Since I had to cut back last week, here’s another list to make up for it.
One though that almost has to have occurred to anyone who’s seen the movie End of Evangelion is how the only way Shinji seems to be special is in his ability to remain an ordinary guy under all that pressue, yet still become an epic hero by befriending those who become titans. Some stories do touch on the oddity of that distinction, by having him return from 400% sync with harmless cosmetic modifications, but that’s not really satisfying.
So… here is my list of good stories which answer the question “What might be if something about Shinji’s biology were as extraordinary as his role in the story?”
(Also, just a heads up. These fics have a higher-than-usual tendency to mix in elements from EVA spin-offs, such as T•RIDEN•T.)
- True Angel by Innortal
- Length: 206,915 Words
Status: Incomplete (and not updated since 2008)
- Yui Ikari used herself as the first test subject for Evangelion Unit 01, and Rei looks like Shinji because she was engineered using DNA from Yui. Heck, “Rei” is what Shinji would have been named, had he been born a girl. All of these are canon… so what if Gendo attempted to experiment on Shinji before deciding he was a failure and creating Rei?
- Yes, this is a “Shinji, the Nephilim” fic where Shinji arrives in Tokyo-3, but it’s not just any such fic. This is a Shinji whose abilities and understanding of them leans more toward Tabris than Rei.
- In other words, it’s one of those “give the hero a free boost” concepts which works because the author is skilled enough to recognize that, if you lessen the struggle in one way, you need to make up for that source of reader interest in another. (And Innortal does a good job of finding ways to make things different, rather than easier.)
- From a plot standpoint, what makes this story so special is that Shinji is more than a mere Nephilim, and his presence starts to have interesting effects on those around him (both human and EVA) over time. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that I love how Innortal has written the characters so they focus on the bigger picture as they become aware of it.
- Given how often Evangelion fics focus exclusively on exploring fairly canonical characters, putting that kind of effort into well-done deviations from canon is refreshing and I especially love that this is one of those few stories that are both well-written and work to flesh out the nature of Adam and Lilith.
- It was also an interesting choice to fuse in a coherent set of characters from Dual: Parallel Trouble Adventure when more were needed. (On that note, if you like Eva, check out Dual. It’s by the creator of Tenchi Muyo, it’s enjoyable, and, in hindsight, I now see that it has some interesting similarities to Eva that may be homages, such as both NERV and the organizations in Dual! being headed by academics turned warriors.)
- As for the tone and focus, the story is mostly serious, but with the occasional bit of light-heartedness to it (such as the punchline for Pen-Pen’s reaction to Misato’s cooking) and it puts a fair bit of focus on Rei and her interactions with Shinji (and later, Tabris too)… something which I have a certain fondness for in Evangelion fanfiction.
- The story is frustratingly close to being complete, having stopped updating part-way through its version of End of Evangelion, but, given how many stories die “right when things are getting good”, I’m not going to hold that against it. More content is more content and, all else being equal, that’s never a bad thing.
- All in all, I’d say it wavers between 4.5 and 5 out of 5, depending on how much I’m willing to penalize it for my sense that a better balance between familiar and novel elements could have been struck. That said, it is still a story I’ve re-read and it definitely has that special something to it which I normally use to identify top-tier stories.
- P.S. Don’t skip the omakes at the end of most of the earlier chapters. Innortal’s consistent use of them as “comedy outtakes” is beautiful, with my favourite ones being chapter 3’s, where Gendo’s Plan B for defeating Angels involves cloned Rabbits of Caerbannog, and chapter 17’s, where Innortal ran with the implications of typoing “Angel” and “Angle”.
- Shinji’s Nightmare (FiMFiction.net) (Fanfiction.net) by Harry Leferts
- Length: 67,877 Words
Status: Incomplete (and not updated since 2014)
Crossover: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
- Before you skip over this due to the crossover, bear in mind that Harry Leferts was the one whose writing managed to add MLP:FiM to the list of fandoms I follow via this and another fic. (The other fic being The Wizard and the Lonely Princess, which showed up in the Fanfiction.net faves list of an author whose taste I trust.)
- Also, this story is effectively just an Evangelion story with an under-explored MLP character dropped in as a second main character. (If you listen to the excellent fan-songs The Moon Rises and Lullaby for a Princess, by ponyphonic, you’ll basically know everything relevant that was known about the character at the time. It’s up to fanfic authors to decide details such as whether Nightmare Moon was some kind of personality break, a possessing entity, etc.)
- That said, on with the review.
- This is another story with a similar abstract concept to True Angel. Shinji winds up more than human, the inability to keep it a secret provides interesting character interaction, and, with the resultant power, he enacts change for the better without fully understanding what he’s doing. That said, it’s significantly different in two ways: First, the primary relationship explored is different and, second, in this fic, Shinji isn’t merely “more than human”, he’s not human at all.
