Title: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project Vol 1
Story & Art: Osamu Takahashi
Created: GAINAX & khara
Publisher: Dark Horse
May Contain Spoilers
Shinji and Asuka have been friends since childhood. Their parents work together at a research facility, and it seems like Asuka has been taking care of Shinji forever. When the beautiful Rei transfers to their school, Asuka isn’t prepared for the conflicting emotions that are sweeping over her. With all of the boys, including Shinji, hung up on Rei, Asuka is confronted with the realization that she likes Shinji as more than a friend. Will she loose him to the mysterious Rei?
A couple of years ago, I watched the anime for Eva. I was really enjoying it up until the end. Then the series, for me, fell to pieces, and I have no freaking idea what happened at the end. It was frustrating, watching as the series went from a very compelling science fiction adventure with the hapless Shinji, to a disjointed, chaotic mess that didn’t make any sense. It’s brilliance is beyond me, and I started to wish that I had stopped watching it two episodes from the end. Several of my friends told me to stop watching, but I doggedly kept plugging along. Big mistake.
I was hoping that with the manga, I could revisit the Eva universe and capture a new appreciation of it. Maybe it would even make a little more sense. What I found instead was a dull reimagining of Shinji and Asuka’s relationship. The two bicker endlessly while their classmates look on, teasing them for acting like an old married couple. Even their teachers get in on the ribbing, which only makes the two more defensive about not being a couple.
When Shinji meets the quiet and stunning Rei, he is surprised to learn that she is a distant relative. She’s moved in with his family, which sets Asuka on a collision course with her own jumbled emotions. Shinji is soon juggling his own feelings for the two girls; Asuka has been his friend forever, but Rei is new and exotic, and he can’t help but be interested in her.
The book moves very slowly, following the developing relationship between the three teens. A bulk of the story takes place at school, and the kids are all participating in the usual, stereo-typical high school activities. There’s a trip to the beach, a romp at a festival, and all of the other mundane, overused plot devices that crowd stories taking place during high school years. It’s not so much the events themselves that feel flat and uninteresting, but the way Shinji, Asuka, and Rei move through them. Other than giving them a new place to inject fan-service and have poor Shinji being brow beaten by Asuka, all of these episodes seemed pointless.
When an experiment at the research facility goes wrong and Shinji is asked to help Rei, even this jolt of adventure fails to raise the excitement level. The author fails to capitalize on the tense atmosphere the three are presented with, which leaves the reader dissatisfied and disappointed. After suffering through all of the bland events leading up to it, the life and death moment doesn’t get much set up, and it gets even less emphasis than the panty shots.
If you are a die hard Evangelion fan, this manga series might give you some warm fuzzies. If not, this is another series to check out at the library.
Review copy provided by Dark Horse