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A scene from the film Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance.[Photo:globaltime.cn]
What could persuade hundreds of youths to brave the outdoor heat on a sticky, humid Friday in Beijing? What could convince them to remain calm and even revel in the occasion, bringing stools to sit while in line and eagerly chatting amongst each other? It wasn't the prospect of buying tickets to a pop singer's concert or even the release of a new Apple gadget. Rather, it was the chance to see three teens and their giant robots star in the hotly anticipated China screening of Japanese animated film Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, screened at the China Film Archive (CFA) on June 29.
The film, the second in a four-part series, was directed by Hideaki Anno and produced in 2009. It's based on the 1995 animated TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion, which tells the story of Shinji Ikari, a cowardly 14-year-old summoned by his father Gendo to drive a giant robot named Evangelion (EVA) to fight colossal enemy Angles and protect the world. In the lead up to the epic showdown, Shinji gradually develops a close bond with fellow EVA pilots Rei and Asuka. Yet the teens are merely pawns in an apocalyptic plot, which culminates in the destruction and rebirth of humankind.
Though most Japanese animated films are renowned for their entertaining stories, Evangelion: 2.0 makes a courageous foray in exploring serious issues, particularly psychological struggles.
The conflicts between characters' id, ego and super-ego - three parts of the human psyche defined by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud - are seamlessly woven between tales of love and taboo throughout the film. These concepts are coupled by rich mythological and biblical metaphors in the film that long-term fans will no doubt be familiar with.
The film's China debut was held a week earlier on June 22. All 600 tickets quickly sold out for the maiden screening, leaving many disappointed fans crowding outside the gate of the cinema and prompting the CFA to include Friday's follow-up screening. Again, all 600 tickets sold out rapidly.
Sha Dan, projectionist at the CFA, said staff were assigned to maintain order in the queue, but downplayed the screening as just being part of the archive's "regular film schedule."
However, it's no understatement to list Evangelion as the most popular Japanese animated franchise in China. Statistics from online movie database mtime.com show the film received nine-and-a-half stars on a 10-star evaluation system, while the online movie database at douban.com showed 72.9 percent of more than 30,000 viewers of the film had given it five out of five stars.
Although many fans flocking to see the film had already seen it before, they weren't going to miss the opportunity to watch it on the big screen for the first time in China. Hu Weisong, a 23-year-old college student, said he aspired to be the guardian of Asuka, the seductive female protagonist in the story.
"I'm fond of Asuka. Although I have seen the film on my laptop many times, I don't mind spending an afternoon lining up to watch Asuka on the big screen," Hu said with a grin.
Li Long, a 27-year-old computer engineer, said the film was rich in nostalgia for him. "I got into Evangelion when I was in middle school. Being here today to watch the film allows me to cherish my past days," Li said.
Unlike the Evangelion TV series, renowned for its morose musical score and depressing scenes, the film has a notably brighter tone. Though some fans complained that many scenes were cut for the film, their delight at new plots was reflected by constant laughter and applauding throughout the screening.
The 108-minute film ended at 8:48 pm, by which time the humid weather had been replaced by a heavy downpour. As fans poured out of the cinema, hundreds more remained in line under their umbrellas, eagerly awaiting the 9 pm screening.
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