Prior to the release of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the first volume of a manga adaptation of the story, written and drawn by character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, was released as promotional material. This adaptation would eventually take up 14 volumes. It follows the overall story presented in the anime and The End of Evangelion, while making a number of changes in both the story and characters which gives it a very different feel at times.
The original run was from December 1994—June 2013 (including several hiatuses). Beginning in 2012, it was re-released in a total of 5 omnibus editions.
Provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Compared to the original anime, the manga cuts out several scenes, especially when it comes to some of the Angel battles, such as Sandalphon, Matarael, Ireul, and Leliel which are skipped entirely. Others scenes again are altered and/or shortened, such as the encounter with Gaghiel, which instead happens in a flashback. A couple of characters, especially when it comes to their backstories, are also altered, some in subtler ways than others.
- Adaptation Expansion: The manga details more of the odd relationship between Shinji and Rei (and Rei's character in general), gives Kaji a tragic backstory, makes Kaworu much more prominent, and the battle with the MP Evas is expanded since Shinji gets in on the action.
- Bare Your Midriff:
- During the time when Asuka and Shinji are living together to prep for fighting Israfel, at one point she wears what is essentially a long tube top. This is also when she is at her most confident and mentally stable (so to speak), which is sharply contrasted with a later scene where she wears a jumper-like outfit with only a Navel Window, and is clearly feeling down and dejected that Shinji hasn't talked to Kaji in a long time.
- In one of the chapter title still arts, she wears only a short top and panties, the image conveying a tone of vulnerability and fragility.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Compared to the immediate friendship the two develop in the anime, Kaworu's relationship with Shinji in the manga is built around tension and the uneasiness Shinji feels around him. Kaworu is also no less interested in Shinji, but is presented as far more naive and a rather big Jerkass. Sadamoto described their relationship as two schoolboys who are constantly bickering but secretly desire to impress the other.
- Bittersweet Ending: Depending on how you interpret things, the ending is this. Humanity has been restored in the wake of the aborted Instrumentality, and everyone who survived to the end is shown to be living normal lives. However, they've lost all of their memories from their time at Tokyo-3, but as Shinji's chance encounter with Asuka and Kensuke in Tokyo shows, there's still a possibility to re-establish those lost ties, as the future is now wide open for everyone to take advantage of.
- Body Motifs: The manga places more attention on hands than the anime ever did, even playing into the story's resolution. During Instrumentality Shinji concludes with Rei that even though people in his life hurt him with their hands, or he hurt them with his, he still had much happiness with all of them, so even if he might get hurt again, he still wants to be with them one more time.
- Book-Ends: The manga begins and ends with Shinji walking through the streets by himself depressingly in the first chapter, triumphantly in the last.
- Darker and Edgier: Zig-Zagged. Some consider it even darker than the anime, with Kaworu getting some Adaptational Jerkass, Toji dying instead of just getting injured after Unit 03 is destroyed, Gendo's villainous traits being played up and having him outright saying to Shinji's face that he doesn't love him.note On the other hand, the main characters (especially Shinji) are generally more mentally stable than in the anime, and while the movie had an ambiguous ending that's subject to a variety of interpretations to this day, the manga ending is more of a clear-cut Bittersweet Ending, if not a downright Earn Your Happy Ending.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The manga's take on the story's ending. After enduring a slightly different version of the events of End of Evangelion, humanity seems to have been given a fresh start. Even the Earth seems to have recovered, with the first scene showing heavy snowfall on Shinji's hometown despite Japan's previously tropical climate due to the Second Impact altering the Earth's axis. However, in return, everyone who survived (Shinji, Asuka, etc.) have lost all their memories of the time they spent at Tokyo-3, and have all went their separate ways. That said, as Shinji's chance encounters with both Asuka and Kensuke at Tokyo demonstrate, it's still possible to re-establish ties anew, and as Shinji muses, the future is now full of possibilities. And Toji's back too! The optimistic, confident way he carries himself, directly paralleled to the moody Shinji of the first chapter, says it all.
- Eyelid Pull Taunt: Asuka does this to Shinji after her initial strike against the Angel Israfel (seemingly) killed it.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Gendo has a large eyeball in the middle of his left palm due to swallowing Adam.
