By Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and GAINAX. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Shonen Ace. Released in North America by Viz Media.
Well, the party’s over. As if it weren’t obvious from the events at the end of the previous omnibus, the light and fluffy ‘everyone is slightly more tolerable’ manga antics end here, as these three volumes are a brutal kick in the teeth reminding us over and over again that humanity is desperately fighting to survive… and that most of the people in charge actually have a different agenda OTHER than fighting to survive. And, just as we finally add our last major cast member, we also get the first of our major cast deaths. There will be more.
The Evangelion fandom doesn’t use “I mustn’t run away” as a meme for no good reason. This volume sees Shinji in a constant cycle of attempting to flee from his destiny and the responsibilities being thrown at him, and constantly being drawn back as he’s unable to just let everyone else get annihilated. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he gets to accomplish anything here – he returns, but is basically “sat in the corner” by his father, who punishes him by having him watch everyone get annihilated without his help ANYWAY. The manga is less emotive than the anime, with characters at times seeming to underreact to horrible crises, but that’s unsurprising – the pace of the manga is such that there is a state of constant danger, and I imagine after a while the senses just get numbed.
There’s a lot of backstory here. Kaji’s is designed to make him both more likeable and more vulnerable. For all that we like to pretend that we wouldn’t crack under the threat of death, the reality is that we probably would. And so much of Kaji’s life has revolved around finding out the real reason that things happened the way they did – an attempt to expose what led to his own actions. Shinji at one point notes that Misato still loves him, and indeed he’s clearly in love with her, but these are two people, like the rest of the cast, who are unable to grasp at the happiness that could be theirs. As for the other flashback, Fuyutsuki seems to be the perfect “follower”, and Gendo seems even worse than we’d originally suspected. As for Yui, I suspect that she’s being idolized in the memories of both Fuyutsuki and Shinji when we see her, but I agree that it’s easy to see Gendo could have genuinely loved her.
And then there’s Asuka and Rei. I’ve said before that I find manga Asuka far more likeable, and the counter argument to that is that she’s involved in the manga plotline so much less than in the anime, so doesn’t get the time to be irritating. Asuka’s backstory is also shown to us, which is bad news for her, as backstory in this manga is always followed by trauma. Asuka’s attempts to take out the Angel are interrupted by it raping her – yes, yes, mentally, but given that she screams “don’t come inside me” at one point, I think the distinction is fairly irrelevant here. It’s the most horrific we’ve ever seen the Angel attacks, and she comes away from it basically comatose. Rei, meanwhile, is struggling with a distance growing between her and Gendo as she and Shinji grow closer. Ritsuko seems to realize that Rei is growing more human and less doll-like, something that nearly drives her to murder. This, naturally, leads up to the cliffhanger for this omnibus, showing Rei’s “last stand”.
As for Kaworu, it’s interesting that he arrives right as Kaji departs, given his presence as “the mole”. He’s shipped with Shinji a bit harder than in the anime, with Shinji’s “have some sense of personal space” going unheeded. And the scene with the kitten shows a somewhat unbreakable wall between his own value system and that of the First Child. Nevertheless, you can even see Kaworu getting caught up in the struggle against the Angels, and wonder if he’s oing to be a double/triple/quadruple agent the way Kaji was.
The plot may be going places I don’t want it to go, but the writing is still top notch, with a complete inability to put the book down. The news that the manga will end with Chapter 95 in June means that this is likely to be 5 omnibuses (14 volumes) long, and thus this volume begins the second half of the story. It’ll be hard to make things even more tense after this, but I’m sure we’ll find a way.