A group of enigmatic white-haired children has been spotted at different times and places in Europe for over 500 years. Always with the appearance of 11-year-olds, they behave far more mature than they should be, never grow old, and seem to have supernatural power. What they have been seeking is a girl, and the only clue they have is a picture with a crescent moon. Now, in the year of 2012, an athletic boy named Tohma is about to be involved in this centuries-long mystery.
The beginning of the story is part mystery and part adventure, focusing on a group of half a dozen white haired kids making an appearance through out centuries seemingly without aging and the other time focusing on a kid called Thoma who meets some anti-social girl called Helga and a energetic boy called Chitto. I admit the story was a bit underwhelming at first but once the story unfolds in later episode, you'll be hooked straight away, it turns into something quite epic and unique, there's so many twist and turns and you'd just watch episode after episode and without even noticing it's already over.
art style can be a bit of a turn off for some people, they might even think this is a kids show but fear not this is quite mature even if the first few episodes are light-hearted they're nothing compared to what happens next.
Anyway, as you get used to the art, it becomes more apparent that it's done quite well, lots of attractive looking backgrounds and pretty solid animations.
The background music can really manipulate the emotions of certain scenes, they really help make pivotal moments in the story have more impact. The OP fit the series perfectly too bad I had to skip on occasion since I just really wanted to get on with the story, While the ED is sang by ORIGA the same singer who lent her voice for the majority of the GITS soundtrack.
How they made the connections with each character was great, most of the characters had a certain connection to the main plot, the importance of characters become unpredictable that you'd be shocked when the story finally reveals what their purpose are. Honestly every character was interesting and it was nice to see that they all had a part to play they weren't just some random people thrown in together to make episodes last longer.
A lot of people would probably just ignore it after looking at the front picture alone, which is too bad because it's a pretty damn good show with a unique and interesting plot along with a great cast and a solid OST, you might not like it as much as I did but I guarantee it's definitely worth watching, it's only real flaw is how lame the name is.
At first glance, this looks like some weird story about kids, targeted at kids. But don't be fooled by the simple character design or the title. This series is actually quite intense, with a memorable and complex plot and good storytelling that will draw older viewers waiting with bated breath for what happens next. It is definitely not a series just for children.
The story revolves around a group of mysterious children who appear every once in a while throughout Europe. Who are they, where are they from, and why do they keep on reappearing? These are some of the questions that are being answered bit
by bit throughout the series. At the same time, the story also follows another group of children who have run away from the local orphanage, and are searching for a place they want to go. At first, it seems that these two main plots have nothing to do with each other, but at the middle of the series, the two plots converge, and the viewer discovers that they are closely connected after all.
There are also a couple of sidestories with a few adults involving something almost supernatural. Although these sidestories seem off-track, they are related to the main plot in one way or another, and are tied together in the last few episodes.
The plot is fairly complex and quite involved, but not to a point where it's confusing. The story is told in a way that it's pretty understandable if you pay attention to it. The story is full of surprises, twists, and secrets that will keep the viewer guessing and wondering what happens next.
The tone of the series is mostly serious. But there is room for some bits of humour and lighthearted fun. There are also a few philosophical questions subtlely being looked at, such as what makes us who we are as humans, is it our souls or our current selves? In terms of love, there are many types being explored: romantic, family, friendships, unrequited, and broken.
Even though it doesn't look like it at first, each character is connected to one another in one way or another, and that connection is revealed piece by piece throughout the series.
The Children of Belfort: This is the name given to seven mysterious white-haired, blue-eyed children who have appeared for 21 times in the last couple of centuries. They'd gather and run away from their homes when they turn 5, and never live past the age of 11. They search desperately for something before their time is up. The way they talk and act make them more like adults than children. At first, they seem cold and distant, and even perhaps malevonant. But as their stories and pasts are revealed, the viewer comes to feel compassion for them, and their mission. Each person has their own stories and own unique personalities that will touch the viewers' hearts.
Dumas: The mysterious white-haired boy who appears a few times at the beginning of the series. Appearance-wise, he seems to be one of the Children of Belfort, but he doesn't seem to be working with them. Who he is and his background story will be revealed later in the series.
