The 2nd Dimension

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Reading Journal: Neon Genesis Evengelion - Angelic Days (complete)

Manga Overview
Book Info

Overall= B-
Story = B-
Art = C-


In this alternate retelling of Neon Genesis Evangelion everything is different. Shinji and Asuka have grown up together as childhood friends, Rei is the new kid at school, Misato is their teacher, NERV is just beginning to assemble teenagers for their experiments, and the second impact never happened. The story proceeds as a romance rather than an action series, with love triangles a-plenty. (Source: ANN)

I'll start out by saying what this manga is not. First, although it does begin with the alternate-universe scene from the series, the manga is not a sequel or prequel or tied in any direct way to the timeline of the original Evangelion TV series. Second, this manga will not give you any insight into the unsolved mysteries of the series' storyline, so fans who are hoping to uncover revelations into the series' plot best look elsewhere. Third, there is not a lot of action in this manga. There is a short battle or two, but it certainly won't satisfy those looking for high-intensity Eva/Angel action.

Despite all that, most of the major ideas are still here -- the Evangelions, NERV, Adam, the Angels, even Seele -- but they serve more as the context under which the characters develop their romances as a "kids trying to be kids during hard times" kind of story. Hints of mystery and intrigue are still here though; for instance, NERV's reason for their experiments on the children, and the origin of the white giant Adam. Plus the origins and intentions of Kaworu (whom fans will be happy to hear gets plenty of face time in this manga) and Rei, and their connections to NERV add to the intrigue. But again, these mysteries are more there to advance the romantic struggles and introspection of the characters than anything else.

Of course, the thing those fans will mostly react to -- for better or worse -- are how the characters' personalities are altered. Hardcore fans will vilify this as a bastardization of the original series since the manga lacks much of the series' angst. But those critics aside, I think this manga will fulfill a need in a lot of Eva fans because the characters are so much more open and... well... sane. The personalities are all still the same -- Shinji is still trying to please others and Rei is still unsure of herself -- only they have less neurosis, more extroversion, and overall a more relaxed, sometimes silly tone. Personally, I loved the emotional angst in series as much as anyone, but I still think that Angelic Days' alternative take was a refreshing change of pace.

The first four volumes cover Shinji and the gang during the days of the Angel attacks; but after that story arc wraps up, the fifth volume flashes back in time to tell about the budding romance between Gendo and Yui, then the final volume flashes forward in time to show everyone when they are older and basically ties up all the romantic threads that were covered in the first four volumes. Those last two volumes were a good way to wrap up the story, but since they don't have the backdrop of Eva and the Angels like in the first four volumes, they seem more like strait love stories.

The art of the manga is disappointing; but I think that is mainly due to the fact that it is so different from the original TV series and manga. Sure the character designs are familiar enough where you can tell who is who, but the style isn't as clean and the facial proportions just seem out of whack.

So in summary, Angelic Days is essentially Evangelion-lite, with hints of the some of the qualities of the series, but is as much -- if not more -- interesting in how it deviates from the original than how it is similar. The best way to think of it is as a fairly well done doujinshi that uses elements from the original series to create an "if only..." type of story. Whether or not you enjoy it depends on how much of a hardcore Evangelion purist you are and how much you enjoy shojo romance. As for those who have never been exposed to the original series, I can only imagine what your reaction would be.

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