I would like to reiterate just how much I utterly despise this movie. Over the past few videos, I’ve been exposing the movie’s constant stream of minor plot holes and poorly-written characters, sure, but I don’t think in doing so I’ve really done my hatred of it justice; To any person who understand what makes shows that are widely accepted to be terrible terrible, this movie probably sounds like a run-of-the-mill 5/10 dumb robots movie and not an Eromanga-Sensei-level piece of trash. So, in this video, I would like to extensively detail why Evangleion 2.22: You Can (not) Advance is my least favorite anime of all time as well as one of, if not the, most thoroughly disappointing things that I’ve ever experienced in general.
At the most basic level, this is because source material, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is pretty much my favorite thing ever; I genuinely love it more than anything I’ve seen before or since. Getting to understand the characters, the themes, the symbolism, the stupidly convoluted lore, and the entirety of The End of Evangelion in particular for the first time resulted in a complete obsession with the franchise that lasted for weeks after I finished it. It completely destroyed my ability to focus on anything else at school for the next few days after watching the show and it’s what inspired me to start writing analytically about anime; Eva was my mind’s default thought, and after those first few days of total obsession I didn’t think that I would ever experience anything like it again. So, when I discovered that the remakes, starting in 2.22, allegedly “fixed” a lot of things about the original’s story that made it inaccessible and imperfect and that it had garnered insane amounts of praise from the community according to Myanimelist.net, I went in with some insanely high hopes and expectations for what the film would accomplish. So I started watching it. And I was watching it. And I was watching it. And I couldn’t freaking stand it. By the time that I saw got to the boat scene for the first time, 2.22’s intense and constant mediocrity that I’ve been describing for the past four videos started shinning through my love of the original series, and I began to resent everything in the movie for failing to be what others had claimed it to be in a way that I can’t even really concisely describe. So screw brevity, that’s the picture I’m going to try to paint here: What exactly made NGE an unfathomably perfect masterpiece and why 2.22’s failure to live up to that is so insanely frustrating to me. Here we go.
Part 5.11:You Can (not) Adapt the Source Material. Asuka’s last character arc in NGE was perfect. Remember how the show started dragging her downhill in a spiral of unfortunate events both in and out of combat that caused her to lose her grip on reality, sense of identity, and the pride that motivated her to keep living? Remember how her highly disturbed childhood lead her to conceptually despise dolls and, more literally, the idea of her not being needed by others? Remember how the circumstances surrounding her near the end of the series brought the mental instabilities that resulted from this to light? Remember how Asuka and Rei were symbols of the natures of life and death respectively, which served as the basis of them being diametrically opposed human beings? Remember how incredibly written conflict associated with that diametric proposal was? All of that is what was embodied in the elevator scene in episode 22; The combination of all of these factors caused Asuka to begin her slow decent into madness, and it resulted in an incredibly iconic and highly memorable starting point for the final act of Asuka’s character development. Frankly, it was beautiful. Now let’s see what 2.22 has to say about this classic scene.
Oh dear lilith what have you done
Now to be fair, leaving this scene unchanged would not have worked in this movie at all. The emotional context provided by the original series is completely gone in 2.22 due to the fact that in the movie this scene takes place closer to what would have been episode 12 than 22, so of course the scene was going to need to be altered if it were included. And while it was reworked, it was reworked in just about the worst way imaginable.
In both variations, the first part of the conversation is built around the conflict that each version of Asuka is experiencing, but since Asuka’s conflict in 2.22 is so much weaker than in the original show this is strictly a bad thing. In NGE, this scene was made impactful because Asuka was losing her ability to pilot the Eva, her only source of validation or purpose and life, thanks to her mental state becoming more and more disturbed after she started being unable to beat the Angels that she fought, therebycausing her to be less able to pilot the Eva and so on. It was a vicious cycle that lasted for five entire episodes before she eventually lost her mind. This made the viewer feel genuinelysympathetic for Asuka, and Rei was forcing Asuka to confrontthis for herself. In 2.22, Asuka’s conflict revolves around the fact that she was unable to defeat Shaquiel on her own and literally nothing else. Even if we ignore the fact that the movie provided almost no time for the viewer to get to care about Asuka and thus her conflict in the first place,the weak conflict makes this a much less sympathetic moment in general and thus removesmost of the emotional power. But this is nothing compared to the sheer trashieness of the changes that were made to the second half of the conversation. In the original show, Asuka’s talking about dolls and her hatred of the world around her served as a particularly powerful climax to the conversation, especially given the flashbacks of her childhood from the start of the director’s cut version of the episode.It perfectly embodied both the facade of independence that she was trying to maintain at the time and the instability that facade as meant to hidesimultaneously. In 2.22, this is replaced with Asuka getting mad at Rei because Rei doesn’t recognize that she likes Shinji while trying to pretend that she doesn’t herself. Yep, the movie takes one of the most meaningful and unique moments of actual drama in the entire medium and replaces it with tired, unjustified harem-like melodrama that has not only been done to death but also somehow manages to completely avoid any sense of actual logical basis or justification in a freaking Evangelion movie. AsI’ve explained at least three times now in the videos leading up to this one ASUKA HAS KNOWN SHINJI FOR A FEW DAYS AT MOST AND HAS NO REASON TO BE IN LOVE WITH HIM, AND REI LITERALLY SHOULDN’T EVEN HAVE A SOUL AT THIS POINT. The whole romantic subplot never even pans out in the end, so this mess didn’t even accomplish anything on that equally stupid front. This scene desperatelyneeded to be reworked to fit the movie, but the way the author went about reworking it created one of the most disappointing and contrived scenes I’ve ever seen.
But this begs the question: Why include it at all? Because it’s iconic? Because it’s been referenced to death and thus everyone knows about it? I mean, I guess it works in that regard. It’s not like the people who blindly loved this movie because heck yeah Evangelion are going to question it. They’re still going to make money. *sigh* The parts of this movie that are directly adapted from the original show are made weaker by a lack of proper build-up and the additional or reworked content just highlights everything I talked about in parts one and two of this series and/or misses the point entirely. It’s as pointless as this sentence and should have been cut from the movie.
