By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
The first installment of the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” film series (adapted from the Japanese science fiction TV anime) begins with eerie near-silence. This second installment (out of four) opens in the middle of chaotic action. This sets the tone for a film that is more frantic and foreboding than the first installment.
In those opening shots, teenage warrior Mari Illustrious Makinami (voiced by Maaya Sakamoto) pilots a giant robot called an Evangelion (Eva for short). These robots fight against a powerful, alien creature known as an “angel.” The angels can assume many forms, and the teenage Eva pilots must adopt many different tactics to defeat each one.
Having introduced Mari so vividly, though, the film forgets about her for about 40 minutes. It rejoins the characters introduced in the first film. We get reintroduced to Eva pilot Shinji Ikari (voiced by Megumi Ogata), his emotionally distant father and commander Gendo Ikari (Fumihiko Tachiki), Shinji’s immediate commanding officer Misato Katsuragi (Kotono Mitsuishi), and a second Eva pilot, the blue-haired Rei Ayanami (Megumi Hayashibara).
Shinji often wishes that he was anything but an Eva pilot. His father Gendo doesn’t offer much help. Even when the two visit Shinji’s mother’s grave together, Gendo doesn’t hug his son or offer any condolences.
The father seems consumed with duty. But the movie is fair enough to point out that Gendo has problems of his own. He is one of the few people who understands the real agenda behind the Eva-angel battles.
This does not excuse Gendo’s coldness towards his son. But it does help to explain it.
“Evangelion” takes time to develop the different psychological sides to its leading characters.
In this second film, we learn about two painful secrets that Misato Katsuragi keeps. One drives her to exceed expectations at her duty. The other gives her constant emotional pain. She balances between the two every time she stands at the command console.
Eva pilot Rei Ayanami stays remarkably quiet, while other characters make noise around her. What she wants and who she wants remains a mystery. However, a few longing looks in a certain direction give the viewer clues. When she does speak, she seems all the more profound for holding back the rest of the time.
Rei sounds especially quiet next to Asuka Langley Shikinami (Yuko Miyamura), a
new Eva pilot arriving on the scene from Europe. Raised in Europe, Asuka speaks the Japanese language fluently, but remains loudly and proudly ignorant of Japanese customs. Imprudent, intolerant, and
boastful, she would probably spend a lot of time in school detention if not for her rare, specialized pilot skills.
Shinji wants nothing to do with her. Misato orders them to live together during the program. “That is an order,” she finishes, over both Shinji and Asuka’s groans.
And then, we have Mari, the most mysterious pilot of them all. She doesn’t reappear until halfway through the film. And her purpose remains elusive. With her pop-bottle glasses and easygoing, flirty manner, she stands out from the other pilots.
Remember, though, that this film is only the second of four parts. Many revelations lie ahead. I’m not giving away too much when I say this film ends with the line, “The world is about to end.” It won’t end. But over the next two films, it should become much stranger. ♦
“Evangelion 2:0: You Can (Not) Advance” plays Jan. 21-Jan. 27 at the Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 Northeast 50th Street in Seattle’s University District. For prices and show times, call 206-523-3935 or visit www.grandillusioncinema.org.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at email@example.com.