When the Rebuild of Evangelion was first announced, series creator Anno Hideaki proudly proclaimed that this series of movies would be a bold re-imaging of his original 1995 television series. The first film, “Beginning” came and went, and it’s generally agreed that the first installment was simply the first six episodes of the TV show, just cut down to 90 minutes. There were some slight changes, but it was hardly a “bold re-imaging.” Fans put all their hopes on the sequel, “Division” to really blow their minds.
Having just seen this film on its opening day, I can quite happily say that Evangelion New Theatrical Version: Division, or Rebuild of Evangelion: You Can (Not) Advance does fully deliver on the promise Anno made back when he first announced this project.
The first film, Beginning, decided to open with familiar scenes, but right from its opening minutes, Division delivers something that was never a part of the original series beyond some expositional dialogue. To make it even better, it features the much advertised new character–Mari–showing off her skills. Beyond this spectacular opening scene, the movie establishes quite firmly that This Time It’s Going To Be Different. Events are clearly shuffled around, omitted, or changed. However, while movie 1 also changed and omitted things, it was obviously just for time purposes, or to plant seeds of interest for the following chapters. The changes this time around feel a lot more thought out, and work a lot better to make the movie feel more like a movie and less like a bunch of TV episodes cut together.
What also helps the movie flow better as a complete piece of work is the fact that very few scenes from the TV series are recycled. There are some spread throughout (they keep the famous elevator scene) but for the most part the movie is completely new. They do cover a lot of familiar events, but the execution is very different. One big difference is the Angels– there are some completely new ones, and existing Angels are modified in ways that make them extremely different from their TV counterparts–even more so than what was done in the first film. The Angles in this Evangelion take on a more abstract existence–they change, evolve, and are clearly very smart.
The best parts about this film are simply how it expands upon aspects of the TV series that were hinted at or not touched upon at all, re-writes events so that they flow well as a film, and how familiar events from the TV series are reproduced at a more epic scale. In short, this movie truly is the epic re-envisioning of Evangelion that Anno promised. In place of filler episodes like Magma Diver and Jet Alone (which are awesome, mind you) the movie takes time to expand upon the post Second Impact world. Other branches of NERV are shown to some degree, as opposed to being simply spoken about. The battles scenes have more tension, more urgency, and at times more obvious Daikon IV references than the original. Even the characterization is changed somewhat. The degree the which things are altered isn’t superficial. This stuff is clearly important.
Of course, the main selling point of this movie is simply how it ends. I wont go into it in any great detail right now, but while other changes in the movie are different and good in their own way, whether or not they one up the TV series is up for debate. However, once you reach the final 30 minutes of Division, you begin to see Anno’s bold new vision come into fruition. It is indeed a familiar scene from the TV series, but the degree to which it is changed, yet at the same time very much the same culminates in such a way that quite honestly drove me to tears, and really does well to separate itself from the original. It’s nothing short of amazing. Almost End of Evangelion amazing.
As far as technical aspects go, this movie looks just as good as the first one, if not better. Since this film features the introduction of Mari, it’s kind of interesting to see how her post-2000 character design (and personality) meshes with characters written and designed over a decade ago. As I keep mentioning over and over again, the battles are simply amazing, even if they are few and far between. The music is primarily re-done tracks from the TV series, but in addition to the new orchestral tracks, there are two quiet vocal songs which play at very pivotal moments and only serve to highlight those scenes a lot better than the TV series did with its over-the-top orchestral score.
There are some minor, nagging issues with this film, most of which lie in Asuka’s somewhat rushed characterization, but for the most part, this movie does well to make good on Anno’s promise. This truly is Evangelion for the 21st century. However, at its core, it’s still the same Evangelion we know and love, just one more time, with even more feeling.
I’m going to make an entry after this one with some spoilers. You can read it if you want.