- The divergence point for this story is the end of Shinji’s experience with 400% sync, when a freshly-defeated Nightmare Moon, floating in the aether, senses an opportunity to not only possess a body, but shape it as she wishes. The result? One Alicorn (winged unicorn) Shinji, complete with grippy hooves, pegasus magic, and instinctive levitation magic to drive Ritsuko to distraction, and a general physical inhumanity that Asuka does not take well… not that Shinji takes it very well at first either.
- This is a very character-centric story. As in True Angel, it’s used as an opportunity to put more focus on Rei, her relationship with Shinji, and interactions between Shinji and Yui’s spirit within EVA-01. However, this does not happen to the exclusion of other characters, with Leferts not only finding screen time for Misato, Ritsuko, and various others around Shinji without it feeling unbalanced, but also having a knack for coming up with interesting and entertaining things for them to do and say.
- In short, the story doesn’t forget what it’s about when allotting time. Shinji first, Nightmare Moon second… as is appropriate for such a recent and fundamental change, the story is still primarily focused on Shinji himself and his coming to terms with his new (and still evolving) circumstances. Leferts just happens to be good at finding ways to make scenes do double or triple duty. (eg. Ritsuko teasing Maya… during a sync test with Shinji. Reforming a villain into a second mother figure… for Shinji. Shinji being forced to accept and use demigod-like powers to protect those around him. etc. etc. etc.)
- …and, yes, that is part of how the story develops Nightmare Moon’s character. This story goes with the interpretation that the immortal sisters cannot have children, and the exiled fragment, created from social isolation, inadvertently accomplishes something they would envy her for in gaining a son.
- I don’t want to give away too much else, so I’ll just say that I really enjoy Harry Leferts’s writing style, this is my third or fourth read-through of this fic. While the story arc isn’t as complete as True Angel’s, I’d still rate this as a solid 4.5 out of 5.
- Alpha and Omega by Xed Alpha
- Length: 222,719 Words
Crossover: Mass Effect
Status: Complete, with a sequel
- Finally, let’s go for something a little different: A post-canon story.
- In this Mass Effect crossover, EVA-01, winds up crashing into a cargo bay on Omega. Naturally, Aria T’loak is none too pleased when the human government flatly denies any association with it, despite the printed markings clearly indicating human origin and decides to claim it rather than letting them cart it away for research. Their poking and prodding at it then proceeds to wake up the fading remnant of Yui’s spirit and a half-angel Shinji, held in stasis within the EVA’s core since he reversed instrumentality at the cost of locking himself outside the universe… the last living remnant of many universes ago.
- Now, first, let me be clear. I’ve never played the Mass Effect DLC that the author gives as the source for this characterization of Aria T’loak, so I don’t know how in-character she is here. That said, aside from that, I like how the story is written.
- The story is a romance between Shinji and Aria and there’s a certain elegance in how Xed managed to draw parallels between Asuka and Aria, simply by showing Aria’s interactions with Shinji in appropriately chosen situations. Both of them with an interest in Shinji, both careful to not let anyone get close, and both with a dislike for weaklings. At the same time, it’s a story in which Shinji finally comes into his own, with Aria much more expertly finishing what Asuka sought to start.
- This isn’t one of those stories where some adventure or exploration of a setting drives the narrative. This is a very character-centric story. The main thing being explored is “Who is Aria T’loak?” and the primary adventure is Shinji adapting to his new surroundings and the slowly-emerging implications of his new demi-human status. (Leave the adventure for the sequel, which crosses over with what I believe to be Rebuild of Evangelion.)
- That said, drama and adventure do start to come in about half-way through the second act… they’re just used as an authorial tool to develop the characters, rather than as the primary focus of the story. For example, at one point, Shinji gets kidnapped, which leads to this delightful quotable:
“Interesting…” said Liara thoughtfully, “In my experience it is usually the governments who enact sanctions on the criminals, not the other way around…”
- Also, while I don’t want to spoil to much, I will say that a third main character is introduced at the mid-point of the story who is an interesting twist on the “they carried an echo of the past with them” concept I’ve seen in other fics (which either weren’t memorable enough to make the cut for this list or were more suited to a list of do-over/Peggy Sue fics).
- Now, with all that said, I do feel like the initial meld between Shinji and Aria felt a little on the “rushed for plot convenience” side, but it’s not something that ruins the story as a whole and, during and after Shinji’s first evening in Afterlife, the quality picks up quite a bit. In fact, one of the conversations feels like a belated attempt at lampshading the somewhat rushed nature of what comes before.
- Assuming this portrayal of Aria isn’t horrendously out of character, I’d give the story a solid 4.0 out of 5 overall and, like all of the other stories I’ve been pulling out of my review backlog, this isn’t my first time re-reading it.
- Oh, and I almost forgot… the fic has some adult scenes in it. Just a heads-up.