- Hidden Eyes: Shinji's uncle, aunt, and bullies are drawn in this manner, emphasizing the emotional anguish they create.
- Mercy Kill: Just after Kaworu and Shinji meet, Kaworu kills a very malnourished kitten. When Shinji reacts with shock and horror, Kaworu reasons that doing so was more merciful than letting it starve to death. This scene is the foundation for the "Evil Manga Kaworu" meme.
- More Than Mind Control: Gendo uses Shinji's insecurities and loneliness to try to convince him he's every bit as evil, desperate and vengeful as Gendo himself is.
- Must Make Her Laugh: Rather than punching Toji as payback for being punched, Shinji tries to see if Rei can laugh by doing something funny—namely, embarrassing Toji in front of her and the rest of the girls during gym class by shoving two fingers up Toji's nose, causing him to freak out. This makes all the other girls laugh, but not Rei, who merely turns away with the same blank expression after seeing what all the noise was about.
- No Periods, Period: Like the anime, the manga averts this for Asuka, and actually expands on it. Not only is the bathroom sequence late in the story carried over, in an earlier scene she asks Shinji to give Kaji a note she wrote.Shinji: Why don't you give it to him?
Asuka: Because it's the second day of my period and I'm one giant cramp!
- No Sense of Personal Space: Kaworu, which is one of the reasons Shinji doesn't like him. This actually leads to a rather funny scene where Kaworu barges into Shinji's shower stall looking for soap, then wonders why Shinji's freaking out.
- Off-Model: Averted. Unlike the anime, which often varied wildly in animation and art quality from episode to episode, the art in the manga is consistently top notch since Sadamoto was the only one working on it.
- Panty Shot: Subverted twice. The first instance is when Toji tries to teach Shinji how to turn cleaning the stairs into a peeping opportunity and gets caught by Hikari; despite the boys looking up at her, her panties are barely visible if at all. The second is when Shinji, Toji, and Kensuke first meet Asuka in the arcade. Although she's in a skirt and uses a lot of kicks to both abuse the video game she was playing and take out the bullies threatening them, she's never framed at an angle that would allow her panties to be seen even though she thinks the boys got a good look.
- Product Placement: UCC Coffee and Coca-Cola vending machines, Kaji brings Misato food from McDonald's, a bottle of Evian water is seen, and also an iPod in at least one chapter.
- Quitting to Get Married: A flashback has Dr. Fuyutsuki asking Yui where she's planning to work after getting her doctorate. She answers she's actually planning to marry Gendo and start a family. It was only temporary, though, or else there wouldn't be a plot.
- Same Content, Different Rating: The manga's move from Shonen Ace to Young Ace, thus cementing its Seinen demography since 2009. The actual reason for moving was Sadamoto's infamous Schedule Slips and the fact that Young Ace's editorial puts less pressure on their manga-ka because the magazine is less mainstream than Shonen Ace but still is just as popular. With that said, the actual contents in the series did not change at all to justify its newfound mature demography. If it wasn't for Sadamoto's tight schedule Kadokawa Shoten surely would have transferred Evangelion to just another Shonen magazine.
- Sleep Cute: Shinji and Asuka do a take on this after defeating Israfel. They practiced all night for the battle, and it catches up to them almost immediately after everything's over, so they end up conking out in their tangled-up Evas (Shinji flubbed the landing, which Asuka chided him for) as Misato and the rest of the crew watch in bewilderment.
- Take That!: Kaji brings Misato some McDonald's, since she's too stressed over Shinji being trapped in Unit-01 to leave to get food. When she protests, he urges her to eat up "before the grease solidifies". She ends up throwing the bag at him and he jokingly complains about it staining his clothes.
- Tsundere: Some fans view the manga's version of Shinji as a tsundere character, mainly in his sarcastic treatment of Asuka and Kaworu.
- Wham Shot: In Chapter 96.5, a unnamed friend of Yui Ikari grows jealous of her budding relationship with Gendo Rokubungi and her upcoming hiring at NERV. As the two reconcile, Yui ties her friend's hair in twintails and puts an old pair of glasses on her. revealing her identity to the audience as Mari Makinami. Admittedly, it is subverted a bit by the fact that Yoshiyuki Sadamoto has later stated that the scene is Canon Discontinuity and was just something he did for fun.