By Yushi Kawata and Yukito. Released in Japan as “Shin Seiki Evangelion – Pikopiko Chuugakusei Densetsu” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Dark Horse Comics. Translated by Michael Gombos. Adapted by Carl Gustav Horn.
For the most part, if I have reviewed any of the endless Evangelion spinoffs at all, I’ve reviewed them as Briefs, mostly as for the most part it’s very difficult to try to work up 500+ words on the topic. The Evangelion manga is excellent, but its spinoffs and side stories have amounted to a creepy shoujo supernatural comic that barely felt like Eva at all (Campus Apocalypse), a Lowest Common Denominator romantic “comedy” (Shinji Ikari Raising Project), a mystery with BL overtones (Detective Diary), *another* lowest common denominator romantic comedy (Angelic Days, if anyone remembers it), and various gag anthologies. This new title is definitely on the “gag anthology” side, being a spinoff of one of the stories from the Evangelion Comic Tribute that was popular enough to get its own series.
In my review of the Comic Tribute anthology (which I guess I did give a full review to), I noted that the stories by these creators were the best part of the book, so it makes sense that they’d get a chance to add more wacky humor and dense references. The “plot” is mostly irrelevant, but essentially we see NERV trying to defeat the Angels by training gaming nerds to defeat them, and Shinji, Asuka and Rei are the three biggest. What follows is a string of gags, both visual and verbal, which range from average to quite good, though I don’t know that I laughed out loud. Characterization is, for the most part, exaggerations of the “fanon” view, so Shinji is a bit meek and overserious, Asuka’s angry all the time, Rei is stoic, and Kaworu is super gay. But above all else, there’s the boke/tsukkomi comedy we’ve come to expect from Japan, and everyone (well, OK, just Shinji and Asuka) are quick with the retorts.
Those with an observant eye may note that Carl Horn adapted this himself, and it’s very much an adaptation in the nature of his Excel Saga work, i.e. he takes the original and crafts it into something else. If you like overly literal translations, you’ll hate this, but for the most part it works out very well, especially as the original is there to help, being filled with fourth wall breaking, bizarre gaming references, and stupid running gags (it’s just a t-shirt!). Adapting manga that’s solely devoted to comedy can be tricky, but they do a good job. Of course, the drawback is that there is only comedy here – if you like Evangelion for literally anything other than gags, you’re wasting a purchase with this. But the comedy is finny, everyone is exaggerated but not totally loathsome (except Gendo, of course), and the fanservice is surprisingly minimal, something actually pointed out by the characters as they lament their lack of a beach episode. Piko Piko Middle School Students is here to crack dumb jokes and chew bubblegum, and they’ve run out of bubblegum.