Mari, Mari, Mari. What more could you possibly do wrong with an Evangelion character? She insane, but not insane in the way that has any depth behind it. She has major problems, but they’re played off as strengths. But most of all, she’s fun. Now, I’m not hating on her character simply because she is fun, but there is no possible way a character could more harshly contrast with the suffering that is constantly displayed in the last half hour of the movie, the only part where her existence is even notable.
Like the rest of the characters besides Shinji, we know absolutely nothing about Mari or what she is like as a person. She doesn’t have any of her personal backstory explained at all, and from what we can tell her personality basically consists of insanity and lack of respect for other people’s boundaries. Without understanding why she behaves the way she does, Mari’s fun insanity and dialogue just come off as out-of-place and totally unnecessary. This kind of character can work well in shows like the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where a character being this way plays to the idea that the show is satire of how irrational some of the things characters in anime do are, but in a series known for it’s deep, incredibly well-crafted and detailed characters that are all emotionally broken in one way or another? No. This isn’t even her biggest problem, though. Not by a long shot.
Mari ended up leaving no impact on the story whatsoever. She could have been completely removed from the movie altoghether, and no plotholes would surface at all. Let’s look at all of her different apperances throughout the story: She is the central figure of the big action scene that the movie opens on. You would think that this would be a big deal, given that it’s supposed to be the movie’s hook, but it turns out to be completely inconsequential. It’s another Angel defeated, but the overall number of angels could have simply been reduced and no one would have batted an eye. The Evangelion used in this fight was destroyed as well, so it never being mentioned again would also have no effect on the plot.
The second scene that she was in also could have been cut from the movie, this when she enters Japan on a parachute and just so happens to run into Shinji while doing so. Shinji isn’t affected by this at all, and beyond that all it does is further characterize the fact that Mari is insane. While it is also obviously the explanation for why Mari is in Japan at the climax, since she could also be cut from that fight at no consequence either. Rei could have simply broken through the AT Field herself like she did in NGE and no one would have complained.
But why is this even a problem, you ask? She doesn’t add very much to the movie, but it’s better than leaving out a fun character entirely, right? No. In both the first scene and climax of the movie, her being present does nothing more than steal roles that other characters needed more for their development. Let me explain. The entire first scene of the movie is all about Mari testing out an Evangelilon prototype unit while fighting an Angel. On it’s own, there isn’t anything inheritly wrong with this. It’s a good-looking action scene that serves as a hook into the movie that succeeds at creating actual sense of danger for an instantly likable character. Aside from good-natured characters being out of place in the movie, this seems fine as an idea. But when this same idea is used to serve as the introduction to Asuka’s character later in the movie, it just feels as if it’s retreading old ground and isn’t nearly as exciting in general.
Even worse than this, though, is her complete replacement of Asuka in the fight with Zeurel. While this moment could have been used to actually justify Asuka’s hatred of Shinji and give her a reason to hate herself and thus some depth, this opportunity is completely wasted by Mari coming out of left field as the pilot of Evangelion Unit 2 and wastes one of the only chances at character development in the movie as a result. There was absolutely no justification for Mari even being a part of this movie, let alone a central figure of the story.
The worst part of all of this is that this could have easily been avoided without fundamentally altering Mari’s character or how the plot played out. The first step in making her character work within 2.22 as a movie is making her fit within Evangelion as a series. Despite all of the awful changes to the characters and their interactions with eachother, at it’s core, 2.22 is still trying hard to be a deep and highly philosophical movie, for reasons that I will go into more detail on latter. Mari could have very simply been altered to have legitimate, explained psychological issues that lead to her insanity and perceived adrenaline addiction. If her fight at the beginning of the movie had been kept, the ones in charge of the operation could have expressed doubt about her ability to succeed at defeating the Angel because of her naturally wanting to take too many risks, and after she defeated the Angel her dialogue could have reflected her recognizing her problem but not wanting to do anything about it.
Or, whens she entered Japan, Shinji could have realistically asked her about why she was acting so weird, followed by her hinting at a story behind her that gave her a reason for being the way she was. This could be followed up on with her having a mental breakdown after being unable to defeat Zeurel, which could involve images being flashed on-screen depicting the highlights of her childhood that made her the way she is today. Even if we didn’t get the full reasoning behind her actions, at the very least she would feel like a realistic character that has a reason to be the way she is that could potentially be explored in latter films.
And even without the opening scene of the movie, this still could have been accomplished by simply adding a scene of her getting into Unit 02 and having everyone at NERV express the same concerns about her ability to pilot the robot as those that would be expressed by whoever was administrating the battle at the start of the movie. Mari could have been a decent character and addition to the Eva universe, but her entire existance is completely unnecessary and even harmful to the quality of the other characters.
And I haven’t even gotten to why the plot of this movie fails miserably. Continued in part three.