Written by: Carl Horn
Source: Originally published in the Viz first edition of Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol. 8
This special bonus article celebrates the return of the EVANGELION manga to the United States by listing eight Japanese books on the series that may prove of special interest to fans. Although these books are largely in Japanese and are currently available here on an import-only basis, all eight are also accessible to a degree to the non-Japanese speaking fan--either because of their strong visual design and features, or because many also contain at least some English-language content. As much information as possible is given to help you in finding these books, and more specific suggestions are included at the end. Play like Yomiko Readman and track them down!
2015: THE LAST YEAR OF RYOHJI KAJI
WRITTEN BY HIROSHI YAMAGUCHI
PHOTOGRAPHS AND DIGITAL EFFECT BY ICHIRO KAMEl
PUBLISHED THROUGH NEWTYPE
HARDOCOVER IN SLIPCASE, 9 1/2" BY 12," 80 PAGES (ALL FULL COLOR)
"What is the door for, opening or closing? What do you think? Don't look at me like that. This is a very important question for me. Especially in here, the deepest underground, there are so many doors."
This is a quote which appears (in English) in 2015: The Last Year of Ryohji Kaji, one of the rarest, yet most interesting works on Neon Genesis Evangelion. The book 2015 is written by one of Evangelion's actual TV scriptwriters, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, and here he takes the opportunity to reveal pieces of the secret life of Ryohji Kaji (the English edition of the manga spells his first name as Ryoji), perhaps the series' most sympathetic character.
That Kaji is a spy becomes fairly common knowledge early on in Evangelion's story. Just for how many parties is only more gradually revealed--NERV, the Japanese Ministry of the Interior, SEELE. But the question of where his loyalties ultimately lay remains most mysterious of all. 2015 tries to suggest the difficulty of the answer by presenting a collection of documents found after Kaji's death--excerpts from his reports, scribbled notes, unsent letters, surveillance audio.
Except for identifying the source of each transcript, 2015 does not attempt to analyze or comment upon them. That will be left up to each reader. Have you ever had the experience of having to go through the belongings of a dead relative or friend? The effect of 2015 is not unlike that; of wondering whether others, seeing these things, wouldn't understand the person because they never knew them--or, seeing these things, do you now realize that it is you who misunderstood?
Each of the 16 documents is given in both English and then elsewhere in the book in Japanese--in other words, 2015 is fully bilingual. The translation by Takayama & Company sometimes sounds somewhat unnatural, but the tone is not unfitting for the content. Kaji is sympathetic precisely because he seems to enjoy so much being a natural human being, in a place where to be so is unnatural, among those working out a scheme to abjure humanity.
As becomes known before his death (and as he tries to explain to Asuka as early as Volume Six), behind Kaji's self-assurance lies "the weak man... the wretched man," and these 16 documents reinforce a sense of the dread, guilt, and awe that underlay Kaji, and of his emotional and mental disintegration. The irony is that while Kaji seemed to be the least messed-up of Evangelion's major characters, he may have instead been the most skilled at hiding it. Repeated themes in the documents are his disgust at his deceptions and his sense of ultimate impotence: "If this letter were worth reading, the lies would be worth telling,"
It was mentioned earlier that the documents are given in Japanese as well, and this brings us to the other essential element of 2015: the book is perhaps the strongest official visual design statement of Evangelion outside the anime and manga itself. Designers Yoshiro Kajitani and Mayumi Kawabe live up to the example set by Norihiko Nezu, the person who created Eva's distinctive look of dense fields of varying perpendicular text.
Furthermore, 2015 contains over 30 digitally created or modified photographs, many of which are double-page spreads. These represent images that Kaji took as part of his investigation--shots of Tokyo-3, of Rei Ayanami's room, of the Angels, and of the Eva Units--and also of places important to his own story, such as the melon patch, the ventilation shaft where he was murdered, and the pay phone from which he placed his final call to Misato.
The images, created by Ichiro Kamei, are done not in the series' own anime style, but rather in the 3D-modelled, pseudo-photorealistic style developped by the Japanese edition of Newtype for their "last-page" Gundam feature.
