In short, Hideaki Anno proved that being crazy does not necessarily translate to quality anything, despite centuries of artists and writers validating that.
However, years after the original series aired, Anno got back on his meds, took a good long look at his brainchild, and realized that yeah, it kind of sucked, and decided to remake/rewrite the entire thing as a series of 4 animated films, currently halfway done. The first, You Are (Not) Alone, was a prettified but ultimately lazy-as-hell "retelling" of the first 5 or so episodes almost verbatim, the lone difference being the early revelation of a big late-series secret that is now apparently at least semi-common knowledge among NERV staff.
I was pretty much committed to leaving the whole thing alone after that, but upon hearing that Movie 2 (You Can (Not) Advance) actually changes things quite a bit (and that it apparently pissed off alot of the fans of the original), I reluctantly decided to give it one more shot.
So congratulations Gainax, you win the Gold Star for Most Drastic Improvement of a Long Overrated Series.
...that is almost IMMEDIATELY ripped in half thanks to the post-credits sequence. But still, actual effort is appreciated.
So yes, Movie 2 is CONSIDERABLY better than 1, largely because they finally took off the practice gloves. Alone was largely the Same Fucking Thing, but Advance starts right out the gate playing around with the show's canon, even going so far as to put "beloved fan favorite" Asuka into a radically different position than she was in the series and practically fridging her for what I can only assume is most of the next movie.
(Considering I've never liked Asuka, you won't hear any complaints from me, but I have to at least respect them for going THERE with one of the fandom's Sacred Cows.)
-We actually get a greater global perspective on the whole NERV thing that was hinted at vaguely in the series but never committed on.
-They somehow managed to amp UP the psycho-horror imagery (well HAI THAR Dummy Plug redesign, I'll see you in my nightmares)
-The Angels have been thoroughly redesigned and all of them are genuinely visually interesting
-Continuing to attribute EVERYTHING to biblical apocrypha is still kind of amusing
-REI STANDS UP FOR HERSELF
-THE TONE IS FAR CLOSER TO CONSISTENT
-MOST OF THE AWKWARD POINTLESS CANONSHIP
ASUKA/SHINJI, one-sided!Asuka/Kaji, one-sided!Rei/Gendo, Hikari/Toji (maybe?) Hell, the closest thing there might be to Asuka ships in this one are one-sided!Asuka/Shinji and... MISATO/Asuka, though that might be stretching it XD
-SHINJI HAS AN ARC AND CARES ABOUT SHIT OR AT LEAST HAS AN ACTUAL THOUGHT PROCES
-TOJI ISN'T POINTLESSLY KILLED/DE-LIMBED BECAUSE HE AIN'T A PILOT NOW
-CANON!SHINJI/REI THIS IS IMPORTANT
okay, this is primarily me, but even in the show where they had no intentions for it, Shinji/Rei was the ship that ALWAYS made more sense, and the manga going with it and making it genuinely sweet and convincing was a big reason why I liked it as much as I did (nevermind Sadamoto is a better storyteller anyway). They never get a moment as singularly PERFECT as the tea bit in the manga, but the little moments of two awkward people fumbling towards affection are REAL and sweet and why I've always been a sucker for this kind of ship. And Shinji nearly blowing up the entire goddamn world JUST to save her?
THAT IS A SHINJI WITH SOMETHING TO FIGHT F
Nevermind that it takes one of the most horrific moments in the original series and makes it ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.
Stuff that's not so good
-Asuka is somehow MORE intolerable than in the series
Presumably to make up for her relatively bried screentime I guess X) Nearly every line of hers is punctuated with calling whoever's around an "idiot" and it almost gets to the point of being unintentionally comical, like she's less a character and more a 4Chan troll.
Despite her being less crazy in a good, Azula-kinda way and more in a loltacular, Leroy Jenkins-kinda way, all I can think is that for the sheer volume of fanstuffs for her that saturate this fandom, I honestly expected her to DO more, or at least be IN IT more than 10 minutes.
Yet another reason the manga was infinitely better than the original show was that it took an 11th-Hour plot/angst device like Kaworu and gave him TIME and DEPTH and made him SYMPATHETIC. Aaand once again it looks like I'm not gonna give a fuck about an animated version of the guy. I do think it's kind of interesting that he seems to be getting set up this time as more of a 'rival' character complete with his own Eva and shit, but yeah, I've never really cared about him and I doubt that's going to change.
So yeah, overall this is an impressively thorough revision and goddamnit, I am actually interested once again to see where an Eva series goes (provided they don't fuck up the Shinji/Rei thing).