By Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and GAINAX. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Viz Media.
The trouble with reviewing a manga series like Evangelion, with release dates from hell, is that of memory. I mean, I’m obsessed with Excel Saga, but even I had to do a bit of a reread when it was coming out on a once a year basis. And Evangelion isn’t even allowed that luxury – it comes out when a Japanese volume comes out, and Sadamoto is notorious for hiatuses, breaks, and 8-page chapters because the editors had to submit something or they’d lose their jobs. Luckily, he’s with Kadokawa Shoten, former home of CLAMP, so they’re used to things like this. What this means, though, is that it’s entirely possible that this manga, which started in 1995 in Japan, may not finish by 2015, which is the date it actually takes place.
However, the comet has passed by once more, which means that we have a new Evangelion volume. And luckily, Sadamoto continues to do what we all want him to do; he tells the basic story of Evangelion, but makes everything better and all the characters more tolerable. Now, this does have its down side, which is that he is still telling the same story. The manga looks as if it might end with Vol. 14 (though that’d be compressing things a bit), and we’re still heading for the orange goo horizon, if you know what I mean. But without Anno’s veneer of self-hatred and disgust surrounding Shinji and company, we’re left with a title that’s a bit less soul searching but has a lot more ‘hell yeah!’ moments.
Let’s start with the most obvious, which we started to see at the end of Volume 12: Shinji rescues Asuka. Now, this probably isn’t permanent; indeed, by the end of the volume, I’m not entirely certain if she’s dead or not. But that’s irrelevant. Shinji making an effort, doing something other than whine and clutch his knees, is the main reason to read the Evangelion manga at all. And his reunion with Asuka, however brief, is all the more touching for it.
As for the rest of the cast, well, Fuyutsuki and the Bridge Bunnies are mostly used to shout the plot at us, as you’d expect when the apocalypse is coming down and has to be carefully monitored. (At least they avoided saying that Lilith’s power levels were over nine thousand.) Ritsuko, meanwhile, also gets to meet a bad end, mostly due to the astonishing idea that she thought that the computers (i.e. her mother) would side with her over Gendo. I mean really, has she met her mother? That said, she too gets a better exit which is more satisfying, both for her and for us. (Who here wasn’t wanted to shoot Gendo in the throat? Come on, let’s not always see the same hands…)
We end on a cliffhanger, with Giant Rei towering over all, and Shinji having dream flashbacks to Yui trying to tell him something, only he’s not quite sure what it is. I’m not sure if everything will be resolved in the next volume, or even whether that volume will come out before I die. And I suspect this will all end in tears. But at least I’ll be able to look back on the cast and say they tried their best, which is more than I could say for the anime. (The new movies, I hear, are trying to do something similar.) Recommended, especially for those who enjoy seeing Shinji achieve things.