Saturday, October 31, 2015


Well, we've come to the last and most recent of the Evangelion spinoff manga.  I wasn't exactly excited to see Dark Horse putting out yet ANOTHER comedy collection, but this one made more than a solid case for itself.

TONY TAKEZAKI'S NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (Tony Takezaki no Neon Genesis Evangelion), by Tony Takezaki.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2015.


Once more, we have a collection of comic selections staring the cast of Evangelion in situations that you've never seen before.  This collection of stories riff on everything from the next episode previews to the early days of NERV to the extremes of the relationships between the EVA pilots, all in one single collection!


So once again, I find myself looking at an Evangelion comic collection from Dark Horse, with the big difference being that these jokes are all from one person instead of a number of them.  That fact is probably the biggest reason that this collection is better than Comic Tribute.  A single authorial voice means that the tone is more consistent and the jokes are longer, more elaborate, and better thought-out.  It's weird to think that a guy mostly known for working on A.D. Police and Genocyber could produce something so funny?

Takezaki tends to favor long jokes which works a lot in this collection's favor.  He's willing to let situations snowball into something bigger and more ridiculous which in turn lets the laughs grow from mild chuckles to uproarious laughter.  It also means that he doesn't have to rely so much on meta humor, which means that this book is more friendly to Evangelion newcomers than Comic Tribute.  That's not to say that the humor doesn't get self-referential or immature.  There's also a fair share of fanservice, references to S&M and other forms of kinky sex, and even some toilet humor when Unit 01 goes...well...ape-shit.

It's also clear that Takezaki has some favorites amongst the cast, as they tend to be the ones who feature more prominently in the chapters.  Of the main trio, he has the most fun with Asuka and her hair-trigger temper (as well as her language skill).  Amongst the older cast, he's clearly fond of both Misato and Ritsuko, but moreso than any others he's clearly very fond of Fuyutsuki.  No matter whether it's his gentle yet valiant effort to stop all the silly fanservice or (my personal favorite) his days of working with Gendo and a teenaged Ritsuko during the early days of NERV, something which for reasons known only to Gendo requires costumed mascots and a live tokusatsu-style stage show.  He takes so much abuse, but he's so innately dignified it makes everything that much funnier.  I would have never thought to make a secondary character like him the butt of so many jokes, but it works brilliantly.

I wasn't expecting much from this, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised.  The jokes work because they're well-structured and written and don't just coast on references and panties.  As far as humor goes, this is clearly the superior Evangelion gag manga.


Takezaki is also a surprisingly decent artist.  It's not just that he's good at drawing gags, but his slightly looser, rounder take on the Evangelion cast is appealing.  He even goes so far as to recreate some of the more iconic shots from the show as well as End of Evangelion.  Yet at the same time he's also great at drawing big, over-the-top reactions and physical humor.  No matter how chaotic things might get in each chapter, he always ensures that the action is easy to follow and that the jokes never get drowned out.  Comedy manga often tends to be an excuse for manga artists to get a little lazy and loose, but Takezaki forsakes a lot of super-deformed shortcuts, and the work is much better for it.


Takezaki's Eva comedy manga is the superior Evangelion gag manga.  It's more focused, more approachable, better looking, and just better executed all around.

This book is published by Dark Horse.  It is currently in print.


Now we're getting down to the dregs of the Evangelion spinoff manga, the ones that are little more than goofy glorified doujinshi collections.  In their eternal question to own ALL the Evangelion manga they can find, Dark Horse picked up TWO of them, starting with this one.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION COMIC TRIBUTE (Shin Seiki Evangelion Comic Tribute), by various artists.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2013.


The Evangelion universe will never be the same after manga artists both big and small have their way with series canon, turning this sci-fi mecha masterpiece into a collection of parody shorts and one-shots.


Much like my review for Kaoru Mori: Something and Anything, this is a very hard work to review because it's a format that mostly defies your traditional review.  How much can you say for a comedy anthology?  The major difference between those two is that this is a work handled by multiple artists versus just one, and the only common thread amongst them all is the same cast and the fact that they are almost entirely comical.

