RELEASED BY:   DARK HORSE
  AUTHOR / ART:  

OSAMU TAKAHASHI

  FORMAT:   JAPANESE / B&W
  PAGES:   192
  RATING:   16+
  RELEASE DATE:   09/23/2009
  REVIEW DATE:   11/04/2009
  REVIEWED BY:   SCOTT CAMPBELL



Based on the alternate world glimpsed in the final episode of the famous Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series, The Shinji Ikari Raising Project explores Evangelion’s famous characters through love, comedy, and a new set of mysteries! The Evangelion legend continues this fall with the movie Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone from Funimation, and continues to grow as a franchise, even after almost 15 years since its conception. 

Another Evangelion spin-off!? Awesome! They honestly can’t come out with these faster, as many other fans of Evangelion would agree. It’s great fun to delve into alternate universes that relate to characters and a story we love, so any Evangelion spin-off series is worth a try. Now, not all spin-offs are a great idea, or even well made, but Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project is most certainly a worth-while series even just on its own. The characters and their personalities have been well captured in this side-story/alternate universe, and the first volume shows a huge amount of potential to be a big hit with Evangelion fans, and just plain old manga fans alike.

As the story goes, 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?

In volume two, things start to get a bit more complicated for everyone. Even as Gendo plots to submit his entire staff to aerobics training, the sinister SEELE has sent Kaworu Nagisa to sabotage Gendo and Yui's more private objectives… which means he's soon enrolling in Shinji's class! Such a pretty boy starts turning heads inside homeroom 2-A, even Shinji's – which causes Rei and Asuka to agree to join forces, on the grounds that Kaworu's presence could cause trouble for NERV. The irony is that, even if that's just their excuse, they're right!

Evangelion fans should eat this right up, but there’s no reason that non-fans can’t get into this new story, and start their Evangelion appreciation with this spin-off series. If this series helps to introduce some new people to an old classic that still deserves a lot of attention for how good it is, than that in itself is a great thing. Now, what started out as seemingly quite a “light” piece of entertainment has quickly become much more involving and just complex enough to keep a lot of interest. It’s nice to see the story going in a couple of different directions, and increasing the amount of “layering” of the story. It’s dramatic and it makes you have to know what is going to happen next – it was difficult to end the book and not have volume three waiting right away to show the next phase of the story.

The art continues to impress in this volume – it’s very well-done. You can really tell that the artist wanted to capture the original characters in the way that they were intended, and has painstakingly done so while still adding in his own personality and style in appropriate doses. As a big Evangelion fan myself, and therefore pretty hard to please/judgmental when it comes to all things Evangelion, this series totally passes the test art-wise. It’s well-drawn, it looks great, and the characters are true to the look they were created with 15 years ago. It’s amazing sometimes how people will try to change a “good thing’ just to be different – but obviously this author/artist knew what they were doing and kept Evangelion just like we know it. As for what is fun and different, the added amount of humor and jokes is appreciated over the often very serious nature of the original series. Plenty of facial expressions and verbal exchanges between characters should leave you with a laugh or two. The relationship between Asuka, Shinji, and Rei are as awkward as they are funny – it’s like many teen dramas, but made even more enjoyable and tongue-in-cheek because we know what these Evangelion characters are like and how they feel already. I have to say this is a very enjoyable series, and Evangelion “done right” in an alternate universe that sheds lots of different light on a cast of characters many of us already know and love


IN SUMMARY:
For Evangelion fans, this series is an absolute must. Few will be disappointed as this series is a great alternate universe look at the original cast. New fans can enjoy this one too – just jump in and get a sense for the characters as you go!

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