by Sadamoto Yoshiyuki / GAINAX
Kadokawa Comics
KCA12-1 volume 1
KCA12-2 volume 2
¥560 each

Kadokawa recently has been bombarding the market with titles that have been turned into anime shows and anime that has been converted back into the manga format. SLAYERS, GUNDAM X, TENCHI MUYO, ESCAFLOWNE, B'tX, and more can be found in prime spots at the local Japanese bookstores. And now under their "A" series, Kadokawa is releasing compilations of the SHINSEIKI EVANGELION manga.
The manga originally appeared in the monthly SHONEN ACE A (Boys Ace A) manga magazine. Note that the first compilation volume contains material from February to July of 1995, starting eight months before the first anime episode aired on October 4th. The second volume covers August 1995 to February 1996.
What is the EVANGELION manga about? Drawn by Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, character designer for the anime, the manga is a close variation of the television show which ended in March. Since the manga follows the premise of the popular animation, only a very brief plot summary is provided.
In 2015, 15 years after the disaster which caused the Antarctic Polar Icecap to melt and referred to as the "Second Impact," mysterious entities called "Angels" are attacking Tokyo-3 for unknown reasons. To fight back, the secret UN agency NERV has developed the Evangelion unit: a "Multi-Purpose Humanoid Fighting Machine". However, these Eva units can only be piloted by a few special people. Fourteen-year-old Ikari Shinji, the protagonist, is the third candidate suddenly thrust into a role of piloting an Evangelion.
During the first Angel attack on Tokyo-3, Shinji arrives, completely in the dark about NERV and its purpose, the threat of the Angels, and the reason for being summoned by his father. The first volume deals with the major events that occurred in episodes one and two of the television anime, while the second volume is related to episodes three and four.

Initially the manga is very similar to the plot of the anime with subtle differences. For instance, in the manga's initial escape scene with Misato and Shinji driving away from the attacking Angel, Rei in Unit 0 engages the Angel briefly before the N2-mine was dropped. The anime didn't introduce Unit 0 till much later. And Shinji's fateful first battle occurs as a real-time event instead of being shown as a flashback. Many scenes happen in different locations, and in general the manga contains expanded character interactions.
The second volume starts to play with events more. Stage 11-12 in the manga can easily be directly compared with episode 4's "Hedgehog's Dilemma" plot. For example, in the anime we see Misato drive to the station (after a conversation with Ritsuko) and wait silently outside when she sees him on the empty platform and expects him to board the train. In the manga, she races to the train station from her apartment (after a conversation with Kensuke and Toji), hurries onto the platform and stops Shinji just before he boards the train. The manga is not a direct "film comic" but more a new look at the same story.
The artwork itself is very clear and easy to follow. Sadamoto Yoshiyuki has done an excellent job in reproducing on paper the character style he used in the TV anime, and he retains a constant quality throughout the volumes. The actions scenes are especially well done, and the flow of motion is easy to follow. The kana is sharp, and all the kanji has furigana alongside which is certainly a benefit to those learning Japanese.
Overall, EVANGELION is a compelling story, mixing standard robot elements with a intriguing plot and interesting characters. To those interested in joining the world of EVANGELION, or if you are an EVANGELION veteran wishing to add something new to your collection, I definitely recommend this series to you.

--Mark L. Johnson