What you see here though is not exactly the cream of the manga crop, though.  The closest we get to big-name contributors are Mine Yoshizaki (Sgt. Frog), Rikdo Koshi (Excel Saga), and Yun Kouga (Loveless); the rest are lucky to have even one work published in English, if they have any at all.  Many of the chapters are rather meta in tone, as they have the cast comment and parody various elements of Evangelion and its fandom.  This can encompass anything from staging the show like a cheap sentai series (complete with the leading trio in cheap rubber suits), a 10-year reunion for the staff of NERV, and even one about Hideaki Anno going nuts and trying to make a live-action Evangelion movie starting himself.  A lot of the chapter rely a lot on fanservice as a gag, with the majority of them making a point about Shinji being some sort of ridiculous fanservice magnet.  Most of these are short and punchy, which means that some of them are the funniest chapters in the entire work.  Hell, even the 4-koma strips are funny, and I haven't come across a funny 4-koma on this side of the Pacific since Azumanga Daioh.  Another common theme is having a lot of fun at the expense of Gendo, with many a silly explanation for his signature poses, his weird relationship with Rei, and his equally weird relationship with Shinji (which apparently can easily be mended through the power of fanservice).   There are even a few attempts to be serious, like Yun Kouga's chapter about Shinji and Kaworu or another romantic one about Asuka getting annoyed with Shinji until he apologizes.  Other chapters are just plain weird, like the one where everyone is a puppy, or the one where the main trio try to play an RPG, or the one where Gendo tries to get info out of Ritsuko with the threat of katsudon.  Even then, they're all over in 10 pages or less, so it's pretty easy to move on from the duds.

This is absolutely NOT a work for Evangelion newcomers.  The vast majority of the humor depends on the reader knowing quite a bit about the show, the characters, the history of the production, and even the fandom for the show, and those who are not in the know will simply be left in the dust.  The translation is also surprisingly wild and loose for a Dark Horse work.  Most of the jokes feel like part of the original, but there are also references to American pop-culture that I suspect were either added for humor's sake or there to replace those that would otherwise be untranslatable or referred to even more obscure bits of Japanese pop-culture.  Still, those who do love Evangelion will likely find a lot to like here.  It's just that it can vary wildly in quality and humor, and how wildly it will vary will itself vary from person to person.


Just as the writing varies, so too does the art.  In most cases the artwork is perfectly solid.  In the cases where things go noticeably off-model, it's clearly done more out of personal style than lack of talent.  Panels tend to be small and plain, although some artists do put a lot of effort into the characters and backgrounds.  A lot of them clearly put effort into the fanservice, so you should prepare yourself for a lot of well-drawn panties.  Much like the story, the artwork is simply too hard to sum up well because there's just so much variety that it defies traditional review.


There are a couple of color pages up front, and this version of "Misato's Fan Service Corner" mostly serves as an extended plug for The Shinji Ikari Detective Diary.


It might not be n00b-friendly, but Evangelion fans will likely find something to laugh about here in this comic tribute.  It might be a naked cashgrab, but at least it's an amusing naked cashgrab!

This book is published by Dark Horse.  This series is currently in print.


Of all the Evangelion spinoff manga to be found here, I guarantee you that you will not find one as weird as this one.  Yes, that is including the gag manga.  No, I am totally serious.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: THE SHINJI IKARI DETECTIVE DIARY (Shin Seiki Evangelion: Ikari Shinji Tantei Nikki), by Takumi Yoshimura.  First published in 2010, and first published in North America in 2013.


Shinji Ikari wants nothing more than to be just another ordinary kid in an ordinary school so he can be as miserable and mistrustful as he wants to be.  Then his friends Toji and Kensuke get threatened by some local Yakuza thugs and Shinji finds himself calling upon the Kaji Detective Agency for help.  They in turn end up roping Shinji into working for them and pair him up with the kindly yet mysterious Kaworu Nagisa.  It turns out there a lot more to this detective agency than meets the eye, and that their investigations tend to involve a lot more magical gems, genie-like fighters, a rival agency with powers of their own, as well as the beginnings of a beautiful (if reluctant) friendship. 