Another similar example of failing to understand what made the source material great is Unit 01 VS Unit 03. In the original series, Toji was the pilot of Unit 03, and as a result of both the fact that one of Shinji’s only friend’s life was in actual danger and that the question of who the pilot of Unit 03 was had been built up throughout most of the previous episode, it made for a fantastic moment of character drama when Shinji was forced to attack him. The moment pulled the viewer into the scene and made them experience exactly what Shinji was experiencing by having the pilot of Unit 03 be someone that both Shinji and the audience legitimately cared for and hated to see traumatized in this way, and as such it was one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the entire show. Would it have been even better if Asuka was the pilot of Unit 03? Debatable, but particular way that the movie goes about making this change just doesn’t work. Once again, this Asuka lacks all of the characterization and presence in the story required to make the viewer care about her enough to make this that emotionally impactful, and it makes it less dramatic for Shinji because he barely knows this version of Asuka. Almost nothing about Toji’s character has been altered in the rebuilds, so if this scene had been kept the same as it used to be it would have had the same dramatic impact that it did the in the original series and thus been better. Things like this feel like the movie is changing things for the sake of being different from the show, and it’s worse every time.
Part 5.22: MORE MORE MORE. Worse than the slightly altered content, though, is the additional and replacement content in the movie, almost all of which completely misses the point of Evangelion; The vast majority of what was added or changed was created purely for the sake of increasing the scale of the spectecal. In particular, the movie took things could have been emotionally dramatic or interesting and blows them up to such a laughable scale relative to the original that it’s almost comedic, thus stripping them of their impact.
Let me present some examples: Was early Asuka not bombastic enough for you? BAM! Here’s Mari, bombast incarnate! What? Asuka’s introduction was already the most insane Angel battle in the entire show? Boats are lame, let’s have the gigantic freaking aircraft carriers drop Asuka directlyon top the Angel instead! Remember that scene from when Shinji was getting used to Misato’s house and he was so shocked by Pen Pen’s existence that he didn’t even realize that he was naked? Wouldn’t it be nice if Asuka were in that scene instead( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)? Sure, Gendo and Fyutski going to the place where Second Impact happened was important to the plot and interesting from a worldbulding perspective, but boats? Again? LET’S MAKE IT SPAAAAAACEEEEE. Oh, yeah, it sure was neat to see the Evas going fast, but wouldn’t have looked so much cooler if they had caused pointless destruction to the city and these weird random metal stepping stones came out of the ground for no reason? True, Kaji tending to a small watermelon field that he tended to was an interesting representation of his outlook on life that also served to ground his character in realism, but screw that. Kazap! SEVERAL ACRES OF WATERMELONS! The Evas being insanely heavy mechs sure can be used to create some stunning fight scenes that capitalize on that weight, but are they as radical as random back flip rebounds??? [at least when episode 9 did it it had the deacency to make sense physically and carry some semblance of weight] Remember when Rei nobly sacrificed herself using nothing but a small bomb in a last ditch effort to do literally anything to slow the Angel in episode 19? WHAT IF IT WAS A GIANT FREAKING N2 MISSILE!
Sigh Blowing up the scale of events in a story isn’t inherently a bad thing, no, there are a few ways that it can be made to work wonders. On one hand a more realistic show can earn it’s over-the-top moments of action or set piece by having built up suspense for the action scene all throughout the episode, as Eva episodes 6 and 19 did. On the other, a show can be so totally insane in it’s scale from the very beginning Gurren Lagann style to the point where that becomes half of the point itself. But the fact 2.22 is this way completely eliminates the realistic feel of the original series without adding anything new in it’s place because it doesn’t go full on Gurren Lagagan with it. Adaptations are allowed to change the appeal of their source material, see Sherlock, but in doing so they need to make sure they both add new significant meaning in the old meaning’s place as well as not change the series identity so fundamentally that the brand name is all that is recognizable about it. 2.22 fails in both of these ways, and that’s a large part of what completely killed it as an adaptation in my eyes.
Part 5.33: Rebuilding a Deconstruction. Regardless of weather or not it was intentional, Evangelion is a deconstruction of both the typical portrayal of military in anime and of many of the character archetypes that it features. Military positions are stressful things, especially if the position in question is of massive importance to the overall goal of the operation. They cause break-downs, mental disorders and terrible flashbacks to those involved. This is not how anime typically portrays these kinds of characters. Everything from Gate to Code Geass depicts roles of military strength as either power fantasies with godlike 14-year-olds doing everything perfectly or otherwise complete misrepresentations of these kinds of jobs. Neon Genesis Evangelion is not like typical anime. When the 14-year-olds are placed in the giant, all-powerful robots to go fight for the survival of humanity, they actually do feel the stress and the side effects that would realistically result from that. They aren’t automatically perfect at what they do, and all of their efforts feel like genuine and realistic physical and psychological struggles. They eventually break down under the weight of what they are required to do and sometimes even fail at their objectives. Because of this, the show is able to succeed at geniunly communicating a feeling of realism and, in some cases, intense despair that goes so far that there are a lot of people that outright aren’t comfortable watching such a down-to-earth story unfold. This level of realism is what makes or breaks the show for most people; There are some who are turned away from it’s realism and there are some like myself who adore it specifically for that reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.
