PAGES:   192
  RATING:   16+
  RELEASE DATE:   09/08/2010
  REVIEW DATE:   12/05/2010

At the end of the original EVANGELION series in the 1990s, budget problems and the generally crazy nature of the production led to one of the more controversial finales in the history of anime.  In that, an alternate reality was presented to the audience, putting the cast in a much more positive light.  Apparently, it did not go over to well with some fans and Gainax went on to produce the two EVA features, DEATH AND REBIRTH, and THE END OF EVANGELION.  According to one of the voice actors at a fan expo, it was Hideki Anno’s ‘screw you’ to the audience for the harsh treatment he received for his handling of Episode 26 in the anime. 

So… how is it that several manga have been produced based on that ever-so-briefly glimpsed alternate reality?  If fans hated the original ending so much, why is it now the foundation for at least three manga serials?  Probably, it is because these lighter romantic comedies are chances for fans to immerse themselves in a more derivative, yet still entertaining world of NERV and those iconic characters.  While some of the darker elements still exist- like the conflict between NERV and SEELE as they race to develop the next stage in human evolution, using Shinji and the others as pawns in their quest- the focus of the stories seems to be on the teenage antics of the younger Ikari and his friends.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOL. 6 tells the story of Shinji and his relationship with Rei and Asuka, who both view for his affections in and out of school.  The results are often comical, full of fan service and the other things that make stories like these so popular.  Like ANGELIC DAYS, also released by Dark Horse, this manga is a fluffy EVAdventure, with the current volume being no different than the others in its writing, art and overall tone.  Shinji and his friends try to cope with the complications of life in Tokyo 3, while being subjected to often bizarre experiments created by Gendo, Misato, and the other adults in NERV.  What going to a spa or the beach has to do with character building is sometimes a mystery to both the characters and the reader.  But this is a romantic comedy and those questions would be generally out of place here, except perhaps for the fact in Volume 6,  a real crisis in NERV forces Shinji, Rei and Asuka to flee a building that is completely locked down.  It looks serious.  It is also seriously reminiscent of an episode in the original series, where the gang has to navigate small passages to reach the surface after something shuts down NERV.  In this manga, though, the trek to safety has a few more pratfalls and totally unnecessary upskirt shots than the show, with an ending that is a fun surprise, written in the light-hearted style that has identified this manga.  Also in the volume is a new character, Mana Kirishima.  Her presence threatens the weird dynamics in the group as she displays an interest in Shinji and upsets both Asuka and Rei.  (Rei upset?  I did mention this was an alternate reality, right?)  There is also a party in the story, full of awkward moments with Shinji’s male friends and more in-your-face Asuka to keep fans happy.
This series has been very entertaining, especially as we are still waiting for the manga created from the original 1990s series to be completed.  The characters look great.  The humor fits with the story and the whole work is playful, while staying inside the lines of propriety for a 16+ reading audience.  The notes by Carl Horn at the end of the volume, with contributions in art and writing from fans of EVA are refreshing and often insightful.  

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOL. 6 is like a visit with old friends.  Seeing these characters in a new, more carefree light is a pleasure for fans of the original series.  The classic tensions are there.  The new aspects of love and friendship are truly welcome.  This manga is a must for EVA lovers and a welcome addition to the library of anyone else who likes their romantic comedies sunny side up.

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