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. 8 is irreverent from the first page, with NERV playing baseball- a Japanese passion as much as it is an American one- under the direction of Gendo Ikari.  Like some of the action in other volumes, it is not really clear why the characters must indulge in this match, but it does provide a chance for readers to enjoy more EVA highjinks.  Everyone plays their positions to nearly predictable precision, although Rei’s inability to catch a ball does remind us the Ayanami of this alternate reality is a little different to the one of the anime.

 

The next major story involves a hacking attack on NERV’s computers.  A force of the great female characters in the story, from Ristuko, Misato and Yui Ikari to Asuka and Akagi’s mothers, join forces to defeat the threat.  Tensions run high in this episode, which feels a little like the one in the series where an Angel attempts to take over the Magi systerm.  In other news, the continued love triangle of Shinji, Rei and Asuka continues to grind along at a pace typical to Japanese romantic comedies.  There are more slips, spills and thrills in halls, in pools and all over Tokyo 3 as the young pilots awkwardly stumble from innocence to experience.

 

One wonders where this story is going as we reach the end of Volume 8.  The pratfalls wear a little thin by now and the interaction between the leads seems to be taking on a kind of circular dance reminiscent of the final shootout in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY at the cemetery.  Hints of dark things to come have been sprinkled sparingly throughout all the editions, but at this point, we, as readers, need to get more of a sense of who’s going to pull the trigger first in either Shinji’s love life or the intrigues of the adults at NERV.  One hopes the tone of the manga will remain light.  But to sustain the current pace of the story may run the risk for the creative team of alienating fans who by now may be shouting ‘let’s get on with it!’

 

Don’t get this reviewer wrong.  NEON GENESIS EVANGELION THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOL. 8 is a fun, quick read and no serious fan of the original should deny themselves the opportunity to enjoy it.  But seriously… are Shinji, Rei and Asuka ever going to sort out their feelings for each other?

 

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, but this is to be expected from any manga that is rated 16+.  The notes by Carl Horn at the end of the volume- always entertaining and informative- along with samples of fan art, flesh out the fandom’s involvement in keeping EVANGELION a hot property in manga, alongside its anime inspiration.

 

IN SUMMARY:
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION THE SHINJI IKARI RAISING PROJECT VOL. 8 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.

  • Published By: Dark Horse
  • Author / Art: Osamu Takahashi
  • Format: Japanese / BW / Color
  • Pages: 184
  • Rated: 16+
  • Release Date: 3/9/2011
  • Reviewed By: Christopher Seaman

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