It was January 28th, 2017. It was a Saturday fairly recently after school had gotten back from Winter break, and I must have felt like procrastinating on doing my homework that day, so I found myself binging random anime. At the time, watching shows like Death Note was always fun, but it never really grabbed me with any real emotional attachments to what was going on. Within the past few days, however, I had discovered a show called Neon Genesis Evangelion, and I was absolutely in love with it. The show has gotten me to care deeply about all of it’s characters and the conflict surrounding them through it’s ability to make me empathize with it’s them via it’s incredible writing and directing, and was by far the deepest show that I’d ever seen. It’s episode eighteen, and a character named Shinji Ikari had hit a new emotional low after having been forced to attack his best friend in a war machine. This is painful enough considering that I think that Shinji was the greatest character ever conceived, but it is made even more so thanks to the fact that January is by far the most naturally depressing month of the year. So, I when watching Shinji be forced to watch as the Dummy Plug in control of his robot strangled his one of the only people he was able to actually care about I was able to recreate all of the same emotions that he was feeling within my self with ease. It felt terrible, but in a way that I had never experienced before, it was strange, different, wonderful. I was incredibly emotionally vulnerable to whatever was going to come next. And then a giant monster named Zerual attacked in episode 19. Zerual, being by far the most powerful of the monsters to appear until that point, immediately put me into a tremendous state of tension and investment in the situation due to him being such an insanely powerful opponent. Shinji had run from Nerv at the time thanks to the depression that resulted from the previously described scenario, and the robot that belonged to a character named Rei was not in a usable state, so it was all up to Asuka to face this unthinkable threat on her own. The monster defeated Asuka. The monster defeated Asuka with such swiftness that I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was no one left to fight; This would be the end of the world. I couldn’t take it all in at once and paused the video for an entire twenty minutes that I could just lay on the floor in my room and wallow in complete despair. When I eventually managed to get back to watching the show and witnessed something even worse. Another fantastic character, Rei, in spite of having no chance of being able to defeat the Angel, was willing to blow herself and her broken robot to pieces just for the chance to slow it down with no regard for what it might do to her. This was too much. I paused the video yet again and went for an incredibly long walk, completely preoccupied by nihilistic thoughts and ideas swirling around in my mind. Look at that old man walking down the street. He must resent the young. He’s going to die just before the Singularity takes place, and that must be the most frustrating thing in the world; He envies our youth, desires it with his entire being, but will never be able to attain it. Survival is a pointless human ideal. The concept of life itself is fickle and indefinable, so trying to preserve it is futile. Optimistic outlooks on such things always lead to disappointment; Nihilism is the only reasonable solution. What is life? What is purpose? Where am I going? Where am I coming from? Nothing means anything, and there is nothing we can do to escape our eventual defeats at the hands of death.
This is the height of what anime is capable of. It can take you out of reality completely through investment in the show’s characters and use that opportunity to make you feel emotions drastically more powerful than anything that you would feel in regular day to day life, and the fact that this show was able to consistently achieve this level of emotional impact throughout it’s entire run is why it’s so insanely special to me. Call me a masochist, but I treasured every moment like this throughout the show; It was better than words can describe.
Needless to say, Evangleion 2.22 violently rebels against this, and as a result the movie loses a key part of it’s identity and significance as an entity. Outside of the moment where Asuka breaks down after the movie’s third Angle Battle (which barely even counts due to how unjustified Asuka’s ensuing loneliness was) and the time when Shinji broke after being forced to attack Asuka (which was equally empty because of how little work the movie put towards making Asuka likable) the characters don’t show any emotional reaction to the actual battles themselves. However, since this is a movie with far less Angel battles than the original series, the absence of realism on that front is somewhat forgivable. What isn’t forgivable, however, is the complete lack of despair that this movie conveys from being a bleak and realistic military story. Not one of the failures of the Eva pilots are ever adapted in this movie until the baffaling climax that also barely counts due to everything being fixed in the post-credits scene and the force of terribleness that is Mari, and none of the other most iconic moments of despair such as the events of Asuka’s past are adapted in such a way that allows them to carry any of the emotion that they were designed to convey at all. I’ve already explained why the elevator scene completely lost it’s emotional depth, that likely being the best example of this in the movie, but this same concept applies equally well to most of the characters in this movie.
Asuka Langly Soryu. She is quite possibly the greatest tsundere character of all time (and best girl because pride), and that is mostly to be attributed to her being both one of the most justified characters in not only the archetype but in anime as a whole. Believe it or not, most tsunderes have little to no reason at all for acting as they do. Look at Asuna from Sword Art Online or Rin from Fate/Zero and /Stay Night. What in their life has lead them to become such incredibly broken people such that they are so unstable that they are constantly switching between hatred and affection for other characters? Pretty much none of them have actual viable reasons for them acting the way that they do. When writing Evangelion, director, producer, and author Hideaki Anno realized this and came up with one of the only imaginable justifications for such a character existing: Asuka’s incredibly extreme parental situation. As a result of her mom having lost her mind and killed herself while begging Asuka to do the same, Asuka is one of the most fundamentally shattered people that could possibly exist in reality. The show even goes out of it’s way to highlight this in episode 26, where the scene of the alternate reality shows how terrible Asuka’s character would be if she acted this way while leading a normal life. This is deconstruction: Taking a common trope, examining it and coming up with what that trope existing in real life would actually entail. Evangelion 2.22 takes that notion and stomps on it until it is coughing blood.
Asuka Lagnly Shikinami is the absolute most textbook example of a tsundere imaginable; This Asuka starts out acting as a jerk towards everyone (particularly Shinji), but she quickly starts falling in love with Shinji for no adequately explained reason. That’s it. Aside from the issues stemming from her overegaggerated pride, that’s essentially all there is to her character. Her issues with dolls are kind of hinted at, but nothing about her backstory that justified her attitude in the Rebuild canon has been confirmed in this movie or it’s sequel. This is exactly what the original show was standing against, and exactly what makes this Asuka such a flat and uninteresting character.
Similar statements can be made about Rei as well, and possibly to an even greater degree. Unlike the archetype that has been dubbed the “tsundere,” the nature of Rei as an emotionless character for whom it is literally impossible to express feeling, an extreme version of the “lifeless doll” archetype, just isn’t something that can exist in real life without driving the person in question to madness, even under the most extreme circumstances. Thus, Anno made Rei realistic in this regard the only way possible: by making her, at least initially, literally a soulless doll. 2.22 Rei flips this perception upside down and makes Rei into a completely generic “dandere” who also ends up falling for Shinji for no adequately explained reason, which is made even more infuriating by the fact that their relationship is the crux of the movie’s out-of-left-field finale.
And it’s not even just main characters, either; Even Ritsuko is affected by this phenomenon. Where most shows would leave the generic scientist as a plot device for delivering exposition about how the technology in the show’s universe functions, NGE takes a character that initially looks to be just that and turns her into just as complex a person as Misato or Gendo, resulting in the second most memorable tragedy I’ve ever personally witnessed, behind that of of Sayaka Miki and Kyoko Sakura in Madoka Magica. After witnessing her mother’s relationship with Gendo followed by her death, Ritsuko becomes determined to be better than her mother and attempts to succeed at everything that she failed at: A relationship with Gendo, being able to help run NERV and being able to accept what NERV is really trying to do. In this, however, she fails at every step of the way and ends up the same way her mother did. Eva uses this to demonstrate that there are no real side characters in life, and the mere existence of such a thing in stories is a silly concept. Every single person you run into on the street or at Target or what have you is leading just a complex life as you are regardless of how they impact you personally, and as a result no person is inherently more valuable than any other. 2.22 doesn’t even come close to touching on this theme by way of making as little mentions of Ritsuko as possible. So, once again, the movie shows that it fails to understand what made the original so fantastic and instead seemingly goes out of it’s way to embody the very tropes that the original sought to subvert and ridicule. What a fantastic movie.
