When I first heard of the Rebuild project, I was very, very skeptical. Why mess with my favorite show? I saw the first film and confirmed all of my doubts. It was pretty much a compressed version of events with better animation. Better animation is great, but not if it comes at the loss of so many important moments in the series.
So I decided not to watch 2.0 when it came out. Time passed and I saw Revolutionary Girl Utena. I learned that there was a scene at the end of Utena that was replicated in Evangelion 2.0 [here’s a visual comparison]. The relationship between the two intrigued me, especially after I learned Utena scriptwriter Enokido specifically asked to include this sort of scene in the Eva film. It’s an iconic scene, and it popped up in Ultraman Nexus [here] in 2004-5.
Anyway, I was intrigued enough to go watch 2.0. I watched it in 30 minute installments as I often do (is that strange?). After 30 minutes I was appalled at the silly conversations, Rei’s humanization, the clumsy new fanservice and that new lady who is hailed as the nemesis of Asuka fans. It’s a good thing the scene I wanted to watch was at the end, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen the rest. After 1 hour, I was having fun with the film. After 1 hour and a half, right in the middle of Mari’s illustrious battle against the Tenth Angel, I was dazzled. Believe it or not, I turned the computer off after 1 hour and a half and went to bed. Then, this morning I saw the end. Cool~
I have tons of criticisms, but the film slapped me in the face and said: “Just sit down and enjoy me” and so I did. Anyway, now that the movie is out of the way I want to address some of the criticisms.
1. There is a wonderful Triangle of Everything between Shinji, Asuka and Rei so leave it alone. Adding Mari to the mix threatens this structure. However, in this film she was very carefully kept apart and her attitude is so different and unpolluted by the others that I don’t think she hurt this triangle at all.
2. The fanservice is problematic. There is a certain scrawniness to the Evangelion character design that goes well with lower quality animation, but that clashes with better animation. Maybe leaving it like this is intentional. In any case, the battle scenes and the Evas look so friggin’ awesome I honestly couldn’t be bothered by the presence or absence of naked people.
3. Asuka gets abused again. Well, we have to understand that in the economy of these films, which include a brand-new pilot (Mari) and a Kaoru who is more present earlier, putting Toji into an Eva would have been too messy. It makes perfect sense to have one of the regular pilots take over the Angel-infiltrated-Eva just to keep things tidier. Why Asuka? I guess maybe Anno hates her. But apparently she gets an eyepatch soon, so it’s worth it.
4. Rebuild is trying to lighten the mood. Actually, I’m not convinced about this at all. It’d be just like Anno to have Asuka be nicer and Rei be more humane just so that they can both become brutal basket case killing machines in the last film or something. That said, I think the whole idea of Rei trying to cook dinner for everyone was stupid. And Asuka’s phone call to Misato was stupid as well. But they were both tolerably stupid.
5. What’s up with the songs?! OK, I know I have a very low tolerance for anime music but OMG, the singing during the film was awful. I wish Japanese music was closer in quality to its animation, I really do. What makes the whole thing ridiculous is that they had Hikaru Utada doing the theme/ending song. Utada is great, the song is beautiful, why don’t they just have her sing during the film as well?? I’m sorry Hayashibara, you’re an amazing voice actress, but let’s have you do your job and Utada do hers!!
A word about the end. In my unprofessional capacity as a Japanese translator, I hereby declare solemnly that it is my opinion that Kaoru’s statement very plainly implies that the events in this film are happening a second time around and he is aware of it. He says the time has come to fulfill his promise and that this time around he will make sure that Shinji at least (or, Shinji alone) will be happy. Anyway, it could be a red herring. I’ll be looking forward to the next film.