Reviewby Lissa Pattillo, Sep 15th 2010
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse
It all begins with some simple curiousity – who is that guy that Rei Ayanami is hanging out with?! Shinji follows his classmate one night to discover the relationship between her and the new transfer student yet suddenly finds himself both witness and victim to a battle over a powerful ‘core’. Under attack by a wandering consciousness in possession of human corpses, aptly called ‘Angels’ for their appearance, Shinji becomes a surprise table-turner in the fight. In light of his ability, he's brought into the fold, revealing a secret group of students in his school fighting the Angels to retrieve the cores and save the world by wielding their own personal Evas.
Campus Apocalypse is another spin-off series that takes the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion and plops them down into alternate-universe based scenario. The plot takes off pretty quick in this first volume, eager to divulge its supernatural and science-based components to weave a story that brings together the conversant crew. Shinji, around whom the story revolves, becomes involved when he inadvertently witnesses Ayanami and Kaworu – two of his fellow students - engaged in a fight with an ‘angel’. Things get messy during this first encounter and, rather expectantly, Shinji exhibits some adrenalin-fuelled abilities that lead him to be inducted into their little underground society. Said group sports a secret underground base-of-sorts and access to the world tree – the life source of their world and multiple dimensions networking with it.
In order to battle the ‘angels’, the protectors of the tree wield their own speciality weapons that are manifestations of their inner selves. These accessories are called Evas but don't expect any big city stomping mechs. Asuka wields a whip, Kaworu a sword and Ayanami a recognizable spear. All seem pretty suiting to their users, though Shinji's eventual acquisition of a spirit gun seems a little odd. Sure it matches his try-not-to-get-too-involved attitude but seeing him swing around a pistol is still weird none the less.
The book keeps to a pretty evenly laid out pace, starting with some mundane but character-defining everyday routine (involving some entertaining Shinji-sort-of-stalking Ayanami sequences) before transitioning into the fight scene that sets things into motion. From there it moves into exposition-mode. Things sag around this middle portion as pages get progressively wordier. The explanation of the ‘world's tree’ is fairly straight-forward yet also a bit convoluted, hopefully leading to more potentially dramatic content instead of just being mysterious for the sake of being mysterious.
Shinji predictably begins his road of debate of whether or not he wants to participate in this apparently waging war. Seeing Shinji with some conviction is nice yet the cliché-dripping execution of his resolve (“I just don't want to see anyone I know get hurt.”) just reads too expectedly and average of a hundred characters before him to feel very exciting. This even despite it being during a fight scene with an Angel-possessed woman that makes up the volume's ending chapter. It's not that wanting to save people, and not have others need to save you all the same time, isn't a good reason per say, but it just feels purely for plot-purpose over thought and will likely leave some fans of the original missing his more selfish but relatable disposition.
The personalities of the well-known lead cast of Shinji, Ayanami, Kaworu and Asuka are all relatively intact, though it's amazing what a lack of immediate Daddy-issues can do for Shinji. Kaworu is also notably less creepy but the story still plays on fans' knowledge of his original interactions, poking at some amusing assumptions early on in light of Kaworu's quick interest in his classmate. Poised to become even more relevant over time, familiar-faced classmates, teachers and campus nurses are also present with others undoubtedly hiding in the wings waiting for their time to spring out.
By-appearance, all the returning characters will be instantly recognizable as their original counterparts without merely looking like trace-overs of the original look. The book is an overall impressive artistic piece for the creator's first graphic novel length work, bearing only a few little ticks here and there that lack notable polish. There are some inconsistent transitions between close-ups that often clutter up some dramatic scenes while certain action sequences prove a little difficult to follow for much the same reason. Individual shots throughout prove really eye-catching however, especially when the artist has more freedom with the designs - offering up some stand-out villains who, for better or worse, visually overshadow the leads when they appear for however brief a time.
The whole book sports good production values that include a full colour interior illustration and a well-designed front cover that compliments the artwork and should make for good flip-through reasoning on store shelves. The back of the book has an especially nicely laid out design as well, an area often overlooked on books but one that proves no less compelling for evidence of design quality. There are some points where the English adaptation reads a little oddly, a little too much care taken perhaps to imitating a teenager's speech patterns (Shinji likes his 'uh's and 'like's), but it's a fairly smooth overall experience. The book itself ends with some character sketches and a word from the book's English editor.
A pretty far cry from other alternate universe manga-takes on this anime classic, which tend to air on the side of simply cramming familiar faces into stereotypical-trimmings, Campus Apocalypse successfully tells its own story while using the original source material as fuel instead of fire. It's not the most unique story out there, and lucks some lustre because of it, but a fairly vibrant sense of pacing and some appealing artwork make this an introductory volume that's capable of providing some decent entertainment to those both new and old to the franchise.
Overall : B-
Story : C+
Art : B
+ An interesting mix of supernatural and science that works with the elements of NGE while still being accessible to those who haven't seen the original; strong artwork that suits both existing characters and new elements; generally good action scenes
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