Part 5.44: Godlike Angel Battles. Like our lord and savior Mr. Plinket said in his Star Wars prequel reviews, most of the Angel battles in NGE aren’t actually about the fights themselves, but rather the emotions that those battles cause the characters involved to feel. Just to give an idea of what I mean by this before moving on to the comparison between the fights that NGE and 2.22 share, let’s examine the fight against Sachiel at the start of the show to get a sense of what these scenes are able to accomplish at their best. In episodes one and two, Shinji’s complete inability to pilot the robot and a lack of understanding of what exactly humanity is up against with the on the part of the viewer goes a long way towards crafting a sense of doubt towards the Shinji’s ability to succeed, one shared by both the viewer, almost everyone at NERV, and Shinji himself. They all question how it will be possible that a 14-year-old with no military training could possibly defeat an enemy that the entirety of the JSSDF was unable to have any effect on. As a result, the tension and emotional involvement regarding what will happen to result in Shinji defeating these insane odds is sky high. Then, through the ingenious decision of splicing the Angel battle in half through placing Shinji’s near-defeat at the beginning of episode two and his victory at the end, the show is able to pull off what would otherwise have been a jarring tone shift between this skepticality and the strange mix of wonder and horror shared by Nerv personal and Shinji that results from the Evangelion going berserk perfectly naturally, as well as generate an extreme amount of suspense regarding what actually happened during the part of the episode that takes place between the two halves of the fight. The entire scene is a fantastic example of how great the show is at pulling the viewer into the world of the show and experiencing exactly what the characters are feeling, which is a consistent accomplishment of every Angel fight throughout the entire show.
Moving on to the fights that 2.22 and NGE share. In the show, the battle that served as Asuka’s introduction was able to bring the viewer into the minds of the characters just as well as the first Angel battle. This particular fight is all about what Asuka is like as a person and introducing how her interactions with Shinji are going to go throughout the early parts of the series. Through the insane staging of the fight, the show makes it clear that this isn’t supposed to be a particularly tense scene in terms of the emotional consequences for the characters, thereby setting up for the more lighthearted exchanges of dialogue that establish that Shinji and Asuka are going to annoy the crap out of each other. This borderline-absurd setting also serves to provide a basis for Asuka’s pride in her ability to pilot the Eva thanks to how difficult it would realistically be to pilot a giant robot in the middle of the ocean. Thanks to Asuka actually being a decently annoying yet still endearing character throughout the episode, this scene works wonders for getting the viewer to see things from Shinji’s point of view and thus empathize with him and his stance on Asuka in upcoming episodes.
The fight itself is almost as over-the-top as it’s 2.22 counterpart in that it involves a giant robot playing hopskotch across several aircraft carriers in the middle of the ocean so that it can shove a massive bomb in a fish monster’s mouth, but in this case that insanity serves the purpose of setting the tone for the rest of the scene as opposed to being absurd for the sake of being more visually entertaining, which instantly elevates the original over 2.22’s rendition. And aside from that, 2.22’s variation of this scene, while functional, is drastically reduced in quality both because it doesn’t involve Shinji and Asuka interacting at all, preventing any connection from being established between the viewer and the characters, as well as that it’s just not long enough to evoke any sort of emotional response from the viewer at all.
Next, the fight against the Sahaquiel was probably the closest the original show came to being about being something cool to watch without earning the right to do so first, but even then the idea here was much more about expanding on Shinji’s character; The point of the scene was to build up the to the eventual conflict between Shinji and Gendo’s characters later as well as be instrumental in Shinji’s eventual internal crisis about his reason for piloting the Eva through this being the first time that Shinji receives praise for his actions. Thanks to all of the horrible stuff that Shinji has had to go through leading up to this point and that he genuinely hasn’t been rewarded for his actions in any meaningful way yet, this comes off as just as artificially rewarding to the audience as it does to Shinji, once again gleaning insight to how Shinji’s mind is currently operating.Admittedly, 2.22 accomplishes the first of these three things just as well as the original series does by way of being just a more exaggerated version of the same thing. However, due to the fact that the question of “why do I pilot the Eva” is such a small part of the movie and that this movie isn’t paced in such a way that Shinji suffers at all before this fight,the second and third of these effects are lost and thus the scene is striclty a downgrade.
In all honesty, the fight between Unit 01 and Unit 03 was pretty alright. I’ve already covered why it made less sense for Asuka to be the pilot than Toji, and my only other issue with it is the music choice, which I will get into in the next section. It leaves Shinji emotionally broken in both cases, and in 2.22 it causes the only interesting bit of character drama in the entire movie, so there really isn’t much to say about it.
What there is a lot ot say about, however, is the incredible invasion of Zeureal in episode 19 of NGE, which is by far the best and most complicated Angel battle in the series in terms of what it does to achieve it’s outstanding quality, compared to how it’s 2.22 counterpart fails miserably. I’ve already detailed my personal experience with themost perfect ten minutes in the show, but since there is so much going on here that helped create that experience, this masterpiece of manipulation of tension through directing and usage of new extremes deserves to be broken down in much more detail than any of it’s predecessors. So first of all, this was the beginning of Asuka’s spiral of depression at the end of the series, and the show is able to communicate the feeling of helplessness that Asuka has through fantastic camera work and sound design.
The scene opens the Angel attacking the city, same as usual, but it quickly diverges from tradition up until this point by quickly selling just how insanely powerful this Angel is. In a mater of seconds, the Angel manages to break through 18 layers of Special Armor, a feat that took the fifth Angel eight hours to accomplish. Stack this on top of the outright most dangerous-sounding lasers in the show and it instantly looks like the highest-stakes battle in the series. When we cut to Nerv preparing to fight the Angel, the concept of raising the stakes by way of introducing new extremes is used again through having Rei react violently when she is unable to synchronize with Unit 01, both of which are incredibly rare occurrences throughout the show. Furthermore, the idea of the Dummy System not functioning is a method of raising the tension in the scene in itself, and leaves the remembering how strongly Shinji must have felt when forced to attack Toji in the previous episode since it’s the only possible explanation for why Unit 01 suddenly isn’t working.