I swear, all this manga needed was a talking animal and an extraneous musical number or two and you would have Neon Genesis Scooby Doo.  In spite of that, I found myself liking this manga in a weird way.  It's certainly more lively and imaginative than most of the Evangelion spinoffs, and weirdly enough it stays pretty true to the original characters despite the premise and the fact that this is meant to be a light shoujo comedy.

As you've seen, I've often taken a lot of these manga to task for taking too many liberties with the characters and shaving off all their rough edges to make them palatable.  Shinji Ikari Detective Diary is unusual in that it mostly leaves them alone, particularly where Shinji is concerned.  Yes, that means that Shinji is a rather depressing pill, but the combination of barely repressed anger, sadness and confusion over a rather blank demeanor is farther truer to the Shinji Ikari of the TV show than the bland and relatively blithe versions we've seen previously.  It's hard to say if the same will be true for Asuka, but they also nail the fact that Rei is meant to be mostly mute and mildly unnerving instead of a bubbly ingénue.  It's also nice to see Kaworu take such a prominent role for once, although I suspect most of that is due to the fact that this is targeted towards young and potentially BL-loving teenage girls.  Most of the other manga simply shove him off to the side until the writers need someone to say something cryptic.  Personally, I always found Kaworu's storyline on the show to be genuinely touching, even if circumstance forced it to be cut short.  That's why it's so nice to see an Evangelion manga that's all about Shinji and Kaworu learning to be friends.  When I say friends, I mean precisely that, as this doesn't try to play up the homoeroticism to appease the fujoshi, unlike pretty much anything else that features these two. 

As a detective story, this manga is rather lame.  What few cases are here are simple one-off affairs like 'get rid of those thugs' and 'find out who's pranking this teacher.'  If there's anything that resembles an ongoing storyline, it's either the rivalry with the other detective agency (led by Gendo!) or the mystery of the Evas.  You see, in this universe an Eva is not a giant robot but instead genie-like beings housed in magical pieces of jewelry that will fight for their wielders like Pokémon.  Weirdly enough, while the Evas all have number-themed names that match their respective units, they also seem to be tied to figures of saints bearing the names of some of the Angels from the series.  While part of me wants to applaud Yoshimura for not having it all turn out to be giant robots once more, this concept comes out of nowhere and never stops being distractingly weird.  Still, this burst of imagination is far more entertaining than the jokes, which tend to come in the form of lame gags from Shinji's friends or Kaji, Misato, and Pen-Pen finding more and more convoluted ways to trap Shinji into staying with their agency.  There are also a few callbacks and references to other works, such as "Another unfamiliar ceiling..." or Shinji wishing he could live in a world where he could pilot a giant robot or having lots of girls falling for him.

In spite of all that, this might be my favorite Evangelion spinoff of them all.  It strikes a good balance between original ideas and Evangelion canon and shines a spotlight on a character and relationship that far too often gets short shrift in Evangelion manga.  It might be weird, it might be kind of dumb, but it's not another variation on Who Will Shinji Bang, and that's more than enough to put it into my good graces.


Yoshimura also doesn't mess too much with the original character designs, and that works in the manga's favor.  Sure, they might be a little rounder and broader than the originals, but they all wear it well.  Where Yoshimura gets really creative is with the Evas.  Instead of strange, gangly robots, they are all attractive, scantily-clad adults with uniforms that resemble their original forms about as much as your average "sexy" Halloween costume.  In an admittedly nice and subtle touch, all of the Evas physically resemble their masters to some degree.  Asuka's even sports an eyepatch that I suspect is a reference to her appearance in some of the later Rebuild movies  The backgrounds are nicely drawn, but otherwise this is a fairly plain and simple looking manga.  The fights are brief and unremarkable, there are no notable visual touches, and save for the Evas it doesn't mess around too much with the original work.


Normally I don't have any issues with Dark Horse's manga translations, but here they made some odd choices with Toji that stand out like a sore thumb.  Honestly "for rilla my brilla"?! What were they smoking?  Otherwise, there's yet another round of "Misato's Fan Service Corner" where Carl Horn talks about the most recent Rebuilt movie, the end of Sadamoto's original manga, and reminders about all the other Evangelion manga that Dark Horse are putting out.


