A lighter look at the Evangelion characters with plenty of, albeit not surprising, twists from the anime and Sadamoto’s manga versions.
Writer/Artist: Osamu Takahashi
Translation: Michael Gombos
Adaptation: Carl Gustav Horn
What They Say
Stunning, hot-headed Asuka Langley Soryu has been friends with Shinji Ikari since they were little. And she always sort of assumed they'd stay together - until the day the beautiful, brilliant Rei Ayanami showed up in class! When Shinji starts to get curious about Rei, Asuka needs to figure out if she wants to be just friends with Shinji, or something more. But why are so many people keeping an eye on these relationships - people like homeroom teacher Misato, school nurse Ritsuko, and Shinji's mother - NERV's chief scientist, Yui Ikari . . . ?
The cover art for this book shows Asuka and Shinji looking pretty happy, while Rei seems curious. The back cover shows both Shinji’s mother and father. The display of the characters for the cover art is a good representation of Takahashi’s drawing style. Moreover, the presence of Shinji’s mother and the characters overall cheeriness should surprise fans of the original Evangelion, but more of that later.
Dark Horse has eliminated glossy paper for their color pages in many of their releases, and this first volume is no different. The first four pages are in color and of standard paper stock. I prefer this method over no color pages at all, but there are other places in the book that were originally in color that received a colorless printing for this release. I can’t fault Dark Horse too much for not reproducing those pages in color because the original color pages may have only been released in the magazine version and not in the Japanese tankobon. Otherwise, the printing looks good throughout the book with clean pages, good alignment, and no fading.
I’m not terribly impressed with the art in this Evangelion carnation. While Takahashi’s art is leagues above the horrible art in the ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days’ manga released by ADV, it isn’t anywhere near as good as Sadamoto’s ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ released by VIZ. Takahashi’s art seems confined with the heavy use of rectangular panels and secondary characters visages are somewhat inconsistent.
The original Japanese SFX remains with smaller English translations alongside. Honorifics also remain with the interesting occasions where characters use the term ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’. Personally, I don’t know the Japanese term for those words so I have no problem with the use of the English words. One aspect of the translation that might bother some is Dark Horse’s interpretation of Toji’s Osakan accent. Toji speaks as if he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn. Even editor and English adaptor Carl Gustav Horn admits there is no way to compare different American accents to Japanese accents, so the Brooklyn sounding Toji will either bug you or not.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Shinji is just a normal guy, living with both his parents and attending school. He has a childhood friend named Asuka that wakes him up everyday for school. They have that kind of awkward relationship where they have known each other for so long that they act like siblings. Yet, at the same time they are going through puberty and new feelings have begun to blossom. Even if those feelings usually manifest in the form of quarreling like an old married couple.
The bond Shinji and Asuka carry is so apparent that all their friends give them constant grief over their antics. If you are at all familiar with Evangelion, you will recognize the presence of all their friends; Toji, Kensuke, and Hikari. What you won’t be familiar with is the overall happy tone of this series. The characters are all quick to smile and there is no threat of Angels. Most readers will find this refreshing or boring. I for one find it interesting.
Rei eventually makes an appearance, but she enters the story as a transfer student that has come to live with Shinji and his parents. In an almost shocking fashion, Rei is talkative and seems much more human than her anime counterpart. The remaining major characters have the expected attitudes but different roles. Misato is the kids homeroom teacher, Ritsuko is the school nurse and Kaji is a P.E. teacher.
Initially, all of this gave me the feeling that I was reading a version of ‘Evangelion: Angelic Days’ with a ‘Fafner’ undertone where the adults pretended to be teachers but they were really running a secret organization. That opinion changes quickly when Misato takes Asuka and Shinji to the Nerv Headquarters for the first time. Only, there has not been any mention of Nerv. Instead, the headquarters, or better yet lab, is called the Artificial Evolution Lab, which was a precursor to Nerv in the original anime.
Not only is the Nerv setup different, but Misato really isn’t part of the Lab. This becomes apparent when she is awkwardly thrust into a commanding position when Shinji is introduced to the Plug system and told he needs to enter it to save Rei. Rei testing the Plug system is the only part true to the original. But will Shinji be able to enter the Plug system for the first time and bring Rei’s consciousness back to the real world? Where the heck are the Angels and the Eva units? Will Shinji’s dad actually show him some compassion in this Evangelion series?
To be fair, I LOVE Evangelion, for better or worse. It was only the second or third anime I had ever watched, and I began reading manga because I wanted to see if and how Sadamoto’s manga version was different from Anno’s anime. With that said, I tried my best to be fair and critical of this release. It turns out it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
Something I did find cool was Carl Gustav Horn’s work as editor and English adaptor for this book. Those familiar with Carl will know that he has been working for years on the Sadamoto ‘Evangelion’ manga from VIZ. I have long appreciated Carl’s work on the Sadamoto’s series and Carl’s insight on the series as a whole in the Extra’s sections of those books. That, and Dark Horse is one of my favorite manga publishers, so I have a general appreciation for Carl’s work and the love he has for Japanese media.
As for ‘The Shinji Ikari Raising Project’, I enjoy Takahashi’s idea of pulling the kids back to an earlier timeframe in the Evangelion universe, or more precisely, Nerv’s evolution. Shinji lives with both his parents and he is already friends with everyone at school, and the Angels have yet to arrive. Heck, there doesn’t even seem to be an Eva Unit 0 yet. I also like seeing everyone living a normal life with normal adolescent problems and feelings. However, what I don’t like is the role Misato, Ritsuko, and Kaji are playing.
Misato’s indoctrination to the Artificial Evolution Lab is awkward and implausible. Why would Gendo or Yui allow some homeroom teacher to start barking out orders when they are trying to retrieve Rei from the Plug system? I can only assume that as the story progresses, Ritsuko and Kaji will also fall into key roles in the Lab. I certainly hope that part plays out better than Misato’s.
Other than that complaint, I am perfectly happy to watch this Evangelion series play out like a whimsical romantic comedy. Seriously, if I want a ton of angst and a bleeding heart from the tragic demise of my beloved characters, all I have to do is watch the original anime or reread Sadamoto’s manga version.