THE EVANGELION STYLE
EDITED BY KAICHIRO MORIKAWA - 1500 YEN
ISBN4-8074-9718-9 - ABOUT 7 1/4" BY 10"
144 PAGES (16 IN FULL COLOR)
The Evangelion Style is perhaps the most interesting book on Eva that was not actually sponsored or authorized by Gainax (the book itself carries this disclaimer, in English, and interestingly, a Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publicatlon Data note with the bibliographical references: "1. Neon Genesis Evangelion -- Criticism and Interpretation. 2. Featured Animation -- 20th Century -- Japan. 3. Otaku Culture -- Aesthetical Aspects.").
Editor Kaichiro Morikawa collects in The Evangelion Style 14 essays by 12 different authors that examine different aspects of Neon Genesis Evangelion's design, visual motifs, and narrative themes. Morikawa himself, who holds a Masters degree in architecture, leads off with "The Design Theory of Evangelion," which notes the series' resonance with the photography of Nobuyoshi Araki as well as with controversial British modernists Gillian Wearing and Damien Hirst, remarking also upon the emergence of otakuisme in the fine arts in the post-Evangelion era, as represented by such artists as Takashi Murakami and Kenji Yanobe. Morikawa also closes The Evangelion Style with an appendix that contains the type of sociogram so beloved of Japanese cultural analysis (the closest American equivalent would be perhaps the "alignment" charts of fantasy role-playing games), which posits "otaku" as lawful good to the chaotic evil of the "kogal"--or should that be the other way around?
Six of the other authors have an academic background in architecture: Yasutaka Yoshimura writes on Evangelion's 1960s Pop Art, building, and set design motifs; Osamu Tsuklhashi dissects the filmographic style of Eva in an essay subtitled
"Ani me as Hyper Picture-Card Show"; Shoko Fukuya writes on Eva's re-mixing approach and initializing motif, showing its association with the literary approaches of Douglas Coupland and Steve Erickson; Taro Igarashi continues this examination of the series' structure, presenting Eva as a mirage emerging from "a sea of quotations and recurring substitutional acts" before going on in a second article to look at the formal architecture of Tokyo-3 itself. Tomoko Sakamoto describes the interface technologies through which the pilots connect to the Eva Units for combat, wheras Norihito Nakatani writes on the equally fierce struggle within "The Battlefield of Evangelion Goods," the fight to which collect he wryly compares to the endless tasks consigned to the damned of Dante's Inferno.
Two other authors featured in The Evangelion Style have a background in science: Yuya Sato writes on gender in Evangelion, comparing the series with the treatment of sexual identity in shojo manga, while Hiroshi Daimon studies the "Psychopathology of the Borderline" with "A Medical Note on Evangelion." Surprisingly from a Western academic perspective (in a book of this nature) only three of the writers have a liberal arts background per se--Shoko Fukuya also has a degree in English, whereas English majors Masaki Miyakawa and Yumiko Yano write on the soundtrack of Evangelion and "The Strategic Eroticism behind Ayanami Rei" respectively. Claiming no credentials is Daichi Nakagawa, who writes on "Placing Evangelion in the History of Sci-Fi Anime" but gives his essay the intriguing subtitle "The Death of 'Cosmology'".
It is important to note that all the essays in The Evangelion Style are in Japanese, but that by no means makes the analysis completely inaccessible to English-speakers, as the book contains over 200 b/w illustrations, photos and graphs illustrating the ideas of each author. The 16-page front full color section is worth half the price of the book itself, with beautiful reproduction at large size of NERV's esoteric readout screens, including the "Psychographic Display," the "Libido-Destrudo Graph," and the monitor for the protenic-membrane "Pribnow Box." Morikawa also uses this section to break Asuka down into a super-pixellated scheme of hues, charting the CMYK values of the design of each of Evangelions major characters.
The Evangelion Style is a book that truly lives up to its name, and, authorized or no, is in accord with the desire in Gainax's best work to illuminate connections between the imaginary creation and the real world within which all such creations exist. Editor Morikawa Kaichiro has well conveyed the fascination this series has invoked.
