Friday, 17 August 2018
Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance
Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance is writer-co-director Hideaki Anno patiently explaining to his audience why their demands for tidiness cannot succeed within the universe he has created. After a first instalment that lightly reorganised Neon Genesis Evangelion's opening salvo, this Rebuild hurries ahead, chopping and changing events and ideas from the latter half of the original television series, massaging them towards what initially seems like an emotionally and romantically healthier outcome for Shinji Ikari. You Can (Not) Advance finds our assailed, milquetoast hero teetering on the verge of a breakthrough with his indifferent father while also serving as an insipid Tenchi Muyo!-esque rallying point for the wider female cast.
This potential swerve into harem anime jangles along with a B-plot detailing Rei and a deflated Asuka's attempts to impress Shinji with their cooking. This idea of wilful subordination is then underlined by the pointedly flirty arrival of new girl Mari Makinami Illustrious, a third-party EVA pilot who actually enjoys the sensory overload of fighting fallen Gods while suspended in blood red primordial soup. After literally parachuting in on Shinji during a private moment, Mari cannot help herself. She climbs all over the frozen Third Child, sniffing him like a curious animal. Elsewhere, Gendo Ikari works a complimentary strand, attempting to bring his son and Rei closer together in pursuit of some new, unknowable objective. A jealous Asuka pouts at this plot's apparent success and, still smarting from her failure to vanquish every attacking Angel alone, ends up skipping Rei's dinner party to test an unstable American Evangelion Unit.
Naturally, since there's a chance for emotional stability in play, everything goes to hell, eventually resulting in a situation in which Rei and her Evangelion are consumed by a particularly dangerous Angel. Shinji, for once, actually wants to fight, to take back his ingested friend. Unfortunately his desires, as interpreted by the Unit-01, are so powerful that they end up warping reality. We are reminded that Shinji is positioned as a hero character purely because he is the biological element required to drive a useful monster. He has no finer human qualities or restraints because he has never had a healthy example to base his identity on. Shinji's interiority is that of a shuffling, invisible maid, predisposed to silently tiding up after other, messier people. He is, essentially, Mr Stevens from The Remains of the Day, a passive, stunted observer, unequipped to seize on his longings because he's never been taught they could matter. And so it follows that when Shinji does fight for his latent, underexplored wants they are amplified into something dangerous and insane.