Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance is the second entry in the Rebuild of Evangelion franchise. Unlike it's predecessor, there are some fundamental changes to the story which makes things much more interesting for existing fans.
Short and Sweet
Story - 8.5/10
Right off the bat we're introduced to Mari Makinami, a new character both to these films and the Evangelion franchise altogether. This opening scene is something new, completely fresh, and opens up plenty of questions as to where Mari is going and how this new character will influence and interact in the plot. This bang that the film opens up on is just a sign of things to come for the rest of the running time. But what else is going on in the world? Shinji is trying to settle into his live in Tokyo-3, and gets a new teammate/roomate in the form of Asuka Langley Shikinami, a catty and obnoxious girl who, like Mari, quickly proves to be both enthusiastic and capable about piloting an Eva unit, something that Shinji finds surprising.
It feels almost like being lured into a trap when You Can (Not) Advance gets going. While the first movie was very much a remake of episodes, this one takes far more liberties early on and ends up going into uncharted territory to feel like the start of something completely new. This is what fans have been waiting for, ditching rushing the story and opting to focus on both it and the characters more. Just about everything about this feels different from this point in the anime, giving it a fresh presentation for fans and newcomers alike. There are still Angels popping up on a regular basis, but the mysteries surrounding Nerv start opening up the plot as well.
Animation - 9.5/10
This is every bit the same high quality visuals we got in the first movie. The use of digital animation never feels out of place which is very impressive. Colors are eye-popping, there are even some new designs to wonder at early on, and plenty of dazzling scenes with compelling animation.
Sound - 10/10
Shiro Sagisu must have been told that his new grandiose and operatic tracks in Evangelion 1.0 were awesome, because he's just throwing more, and better, fresh material on this OST. It's not without the memorable songs people know and love, and it's not just a bunch of opera sounding stuff either. There's a nice variety and everything finds itself working harmoniously with the moment. Some very militant compositions capture the aspect of this war with the Angels perfectly. The most experimental, artistic, and shockingly effective choice is found in a childlike vocal during the movie's climax, creating a haunting moment of intensity.
Characters - 8.5/10
The biggest improvement You Can (Not) Advance has over both the anime series and first movie right now is the character development. Many of the changes made are in this department making the cast just as, if not more developed at this point then they were by the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Shinji's will has to be the most significant 180 turn here. He stands up for himself, and he's not being talked down to constantly the way he was in the show. What we have now is a Shinji that is not without his internal struggle, but is also more sociable and friendly. Seeing him take initiative to make food for Rei was a great touch for both characters.
Which brings me to Rei. It was a little bit of a surprise to see her smile and speak with some emotion in Evangelion 1.0, but now she's talking about how Shinji makes her feel warm and actively trying to help him patch things up with his father? I know some fans will hate this simply because it's different but it makes sense, but I loved seeing Rei discover her emotions. She reflects on thanking Shinji for his help, and ends up thanking not one, but two other characters in this movie. This kind of stuff has Shinji developing well, and at the same time, bringing development out of more of the cast as well.
Before seeing this I had a feeling Shinji and Rei would stay the same but Asuka would swoop in and take over like she did in the show. This is actually not the case. She gets a pretty even distribution of screen time and development along with some changes right away. Asuka seems much less bratty than before, and even antisocial and troubled right from the start. Her motivations with the Eva and wanting to be a good, reliable pilot are interesting, but it's her interactions with Shinji and Rei that are really juicy. In the series, Asuka bullied Shinji around and she kind of tries it here but it's more of a mutual bickering, and the sense that Asuka likes Shinji and uses her attitude for cover is much more explored here while it was only slightly touched on in Neon Genesis Evangelion. She was also constantly a bitch to Rei, going so far as slapping her in the face. This scene is changed drastically from the anime and it's for the better of both characters, making their relationship much more dynamic.
It's time to talk about the new blood. I enjoyed Mari for the time she had. Her character is pure fun and riddle at this point. However, the movie kind of forgets about her after the opening and doesn't explore much with her when she's back on screen. I expect we'll get more from why she's here and what she's doing. It could be great, but what I don't want to see Mari be is Asuka 2.0 or a replacement for Asuka. I mention this because her character is like Asuka without the emotional baggage (which I feel Mari shouldn't get, as it could be too cliche), and she already does a mini-replacement of Asuka in the movie. Mari is a fresh addition to the cast even while she's underutilized here. Hopefully she won't be overutilized in the future as a result.
That's mostly it for the characters. Kaji is also introduced but his time to shine hasn't really come. Kaji does have some good interaction with Shinji and helps connect the dots between Shinji and Misato, with some insight on Misato and her desires are revealed as well. One of the other changes was Gendo's meeting with Shinji, being more telling of Gendo's emotions and drive in his work.
Overall - 9/10
Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance strikes a chord where the promises of what this rebuild is supposed to be start coming true. This one feels like a much more complete movie than the first as well. You Can (Not) Advance is more than a retelling, going far to surpass expectactions, changing the story, improve on building the characters, while keeping the big set-pieces and city-destroying combat scenes. Focus is not strongly on the action at this point but finds a great balance in delivering badass fights and discovering the pace for establishing the characters. You Can (Not) Advance is awesome.
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