Friday, January 15, 2016

CBR Evangelion The Iron Maiden 2nd

Since I made my original Evangelion review pretty huge and detailed, I'll try to do much simpler shorter reviews for these spinoff series. Specially considering they're actually the complete opposite of the original cult Gainax series!

Fly me to the moon, and let me review Evangelion among different mediums:

Comic title: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Iron Maiden 2nd also known under the title Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days, originally titled Shin Seiki Evangelion Kōtetsu no Girlfriend 2nd
Written & drawn by Fumino Hayashi

Published by Kadokawa Shoten (ADV Manga in the USA/Glénat in most of Europe)/Gainax/Studio Khara 
From 2003–2005
Lineup Evangelion series/AU/Shōjo manga
Format: Tankōbon/Manga-sized softcover trade paperback.

Considered by many anime purists a seminal work of fiction. Love it or hate it, you have to admit Neon Genesis Evangelion is a cult classic vintage anime that covers so many subjects and tropes now common to the entire medium. In fact it was designed by creator Hideaki Anno and the rest of the crew at Gainax as their ultimate tribute to everything they loved growing up.

Giant robots. Giant monsters. Post-apocalpytic science-fiction. Fanservice. And deep physiological questions. Thrown in the mix with some talks about God, mankind as a species and some oedipus complex and you got an idea of Eva.

But you know what missing? School drama!

What if Evangelion had been... a shojo manga?

Wikipedia tells me us "shōjo, shojo, or shoujo manga is manga aimed at a teenage female readership". And that's exactly what Evangelion The Iron Maiden 2nd is.

This very first spinoff is exactly that - "Evangelion, the Shojo"! Originally released under the title Neon Genesis Evangelion: the Iron Maiden 2nd, it's also known under the name Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days in North America.

"The Iron Maiden 2nd" takes a cue from the 1998 visual novel Eva game Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel/Neon Genesis Evangelion: Iron Maiden, hence the title. In fact it is considered a manga adaptation of that game.

Since the Girlfriend of Steel games took a lot more interest in the romantic angle, it was only natural to make the manga a shojo title.

Where the game kept the same general art style as the anime, this manga was allowed to have its own style and interpretation of the characters.

This series was written and illustrated by mangaka Fumino Hayashi. This Iron Maiden series was published by Kadokawa Shoten from 2003 to 2005 and was collected in 6 volumes. It was translated into English (as "Angelic Days") by ADV Manga, and by Glénat in Europe.

Iron Maiden is basically a look into the world seen in the dream sequence so many fans loved in the final episode of the TV series, almost giving a much happier ending to Evangelion.

Like I wrote above, the story takes inspiration from the final episode of the anime series, in this alternate world Shinji imagined for a moment.

In this universe, the characters from the show are given a much lighter happier life, cast in this high school romantic comedy.

It can be basically summarized like this: what if Shinji still had both of his parents (still working at NERV, mind you)? What if Asuka was really a childhood friend of Shinji, and Rei was not a clone anymore but simply a transfer student and distant relative of his? And Misato was their teacher at school?

Yes. Shinji's mother, Yui Ikari, is still alive and well here (so are Asuka's parents), working alongside Gendo on some science lab projects.

From then on, the manga mostly focus on their relationships with one another, with a Shinji a bit less boring (but still not much reactive). The girls both love Shinji and it's as basic a romantic comedy goes.

Strangely the Evas and the plugsuits also make an appearance despite lacking the proper explanation behind their roles. The Evas and the Angels start popping up in the 2nd volume and they're quite never explained...

It's a fairly silly and basic shojo series. I guess even if you're a fan of the genre, that won't really be the appeal of this series.

The idea is just to offer some more Evangelion to fans. It was purely made to cash in on the brand name, and they decided to go with the romantic route since the female characters have alwaysd bene the bigger sellers on the show. And to explore the much happier setting glimpsed in the show's finale.