I know, I'm just as surprised as you are that this, of all the Evangelion manga I've read thus far, gets a green light.  I had to be honest, though.  This one was the most enjoyable and original of lot without doing a lot of pandering and fanservice, and it's silly without being obnoxious.  I wish more Evangelion manga could be as weird and wonderful as this one.

This series is published by Dark Horse.  This series is complete in Japan with 2 volumes available.  Both volumes were published and are currently in print.


Ok, it's time to move on to the more interesting Evangelion spinoffs.  Dark Horse has made it all but a mission to release every Evangelion-related thing they can get their hands on, and in doing so they sometimes happen upon ones that actually strive for some originality, much like today's selection.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: CAMPUS APOCALYPSE (Shin Seiki Evangelion Gakuen Datenroku), by Ming Ming.  First published by 2007 and first published in North America in 2010.


Shinji Ikari is a normal kid.  Well...he's about as normal as you can expect, considering that his mother died, his father abandoned him, and is now cared for by his guardian Kaji.  Otherwise, he spends most of his days at NERV Foundation Campus with his friends and doing normal teenaged stuff.  One night he observes two fellow students running about and acting secretive and he discovers a strange orb.  From that moment, his life was never the same.  His is now a world where humans can be possessed by angels who seek to destroy the world tree Yggdrasil.  It's also one where he and his classmates Rei, Asuka, and Kaworu can turn their souls into weapons to strike back at the marauding angels, and Shinji must learn to unlock the secrets behind both sides of this holy war.


Finally!  Instead of turning it into a bunch of slice-of-life nonsense, someone decided to do something INTERESTING with the Evangelion universe!   Sure, it's still set at a school but at least they're actually fighting angels and using EVAs!  It's just that this time the angels are rather literal and the EVAs are some magical scientific mumbo-jumbo soul weapon orbs instead of giant robots. 

All the usual suspects are here save for Gendo, and all those who get more than a few pages of screentime are pretty consistent with their animated counterparts.  Some are toned down a little (like Shiji and Asuka), some are toned up (like Kaworu), and others are simply just there (like Rei).  I'll take that last part gladly if it means I don't have to deal with yet another "Rei" with a personality implant.  The story is decently paced, as it brings Shinji into the main conflict without wasting too much time on either campus hijinxs or exposition.  It doesn't lose itself in symbolism but neither does it avoid it.  Best of all, the Christian imagery here isn't just there for decoration - it has purpose and meaning, even if said meaning tends to be rather on-the-nose.

There's not much more to say for Campus Apocalypse at this point.  It's not brilliant by any means, but of all the Evangelion spinoffs I've read thus far, it's the only one to really grab my interest all without throwing away everything about Evangelion canon.


Campus Apocalypse is also one of the better looking Evangelion spinoffs.  It doesn't stray too much from the original designs, and what few changes it does make are minor and well-incorporated...well, all but their weird, dark, doll-like eyes.  Those are just kind of creepy.  The panels tend to go to extremes when it comes to perspective, as they mostly tend to be angled very high or very low.  Aside from a bit of layering, the pages tend to be straightforward and easy to follow. 


There are a few color pages up front, but they look weirdly muted and I can't tell whether it's so because of the thick, heavy paper they use or their choice of inks.  This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that the first few scenes are set in dense blue darkness.  There are also some character model sheets for the characters along with another installment of "Misato's Fan Service Corner." 


Campus Apocalypse is a solid, action-packed story that expands upon the Evangelion mythos without entirely leaving it behind, which puts it a step ahead of most Evangelion spinoffs.

This series is published by Dark Horse.  This series is complete in Japan with four volumes available.  All four were published and all are currently in print.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


As I noted before, there are plenty of school-set Evangelion spinoffs, and while Shinji Ikari Raising Project is the best known, it was not the first of its kind.  Looking at today's selection, though, it's easy to see why this one has been utterly forgotten while SIRP lingers on to this day.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: ANGELIC DAYS (Shin Seiki Evangelion: Kotetsu no Garufurendo 2nd), by Fumino Hayashi.  First published in 2003, and first published in North America in 2006.


