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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Manga Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion Comic Tribute

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Comic Tribute
Authors/Artists: Listed below
Editor: Young Ace Magazine
Dark Horse Comics
156 pages
If you thought Evangelion's characters have a tough time in the anime, wait until you see what happens when some of Japan's most unhinged manga artists get their ink-stained hands on them! Neon Genesis Evangelion: Comic Tribute is an officially authorized one-shot anthology of parody stories assaulting Evangelion from all directions. Inside, Mine Yoshizaki (Sgt. Frog) leads a band of manga pranksters including Hideki Ohwada (The Legend of Koizumi), Yun Kouga (Loveless), Nawoki Karasawa (Sake Jock, Super Cruel and Terrible Tales of Manga-ka), Yoko Sanri (B Gata H Kei: Yamada's First Time), ComiPo! mastermind Keiichi Tanaka, Rui Takato (Cynthia the Mission), Astroguy II (Queen's Blade Struggle), Kotaro Yamada (The Sacred Blacksmith), Sessyu Takemura (Domin-8 Me!), Jun Abe (Portus) and Tony Takezaki (Space Pinchy. A.D. Police). Also contains contributions from normal people, like Rikdo Koshi (Excel Saga). (Source: Dark
I never thought I'd be reviewing a doujinshi collection but that is exactly what Dark Horse Comics has presented us: a collection of doujinshi shorts centered around Neon Genesis Evangelion, written and illustrated by a wide variety of established manga-ka (although most of them are better known in Japan than in the United States). Dark Horse seems to be the place to go for Evangelion spin-off manga since Viz has the actual manga firmly in its grasp for eternity. Honestly, as far as short collections go, it's not the worst but it certainly won't appeal to everyone, especially casual fans who aren't tuned in to every reference and in-show nuance of Evangelion's ever-growing canon.

One thing that stood out to me is that the majority of the manga-ka who contributed to the Comic Tribute are of the ecchi/hentai variety - and it shows in their work. A lot of them use this opportunity to make a lot of perverted jokes (usually at Shinji's expense) and draw a boat load of fan service centered around the women of NERV. So if you enjoy panty shots and Asuka's breasts, you will probably enjoy a lot of Comic Tribute? A lot of the fan service is played for laughs with the exception of the Asuka art in "Shinji and Asuka's Hot Day" by Ran Igarashi, which despite the title is a surprisingly thoughtful take on Shinji and Asuka's relationship.
Other than boobs, a lot of the jokes in this volume rely on the reader having an extensive knowledge of Neon Genesis Evangelion - the TV series, the films, the Rebuild, even some of the spin-off manga gets referenced. A whole chapter is dedicated to the various neuroses of Hideaki Anno, and another chapter tackles the same rumor discussed in the Anno 4-koma - that Evangelion was originally planned for a live action series. Ergo, readers with a casual knowledge of Evangelion or no knowledge at all will find themselves enjoying it far lass than the target audience: the certified, unapologetic EVA nerd.
As with any story collection, some of the chapters fell flat. For me, even with being familiar with the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service series, the chapter that somehow references it ("Don't You Dare Dance Like You Want To Win!" by Hayato Aoki) did nothing for me. The all-canine version of the first episode of Evangelion was cute but there was little beyond the cuteness, no substance to speak of. Also, I wish Yun Kouga's chapter had been longer! I love her LOVELESS series and I enjoyed her take on Kaworu and Shinji but it felt like, as the only serious piece in the Comic Tribute, Kouga got shortchanged by page length.
In the end, Neon Genesis Evangelion Comic Tribute is perfect for people who are huge Evangelion fans and are familiar with most or all of the contributing manga-ka. However, I imagine that might be a smaller demographic than Dark Horse was hoping to reach with this collection. For everyone else, it'll be a hit or miss volume at best – although I'd imagine readers picking up an Evangelion parody comic has some knowledge of the anime or at least the Rebuild series. Having said that, if Dark Horse was really hoping to drum up interest in its latest NGE acquisition – the spin-off manga Shinji Ikari Detective Diary – then they have succeeded, at least with me. Shinji and Kaworu in a Sherlock Holmes scenario? Sign me up, please.
(Hey, OASG just reviewed this too! Check it out!)