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Blu-ray Review: Evangelion 2.22 Hosts Melodrama, Obscurity ...And Some Anime Maturity

By Matthew Lentini | Tuesday | 09/08/2011

If you haven't followed the series, 2.22 will throw you face first into the compelling but altogether convoluted story that is Evangelion.

Evangelion 2.22 is the Blu-ray edition of Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance; the second part of an anime tetralogy that follows the story of its TV series counterpart, Neon Genesis Evangelion. The '.22' comes with the added special features thrown into the release.

If you haven't followed the series, 2.22 will throw you face first into the compelling but altogether convoluted story that is Evangelion.

On face value, it might look like more over-stylised robot fighting ala Gundam Wing and the rest of the childish anime romp that follows suit, but Evangelion manages to pull up some deeper layers than its one dimensional counterparts in the style of some of Japan's greater animating names.

The film sees the fate of a crumbling world lie on the shoulders of angst-ridden teenagers who pilot high-powered, surreal androids against 'Angels' that seek to destroy the Earth, all while dealing with their own issues of abandonment, identity and alienation.

The burden of the future and the stolen innocence of the young are symbolically typified across the film as the protagonists are often viewed as fragile and child-like aside a monstrous palette of destruction on their behalf. Piloting their super-suits threatens to pull away their humanity ...

Evangelion is directed, produced and written by Hideaki Anno whose original claim to fame came from working with acclaimed anime aficionado, Hayao Miyazaki (creator of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away). Anno originally worked on Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, arguably one of Miyazaki's best early films, and the ongoing expertise he brings to the table is evident in Evangelion.

Evangelion is gorgeous from an animation perspective, but the contrasting of seamless, frenetic action scenes that are easily enjoyable on base value next to the horrid depictions of violence are affronting (in the best way possible).

There's a harrowing take on typical machine-driven and desensitised anime like Gundam Wing that views its own genre with an eye of criticism, and a hint of cynicism. The gritty, monstrous depiction of cyborg-like machines is disturbingly human but grotesque at the same time, lending itself to a metacritique on anime itself.

Here hints of the 'superflat' art movement in Japan that took inspiration from anime to address the moroseness of consumer-driven society take a resounding stomp back into its own territory. Anime is partly turned against itself, while at the same time is revitalised.

There's plenty of fan service thrown in as the film lives up the series for followers of the saga, but the details swallow a lot of the narrative. Flooded with religious and spiritual metaphors and blathering that bleed over a lot of the storytelling, it tends to convolute an already over encumbered story. The layered detail does lead to poignant peaks though, and there are many gripping moments that resonate long after the scene fades to black.

Evangelion pushes the envelope for the typical anime/sci-fi portfolio, and throws viewers straight into the running story of the first Evangelion and the series. You'll have to play catch up if you haven't seen the first, but it does function in its own right with enough steam in its own engine to pull it through as an individual story. While the Neon Genesis series could easily fall into the bland, melodramatic sci-fi anime trap, Evangelion 2.22 marks a hint of maturity in the big screen adaptation.

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