It's been a long wait, but better late than never I'd say. One of the classic mecha science fiction anime now undergoing a revamp of its own, and despite not having much background knowledge of where the series has headed toward, I still found this installment engaging enough to leave me wanting more especially since it ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, even though it's yet another long wait before the third film hit the screens over here.
Evangelion continues where we last left off in its cinematic version, and the Earth is now under protection by the EVA robots around the world, still piloted by children. There are plans now underway to be more humane though, in piloting the EVAs like unmanned drones from afar, thus keeping the kids out of harm's way. But then there are other plans brewing at sinister levels, which only get hinted at here, clearly sowing the seeds in this installment for something more to come in the future films.
Elements from the earlier film have become staple, and repeated, such as the cheeky way the female characters always get portrayed in teasing the audience / fanboys with various states of dress / near wardrobe malfunction, and hey, besides lead character Shinji Ikari (voiced by Megumi Ogata), every one of his peer pilot seem to be female, and in the opening we're introduced to the pilot for EVA No 5 to start off the film literally with a bang, and EVA No 2's pilot Asuka Langley Shikinami (Yuko Miyamura) in her bright red robot and uniform, in an instant confirming the suspicion that here's one hot chili who isn't afraid to speak her mind. I like this feisty character, who brings a breath of fresh air from the quiet Rei Ayanami (Megumi Hayashibara) and Shinji's pessimism. Other elements would include the countless religious imagery, which is now more in-your-face, and I suppose it should all make sense once the final film rolls around.
The narrative found perfect balance to go a little deeper into the motivation of the various characters, though the kid pilots leave more room as intended for future growth, since Rei is a quiet enigma, Shinji still being the reluctant hero, and Asuka the live-wire who doesn't mince her words, even if criticizing her Japanese counterparts quite pointedly and in some ways, offensively too. A large chunk of the story got devoted to a suggestion of a love triangle that didn't manage to play itself out due to the constant alien threat, but got to a point enough to affect the events that follow, and to make them a sledgehammer for emotions.
Then there's the action sequences, which are still as spectacular. The Angels' designs get weirder, and their attack more powerful of course, though the EVAs have a few more tricks up their sleeves, brought about by really pushing the envelope beyond what has so far been permissible. With humans at the helm of technology, we are always in control and can add that aspect of humanity without allowing technology itself from going berserk. This gets explored and discussed somewhat, especially when a dummy module gets its field day when called upon to override some human inaction, and I assure you your jaw will drop and how enemies get pulverized, which is something which I least expected, in an action-packed, yet moving scene which will get you all riled up. Then again this shows how important it is to have a human mind in control, over something else which dictates its actions through set rules, and executed without a soul of thought.
As a follow up film, this one lived up to the potential set by its predecessor, and expanded upon that universe with more Evangelion protocols, new and improved mecha capabilities, and characters you feel for, while still keeping a lid on the intrigue posed by the organizations NERV and Seele. No prior knowledge of the earlier film is required, though you would be better off to know some basics to enjoy the film a lot more. Needless to say the fans would lap this up, especially when the trailer for the 3rd film gets played after the end credits that offered that sneak peek into what's next, and that antagonizing wait for it to actually happen.