E-MONO: NEON GENESIS EVANGELION
ALL GOODS CATALOG
EDITED BY GAINAX
PUBLISHED THROUGH NEWTYPE
1500 YEN - ISBN4-04-852868-8
8" BY 12" - 144 PAGES (ALL FULL COLOR)
Every anime show lives two live; in one, it is a series you watch and discuss; in the other, it is a source of licensed merchandise. If The Evangelion Style detailed one life, E-Mono: Neon Genesis Evangelion All Goods Catalog surely reveals the other. "E-Mono" means "E-Things"--and you'll not be long in guessing what the "E" stands for. The book is a complete catalog of all the authorized Evangelion gear you couldn't possibly buy--its 144 oversize color pages show you cards, posters, toys, models (fifty different figurines of Rei alone--plug suit Reis; school uniform [standard and Episode 26] Reis; swimsuit Reis; not to forget the inevitable hospital gurney Rei and summer-fireworks-festival-yukata Rei)...
...videos, CD-ROMs, games, books, manga (ahem), "official" fan comics (doujinshi) collections, T-shirts, bags, caps, ties (Kaji's), gloves (Misato's), wearable plug suits (Rei's; wouldn't Asuka's have been more appropriate?), keychains, pins, watches, bookmarks, stationary, pens, pencils, rubber stamps, a Prog Knife-shaped, er, knife (just the thing for an "Evangelion made me do it" murder defense), binders, wallets, floppy disks, mice, lighters, mugs, coasters, a Spear of Longinus-shaped fork (in case you missed that, I'll repeat: a Spear of Longinus-shaped fork) SEELE "Sound Only" speakers, washtubs and soap (don't bend over to pick it up, Shinji), towels, umbrellas, fans, postcards, laminated cards, playing cards, phone cards...
None of this, by the way, covers the rare Evangelion items--they get their own, 13-page section. I took pride to see that one of them features something I helped put together--the issue of Viz-In (a now defunct monthly promotional newsletter Viz released for many years) from the summer of 1997 that announced the upcoming first issue of the English edition of the Evangelion manga. Only a tiny fraction of the items in E-Mono have ever been licensed for foreign editions; and going through this book it will be clear that the items featured at U.S. anime conventions are just like the tip of the NERV pyramid; much more room underground.
Nor, of course, is E-Mono really a complete catalog; this is only what was available as of Christmas (ho, ho, ho) 1997, when the book was published. And of course it does not contain the vast world of unauthorized Evangelion merchandise, from the coffee mug the editor still uses every day (American fan-made of high quality; bought off a fellow in the hallway of the Anaheim Marriott at Anime Expo '96) to the cubic hectares of Evangelion doujinshi, of which thousands of different ones--some, not even dirty--have been produced in Japan ever since the ending credits of the first TV episode rolled.
I wonder if somewhere in E-Mono they tally up exactly how much you'd pay to buy all this. Neon Genesis Evangelion was the first anime Gainax ever made where they retained a share of the merchandise revenue (their 1990 TV show Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water made a lot of money for others, but not them). The grafted devils of the National Tax Administration Agency (Japan'd IRS) took aim at Gainax; shortly after E-Mono was published, two of their senior officers were arrested on an evasion rap, leading to a stretch in the "slams." Evangelion co-producer Hiroyuki Yamaga, who managed to stay out of the joint, remarked at FanimeCon 2003 that prison at least managed to serve his friends as a weight-loss experience. At that same Anime Expo where the editor scored his cup, Evangelion writer and director Hideaki Anno answered a boast from the audience of a fan who said he had spent all of his semester's textbook money on Eva gear thusly:
"You're an idiot. Study harder."
SORE WO NASUMONO--NEON GENESIS EVANGELION CONCEPT DESIGN WORKS
BY IKUTO YAMASHIT AND SEIJI KIO - 1400 YEN
ISBN4-04-852908-0 - ABOUT 7 1/4" BY 10" - 144 PAGES (16
IN FULL COLOR)
Sore Wo Nasumono ("That which enables that"--what each "that" means, the title doesn't clarify) Neon Genesis Evangelion Concept Design Works is an illustration-heavy book by two of the principal creators of the show's mecha design and architecture. It shows how these designs evolved all through the pre-production of the anime, including many concepts that were rejected. It may be that some of these concepts will see themselves incorporated into the upcoming PS2 game Neon Genesis Evangelion 2, in whose design Ikuto Yamashita is heavily involved.
