Mai-HiME but with angels.
So, recently, and at long last, I gave the Evangelion manga a try. Yes, yes – “the”, because if it weren’t the original, I’d be saying “Oh, I gave Evangelion Angelic Days a try.” or “I decided to give Evangelion Shinji Ikari Raising Project a go – did you know its actually longer than the original manga even though it started serializing over ten years afterward?!” Which I suppose brings us to our third option, Neon Genesis Evangelion Campus Apocalypse, a manga which ended up in my possession probably because a friend was clearing shelf space and when they heard me say “Evangelion” figured I was an easy mark. So here we are.
Campus Apocalypse is a loose adaptation of the original Evangelion story, taking place at a Catholic school in Tokyo where a seemingly far less psychologically damaged Shinji attends school. In this version, angels are still attacking Earth, but do so by possessing the corpses of the dead, as they lack physical bodies themselves. And here, instead of giant robots, the Evas are personalized weapons that are generated by their own users. Shinji ends up roped into the whole mess after having followed classmate Rei and transfer student Kaworu because his curiosity is piqued after having seen the two together the evening before, only to witness them acting as if they are strangers when Kaworu is introduced to the class. In the course of following the pair, he stumbles into a battle with an Angel, and so it goes.
Shinji is introduced to this new side of his life primarily by Kaworu, who, based on my knowledge of the TV series, seems to have undergone the biggest change in personality from the main storyline to here, as he comes across as not in the slightest bit alien. Kaworu takes the time to explain to Shinji that he and the others (Rei and Asuka) are battling Angels in order to preserve the tree Yggdrasil, which supports the entire world, as well as countless others. Much of the rest of the larger picture, though, is left fairly vague at this point.
Honestly, I was reminded of nothing more than Mai-HiME here, given the campus setting, the fights against deadly beings, and the implications of past trauma for the key players. Really, the whole thing just feels very, very generic – Shinji’s a reluctant would-be hero, Asuka’s is apparently nice to everyone except the lead guy, Rei is quiet, and Kaworu is only distinguishable from the Token Male Friend archetype by the fact that he isn’t a stupid pervert. Even the setting is pretty bland – this isn’t an Ohtori Academy or an Ouran High in the slightest. Given the presence of ‘campus’ in the title, you’d kind of expect the school itself to stand out a bit more. Actually, ‘bland’ may be the operative word here overall, as the art itself is pretty unremarkable, too. If it weren’t for the Evangelion tie-in, I have doubts that most would ever look at this one twice based on the first volume.
Dark Horse’s work here is generally fine, although they are a little too wedded to being friendly to the segment of the market that gets really mad when one replaces ‘kawaii’ with ‘cute’, as ‘baka’ appears several times untranslated. Curiously, the color pages at the front of the book are done on the same paper as the rest of the volume, unlike the glossy paper one usually gets with color pages. Mind you, it really doesn’t make any difference – its not as if these pages themselves are anything special, and one wonders a bit why bother with the color for them at all.
(Is it worth mentioning that my friends copy came with a Borders pricetag still attached? I can’t quite bring myself to detach it even though I never like leaving on pricetags…)
I think there are two very different groups for whom Campus Apocalypse will be of any interest – Evagelion diehards (and I suspect that they’ll be disappointed anyway) and people who are very new to manga (who won’t notice how generic it is and who may find it an easier way to ease into the franchise as a whole). There just isn’t enough here that is novel for me to recommend it. If you were looking for a series that fits the word ‘mediocre’ to a T, this one’s a good bet. I’ll be finishing it myself, but only because its all in my possession already; otherwise, I’d pass at this point.