In the realm of the Neon Genesis Evangelion universe, there have been theories, side stories, and alternate universes that arose from the content of the original series. Among the alternate universes that have been played at, three made it into manga format: Angelic Days, The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse. I’ll save the reviews of the first two for another time. As for Campus Apocalypse, hereafter shortened to CA, this review can only recount and analyze a piece of work that is the weakest of the set. But why is this series so awful? We’ll delve into the main factors surrounding that mystery. We’ll look at the story, artwork, and characters that make up the four volumes made of twenty-two chapters that comprise CA.
The first thing we notice in reading CA is the story. An original story by the author known as Mingming, CA follows the one and only Shinji Ikari as he teams up with Asuka, Rei, and Kaworu, as they battle the angels. Now, while this may sound like business as usual in an Evangelion series, there are some key differences to note. The most noticeable difference is the absence of the giant mechs known as Evangelion, or Evas for short. While the Evas were arguably the most iconic part of the original television series, they have been repackaged for CA as small hand held weapons, such as a pistol, a sword, a whip, and lance. The lance, wielded by Rei, is in the shape of the Lance of Longinus from the original series and serves as one of the few reminders that this is indeed an Evangelion series. Another change is that of NERV. Once the global defense conglomerate that did battle with the giant beings known as angels, NERV has been changed to that of a religious preparatory school. And while we’re discussing the angels, it should be mentioned that they are no longer giant amorphous beings that attack humanity. They have been replaced with humanoid characters that have managed to conceal themselves in human society. Now, the story begins with an unsuspecting Shinji accidentally coming upon the other three as they do battle with the angels late one night. Shinji manages to get mixed up in the fight and is subsequently recruited to join the secret team in battling the angels. The story never really evolves from this point and explores one very short, and poorly paced story arc. For the majority of the series, Shinji tries to fit in with the group and figure out what the angels are after. The angel’s goals are very simple, world domination. However, the real threat comes from within the group in the form of Shinji’s father: Gendo. Gendo only wants to resurrect his wife Yui and will sacrifice Shinji in order to accomplish this. This is a plot that never gets developed properly and in fact seems tossed in at the end.
Next, we’ll take a look at the artwork of the series. Because this is an alternate universe telling of the original story, there were some necessary changes made. The school uniforms are drastically different from the original series and look more like the standard NERV uniforms worn by the staff from the original series. The only glaring difference is Kaworu’s suit which adds a bit of flare to a character who was pretty flat for most of this series. Other than the character art, the background work tends to never be properly balanced. At times going for a minimalist look, and becoming jumbled and confusing at others. The art also lacks great detail at any level and reeks of a series that was greatly rushed. Overall, the art in this series lacks any creativity and makes the experience more of a chore than it already is.
Lastly, we take a look at the characters that comprise this story. While changes to the personalities of the main cast have not changed much in some instances, in others, they are taken to extremes. None more so than that of Rei Ayanami. If original series Rei was a stoic enigma, CA Rei is nothing short of a moving statue. Rei lacks any emotions whatsoever in CA. So much so that when she does finally show some, she gets shot in the back of the head by Gendo. In essence, CA Rei makes original series Rei look like original series Asuka. Asuka is another case of over doing certain characteristics. Her disdain for Shinji, the angels, and well, pretty much everything, overshadows any positive aspects of her character. This makes her incredibly unlikable. Shinji’s character has been somewhat balanced from the original work. Much less of a whiny angst ridden teen and more of a go-getter, Shinji manages to become more likable in his main character role. Kaworu is really the only one who remains unchanged. He still has odd feelings regarding Shinji, which leads to a few minor comedic moments. Other than that. He is still the same enigmatic being whose popularity is still a mystery.
Overall, Campus Apocalypse is a series that falls well short of it’s predecessors. It never manages to allow the reader to escape the feeling that this is a completely different and poorly written series that had Evangelion concepts slapped onto it in order to make money. It almost feels like the author wrote a fanfic for the X-Files and replaced the cast with Evangelion characters. The characters are far removed from their original concepts and are far too bland to be interesting. Among the alternate universe manga, Campus Apocalypse will most certainly be forgotten and discarded as a failed attempt at originality.