Neon Genesis Evangelion: Anima, Vol. 1

By Ikuto Yamashita. Released in Japan as “Shin Seiki Evangelion Anima” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Dengeki Hobby. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Nathan Collins. Adapted by Peter Adrian Behravesh.

There have been so many spinoffs of Evangelion that it’s hard to keep track. In addition to the original TV series, the long-running manga, the current series of reboot movies, the video games, the manga based on the video games, the manga based on Episode 26’s “what if Eva were a dull harem anime” gag, the manga as a bizarre murder mystery, the gag anthology, the manga based on the gag anthology… in fact, it’s a bit surprising that one of the few spinoffs we haven’t seen is a continuation of the original. Now, granted, the original did sort of end definitively for most of the cast. But these light novels, which were serialized in the late 00s – early 10s, throw the last two episodes out and ask: what would happen if the Human Instrumentality Project failed, and it’s now three years later? The answer is more attacks, the return of some Angels, some very well-thought out battle sequences, but something missing at its core.

Three years later, Gendo and Ritsuko have disappeared and Fuyutsuki is retired, so Misato is in charge of NERV and the Evas, which are still around. Toji now has artificial limbs, and is working for NERV. Asuka has matured and is at peace with herself. Theoretically Shinji has as well, but as we find out many of the same struggles he had in the anime continue to plague him. Maya has apparently dealt with the loss of Ritsuko by turning herself INTO Ritsuko. And then there’s Rei. Actually, there’s four Reis. The plot kicks off when one of the Reis goes rogue and the others have to figure out why and what’s going on. As they do, we find the return of the mass-production Evas, now with Angels inside them, also seemingly attacking. Shinji dies (he gets better), the Lance of Longinus is once again terrifying, and almost two million people – including Hikari’s older sister – turn to salt, because what’s Evangelion without Biblical allegory?

The main issue I had with this book, I think, is that it doesn’t really settle down and take a breath at any point. The new characterization of the regulars could be interesting, but it never really gets a chance to do much before we’re plunged into the next battle – indeed, one of the Reis has a heartwarming talk with Asuka that would be fantastic if it weren’t the Evangelion equivalent of saying that she’s retiring tomorrow and has bought a boat. Likewise, I’m all for Asuka gaining maturity and peace, but there’s not really a lot explaining how it happened except for one or two token paragraphs, leading to the reader sensing that Asuka is more mature just because the authors didn’t want to write her as constantly angry. On the bright side, the plot is somewhat interesting if you don’t mind apocalypses, and the cliffhanger promises some interesting betrayal going on, though again we’re not actually given any details as to what happened.

Honestly, a lot of this reminds me of the old Evangelion continuation fanfics that were written about 20 years ago, throwing out the ending and doing their own thing. It only lacks the Original Characters the author inevitably threw in. I think Evangelion fans might like it – particularly those who like the mech aspect of the series. I just wanted a few more scenes of the characters hanging around and nothing much happening so that we could appreciate their being older and wiser(?).

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