But Sore wo Nasumono also contains two endings to Evangelion that were written by Ikuto Yamashita but never used, one for a movie, and one for a final TV episode. Yamashita gives details, script excerpts, and concept illustrations; again, be advised that although extensively illustrated, the text content of Sore wo Nasumono is almost entirely in Japanese. If you were suprised by the actual endings of the TV show and movies, think what your feelings might have been had the series concluded with a gigantic human female emerging from underneath the Eva armor, and Rei holding a pistol sideways like Chow Yun-Fat. I swear to God I'm not making any of this up.
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION RPG
DESIGNED BY ORG - 1900 YEN - ISBN4-04-714513-0
ABOUT 7 1/4" BY 10" - 158 PAGES (20 IN FULL COLOR)
No box with white and red 20-sided percentile dice inside, regretfully--but you do get the whole thing in one book. The Evangelion Role-Playing Game (for who, in these troubled times, wouldn't enjoy pretending they were experiencing the Eva characters' carefree lives instead?) is used with 71 colored cards--bound in on tear-out sheets--representing events, locations, combats, characters, the Eva Units, and the Angels. Note two new Angels are introduced in the Eva RPG, Iblis and Baraqijal.
Iblis, by the way, is an important figure in the Qu'ran. In the Muslim telling of the story of the Garden of Eden, Iblis was the one Angel who refused to bow down before the newly-created Man, when ordered to do so by God. It was then Iblis who then tempted Adam, saing in Al-Araf (The Heights) 7:21, "Your Lord has only forbidden you this tree, lest you should become angels or such beings as live forever".
The Eva RPG includes an introductory scenario, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," and the arrival of the new Eva pilot from America, Maria Vincennes! Those of you who know about the naval references in Eva character names will not be surprised to hear the AEGIS cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes is itself based out of the American naval base at Yokosuka, Japan (suspiciously, the Vincennes is itself named for the original ship of that name, whose commander, Charles Wilkes, led the first U.S. expedition to Antarctica...). The Eva RPG also contains a certain amount of sourcebook material for the series, such as an organizational chart of NERV, the post-Second Impact shoreline changes in Eastern Japan, and a map of event locations in the greater Tokyo-3 area.
A NEW MILLENIALIST PERSPECTIVE ON THE DAUGHTERS OF EVE
WRITTEN BY MARI KOTANI - 1200 YEN
ISBN4-8387-0917-X - ABOUT 6" BY 8"
194 PAGES (27 IN FULL COLOR)
Mari Kotani cos-plays as Ritsuko in her author photo at the back of A New Millennialist Perpective on the Daughters of Eve, and no doubt she would have much to say about her alter ego's behavior in this volume of the manga, for Kotani's specialist is feminist theory as applied to popular works of science fiction. Kotani is interested in the critique of the patriarch in Evangelion as both a contemporary social satire, and as a Gnostic repsonse to the dogmas of orthodox Christianity.
Although the book is mainly in Japanese, Kotani includes with A New Millennialist Perpective an excellent seven-page English translation of her arguments in synopsis. Furthermore, a great many of the footnotes are also in English; one 600 word comment by Barbara Creed on the complex monstrous-feminine images of the Alien movie series, and another 200-word excerpt by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick on the concept of "homosocial" desire, make for interesting reading in of themselves.
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION JUNE TOKUHON: ZANKOKU-NA TENSHI NO THESE
EDITED BY THE STAFF OF JUNE
1143 YEN - ISBN4-906011-25-X - ABOUT 6" BY 8"
236 PAGES (12 IN FULL COLOR)
Neon Genesis Evangelion JUNE Tokuhon: Zankoku-na Tenshi no These, "The Neon Genesis Evaangelion JUNE Reader"--the book's subtitle is the name of the opening theme of Eva, "Like a Cruel Angel's Premise". The cover shot is of Kaworu gazing up smiling from within Shinji's tightly clenched fist, and the editors of the JUNE Reader know from whereof they speak on the topic; for over twenty years the bi-(naturally) monthly magazine has carried the flaming torch of shonen ai ("boy love"), the category of manga that involves gay relationships.
