that if they can sell a lot of figures of two female Evangelion pilots, they could sell even more of three Evangelion pilots. The same goes for the extra-skimpy brand new Plug Suit that Asuka wears and the new ridiculously stupid looking four-legged Evangelion. In a series so horribly overly merchandised like Evangelion, it’s impossible not to view a scene where Asuka cooks dinner wearing a sports bra and apron not as part of the narrative, but an opportunity to sell a new 6000yen PVC figure.
Maybe that wasn’t the intention of the creative staff, but after 10 years of whoring out Evangelion for every yen they could get out of fans, it’s tough to believe that Anno and the rest of the staff have any sort of real respect for the series except as source of another fat paycheck. This is particularly depressing considering Anno’s original intention was to have the Evangelion units designed such that they couldn’t be turned into toys, and to use classical music as the opening theme instead of a catchy, marketable pop song.
Watching this film was an incredibly uncomfortable experience for me, partially because I really liked the original TV series even with all its faults, and partially because I’d like to believe that there is some sort of creativity and artistic value in Japanese animation behind all the merchandising and sponsorship deals that are an unavoidable part of the industry. If we hold up Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance as a major example of the modern state of Japanese animation, then no, there is no creativity. There is no intrinsic artistic value. One of the most respected anime directors of the last 25 years has created a film that is absolutely shameful, devoid of any appreciable worth except to those whose wallets get fatter with each purchase of this month’s new Rei and Asuka figures.