This is a review of the comic Volume 1 of "The Shinji Ikari Raising Project" published by Dark Horse Comics. Not to be confused with Sadamoto Yushiyuki's "Neon Genesis Evangelion" published by VIZ Media, or Fumino Hayashi's "Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days" published by ADV Manga.
Here are liner notes on the back cover of Volume 1 of "The Shinji Ikari Raising Project," which goes like this: "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!"
Well, in short, this is a ROMANTIC COMEDY based on the main characters of the Evangelion franchise, Rei, Asuka, and Shinji. Believe me or not, this comic delivers the goods.
[STORY] Shinji Ikari is an ordinary junior high school student living with his father Gendo and mother Yui, both working for "Artificial Evolution Lab." Shinji's ordinary life changes dramatically, however, when a beautiful, mysterious girl Rei Ayanami moved to his school in New Tokyo-3 and starts to live with his family. Naturally, Shinji's friend since childhood, strong-willed girl Asuka Langley Shoryu is not very happy about that.
Unlike the original anime, Shinji is not a boy troubled by his relation with his distant father. Like any traditional romantic comedy set in school, he is a boy attracted to two totally different types of girls. This is a time-tested formula for setting up comedy and romance, if not very original. And it works pretty well with these two well-drawn characters, Asuka and Rei. The comic doesn't forget that it is originally a sci-fi drama. It contains a scene of Ayanami wearing plug suit and one failed experiment.
Those who have not seen the original TV series can enjoy the comic as stand-alone series, though they might miss most of the sly in-jokes (Shinji's bearded father Gendo doesn't speak much because ... he is now a husband dominated by his loving and ever-smiling wife Yui). Jokes are not overused and the story keeps a nice, swift pace, following the romantic triangle of Shinji, Asuka, and Rei, and its consequences that are often funny.
[ART] Though this is the first major work (his first tankobon book), Osamu Takahashi did a very good job with nice art (especially that of Rei Ayanami), which looks faithful to original character designs by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. The comic's art sometimes become slightly "fan servicey," but it is not too explicit or excessive. The book also has very funny bonus pages.
The English version comic has the same front/back cover art and four color pages. It also comes with the 7-page afterword from the editor of the English version.
Original "The Shinji Ikari Raising Project" has been serialized in "Monthly Shônen Ace" published by Kadokawa Shoten since June, 2005. The comic, illustrated by Osamu Takahashi, is inspired by one of the storylines in the game of the same name released in 2004. The first volume of the series was published in May, 2006 and eight tankobon books have already been released in Japan so far. I hope that Dark Horse will keep on publishing the series.
"The Shinji Ikari Raising Project" is one of the several spin-off comics that was created after the phenomenal success of the Evangelion series, and is one of the better projects. Enjoy it.