PAGES:   192
  RATING:   16+
  RELEASE DATE:   12/22/2010
  REVIEW DATE:   02/15/2011

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, that troubled super-child of anime, lives on in this manga based on the briefly glimpsed alternate reality seen in Episode 26 of the original series in 1996.  Whimsical and romantic, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT takes us fully into that world, allowing us to spend time with our favorite characters out from under the dark and nasty shadow of NERV as it pursues the Human Instrumentality Project.  Focusing on the relationship between Shinji and his friends, the focus is on character development rather than action in this manga, making it a pleasant read for anyone wishing to avoid the more unpleasant aspects of the EVAverse.  While that might make it derivative to some, it is to this reviewer a kinder and gentler EVA that gives more respect to its characters than the creators did in the original.  No gratuitous fan abuse here.  The only hurt endured by the characters comes from wardrobe malfunctions, mis-steps and regular swats to Shinji’s head by Asuka… a loving homage from cover to cover.   

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOL. 7 has the hapless hero of the title trying- and failing- to just live his life in Tokyo-3 and keep off the radar of the ever-present Asuka.  With Yui away on business for NERV, it is up to Misato to have Shinji, Rei and Asuka undertake some teamwork building.  If you remember the dance synchro routine Shinji and Asuka had to perform to defeat one of the Angels in the anime, this part of the manga will seem a little familiar.  However, our writer/artist has added a few tweaks to the story and taken out the Angel to make the episode another instance of character development for our players, showing Rei as not the unthinking, perfectly co-ordinated being she was in the anime where the steps are concerned, but one who responds best to working with Shinji alone.  Obviously, this does not go down well with Asuka, who cannot seem to work with her or Shinji.  During some training in the plugsuits with Rei and Asuka, involving some creeping on the part of Shinji, our hero takes a few for the team.  The beatings continue when the three try to cook dinner, resulting in a spectacular accident and subsequent bit of fan service that of course puts Shinji in the wrong place at the wrong time, (depending on your perspective, that is).
This manga is not just a substitute for the original manga, which is still incomplete, but is a solidly entertaining look at the EVAverse in its own right.  It does have its share of fan service high-jinks, with some nudity among characters being seen, but this is to be almost expected from a manga that is rate 16+.  The notes by Carl Horn at the end of the volume, this time featuring an appearance by Yuko Miyamura and Tiffany Grant- the voices of Asuka from the anime series- are fine additions to the story itself, adding insight to the narrative and fan input into the world of EVANGELION. 

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOL. 7 continues the breezy lighthearted look at the lives and loves of some of anime’s most beloved characters.  Finely drawn and entertainingly written, this series is a must have for devoted fans of the original and a great addition to any manga lover’s library.

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