Then we cut to Asuka fighting the Angel. Bymaking it so that Unit 02 and the Angel are almost never in the frame togetheras well as having Unit 02 fire directly at the camera, the showcausesstill moretension and discomfort toseep into the viewer’s psyche even more so than is typical of Angel battles.This tension is still further escalated through the juxtaposition of Asuka’s typical confident attitude and the music that has always signaledthat the battle was just beginning, implying that Asuka won’t be able to succeed through what she is currently doing.These directing tricks make the viewer acutely aware that something isn’t right and insanely nervous that something is about to go horribly wrong.
All of this buildup pays off wonderfully when the Angel finally attacks Unit 02. This is the first time that the two physically interact in any meaningful way, which in combination with the zoomed-out, slanted shot that is atypical of Eva, implies a sense of finality. When the Angel severs Unit 02’s arms so easily that it seems like there was nothing that Asuka could have done to avoid it, the immense amounts of tension that the previous shots had been building up is released all at once, and it is able to create such a feeling of horrificdefeat that some entire long-form Shonen battle shows can fail to capture after several-episode-long fights in mere minutes.
That new feeling of shocked terror is then immediately expanded upon with the crashing of Unit 02’s head through the shelter in which Shinji is currently hiding. These two shots in particular goes even further towards making sure the viewer knows that what’s happening is the absolute worst case scenario; The former shows the Evangelion having taken more damage than at any other previous point in the show, what with it being a bloody decapitated head, and the second being an extreme close up of one of the most detailed facial expressions of pure, honest horror in the entire show.
On that note, the show is then able to seamlessly transition from the idea of terror to one of more melancholic hopelessness incredibly quickly by way of one of the best-constructed shots in all of anime; Just stare at this for a second. The character’s relaxed postures and Kaji’s at-peace voice acting contrasted against the sight of a horribly destroyed Untit 02 and ineffectual explosions targeted at the Angel iszoomed out in such a way that that provides an unprecedented sense of scale to the scene that feeds back into the feeling of being insignificant compared to the sheer magnitude of what is going on, all of which works together to communicate the feeling of dread and having given up like no other. It’s absolutely perfect. The show is then able to immediately amplify this even further with Rei’s failed attempt at sacrifice that, through her unit lacking an arm or any weapon that is likely to have any effect on such an insanely powerful enemy, is able to show that this very well could be the end; What is happening really is the absolute last ditch effort to stop the Angel. It’s best to accept death in case of the worst.
As with Asuka, Rei is quickly defeated after having accomplished nothing. There is a similar quick shot of the Angel severing the unit’s remaining arm, but this time thanks to the music having taken a defeated tone rather than a horrific one the scene does as well. That’s when Kaji’s dialogue is able to provide hope and begin building the tension again; He reminds both Shinji and the viewer that there is still something that Shinji can and should do, no mater how minuscule the chances of success are, because if nothing else he would die filled with regret if he didn’t at least try to save everyone. Shinji has the opportunity to save everyone if he is just able to get to Unit 01 in time. Shinji’s face takes on a look of resolve, and we see him running forwards towards his goal with grim determination even as explosions go off around him, building tension once again. We then cut to Nerv freaking out over the fact that, for once, Nerv Headquarters itself is actually vulnerable to attack, and that the last backup plan in the form of the Dummy Plug isn’t working. The facial expressions really help to still further escalate the tension because this is by far the most vulnerable Nerv has acted in in the entire show, and the possibility of it being destroyed is something that everyone there acknowledges.
This is where the perspective of the viewer is set to shift from that of the pilots to that of NERV. Shinji’s arrival at NERV works not only as a brilliant reversal of the scene from the end of episode one through him begging his farther to allow him to pilot the Eva, but also as a fantastic “meanwhile, back at the ranch” moment, that being the act of switching from one scene to another as the tension in one scene is coming to a peak, as the camera then cuts to the Angel crashing through the wall and ending up right in front of everyone at NERV. This disables the lights, providing a much more menacing look to the Angel’s face. This in combination with Misato clutching the necklace her father gave her as a parting gift in hope of protection brings the fear to another peak. Then, without having been aware that Shinji was getting in the Eva, Unit 01 comes crashing through the wall and attacks the Angel just as it would have been about to obliterate everything at NERV.
The ensuing fight between Unit 01 and the Angel is where the fight evolves into a spectecal, but not in the unearned way that the battles in the rebuilds do; On the contrary, because of how much build up there has been to this confrontation over the course of the episode and how everything in the fight stays grounded in things that are perfectly realistic in the narrative in spite of it’s scale, the awe that the fight inspires actually manages to be captivating. The show continues to show Shinji’s incredible determination in this moment through his unwillingness to even slow down after having his unit’s arm violently blown off, which also serves to even further humanize the character by showing that he is capable of taking action even at his most depressed if the circumstances are dire enough, a trait that becomes central to Shinji’s conflict in End of Evangelion.
This is succeed by an insanely memorable set piece moment where Shinji is grinding the Angel’s head up against the elevator wall in an attempt to get it out of Nerv Headquarters only to be launched dozens of feet into the air before pile driving it into the ground. This doesn’t really do anything on an emotional level, but it’s such a creative and over-the-top idea being brought to life realistically that it is able to create awe and tension based on that alone. This is followed up with a shot of Shinji desperately wailing on the Angel’s concealed core and yanking on it’s face in an attempt to kill it as fast as possible, but to no avail. Shinji’s perfectly desperate screaming, facial expression that is somewhere between tormented and joyfully insane and the barbaric style of Unit 01’s combat really sells the perfect incline of tension in these shots, all of which comes to a head when Unit 01 runs out of energy.
The music is instantly cut off, all of Nerv runs outside to witness the battle first-hand, and Unit 01 is horribly brutalized even more thoroughly than Unit 02, as the Angel cuts off it’s arms, causes a massive explosion on it’s chest plates and repeatedly strikes the Eva’s core in an attempt to destroy it. Shinji is desperate, and so is the viewer. Even the entry plug around him begins cracking. What could Shinji possibly do to turn it around at this point? Cue the most throughly epic payoff in anime.
