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Archive for January 29th, 2011

By Bob Clark

When Hideaki Anno began his Rebuild of Evangelion series, retelling the story of his infamously popular anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, it would’ve appeared at first to be nothing more than just another stab at “Special Edition” filmmaking, the kind of approach that George Lucas took when he revisited his original Star Wars trilogy back in 1997 with updated CGI special-effects and a few revisionist edits– irrelevant and harmless changes for most viewers, but anathema to anyone who guards the films themselves as closely as an Otaku’s collection of toys and souvenirs. Fans of Evangelion might’ve had reason to react just as jealously to the news of Anno’s decision to go back to the series that had won him droves of support and just as many droves of criticism as well, usually from the very same people– like Lucas before him, Anno tends to bring out the more bipolar tendencies in modern fandom. To a large extent, that passive-aggressive appreciation has been somewhat mutual on the director’s part, as evidenced by the End of Evangelion film, which saw fit to wrap the original program’s already confusing storyline with even more confusing hallucinatory and apocalyptic imagery, culminating in a series of disturbing sequences that seemed tailor designed to upset the massive fanbase built up over the years, symbolically and literally crucifying the characters they’d come to know and love and stranding them into their own private wastelands of existential and global collapse.

Therefore, when 2007’s Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone was released and mostly stuck close to the original series’ first six episodes in everything from the story to shot-for-shot recreations, albeit at a much grander scale for theatrical production, it seemed as though all we’d be getting from the Rebuild series in general would be a mere retread of all the old familiar places, with perhaps a somewhat more unified vision by pulling together all the disparate strands of the franchise’s animated incarnations, however welcome that might’ve been. If fans really do feel married to the franchises they follow, it looked like all they’d be getting would be something borrowed, instead of something new. Well, not quite, as it turns out. If 1.0 was a mere “Special Edition” of the first arc of the show, then Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance is closer in spirit to the wildly revisionist, yet authentic take of a franchise’s spirit of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, recasting all the same archetypes and mis-en-scene into a wonderfully bright and new visual and narrative palate, recycling just enough of what was in play from before in order to better confound, surprise and delight audiences who think they know what they’re in for.

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