Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project Volume 1 Paperback – Jul 21 2009
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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.
Wait a minute, no we're not, and that is the problem. What we have here is simply the Evangelion characters recast in a typical high school comedy romance.
And by typical I mean that moldy old formula used too many times in too many other series. If you've been around the anime community a while you've seen it all before: the one guy torn between different girls, the beach episode, the eat my cooking episode, the oh no you saw my panties episode, the town fair episode, the visit the school nurse's office episode, the let's spy on their shopping trip episode, the school trip episode, and on and on. For a great deal of this you could cut out the Evangelion characters and replace them with those of any equivalent genre manga and there would be next to no difference.
If this sounds like a good idea to you, or you are too new to the anime community to have been around this particular hamster wheel one too many times, then knock yourself out on this series. You'll probably enjoy it quite a bit, because it will be new to you. If you haven't been exposed to this template too many times, this manga will be funny and charming. However, if the idea of Evangelion reduced to this sort of cookie-cutter, formulaic, rehash brings back too many memories of series that felt like a few good starting episodes, a few good ending episodes, and miles of filler in between, then stay away.
Frankly, the first two volumes of this manga seem like a collection of everything that Evangelion was deliberately trying not to be, and, because Evangelion wasn't this, it had a major impact on the anime world and became a classic. Sadly, that will not be the case for this manga, which is more of an old dog desperately in need of some new tricks.
Anyway, that's all kind of superfluous information, basically its the same well-rendered characters you know and love, but you get to see them just flirting with each other or going to the mall and other typical adolescent stuff. On its own the series is incredibly lightweight, but after you've seen all the incredibly dark stuff they go through in the original series (mind rape, having to murder loved ones, elimination of self in oneness with God, to name a few things), you feel so happy seeing them just have a day at the beach or whatever. SIRP has about the same relationship to its original series as New Order has to Joy Division, in other words.(although SIRP perhaps isn't quite that good) What it lacks in innovation and more formal substance, in makes up for in warm fuzzy feelings. The EVAs are also barely in it although NERV is, so I am fairly curious where the actual plot is going as well.
To people new to EVA, this is still a fun and beautifully drawn little high school manga that stands quite well on its own, it just likely won't mean quite as much to you and you'll miss the jokes referencing the original.