Shinji screams emphatically. Eveyrthing goes silent. A heartbeat sounds. The mysterious blue flame from the opening theme flashes on screen. The heartbeat continues. The camera zooms out on Shinji, in complete disbeliefe of what’s happening. The unit’s eyes glow white, and with it’s remaning hand, it cuts through the Angel’s previously-unstoppable weapons and kicks it off into the distance. Cue The Beast, Unit 01 has awoken. Just watch this. [clip plays] There are no words to describe this; The unprecedented violence, the Eva’s roar, the revelation that the armor was nothing more than a means of restrainign the Eva’s true power, the reactions of Kaji and Gendo regarding the implications of this transformation, the realization that this had been foreshadowed since the second episode, and the unbelievably perfect music choice; They all come together to form the greatest pay-off in all of anime.
You get the drill by now, 2.22 completely murderers the legacy left by this masterpiece.
Part 5.55: Wasted musical gold
Part 5.66: Gesamtkunstwerk (Yes that’s an actual word)
Part 5.77: Do you even know what a theme is? Quite possibly the biggest personal letdown for me between Neon Genesis and 2.22 is what is by comparison almost a complete lack of thematic content in the latter relative to the former. This particular section is lilkely going to be obscenely massive, as it will attempt to cover literally everything that there is to say about the themes of Eva in my eyes before attempting to do the same for 2.22, as I feel that is the only way to truly express my frustration at 2.22 for being such a failure.
Ignoring the much more debatable metathematic elements that revolve around the criticism of using anime as escapism present in the show, the foundation of everything in Eva isthe exploration of human interaction, and, more specifically, the incredibly dark effects an extreme situation like the one presented in the show would have on people otherwise leading normal lives.Every single aspect of the series revolves around people that, with the exception of Rei, who was created as a direct result of the extreme situation presented in the show, would be nothing more than ordinary schoolchildren, scientists or otherwise relatively unremarkable people if Second Impact had never occurred. Look at Shinji at the start of the series, heck, just look at his character design. He is probably the most normal-looking, although not quite generic, 14-year-old boyimaginable. He has a fairly bland white shirt, relatively indistinct hair and just generally acts like any other teenager with parental issues would at the start of the show. The events that take place within the show are what shape him into such a unique and complex character; He wasn’t like that by default.By way of slowly but completely breaking him right up until the Lovecraftian events that literally drove him insane and thus initiated Third Impact in the End of Evangelion, the show realistically depicts an otherwise normal teenager’s slow decent into madness.
The same can be said for Asuka; The events of the show caused her to become the pride-based and self-obsessed person that she is, where as if her mother hadn’t died during her contact experiment with Unit 02Asuka would have likely lived out a normal existence. Gendo would have been an ordinary scientist had the events of the show not caused him to become obsessed with bringing his wife back from the grave, Misato wouldn’t constantly be wearing a series of masks if her dad wouldn’t have had to sacrifice himself to save her during Second Impact,andRitsuko wouldn’t have had any character arc at all if her mother hadn’t met Gendo. Everyone faced tragedy and turned out the way they did as a result.
The ways in which the characters reacted to the tragedies that shaped them into who they are varies greatly, but in every case it leads to a darker and, in some cases, more sinister undercurrent to all of their interactions with eachother. When Shinji’s abnormal depressed reclusiveness is forced to interact with Misato’s forced false happiness, conflicts like the one in Episode 4 ensue that cause Misato to drop her initial facade of pleasantry for a more harsh and demanding one, which causes Shinji to be driven further into his depression. Likewise, when Asuka’s jerkishness that results form her desire to prove her independence clashes with Shinji’s constantly changing projection of attitude towards the world, the end result is a relationship that rides all over the place from their initial frustration with each others existence in episodes 8 and 9 to the somewhat functional friendship displayed throughout the series’s midsection to the crises that Asuka undergoes as a result of Shinji being better than her near the end of the show to Shinji being completely unable to trust and rely on anyone around him during the End of Evangelion, resulting in the infamous hospital scene. Gendo’s sheer unquenchable desire to get his wife back causes him to act as an incredibly manipulative villain who sets all of the show’s events in motion, thus causing literally every other problem in the entire show. These are just the surface level connections that can be made regarding he interactions between the various mental disorders in the show, and even just these go to show that said metal disorders are incredibly dangerous things, and the interactions that result from them can be some of the most toxic possiblefor everyone involved.
Another layer down, each of the individual character’s mainmental issues and character arcs all have several themes in their own right, and in some cases they are just as expansive as the overarching ones that they play into. Take a look at Shinji. His story is one of abandonment and desire, one of terrible circumstances completely contradicting his desires as a person, one of running away. Shinji watched his mom die as a young child and was abandoned by his father as shortly afterwords, and as such was never able to experience love from either, leading him to thinking that he desires this more than anything. After deciding to go to NERV at his father’s beckon in search of a purpose, he is immediately put into a situation where he is all but forced to pilot the Evangelion for the sake of humanity’s survival. After his initial experience with what happened while fighting the Third Angel, he quickly realizes that doing so would bring him intense suffering for as long as he stays, but he styas anyway. He uses his perceived longing for praise, among other things such as avoiding hatred from others, needing to do it to stay alive and simply because he is told to, as justification to himself for piloting Eva in spite of the immense suffering it brings him. He states that these are his reasons for not running away from it all; why he mustn’t run away.These, however, are in themselves Shinji running away from the truth; He pilots the Eva because it’s all he has, it’s his only potential source of purpose and love.
Shinji is the personification of the hedgehog’s dilemma, the idea that the closer some people try to get to others the more that that they end up making them suffer.He has always been afraid to interact with others because being with others causes him nothing but pain; Even as a young child he didn’t really see his peers as real people but rather as empty caricatures of humans because he was never able to get close to them. Instead, his mind couldn’t move on from his father’s abandonment, so surrounded himself with a metaphorical AT Field, cutting himself off from others even if he really did want care about with them.His interactions with Misato in episodes 3 and 4, with Rei in episode 5, with Gendo between episodes 18 and the end of the series, and with Asuka pretty much all the way through are all ones that lead to nothing but suffering as a result of him attempting to find meaning in being with them. That’s why he goes to such lengths as killing Kaworu, the only person to ever claim to love Shinji, as well as why he continues playing the cello in spite of not really enjoying it: He yearns for legitimate validation and will do anything to try to make himself feel like he is being loved by people that mater.