Shinji Ikari is a normal boy living with a normal family complete with a normal (if rather moody) next door neighbor/childhood friend Asuka Langley Soryu. 

Wait a minute, are you sure I'm not just describing the Shinji Ikari Raising Project again...nope, guess not.

Anyway, on their way to school, Shinji and Asuka literally run into the pretty, mysterious new girl Rei Ayanami. Now Shinji finds himself torn between ...seriously, are you sure I'm talking about the right series?, torn between Asuka and Rei even as that weird kid Kaworu keeps hinting at something stranger going on.


If my description didn't make it obvious, reading Angelic Days is going to give you a weird sense of deja vu if you've ever read Shinji Ikari Raising Project.  I'd almost call it a ripoff if not for the fact that it came out two years before SIRP and was based on a different game.

Like Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Angelic Days is based on an officially licensed dating sim.  Acually, correct that: it's based on a sequel to an officially licensed dating sim, Girlfriend of Steel 2.  The premises of both games is more or less the same, which explains the plot similiarties.  The biggest difference story-wise is that Angelic Days commits even harder to making the premise utterly mundane.  Other than a few references to NERV and the cast itself, there are none of the signature elements of Evangelion.  There are no EVA units, no plug suits, no Angels, just a bunch of annoyingly lovestruck teens.  Also like SIRP, all the rough edges have been sanded off the cast.  Thus, we have a Shinji who is merely insecure and indecisive, an Asuka who hasn't hit full tsundere, and a friendly, flirty Rei instead of a quiet, creepy girl.  The rest of the cast makes appearances here and there, and most of them are unremarkable save for Ritsuko.  She's been cast as the school nurse, and she takes opportunity of her one scene to make a bizarrely blunt confession of love for Gendo to a visibly confused Shinji.  It's such a WTF moment that my confusion easily matched his.   Sadly, that was probably the most exciting thing to happen to any of the characters here.  If not for Kaworu being mysterious off in the corner with some sort of experiment, there would be absolutely nothing of substance here to talk about.  You'd think there would be more drama considering the source material and the fact that this manga ran in a shoujo magazine, but you'd be dead wrong.  I almost find myself longing for SIRP if simply because it punctuated its tedium with a dash of fanservice.

I said it before and I'll say it again: I'll never understand what drives Evangelion fans to turn their beloved show into the most milquetoast thing possible in spinoffs like this.  I can't imagine anyone on either side of the Pacific reading this out of anything other than obligation.


Ok, that's not entirely true.  They also might be reading it for the trainwreck factor, as the art here is BAD.  SIRP may have been dull, but the artwork was competent and mostly on-model.  Angelic Days, on the other hand, has strange, almost amateurish artwork.  The character designs are pointy, gangly, awkward, and only vaguely resemble the original cast.  The faces and heads in particular suffer the most, as Fumino's attempts to ape Sadamoto leave her characters with this overly narrow, crudely drawn heads and faces.  She barely even tries with the backgrounds, and when she doesn't just slap down some plain screentones she simply leaves them blank, a choice which only adds to the generic quality of the story.  Honestly, the only positive thing I can say for the art is that it is unique.  It may be awful, but it's awful in a distinct way and one that I wish I could forget.


Angelic Days is pointless and ugly and whatever connection it may have to the Evangelion universe feel solely like window dressing.  It might have been the first to be released, but compared to SIRP this is the one that feels the most redundant and it's best left forgotten.

This series was published by ADV Manga.  This series is complete in Japan with 6 volumes available.  All six were published, and all are currently out of print.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


So do you remember that bit in the final episode of Evangelion where the show briefly turns into your standard ordinary high school anime show?  Well, that bit seems to have resonated with a LOT of Evangelion fans because it's one of the most popular premises for Evangelion spinoff materials, including manga.  Today's review is not the first, but it's easily the best known of all the Evangelion spinoff manga.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT (Shin Seiki Evangelion: Ikari Shinji Ikusei Keikaku), by Osamu Takahashi.  First published in 2005, and first published in North America in 2009.


