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Evangelion’s Video Game Themed Manga Spin-off

The video game world is no stranger to anime and manga-inspired games, or anime and manga titles that then transition into the video game space. But what about manga that use video games to prop up their previously established canon narrative while adding in a healthy dose of comedy and satirisation?

That is uncommon.

It’s not secret to those that know me that I’m a fan of anime and manga, specifically, I’m very tuned into the Evangelion scene, I’ve been enjoying that particular franchise for quite a long time, so when “Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Legend of Piko Piko Middle School Students” was announced, I was immediately interested. There’s a Ready Player One reference right on the back! How could I not take note?

An Eva is referred to as a Unit, hence the “Ready Unit One!” pun.

For the unaware, Shinji, Rei, Asuka, and Kaworu are pilots of huge biological weapons called Evangelion. Here’s a super simplified version for expediency. Humanity is being attacked by creatures of immense power and regenerative capability that are referred to as Angels. To combat these creatures, humanity developed the Evangelion. If the Evangelion is to be operated, a person must get inside an “entry plug” and be inserted into the spinal column of the Eva. From there, they can use the Eva to fight the Angels with an array of weapons that are too large and powerful to be wielded by any conventional means. Pilots receive virtual reality training in the Evangelion Simulator to simulate battles before they ever actually set foot in an Eva… in most cases.

The Evangelion Simulator.

So why does Gendo decide to give the would-be pilots a class dedicated to games? Well, in Piko Piko, the Eva Units 00, 01 & 02 aren’t yet complete, but are nearing completion. Due to their incomplete nature, there hasn’t been enough time to create the simulation machines, as all the resources are being poured into the mainline Eva Units. This, in turn, means that although the pilots have been selected, they aren’t at all prepared for combat in spite of their willingness to defend humanity.

Given that this manga also has comedic tones, Gendo has the idea of trying to tap into the pilots’ hobbies as a means of training them for the coming battles. He does so through the application of traditional board games and video games.

NERV’s head scientist Ritsuko Akagi comments on the state of proceedings.

It’s a well known and well established fact at this point that playing video games is a good way of improving one’s hand-eye coordination. In a study from the University of Toronto, psychology researchers observed how non-gamers with an established measurement of their basic sensorimotor saw an increase in their performance test results. Initially, the people who frequently played games weren’t performing significantly better than those who did not. But come the end of their experiments, it was noted that the gap between experienced gamers and non-gamers had grown, one researcher noted, “This is likely due to the gamers’ superior ability in learning a novel sensorimotor pattern, that is, their gaming experience enabled them to learn better than the non-gamers.”

Gendo’s plan is to introduce the pilots to passive training by way of using games to give them some of the training required to better utilise the Eva. Misato Katsuragi, the person in charge of the games class, informs the pilots that they will play games without sound, or without sight in some cases. The reason for this being, some enemies may have a means of obstructing sight and communications, so Gendo wants the pilots to be familiar with those sensations while also being able to complete tasks.

For me, it’s rather interesting to see a franchise as venerated as Evangelion dip its toes into satirical comedy while also leaning heavily into the subject of whether or not games can have a negative or positive impact on those who spend a lot of time with them. While it isn’t immediately commented on, it becomes clear that the training is also being used to bring the pilots closer together so that they’ll act more competently when deployed as a team.

This is a genuinely fun little story; you’re not going to find NGE levels of plot depth like you would in Sadamoto’s manga; you’re not going to find the same level of explored lore that you would with Anno’s anime and the associated Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 translated data files. But what you will find is unique interactions between established characters, comedic situations, and some of the best Evangelion themed art to date in a published work.

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