Welcome back to EVERYDAY EVA, the blog series where I aim to cover one episode of Evangelion every single day for Mecha March 2022! This NEW segment dives into the films of the hit sci-fi franchise.
Shinji Ikari’s story reaches a “break” in the path, and the added drama of new pilots and Angels alike snowballs into his heroic decision to protect the one he loves.
Following the electric energy of Shinji and Rei’s showdown with the 6th Angel in 1.11, Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance comes along to once again change the entire dynamic of the story with heightened character drama, accelerated action, dynamic animation, and thrilling twists. It is the Rebuild film that, for many fans, invites back the “spirit of Eva” when everyone was operating at their peak. (Compare to NGE episodes 8-12.) In this leg of the race, Shinji continues to pilot and grow closer to Rei, yet the reintroduction of a familiar face shakes their relationship to its core. That’s right, Asuka is BACK in town—redder than ever—and two times more fierce. With the full ensemble together again, NERV is ready to face the shocking developments that await in the next phase of the Rebuild.
Like her fellow pilots, Asuka plays a slightly different role than she did in NGE. In the classic series, her salvation came from the realization that her mother was with her in EVA-02 all along. Here, she finds contentment early on with Misato as a woman. This is a stark comparison from the series, especially given that Misato’s connection with Kaji was one of the major forces upsetting Asuka’s growth. Here, she decides to open up with another woman rather than close herself off—and this is perhaps one of the ways in which Anno is trying to narratively correct himself to rid Asuka of her significant depression from NGE. She’s still adamant to define herself as an EVA pilot, but given the stunning reveal in 3.0+1.0 that *SPOILERS* Asuka Langley Shikinami is, at least, a clone like Rei, it’s natural for her determination to advance as a person to outweigh her doubts. Thus, her motivation [to be the very best pilot soldier of the Shikinami-type batch] makes sense in the context of this new iteration, and we can continue to read her character differently with this aforementioned foresight.
Beyond the changes made to our brilliant red ace, Anno also introduces us to Mari Illustrious Makinami, a peculiarly enthusiastic pilot who hails from Euro NERV. I’m in the minority party who actually loves Mari’s character, but I know her presence continues to be a hot topic for debate. Given the large role she ends up playing in the final film, I wish she was featured in a few more interactions with Shinji or at least Asuka. She’s an intriguing personality in the world of Eva almost precisely because she doesn’t fall into the same cycles of self-hatred that seem to plague everyone else. If anything, she loves herself, and this prideful self-love provides a guiding light for Shinji and the others. (Although for now, she seems more of a meme than a serious concern.)
Being part of Anno and Khara’s reboot project, 2.22 boasts top-tier animation with luminescent colors and solid character and mechanical design. It’s absolutely mind blowing how incredible this film looks. When I watched it 7 years ago, I thought it was one of the best-looking anime films ever—and that was 6 WHOLE YEARS after its initial release in 2009. Guys, 2009. Can you believe it? And it’s still an impressive piece of cinematic animation. The sheer artistic quality of 2.22 is no doubt an attest to Anno and his talented team.
I should also add a follow-up to my previous comment about Amazon’s English dub—it’s growing on me. Tiffany Grant really pulls the team’s weight with her reprisal as Asuka while everyone still somewhat struggles with delivering Khara’s stilted script. I do kind of like this more hyperactive and scratchy sounding Misato, though I’m not sure it rivals Allison Keith-Shipp’s take with Funi yet. Ritsuko’s new VA, Mary Faber, has also grown on me! However, Maya, Tohji, and Kensuke either sound a bit too low or too flat for me at times. Having the original Rei back is nice in its own way (the three Rei dub performances are each VASTLY different), and the newcomer for Mari is absolutely selling the part. FUN FACT: As of last November, I now own a print signed by Amanda Winn Lee (Rei), Deneen Melody (Mari), and my queen Tiffany Grant (Asuka)!!!
Evangelion 2.22 is arguably most fans’ favorite entry in the Rebuild series, and for good reasons. It expands on Shinji Ikari’s story while simultaneously offering an unexpected departure from the original material. As per being the “Break” in the tracks, the drama is rich, the characters are complex, and the lore of the Rebuild proves bitingly captivating on its own. All we need now is for something truly startling to drive a shaft through all of our original preconceptions of the story. Oh wait . . . that’s exactly what happens next.
In the third film, Evangelion: 3.33 You can (Not) Redo, we are tossed into a world that is entirely unfamiliar to us. At first, it seems as if everything 2.22 tried to build up falls apart in an instant. Over a decade passes, and as Shinji loses sight of his path upon reawakening in a way that is more detrimental than ever, Gendo’s dark plan only continues chart itself. These are exciting challenges to our reality that we will have to confront together. Thanks for reading, and ‘til then!