Inside an ordinary apartment inside an ordinary complex you will find Shinji Ikari living with his ordinary two-parent household.  Every day he walks to his ordinary school with his moody childhood friend Asuka Langley Soryu.  This particular day would be just another ordinary school day if not for the fact that a mysterious new girl named Rei Ayanami is joining their class.  Shinji is awed by Rei's looks and cheerful personality, but Asuka is frustrated that she now has competition for Shinji's attention.  Now it seems like everyone around Shinji is trying to push him towards a relationship with one of the girls: his friends, his homeroom teacher Misato, Ritsuko the school nurse, even Shinji's mother Yui.  Of course, they may have alterior motives, as all three kids seem to be connected to Yui's mysterious project over at NERV.


I swear, for the life of me I will never understand the urge that drives people to make series like this.  Oh, I get it as a reference to the episode mentioned above, but who honestly sits down and thinks "You know what would make Evangelion even better?  Let's turn into a generic harem anime!"

SIRP has something of an odd history.  While it's technically inspired by Episode 26, it's also technically a video game adaptation.  More specifically, it's an adaptation of one of the many licensed dating sim-style games that sprung up in the late 90s and early 2000s where the measure of success was not determined by fighting Angels but instead by your character stats and what girl (or boy - Kaworu is an option) you ended up with.  This particular game was popular enough to transform into a manga, which is how we ended up with this series.

The usual cast of characters are here, albeit in more mundane roles.  While NERV still exists and SEELE is a rumor, just about every cast member who isn't a teenager has been turned into school staff members.  Personality-wise, most the cast remains the same, but our leading trio has undergone a bit of transformation.  All of the tragic and psychotic edges of their personalities have been sanded off, and in Rei's case she's had a complete personality transplant.  That's why this version of Shinji is happier and more stable, why Rei is friendly and warm, and why Asuka is a more typical tsundere instead of her usual Super Queen Kamehameha Bee-yotch self.  Since this story is set at a school, we get to see a lot more of the other teen cast members.  Unfortunately that means the reader gets to spend more time with the girl-crazy duo of Kensuke and Toji, as well as the broad Noo Yawk accent that the translators gave to Toji.

The biggest problem is that until the main trio end up in their plug suits at NERV, the story is simply DROWNING in clichés.  Oh look, a new girl in class!  Oh look, it's festival time!  Now we're going to the beach!  Every story beat here is as old as time and adding the cast of Evangelion doesn't make them feel any fresher.  If anything, it makes the Evangelion angle all the more pointless.  After all,  what makes Evangelion unique amongst mecha shows is its own particular take on sci-fi and mecha tropes as well as the numerous tragedies and psychoses that define its cast and the plot at large (as well as the secondary narrative that grew out of GAINAX's and Anno's own troubles during the production).  To me, these are the qualities that make Evangelion unique, the qualities that keep people talking about it twenty years later.  That's why I'm utterly baffled by SIRP's take on the Evangelion universe.  You can just write it all off as just a gentle brand of fanservice, but to me taking all of those qualities, throwing them out the window for a generic anime set-up, and making the biggest conflict "who should Shinji bone?" is to me missing the point of Evangelion on an epic scale.


SIRP's story might bug me a lot, but as far Evangelion manga spinoffs go it has some of the best artwork you'll find.  The character designs are all fairly close to Sadamoto's originals, although they are all a bit more rounded and the faces are a bit more plain.  If anything, though, Takahashi seems a bit too focused on some particular parts of those rounded forms, as he finds many excuses to have Rei and Asuka show off their undergarments or their swimwear and the panels seem to magically expand once those bits start to show up.  Everything else seems rather mundane artistically.  Even NERV comes off as rather plain when it should be anything but that.  It's all perfectly solid on a technical level, but in the larger scale of things it's not all that special or remarkable.


In addition to the story, there's also a gag manga where EVA-01 and Zeruel the Angel complain about the fact that they're not in the story.  They even go so far as to take up a bit of cosplay to boost their appeal, and this omake is by far the funniest thing in the whole volume.  There's also a bit of bonus artwork, including an image of Gendo that riffs on the famous Obama campaign poster.  There's also "Misato's Fan Service Corner," a regular feature for the Dark Horse Evangelion manga that allows chief editor and avowed GAINAX fan Carl Gustav Horn to talk about the franchise in general.  In this particular edition, he talks about some bizarre merchandise, some of his own thoughts on the franchise, and some of the interesting twists and references from the show that made their way into the story.  It's not enough to save this manga for me, but I cannot fault the man for his enthusiasm.


