By Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and GAINAX. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazines Shonen Ace and Young Ace. Released in North America by Viz Media.
This fourth omnibus from Viz will be the last for a while, as Japan hasn’t even announced when the final volume is coming out yet. I assume it will be released simultaneously here and Japan, as Vol. 13 was, and that there will be a gap between that any any 5th omnibus. That said, there’s more than enough here to keep Evangelion fans busy. So much happens in this omnibus that it’s a bit difficult to know where to begin. One thing is for certain, though, and that’s the ongoing massacre of everyone Shinji loves and holds dear is still going to happen. Business as usual, folks.
Kaworu was introduced far earlier in each successive adaptation of Evangelion, probably as fans took him so quickly to their hearts. That doesn’t mean that he gets to be all warm and fuzzy, though he’s trying. I think it’s clear he wants to comfort Shinji and make him feel better, but he has no idea how people deal with grief – or indeed, emotions in general. He tries to make up for that by physical closeness, but Shinji, who’s already somewhat sexually confused due to simply being a teenager, lashes out at him. The manga makes things bigger – both Shinji’s rejection of Kaworu’s advances of friendship (or something more), and of his admitting how close Kaworu really got to him. In the end, Kaworu wanting Shinji to kill him manages to be rather heartwarming and sweet, in an Evangelion way.
And, in the opposite direction from heartwarming and sweet, we have Ritsuko, who has realized all along that Gendo is using her like he uses everyone else, but has been too wrapped up in her desire for him to really try to do anything about it. Gendo throwing her to the wolves of SEELE seems like it was a wake-up call, and she proceeds to give him the biggest ‘fuck you’ that she possibly can, with Misato and Shinji as witnesses. The idea of Rei being a clone is something that we’ve basically accepted, particularly given we see her get killed early on in this volume and then show up with the same body but without the emotional attachment to Shinji she had grown over the series. Despite that, the scene showing all the Rei bodies in the vat, waiting to be the next one, has not lost any of its power. It’s almost a relief that a suicidal and self-loathing Ritsuko destroys them all.
I talked last time about how Asuka gets much less to do in the manga, and that’s still true in this volume – until the end. Sticking her in her Eva may have been a safety precaution, but it was also the best possible thing for her psyche, as she manages to come to terms with what her mother was to her – and then goes to town on SEELE’s invading Evas, in the most glorious battle sequence we have seen to date in the series. Seeing Asuka, who has spent her entire life overcompensating for feeling useless and unwanted, take out these fakes with strength and purity of heart, is a beautiful thing, even if she can’t quite save the entire day. Mostly as it’s questionable as to whether there will be a tomorrow to be saved.
Because the JSSDF is invading NERV, and the orders are to kill everyone – even people who surrender, even people begging for their life. This we see, and it’s absolutely terrifying. It comes to the point where only Shinji in his Eva can save the day, but he is absolutely emotionally dead after everything that has happened to him (and remember, the timeline for the manga seems to be far faster than the anime one). Luckily, he has Misato,who gets her finest hour in the final part of this volume at the same time that Asuka is getting hers. Misato has always sort of straddled that line with Shinji between feelings of a mother, of a sister, and of a woman. It fits well with the rest of the series, where Shinji can’t tell if he loathes or is attracted to Kaworu, Ritsuko’s desire merges with her anger, and Gendo imprints her dead wife onto a clone that is both her and not her at the same time – something that she gets but he may not. All of these things are what makes up humanity – and that’s what Misato has to convince Shinji to save.
Has she done that? Well, you can get Vol. 13 right now and see for yourself, but whether we manage to get an ending that isn’t covered in orange goo is another matter. The manga has ended in Japan, so it’s a matter of Kadokawa scheduling the final volume. either way, it’s been an amazing ride. The manga world of Evangelion is still my favorite.