Regardless, he still ends up constantly feeling immense pain as a result of being a pilot throughout the show, from the contempt he initially receives from Toji for being a pilot to him being melted into his Eva for weeks on end to him ultimately being forced to decide the fate of all humanity. He desperately wants to escape pain caused by piloting the Eva, but he knows that piloting the Eva is all that there is for him. However, he learns from experience that the act of running away itself can be even more painful through what it would cause others to think of him afterwords, so no matter what he inevitably ends up back where he started, as symbolized by the recurring imagery of trains throughout the show. That’s why he attempts to drown himself at the start of End of Evangelion: He’s in constant pain, but he’s in a position where escaping that pain would only lead to him being miserable anyway. His life is completely devoid of love. It is only through Human Instrumentality in episodes 25, 26 and End of Evangelion that he comes to the realization that existing is something worth living for on it’s own, and that pain is a necessary part of being human. It is feeling love that is what makes that pain worth living through, and accepting yourself that allows you to experience love from others. Everything that a person witnesses is all affected by their outlook on reality. He decides to end instrumentality, stop running away and face reality with a newfound resolve and determination to experience life, enjoy humanity and, most importantly, love himself. Shinji’s story is about the importance of coming to terms with yourself and your humanity, learning to understand others and being able to form meaningful connections with them as a result. Shinji’s story is about recognizing the value of life in spite of the pain it brings. Shinji is the importance of empathy.
Probably the next-most-complicated character behind Shinji is Asuka. On the surface, Asuka seems to have the total opposite issues that Shinji does; It initially appears that rather than looking for the approval of others through her piloting the Evangelion, she wants nothing more than to prove her independence. When Asuka was a young child, her mother attempted and failed a contact experiment with Eva Unit 02, and as such her soul was split between her body and the Eva. This caused her mom to go insane and start treating a doll as it it were Asuka, having it act in her place. Her mother then went on to commit suicide after asking Asuka to come with her. This fundamentally shattered young Asuka, as she wanted to have a mom more than anything else at the time. She promised that she would do anything for her so long as she continued acting like her mother, but to no avail. This lead to several things changing about her. First, it became the source of her hatred of dolls, both the objects and humans that do only as they are told, as she eventually explains to Rei. Secondly, she becomes completely obsessed with being the best at what she does for the sake of proving her worth and that she doesn’t need to rely on anyone anymore, leading to her eventually determining her self worth through her ability to pilot the Eva. She’s afraid of being just another person, being lost in the crowd, so she lets her desire to be the best and stand out, her pride,completely take over. Thirdly, it became the source of her desiring maturityso that she wouldn’t have to get close to others and be hurt in this same way again, leading to her finishing her schooling as fast as possible and attempting to start a relationship with Kaji to prove that she is an adult. She wants nothing more than to be an individual.
This is where her similarities with Shinji start to become more apparent, however. Her issues are still fundamentally a form of the Hedgehog’s Dilemma. She avoids meaningfully interacting with people specifically because she doesn’t want to become emotionally invested, only to be hurt by them the same way she was by her mother. However, she still desires to interact with human beings, find a purpose through them and stand out as an important part of history, just like anyone else. She finds this in piloting the Eva. It’s the same issue that Shinji has. However, her pride on top of her fear of being hurt end up being the perfect combination for producing a mean and immature personality that is specifically designed to actively repels most people, forcing her to stay at a distance from them and develop hatred for those that she sees either being better than her or interacting in the way that she eventually wants to replicate. This is why it’s so terrible for her when Shinji starts outperforming her in his Synch Ratio with his Eva unit, and even more so when she starts losing fights against the Angels: With her pride in shambles, the entire facade of the “tsun” in her “tsundere” comes crashing down around her and she becomes unhinged. She begins lashing out at those around her, acts even more confrontational than usual towards Rei and, after having her mind violated and broken by Arael, is driven to running away form Nerv herself and nearly starving to death out in the open before falling into a coma until most of the way through the End of Evangelion.
It’s both poetic and tragic, then, that the climax to Asuka’s arc is her recognizing that her mother was the soul of Unit 02 all along, and that she had always been protecting her. She puts on her best performance in the series combat-wise through her defeating the entire MP Eva series once, but is then horribly murdered by them after they are restored by their S2 engines. She has recognized that she was never truly alone, and that interacting with people is a good thing, but it’s too little too late and she dies a violent death anyway. Asuka’s entire existence is defined by her unfortunate circumstances leading to extreme pride, and extreme pride being her downfall in the end. Asuka is the importance of humility.
The polar opposite of Asuka, then, would be Rei. Rei’s story is about attempting to make an identity for herself after being born without one. In order to understand her, however, one needs a firm grasp on her relatively complected backstory, which needs to be explained in detail to make sense. Rei’s body was Gendo’s first attempt at reviving his dead wife: A genetic clone, an exact physical replica of Yui. Due to having been created through cloning, there are dozens of Rei clones waiting to act as replacements should one of them die, and none of them inheritally have souls. In the Eva universe, however, a soul is just a person’s collection of personal experiences, so as they continue living in the real world they begin developing personalities and souls over a very long period of time. The first Rei was childish and sadistic to the point of antagnonizing Ritsuko’s motehr until she strangled her to death, the second Rei eventually became close enough to a regular human being to be able to feel loneliness and empathy before sacrificing herself to save Shinji and Asuka, and the third Rei became a continuation of where the second Rei left off before becoming a god and allowing Shinji to control Third Impact. During the time in which Rei is floating in the LCL, her personal experiences are being embed into the other Rei clones waiting in storage to act either as replacements or Dummy Plug pilots.
Lastly, I don’t think I’ve given either Gendo or Misato a single significant mention once throughout this entire series, so I should probably use this opportunity to examine them and what makes both of them such fantastic tragic characters. Gendo’s entire life isessentially a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of obsession and what that can eventually drive a person to do and become. After his wife died in a contact experiment with Eva Unit 01, Gendo basically went insane attempting to bring her back from the dead. He would stop at nothing to find a way to see her again, and as a result he not only massed produced genetic clones of Yui but, upon realizing that the clones lacked souls, began to plot to bring about the end of the world. In spite of the fact thatrealizing those plans meant that he had to actively conspire to bring an end to the human race, he would still go to any lengths to achieve his goals without even flinching. Among other things, he completely breaks off all communication with his son for several years before calling for him as the pilot of Unit 01 and manipulating him into working towards his goals of preparing Unit 01 to initiate Third Impact as well as defeating the Angels at any cost to him personally throughout the entire series, and that insane manipulation and ambition are what ultimately end up being his undoing, as those are both factors that led Rei to chose to allow Shinji to control Third Impact instead of Gendo. His insane goals and inhumane methods of achieving said goals such are his greatest flaw, and they represent just how dangerous determination and manipulation can be to both one’s self and others.