Shinji Ikari Raising Project is just OK.  The story is dull but inoffensive and the artwork is perfectly competent.  It's just far too enslaved to anime schoolroom clichés to be an object of interest to anyone other than the Evangelion faithful, and even that might be rather conditional.

This series is published by Dark Horse.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 17 volumes available.  15 volumes have been published and all are currently in print. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


It's October once more, which normally means that I'd be starting yet another round of horror manga.  This year is a little different though.  This month marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Neon Genesis Evangelion, so what better time could there be for me to review all of the Evangelion manga?  Before I can start delving into the weirder twists and turns this franchise has taken in the world of manga, though, we should start with the first and original work.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (Shin Seiki Evangerion), by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto.  First published in 1994, and first published in North America in 1998.


Shinji Ikari has spend most of his 14 years of life being quietly depressed and self-loathing.  Mind you, he's far from the only person with problems, considering that around the time he was born, the world was radically altered by a catastrophic event known only as Second Impact.  Out of the blue, Shinji gets an invitation to Tokyo from his cold, distant father Gendo, but the day Shinji arrives also happens to be the same day the city is attacked by an Angel, a massive, bizarre, and almost untouchable monster.  Shinji soon finds himself whisked into the world of NERV, an organization that uses giant piloted robots called EVAs to fight back against the Angels.  Shinji is now the latest EVA pilot at NERV, and he must face the Angel and fight back if he and the world are to survive.


It's hard to approach this manga without any presumptions when you've already familiar with the story.  This wasn't so much of a problem when this manga first debuted, as it came out months before the first episode ever aired.  These days, though, anyone who has seen the first couple of episodes of the show or the first Rebuild movie will have seen everything there is to see in this first volume and thus it's harder for a modern reader to approach it with fresh eyes.

I'm not joking when I say that this first volume follows the story of the first two episodes almost beat for beat.  All the characters who should be there are there, and they talk and act as they should at this early point in the story.  Shinji is depressed, Gendo is a looming creep, Misato is her usual spunky self, and Rei is quiet and bleeding heavily, and we start to learn the basics about NERV, the EVAs, and the Angels.  The only major addition is the insertion of a couple of dream sequences which makes the true nature of the EVAs (and Shinji's in particular) kind of obvious.  All the mecha battles are there as well, and they are suitably huge in scale.  It's just that it all hews so closely to the original source material that it feels utterly redundant.  I can't help but want Sadamoto to do a bit more and to do something a little difference to make this experience of Evangelion more distinct.  As it is, it's perfectly fine, but it feels more like an illustrated recap than it does a proper manga.


Now it goes without saying that the artwork is pretty solid.  When you have the show's character designer doing the art, there's no concern that he's going to screw up the character designs or make a mangle of the artwork in general.  Sadamoto's style is confident and expressive, even if he really does tend to draw the same angular face over and over, but it's perfectly fine here. That being said, he doesn't take any real risks with his artwork either.  The presentation is plain and simple, and it's clear that Sadamoto didn't necessarily feel all that comfortable with the mecha action.  They come off as somewhat stiff, and they beg to be blown up into big, splashy panels instead of a bunch of mostly static mid-range shots.  There's no energy or drama to them, and it's a detriment to a beginning that's in desperate need of both. 


There are quite a few extras here because of the fact that this manga came out before the show did.  The production crew took this chance to try and sell their audience on the show, which is why we have not only an introductory essay from series creator Hideaki Anno but also an essay and sketches of EVA-01 from mecha designer Ikuto Yamashita.


The original Evangelion manga starts off perfectly fine, but it doesn't really add to or enhance the story it's adapting.  It's simply there, and it's hard to recommend it too strongly when its animated equivalents are so much more engaging.

This series is published by Viz.  This series is complete in Japan with 14 volumes available.  All 14 have been published and are currently in print and available in e-book form through