Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gakuen Datenroku – Final Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a manga “review” on this site.. This post is for Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gakuen Datenroku, which is one of the many NGE-based manga series. I’m not too sure why I picked up this series since I’m not that big of a NGE fan. I blogged about this series from late 2008 to early 2009, but stopped because I couldn’t find any new chapters for several months. The manga ended serialization in December 2009. I finally read the last chapter a month or two ago and it looked like the manga got canned and ended prematurely. Still, I thought I’d put a conclusion to my own coverage of the series with a final thoughts post, so here goes:

Rough description of the series (assuming you know the gist of Evangelion‘s story):
Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gakuen Datenroku (translated as NGE: Academic Record of Heaven’s Descent) is a manga by Ming Ming that ran from 2007 to 2009 in the shojo magazine Monthly Asuka. As a NGE spin-off, Gakuen Datenroku features most of the NGE characters that we have come to love (or hate) and the plot is still about young people from an organization called NERV using Evas to stop alien beings called Angels, but the details are very different from the original series. In Gakuen Datenroku, main characters Shinji, Rei, Asuka and company are students at a Christian academy run by NERV; Angels kill and inhabit human bodies and are after items called Cores; and the Evas are hand held weapons instead of gigantic robots.

– Gakuen Datenroku is one of several NGE-based manga series, but it stand out among them for two reasons. Firstly, the setting and details of Gakuen Datenroku are wide departures of the original. The story retains some plot elements from the original Evangelion (especially when it comes to character relationships), but the larger elements regarding NERV, the Angels and the Evas are completely different. Secondly, Gakuen Datenroku actually has a serious plot about fighting Angels. This is unlike the other NGE-based mangas which are either ecchi romantic comedies or parodies. I thought these two facts made the series a  more interesting read than its cousin series, but apparently not enough people thought so as the series seems to have ended prematurely.

–  I liked how the series retained many of the character personalities and relationships from the original series, the most prominent of which was the tension between Shinji and Gendo. Most of the characters from the original series retained their personalities, although the personalities of Shinji, Rei and Asuka are toned down slightly to make them a little more tolerable. The existence of these plot elements gave Gakuen Datenroku a familiar feeling despite its difference from the original. I also liked how Kaworu was a main character right at the start of the series. This led the way to a couple of amusing moments between him and Shinji.

– Being a series about fighting against the Angels, Gakuen Datenroku has a fair bit of action. Action is not bad at all, but Gakuen Datenroku spends quite a bit of time in between to set things up that can become a bit slow at times. Thanks to the abrupt ending, many of the story lines and characters from these build-up segments never actually went anywhere. The ending was pretty disappointing, especially since the build-up leading up to it was actually good. The plot steadily became more exciting but suddenly the story just ends and that was it.

– The art of Gakuen Datenroku is decent overall. All the characters from the original NGE are easily recognizable, but they’ve been skillfully adapted to author’s own style which is nicely proportioned. The style is very clean and it’s easy to make out what’s happening in every panel. However, the art is sometimes a little too “clean”. Shading and details are a bit sparse, and the lines are rigid to the point that they look artificial. This is particularly true in the last few chapters of the series. I personally prefer art style that have a flowing feeling to them, but the art of is Gakuen Datenroku appealing enough most of the time.

Overall, Gakuen Datenroku was an alright manga, although I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone other than Evangelion fans who are interested in all things Evangelion. It had the potential to become something more, and it was disappointing that the series ended quickly.

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