Misato is the other side to Gendo’s coin. Misato’s story, like most of those in Evangelion, is a tragedy and parable. In her case, the lesson to be learned from her mistakes is that deception of one’s self can be just as dangerous and harmful as deceiving others. Misato’s entire life after her father, whom she hated at the time, sacrificed himself to save her life was constantly enveloped in a false, or at least incredibly shallow, mask of pleasure and care-freeness. The various masks that she constructs and wears constantly are as follows:She is scared of not being strong enough to help those around her, so she attempts to act strong and independent whenever she is around other people and only vents what she truly desires when she is with Kaji, the only person she isn’t ashamed to be weak around. She’s scared of how much of her father she sees in Kaji, and thus she is also afraid of becoming truly intament with him and runs away. Shedoesn’t know if she loved or hated her father for what he did for her during 2nd Impact, and as a result she hides this conflict from herself by putting on a mask of confidence and constant optimism. She doesn’t know if she joined Nerv because she’s rebelling against her father, avenging him or following in his footsteps, so she lies to herself and says that it’s because she wants generic revenge against the Angels for what they have done to humanity. As a result of her constantly being untrue to herself and others, when bad things start happening to those she cares about everything that she’s tricked herself into thinking that she is comes crashing down and she completely breaks. She doesn’t know how to comfort others, she isn’t truly happy, and in the end, she dies unsure of herself and if her last words to Shinji were the right ones. Her lying to herself made her miserable until the end.
Huh. I didn’t expect to write a book in that last section, but whatever. At least I’ve done my love of the show justice now. With that established I can now move on to showing you how truly terrible 2.22 is in comparison.
If I had to boil 2.22 down to a single statement like I did with NGE, I would say that this movie is about the importance of interacting with other human beings. This theme is portrayed very poorly thanks to a vast number of things that it did wrong and an even more incredible number of things that it could have done right, but I’m getting ahead of myself.At heart this movie is about Shinji trying to learn to interact with his father for the sake of his happiness, Rei learning to be able to love others and thus have some source of fulfillment in her life and Asuka learning to interact with other people in general. Let’s get into why this doesn’t work.
First and foremost, I would like to preface this by saying that I understand that it is unreasonable to expect a two hour movie to have the same depth as a 26-episode TV series, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is absolutely nothing below or above the level of depth that I’m about to describe. Secondly, I will also mention that the other two Rebuild movies are irrelavent to this conversation because their content is barely related to the themes of 2.22 outside of Shinji’s main character arc, although since 3.33 completely threw that in a different direction it’s questionable as to weather or not even that still counts. Furthermore, it is indeed possible to create incredibly deep and thematically meaningful works that for last just two hours; One of my favorite shows in that regard isa six-episode miniseries, FLCL, which managed to be infinitely more dense than this movie in every singe one of it’s 20 minute episodes, so this movie really has no excuse for not being better than it is.
That disclaimer aside, let’s look at Shinji once again. His goal throughout most of the movie is to receive praise from his father, and all of the personal conflict that he experiences stems from this, as exemplified by the “climactic” train scene. Outside of this there is nothing: He barely talks to Rei, doesn’t get into arguments with Asuka for more than like two seconds, hardly acknowledges Misato’s existence in social situations and had the entire mid seciton of his character arc where he was actually somewhat satisfied with piloting the Eva cut from the movie. Thus, he generally lacks the unbelivable amount of depth that made his character so memorableand involving before. As a standalone entity he’s fine, most of his character arc makes enough sense, but he’s so much weaker than the character he was in NGE that it’s impossible for me to care about this incarnation of him at all. As for the other characters, as I’ve already explained at least three times now throughout this video series, nothing about either Rei’s semi-emotionless behavior or Asuka’s loneliness make any sense in this movie and just serve as lazy methods of attempting to provide the illusion of development. Comparing these characters and their inanely complex counterparts is like looking at Pong next to Wii Sports tennis; It’s a neat idea in isolation but when after being exposed to a drastically better version of the same thing you would never go back. And that’s it, that’s all there are to the narrative themes of 2.22 because none of the characters besides Shinji have any semblance of depth in either their personalities or interactions with others. This movie sucks.
Still more frustrating than this, though, is that it would have been the easiest thing in the world to make it so that the main overarching theme was far more strongly reinforced throughout the movie through branching out into it’s own web of sub-themes.It wouldn’t even be necessary to alter the main plot or characters.The movie didn’t even come close to using it’s full power as a remake to alter the canon enough to make the characters great on their own, so let’s fix that.
Part 5.77.11: Fixing Asuka. Shikinami being terrible is what lies at the heart of this movie’s thematic issues.In a better movie that still followed the same overarching plot, this version of Asuka would have been all about finding a human being that she was actually able to legitimately relate to in the form of Shinji. Shinji, being the only other fully human Eva pilot on the planet, would be able to understand her better than anyone else and would get her having a colder outlook on life than most people as well as understand the stress that comes from being a pilot. They would still obviously have completely different reasons for piloting the Eva, but them being able to understandeach other like no one else would serve as an actual basis for what is currently an incredibly forced romantic subplot in the movie. As for makingthe fact that she wants to emotionally connect with people in the first place make sense, just make it so that she was made aware of Shinji and Rei’s synergy with each other during the fight againstSahaquiel. She would then recognize the benefits of acutally knowing other people and thus seek that out. Her issues with Rei would stem from not only their conflicting natures as people but also the fact that Rei just works better with Shinji than she does, and Asuka would envy her for that. Just with these minor changes that I came up with in literally five minutes, Asuka’s character would be much better than it was in the actual movie. And, not only that, but this would also serve to strengthen Shinji’s disconnect with his father near the end of the movie by bringing to the forefront the fact that Gendo and Shinji can’t understand each other given how different their circumstances are from each other. It’s an outright upgrade with no drawbacks.
Part 5.77.22: Fixing Rei. Comparativly, fixing Rei is much simpler than fixing Asuka. All that would be required would be to put emphasis on the growing bond between her and Shinji throughout the scenes in which they are interacting with eachother;