"Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance" is a sequel in every sense of the word. Following on the mysterious and tonal tale begun in "Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone," the film represents the second of four in writer/director Hideaki Anno's cinematic "Rebuild of Evangelion" saga. It's worth noting that while I'm familiar with the Evangelion amine series' existence, I've never actually watched an installment. So my exposure to this saga, which is truly deserving of the often thrown around descriptor, epic, is one of fresh eyes. I don't have the prior knowledge of where the series is going and should ultimately end up, so moving through this series often leaves me in the dark about certain elements that others might find to be common knowledge.
Whereas "Evangelion 1.11" was a film of world building, throwing viewers into life of Eva Unit-01 pilot Shinji Ikari as mysterious otherworldly life forms known as Angels threaten the destruction of Tokyo 3 and ultimately the world, "Evangelion 2.22" continues the struggle of humanity and life in the NERV unit, but on a much grander scale. If you haven't seen this film's predecessor, stop right now and remedy that. Unlike so many other sequels, "Evangelion 2.22" doesn't have the time to hold the hands of new viewers and contains so much new material to the mythos of the series, that if you don't recognize half the characters immediately, your chances of remotely understanding the story are hopeless. It's the type of writing and storytelling that should be standard for sequels and one of the strong points of the film is that things are in constant motion forward.
The two newest additions to the series in this installment are Eva pilots Asuka and Miri, with the latter, to my knowledge not existing in the original series. Both characters represent a level of personal confidence and dedication not exhibited in Shinji and Rei. Miri's character in particular seems to embody what NERV wants in an Eva pilot, nearly legitimizing the organization's strong-arm tactics of using children to protect humanity. However, her reckless abandon nature to combat against Angels is her fundamental flaw and she highlights why Shinji and Rei are possibly the world's best hope. Asuka on the other hand is almost a paradox; tasked like the others with saving the world, she has a disgust and distrust of her comrades and people in general. A good portion of the film revolves around her reluctant self-acceptance into the group and her jealousy of Shinji's natural talents at Eva control.
"Evangelion 2.22" is a very tough nut to crack. While the basic premise is easy to follow, the series is heavily soaked in Christian symbolism, from the obvious reference to Angels, the prevalence of cross and cross-like symbols, and themes of selfless sacrifice for humanity. This installment ends asking many new questions, including turning the idea of the Angels and their nature themselves on its head. The human bond with the biomechanical Eva units is made more clear in my opinion here, and the intense sequences where psychological trauma inflicted on the pilots from physical damage inflicted on the Eva's elevates the series from being just robot shells fighting giant monsters. The stakes are life and death on many scales and the film's conclusion is a surreal fusion of the nature of life and spirit; it sounds pretentious and at first glance it would be easy to discard it as being so. Yet, with two films to go, I feel safe in saying it's a theme that will be explored more, as it heavily involves the series' two main characters: Shinji and Rei.
As with it's predecessor, the animation of "Evangelion 2.22" is a breathtaking hybrid of traditional and CG. The film has a constant state of fluidity to movement and it "sells" the idea of giant robots and "monsters" fighting each other in a world of humans with a level of authenticity that Michael Bay could only dream of. The Eva units and Angels all possess unique and thoughtful designs and major action set pieces are as gripping on a visceral level as the story is on an emotional one. "Evangelion 2.22" represents what I've always expected from anime and often not received; it's intelligent, non-pandering, competent, and compelling. The prospect of a four-film series retaining quality is usually slim, but after seeing what the creative team has done for the first half, I would be truly shocked if the second half didn't retain that quality, if not improve. "Evangelion 2.22" is as good as it's predecessor and superior in scale and pace, advancing the series to the next level and containing enough subtext to warrant revisits. It's a fantastic, cinematic experience worth investing your time into.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is astonishing. Compression artifacts are essentially non-existent, providing for a rich, colorful visual experience. Lines are smooth and fluid, with the blur between hand-drawn and CG animation not as jarring as other lesser attempts at a hybrid experience. It's a fantastic transfer and one of the best animated DVD's I've seen outside a top tier Disney release.
The Japanese Dolby Digital 6.1 EX soundtrack is almost as perfect as the visual component of the disc. Surrounds are used to great effect, pulling you into the chaos of a fight, while equally bringing you into the quiet solace of Shinji's mind post-injury. Dialogue is clear and crisp, with the only negative being effects, especially action related ones are mixed at a much stronger level. While this does highlight the intensity of these sequences, the abruptness can be jarring. A Dolby Digital 6.1 EX English dub is included as nearly as impressive, but there's a noted change in meaning compared to the subtitled version. English subtitles are included.
On disc one a moderately interesting US Cast commentary is included, that's mostly technical in nature. On disc two lies the remaining extras with "Rebuild of Evangelion 2.02" being an interesting summation of the film, but not worth watching more than once. A selection of deleted scenes are included, as well as numerous US and Japanese trailers and TV spots. Lastly, a brief music video for the film's theme song is included. The most substantial extra ends up being the printed booklet in the DVD case, which provides a character guide and brief explanations of key series components.
While it keeps the main storyline going established in the first film, "Evangelion 2.22" takes the series to the next level, upping the grandeur of the action and impending doom as the Angels continue to attack Earth and threaten all life with extinction. It's a film as emotionally smart as it is purely entertaining action wise and will leave a satisfied viewer eagerly awaiting the next installment. The technical presentation on this DVD is outstanding and does great justice to the series. If you liked what you saw in "Evangelion 1.11," don't hesitate to continue the journey. Highly Recommended.