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Original anime: Gainax
Original publication year: 1995
Finnish translation: 2006

NGE is a classic giant mecha anime and manga. It was originally an anime which I haven’t seen. The manga has 14 volumes and I believe it’s a reimagining rather than a faithful adaptation of the anime. It has also a series of movies which I believe are again different.

The story is set in year 2015. Fifteen years earlier, in 2000, a meteorite hit Earth and half of humanity died in the resulting events. Now, a giant mechanical thing, called an Angel, attacks Japan. Fortunately, the UN has a secret organization NERV which has built a giant mecha to fight it. The mecha requires a human pilot which in the beginning of the comic is Rei, a 14-year old girl.

Shinji Ikari is a depressed 14 year old boy. He feels that nobody cares if he lives or dies. He feels that his father abandoned him 10 years ago and his uncle has raised him.

However, one day his father sends a message that he wants to talk with Shinji and is sending a gorgeous woman to get him. But at the moment he’s supposed to meet her, a city-wide alarm is given and the citizens are evacuated. However, Shinji stays in the rendezvous place hoping to see his dad again. Instead, he sees a giant mecha battling an Angel. Then the woman arrives and, after dodging the fighting giants, manages to drive him to the headquarters of NERV.

The woman is Captain Misato Katsuragi and she brings Shinji to see his dad, who is the head scientist at NERV. He wants Shinji to operate the giant mecha, EVA-01. At first Shinji refuses. But then he sees the young girl who piloted EVA just moment ago. She’s badly hurt but willing to go to battle again. Shinji agrees to take her place. Everyone thinks it’s madness to put an untrained boy in the mecha but Shinji and EVA manage to repel the attack.

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In the second volume, Shinji feels even more down. His father won’t talk to him and he feels that the only value he has is as a pilot. He goes to a new school where one of the boys claims that Shinji is responsible for people who got hurt during his fight with the Angel. Shinji keeps to himself and even runs away.

While the manga has giant robots fighting, the main theme is relationships, especially between Shinji and Misato. Shinji’s dad has just one conversation with him, but he has profound impact on Shinji. Shinji is left yearning for his approval and love but it seems that his dad is incapable of giving them. Shinji’s uncle doesn’t appear. Shinji ends up living with Misato because she’s worried about his mental state, but Shinji thinks she’s just being charitable which seems to worsen his depression. On the one hand, this is a prime example of “Chosen one” trope because Shinji is able to “bond” with EVA quickly and on a very deep level. On the other hand, Shinji hates that he doesn’t have value as himself, just as a pilot. Duty is another strong theme.

The manga is quite dark and depressing. Things aren’t explained. If I remember correctly, the angels are never explained. However, it does have a few comedic scenes, mostly with Misato’s pet penguin.

Stylistically, it’s striking and cool. The NERV HQ is underground and EVA rises on a platform to do battle. But I didn’t care for the way that the few women characters are quite sexualized. Misato is shown in the shower and her cleavage is pointed out with arrows. Yes, the main character is 14-year old boy but still. However, Misato is good character: she’s competent in her job and has a fun side, as well. But she’s also Shinji’s superior so she must be hard on him when he disobeys her.

The first two volumes are a good start to the series, introducing the characters and the setting and diving into the relationships between the characters.