The JUNE Reader gets a 30-page interview out of Hideaki Anno (one of his longest ever), kicking off the book with his thoughts not only on Shinji and Kaworu, but important influences on the director like Nausicaa and Devilman, and his thoughts on shojo manga as a genre.
Although unlike many of the books in this section, the JUNE Reader has almost no English text, it also has a very visual component, including 90 pages of Evangelion shonen ai fan manga (and just manga about being an Evangelion shonen ai fan) by such artists as Reku Fuyunagi (who drew Viz's Gundam Wing: Ground Zero), Takamure Tamotsu (artist of the manga series Umi ni nita sora no iro ("The Color of the Sky Like Ocean")--and the inevitable two-page revelation about Gendo and Fuyutsuki (so jealousy led to murder?) by Eva staffer (he designed the Angels Sachiel, Shamshel, and Zereuel), American roadtripper (he has done doujinshi on the topic--so beware the lone manga-ka you meet on the highway) and, quite possibly, most feared individual in Japanese comics--the mighty Yoshitou Asari.
EVANGELION YON-KOMA ZENSHUU
EDITED BY THE EVANGELION INSTRUMENTALITY COMMITTEE
850 YEN - ISBN4-04-852707-X
ABOUT 6" BY 8" - 102 PAGES (ALL B/W)
"Yon-Koma" are the vertical, four-panel manga gag strips popular in Japan, and Gainax based their infamous (and after Evangelion, making something that could be considered infamous was quite a feat) anime Ebichu Minds The House (about a hamster who helps her owner with her problems--except if Ebichu touched Hamtaro they'd mutually annihilate each other in a matter/antimatter reaction) on Risa Ito's best-selling four-panel gag manga series of the same name.
The purpose of Evangelion Yon-Koma Zenshuu, "The Eva 4-Panel Gag Strip Collection," however, is to officially give Evangelion a savage beating. Among the 23 artists drawing Yon-Koma's almost 200 different strips (all in Japanese) are the menacing Yoshitou Asari--here with a joke about Shinji's sense of smell and Hideaki Anno perhaps only he dared make--as well as Hajime Ueda, artist of the FLCL manga, Abyukyo, whose graphic novel (with the awesome title) Hareta hi ni zetsuboo ga mieru--"On A Clear Day I Can See Despair"--is published through Gentosha (home of Maki Murakami's Gravitation), the elegant Keitarou Arima (whose Moon Phase appears in Comic Gum magazine, where it is neighbor, to Bow Ditama's Mahoromatic), and Toshihiro Ono, artist of an obscure manga once published by Viz.
ADVICE ON ORDERING
With the information given here, it should be possible to pursue these books through any retailer willing to place foreign orders, including you local anime and manga store. However, you might also want to give the Japanese branch of good old Amazon.com a try; an inquiry to their Customer Service department indicated that they are quite willing to help English-speaking readers to place orders for Japanese books to be shipped to international addresses. Even though most of Amazon.co.jp's site is, understandably, in Japanese, they do have a fairly sizeable help, info, and FAQ section in English. To get started, go to http://www.amazon.co.jp/help/english, and remember that of course because these books will be shipped from Japan, you can't combine the order with those placed at other Amazon sites.
You may also wish to try and find these books used (especially, perhaps, 2015: The Last Year of Ryohji Kaji, which is quite expensive and was only published in limited edition). The editor in fact obtained his own copy used at the Nakano branch of Mandarake, the famed chain of second-hand anime and manga bookstores that is a must-visit (on the editor's first trip, he found a French otaku browsing to one side and a Russian to the other--non-Japanese otaku always give each other that look on such occasions, much as Richard Pryor once spoke of). But if you can't go in person, try their well-regarded online service for English-speaking customers: http://www.mandarake.co.jp/english/index.html.
Good luck, and here's hoping that you too, soon, will know too much!