Tuesday, February 9, 2016

CBR Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse

"The cruel angel's thesis will soon take flight through the window, with surging, hot pathos, if you betray your memories. Embracing this sky and shining, young boy become the legend!"

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

Comic title: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse, known as Shin Seiki Evangelion Gakuen Datenroku in Japan, aka Neon Genesis Evangelion: Academic Record of Heaven's Descent, alternatively also known as Neon Genesis Evangelion Academy: Record of Heaven's Descent
Written & drawn by Ming Ming

Published by Kadokawa Shoten (Dark Horse Comics in the USA/Tonkam in most of Europe)/GAINAX/Studio Khara 
From 2007–2009
Lineup Evangelion series/AU/Shonen 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 interrogations about life! Along questions regarding God, mankind as a species and some oedipal issues and you got an idea of what Eva is about.

Of course after the success of the TV series and due to the slow schedule of the official manga, a few spinoff series were launched over the years to satisfy the fan demand. After a first shojo manga, The Iron Maiden 2nd, an ecchi comedy series, Shinji Ikari Raising Project, and a comic strip parody,
Petit Eva, a 4th spinoff was launched in October 2007.

This time it's an action/drama/scifi/fantasy shonen series!

What if Evangelion was a pure action series?

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse is the 4th and one of the most recent Evangelion spinoffs. Mostly focusing around the pilots of the original series while completly omitting the Evangelion robots themselves.

Despite being published in a "shojo" magazine (for girls), this spinoff is a far more typical "shonen" manga (for boys) with a lot more emphasis on fights, action and science-fiction elements while completely keeping any romance or fan service aside this time.

And it just feels like a more generic, typical shonen adventure series.

Campus Apocalypse (also known as Academic Record of Heaven's Descent or sometimes Evangelion Academy: Record of Heaven's Descent) is one of the more action packed iterations of the series.

It was written and illustrated by mangaka Ming Ming, and published through Kadokawa Shoten in Japan (Dark Horse Comics in America). It ran for 4 volumes from October 2007 to December 2009.

Campus Apocalypse/Gakuen Datenroku  sees the return of all of Evangelion's familiar faces - Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami, Kaworu Nagisa, Asuka Langley Soryu, Toji Suzuhara or even Misato Katsuragi - only this time the mythos is completely rewritten without the giant robots.

In this alternate reality, Shinji is living a rather boring life. He attends a catholic school (that's right!!), the NERV Foundation Academy. Since his mother died and his father went abroad, he's been living at his legal guardian's, Kaji (and not Misato for a change, who's here just a teacher at school).

One night Shinji witnesses an usual fight between some kind of entity and his classmate Rei and this mysterious boy. The next day it turns out that boy from the previous night is this new transfer student Kaworu. In a fairly typical manga fashion (think Bleach and the likes) Shinji gets introduced to this world he never new existed in the fringe of society.

He's recruited alongside Rei, Kaworu and Asuka who have been fighting these "Angels". The angels are radically different from any other version of EVA. Here they're just manifestations that can possess human bodies and are trying to destroy humanity. To defeat them our heroes must remove the "cores" out of their human host bodies. What about the Evas? Here they're just manifestations of one's will in the form of magical weapons.

Shinji has a crush on Rei, a distant yet very talented quiet girl, and he develops a close friendships with Kaworu. Rei is seen using the spear of Longinus as a weapon, while Kaworu can generate an AT Field as a shield and a sword and our foreign exchange student Asuka gets a whip. Shinji discovers the Eva he can summon is a gun!

We get to see several familiar characters such as Toji, Kensuke, Hikari, Maya Ibuki and the other original NERV staff in different roles, retaining most of their original personalities despite it all. Gendo is first thought to be dead as well but he's actually working in the shadows...

The main gimmick of this spinoff is that despite reusing a lot of the same settings, characters and names it takes place in a completely different world which presents a radical departure from the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime and manga series.

The big differences revolving around the role of the Angels. Here they were originally the "guardians" of the tree of life Yggdrasil before they ran from their fate and got darker motives of their own. Which prompted the Yggdrasil to choose new protectors (the Eva pilots here). The Angels appear really different but sort of familiar, it all begins with a fight with the mysterious first angel Ramiel then Shamshel and more start coming soon. Their powers alluding to the original Angels in the show.

Gakuen Datenroku offers a pretty strange departure, but at least it's the first real proper original Evangelion spinoff that actually tries something different. So at least there's that. I'm not saying it's a particularly good offering.

Most of it revolving around a pretty original mythos of its own. Here the cores are needed to sustain the "world tree"  Yggdrasil.

Using some of the backstory originally glimpses in Evangelion as source material, Ming Ming developed his own ideas and took the world tree as the foundation for his new ideas.

Some key elements still use parts of the overall narrative of Neon Genesis Evangelion, such as Shinji's mother Yui being killed in an old NERV experiment or Rei being an artificial child.

The whole mission to protect the world tree Yggdrasil is mostly a pretext for the backstory and stage all these fights against the Angel opponents.

The story at least tries to be original. The other spinoffs often took the form of parodies or romantic parodies, here it's a complete reimagining of Evangelion using similar basis (the Angels trying to destroy the world, and NERV fighting them back). Evas are not giant robots anymore but just magical weapons to summon.

There's still a ton of references and allusions to the anime though.

The art is pretty decent. The characters appear slightly older, but they're still recognizable. A few panels feel a bit empty at times, though. Otherwise it's decent. The cast is easily identifiable.

Overall, Neon Genesis Evangelion: Gakuen Datenroku is a pretty odd offering on first look, but it's actually pretty decent.

The world of Evangelion is completely reimagined. It's a lot closer to a Final Fantasy story than super robots series EVA was originally a tribute to.  Give it a Try!

There's a few odd ideas that might feel strange at first. The EVA weapons or the human-like Angels. The concept itself is very intriguing at first, even quite promising, but the plot and the narrative get pretty messy and convulsed as it goes on.

After 4 volumes you would expect a better ending. It is pretty sloppy. If only it could have stayed the course as captivating as the beginning...

The is good but a bit bland for Evangelion. There were some nice touches like the darker artwork and some of the more gothic elements, but otherwise it looks like a fairly generic manga.

I give it:
2 / 3 Bobobos!

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