Here Shinji still has some issues with his dad Gendo, but they're just due to the workaholic nature of his father.

The threat of the Angels remains, despite the reader's never been given any proper information as to what or why (not that the anime explained that much more, although we knew they were trying to prevent the end of the world at the very least).

Nerv, the Evas, the Angels and the plugsuits really seem out of place in the series, I wouldn't have minded if they had only kept the characters but entirely ditched the entire mythos. That dream sequence in the anime never suggested Evas also existed in that reality...

Parts of this shojo take seem to work well with these characters and setting, others.. not so much. Since the author didn't keep the darkness and the whole post-apocalyptic, he should have cut a few ties from the original anime along the way as well...

No really, what kind of tests are they running and did we really need to keep the plugsuits?? He should have just made Gendo and Yui some generic scientists I think.

Also, Kaworu is quite never really explained. Because, yes, he also comes back. And he's also a childhood friend of Shinji's. There's a few odd weird hints at his real identity through the series, but his real purpose or feelings are never really said. You could even say this is in fact the real Kaworu from the main reality of the Evangelion series. He seems to have a mysterious past and NERV's trying to find his secrets.. But that is all!

It's a fairly cliché shojo, with a lot of cheesy shojo FXs and tropes.

The author's favorite character seems to have been Asuka from the start, since he turned this broken girl from the original series into the most developed and interesting character here. The romance doesn't feel that forced when you think about it, but since it's a shojo manga expect it to be the main focus of most discussions between the protagonists.

The best thing to come out of this entire story in my eyes is that we finally see Kensuke join Toji and Kaworu as a backup pilot for Rei, Asuka and Shinji! Finally! He even gets a plugsuit costume like the rest, even though he doesn't have his own mecha.

Set in this fan-favorite alternate world of the famous episode 26, this shojo takes Evangelion into a much lighter direction. Focusing on relationships. It's kind of dumb when you think about it. It could have been made a bit more decent if they kept the characters as interesting as in the anime and didn't force so many elements of the main series (like I said, the Evas, the Angels, etc.).

The art is not that great to be frank. It's generally ok, with all the stereotypical details you get from these sort of shojo mangas. But there's some really bad and awkward panels more than a few times, and the characters even get barely recognizable several times... And let's not even talk about the really confusing Eva battles where it's impossible to understand which Eva's depicted or what is happening...

Overall, The Iron Maiden 2nd/Angelic Days is Evangelion's spinoffs at their strangest. Only keeping some of the characters recognizable, throwing them in a completely different universe, forcing random Eva plotpoints and barely keeping it all on model...

It's a really strange mix... But I'd say even if you're not a fan of these type of shojo mangas, it's Worth a Look if anything to see these characters in a silly high school romantic comedy setting. But you really have to be a fan of Evangelion, I doubt this is much interesting if you're not familiar with the series. It's pretty bland and generic with a lot of inconsistencies. The characters are quite fr from the original troubled teenagers trying to make sense of the world from the machinations of the adults they were on the anime. It's a far less bleak view of the world, but they also lost their original interesting personas.

The series lasted for 6 volume, published between November 2003 and December 2005. The story is all over the place. The first volume starts pretty fun and light hearted enough, but it was just a pretext to see these characters in romantic situations. As the 4 volumes progress we get to see some Angel invasions, but the mundane slice-of-life shojo manga feel is always kept. Asuka gets increasingly jealous as she finds herself attracted to Shinji. Rei is satisfied with her unrequited love for Shinji. And Toji's dating Kirari (who we barely saw in the anime). By the end of volume 4, they're all dispatched all over the world. Volume 5 takes place in a flashback of Gendo and Yui's youths, how these two started dating. The last volume is a flashforward set after the events of volume 4, all the characters are now older grown ups, after loose ends in their lives, tying the story together.  Oh, and Shinji is now Asuka's boyfriend!

The best volume is easily volume 5, exploring Gendo and Yui's past.

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Bobobos!

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