WARNING: The following article contains mild spoilers for Neon Genesis Evangelion, now streaming on Netflix.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is more than just a 26-episode anime series and movie saga. While in the West, the show is well-known to anime fans and sci-fi lurkers, Evangelion is as mainstream as Star Trek overseas. As such, it's gotten a lot of spinoffs over the years. Alternate manga titles, light novels, games -- the works. And not all of them are what you'd expect. Sure, there are spinoffs like character designer, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto's manga, which diverges significantly from the original anime series. There are games like Evangelion 64, which is a rough adaptation of the series with an alternate ending.
But, these are just the tip of the iceberg. There's other tie-in material that features the Evangelion cast solving mysteries, Asuka and Rei teaming up to keep Shinji from "going gay" and even a game where Shinji is forced to dress up as his dead mother and pose for pictures. What's going on with these Evangelion spinoffs?
Most of these Evangelion spinoffs are non-canon adventures that exist in-between episodes of the original series, most of which take significant liberties with the core canon. Evangelion 64, for example, ends with Shinji taking the Lance of Longinus and beating down the Mass-Production Evangelions. The Evangelion manga, among other changes, ends far more optimistically than the television series.
Some spinoffs are more drastic, though. Girlfriend of Steel, a dating sim game, introduces a new love interest for Shinji called Mana, who pilots a giant robot designed to fight Angels. This, in essence, expands the "Jet Alone" episode's concept.
Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 is a PS2/PSP game that allows you to play every character in various missions. (Yes, even Pen-Pen.) This RPG expands the canon lore of the series by revealing the history of the Ancestral Race and "First Impact," which makes it essential playing (or at least research) for any fans confused by Evangelion's lore.
But, it's also really weird. Evangelion 2 infamously includes a bizarre moment where Fuyutsuki -- Gendo's aloof older companion and Yui Ikari's old professor -- takes Shinji aside and forces him to dress up as his dead mother. Then forces him to dress up as a maid.
Then there's Detective Evangelion. This game is of the mystery/action genre using the mysterious death of Gendo Ikari is its main plot. The premise leads to an odd conspiracy involving Misato's dead dad not being dead and becoming an Angel-Human hybrid thing. Also, Kaworu and Shinji fight multiple times, including one instance where both clobber each other while completely naked. There is also a manga adaptation where Shinji joins Misato's detective agency to pay back for an expensive vase, ala Ouran High School Host Club.
There have also been multiple occasions where Evangelion and Shin Godzilla have crossed over, which actually makes sense when you remember that both properties share the same creator.
The light novel series Neon Genesis Evangelion: ANIMA is an alternate universe where the Third Impact is averted, offering writers a chance to just go wild with insane new mecha designs.
It feels very much like fan fiction, with a whole bunch of new characters, new Evangelions, new Angels, etc., and more akin to Pacific Rim than anything else. We are also shown how the core cast of characters has grown over the years since the series ended. Long story short, they all become a lot more emotionally stable.
THE HIGH SCHOOL SPINOFFS
In the final episode of Evangelion, Shinji is presented with an alternate version of the series where there are no Angels. Shinji's parents are alive, Asuka is his childhood friend, Misato is his homeroom teacher, and Rei is a transfer student.
This alternate universe has many spinoffs of its own, each featuring different paths its characters could have taken. Many of them started as video games before being adapted into a manga. Most notable among them is Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel 2 (adapted into the manga Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days) and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari Raising Project (adapted into a manga of the same name).
The manga for Angelic Days is a lean six volumes, while The Shinji Ikari Raising Project clocks in at 18 volumes. And, despite not being a spinoff, the latter also reintroduces Mana from the original Girlfriend of Steel as a love interest.
However, the game version of Girlfriend of Steel 2 has a few weird twists not present in the manga. Two strange endings for the game involve Gendo and Shinji going off to be lumberjacks, while in another, Shinji dies and becomes a parody of RoboCop. We're not making this stuff up.
And then there's the Petite Eva: Evangelion@School series, which is a series of cute online CGI shorts aimed for a very young audience.
CAMPUS APOCALYPSE AND THE EVA MULTIVERSE
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse is arguably the biggest divergence from Neon Genesis Evangelion's canon. In this, Angels are monsters that invade bodies and possess them, and can only be dismissed by "Evas," which are weapons manifested by the spirit. Shinji's weapons are guns.
The series focuses primarily on Shinji and Kaworu's relationship and shonen-esque action. It also introduces Yggdrasil -- the "world's tree" from Norse mythology -- which indicates the existence of parallel universes. This indicates that all of the spinoffs we've mentioned exist in the same continuity, a theory supplemented by how Kaworu, throughout all of these different iterations, appears to be aware of the events of the original anime/manga.
SUPER ROBOT WARS
Perhaps the best Evangelion spinoff is the long-running, Super Robot Wars video game series, which pulls together tons of giant mechs from various mecha anime to face huge universe-spanning threats, including, of course, Eva Units.
Scenarios involving the Evangelion universe crop up throughout the series, including one scenario where the Third Impact begins, only for every mecha in the multiverse to beat the snot out of Lilith until the event is prevented.
Oh, and there's Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion, a train-centered mecha anime where, in one episode, Evangelion Unit-01 turns into a combining train mecha.
It almost goes without saying at this point that all of these Evangelion spinoffs are pretty weird. However, if all of that seems too normal for you, then here's a Japanese commercial where Gendo shaves and laughs. Enjoy your nightmares!