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?...er, 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.