Like any franchise that’s a mega-hit, Neon Genesis Evangelion has a lot of officially-licensed derivative works. The Shinji Ikari Detective Diary is one of them, and it’s pretty darn good.
Shinji Ikari is your average high school student who spends most of his day trying not to be noticed. His crew consists of himself, cool-kid-wannabe Toji, and geeky Kensuke (remember him, the short nerd with freckles and glasses who was always into conspiracy theories in the TV series, and whose name hardly any viewer knew?). The latter two are a pair of stooges that get Shinji forced into servitude with the Kaji Detective Agency. Misato and Kaji staff the agency along with Pen Pen, the penguin we all know and love, and … surprise! Not Asuka and Rei, but Kaworu.
So does this mean BL? This means BL, but, unlike the most recent Eva movie, Detective hosts the most mild BL known to womankind — the entirely sub-textual, overly long gazes of musing interest Kaworu is so famous for. And in the first book, it doesn’t make any moves … yet. (Sadly.)
When I picked up this book, I expected some sort of Sherlock and Watson (of which I seem to have found a lot this past month, if you are an avid reader here on Suvudu), given Shinji and Kaworu’s gentle bromance that permeates their relationship throughout the Eva franchise. However, what I got was slapstick hijinks and witty wordplay, followed by the Eva being incorporated as pokémon-like kami as Kaworu and Shinji go up against the team of Rei and Asuka while solving mundane cases. That’s right — the Eva look like people, and they battle for you out in the real world, something like Yu-Gi-Oh!. With the money-making aspect of Misato and the Detective agency, Shinji and Kaworu’s experiences almost feel a little Tiger & Bunny.
So, what this boils down to is that you can take this book as an official doujin/fanfic. But it’s not the kind of fanfic that rearranges the characters in novel ways and puts them through darkness even worse than in the original series, in order to shed light on unexplored angst. Instead, it’s the other kind of alternate universe gen fic — the light comedy, which cleverly re-imagines everyone and everything, and then incorporates favorite series elements in new ways. (For instance, what if Shinji had accidently fallen on Asuka in that famous nude scene, not Rei?)
The book knows what it’s coming from and what it’s doing; all the fan-favorite characters are there, and amusingly utilized. However, when Eva Unit 01 showed up looking like Dark Mousey, I gave up on it being anything but crack and fluff. (If you want dark AU, you can go through other titles in the Eva manga franchise.)
The artwork is of high quality, if a little on the shojo side — the art tone is light and airy; faces have shojo roundness; there aren’t many backgrounds, and what few there are, are stiff and bland. Also following-through on the shojo feel, most of the narrative action comes through conversation, rather than action. So it’s crack-fluff AU shojo Eva. Interesting!
Detective Diary is put forth by Darkhorse, which is known traditionally for mature-audience works. But the company also publishes other works in the Eva franchise, thus explaining how such fluff got into its lineup (especially that rare thing, Eva fluff). For a company that produces less than five manga a month, the lettering of both sound effects and bubbles is surprisingly without flaw, and even more importantly, done with artistry. Make no mistake, work has been put into this book, and it is quite fun, if you’re willing to not take yourself too seriously. The translation was done by Michael Gombos and edited by Carl Gustav Horn, and it is a special thing — they went all out on Toji’s Kansai accent. I’ll leave you with a moment from pages three and four to understand just what this book is about:
Shinji: Toji … Kensuke. Are you planning some wacky hijinks for me today? What can I expect out of this? A little nudity…?
Koji: Naw, man… Ya can expect some violence! [...]
Koji: On da for rilla tilla, my brilla.