Helga: She is an orphan who is kind, but seems to be always lonely. She keeps on drawing pictures of a mysterious place that she wants to go, and she would run away from the orphanage to search for the place in her memory. Her friend Chitto is determined to help her get there. At first she seems meek and timid and always in a daze, but as the series progresses, her inner strength is slowly unveiled.
Thoma: He grew up around the Islands, and knows them well. He meets Chitto and Helga by chance, and is drawn to help Helga get to the place she wants to go. He is a determined young boy who is open and shows emotions easily. Little does he know, he's more closely connected to the Children of Belfort and Helga than he realises.
Dr. Gherta: She is the director and doctor of the mysterious and suspicious organization Ged Group. A brilliant scientist, she's somewhat single-minded and almost obsessive with her project, which, for most of the series, is unclear and even almost malicious. But the viewer gradually sympathizes with her plight, especially towards the end when she has a few secrets of her own to unravel.
Detective Cooks: A detective who has been investigating the disappearance of these children, he got interested in them because his grandfather was involved with the children during his lifetime, and Cooks became curious of his grandfather's findings. As more of a spectator, his sidestory gives the viewer some background information and history to the Children of Belfort.
All of the characters are pretty human, and although they main characters are only children, the circumstances that they're involved in and how they react make them seem older, and thus even an older audience can relate to them. By the end of the series, the viewer is able to sympathize with all of the characters, even if at first they may seem unlikable or malicious.
The character design and art style is certainly unique, though not the prettiest; in fact, the designs could be said to be boring and quite simple. The children are designed more or less short and a bit stubby, and not a lot of details is given in the eye or hair area. The clothing design is also a bit boring, though it has a country-style flavour to it. However, the expressions for the characters are mostly well-done.
The background art is very beautiful, with lots of lush forests and unexplored islands. The setting has a sort of semi-tropical or Central/South American feel to it (the ruins of temples and statues remind me of the Aztec or Mayan ruins, but also has a sort of exotic island feel), or maybe with a dash of exotic Asian feeling too (with some of the statues looking a bit like Buddhist statues, and the colourful and busy marketplace of Middle East). The cities though, take on a more 19th century European flavour (even though the story is set in 2012), with cobble-stone streets and stocky buildings.
In general, the art is just different, and may take some getting used to. Instead of following the latest trend of shiny backgrounds, brightly coloured and detailed character designs, this series is going against the grain by looking back to the style of the older animes. The general colour palette of the series is kind of dark, with mostly grays and greens and blues, with a lot of scenes taking place during storms or at night; it's not neccessarily drab, but it's certainly not brightly coloured. There are a few exceptions with the scenes taking place in the forest on the islands, where the colours are contrasted sharply with the darker scences, using lots of bright greens and yellows. But I think this lack of shiny backgrounds and special effects, and simple character design does add to the sadness and longing feeling of the story. And rather focusing on the character designs (and fanservice), the simple art makes the viewer able to pay more attention to the story and character development.
The voices for this series is okay. It doesn't really stand out anywhere, but it is mostly ear-pleasing and suitable for the characters. And most of the actors do a good enough job bringing out the emotions, especially towards the end, the viewers can almost feel the characters sorrow or joy.
The music is one of the strengths of this series. The opening song "Voyage" by Inori, is dramatic and uplifting, but also gentle and calming, a perfect opening for the series. It is also used as an insert song for one of the episodes, but with a slightly different arrangement, it's slower, with piano and cello in the background, and adds a sense of sadness to the scene. The ending song, "Mizu no Madoromi" by ORIGA (who sang both of GiTS openings) is sad and nostalgic, as if longing for something, and very fitting to the theme of the series. I would definately recommend getting the opening and ending singles (it's one of the best I've heard).
The background music uses a combination of piano, cello, and a bit of flute. The theme for the Belfort Children is very memorable (with piano and cello), and a bit sad, like the fate of these children. The only downside is that this theme is a bit overused, being played in almost every episode. Helga's theme (which is mostly flute and cello) is also gentle and pretty, and suits her character well. The background music is mostly soft and sad, with a few upbeat songs for the tenser scenes. It uses raw traditional instrumental sounds rather then edited sound effects, which works well. And I'd recommend getting the OST "Memory of Greecia" as well.
The first half of the series takes place in the current world at the current time, mostly following the adventures of Helga, Thoma, and Chitto, as well as that of the Children of Belfort and the people around them. Then the next couple of episodes focus on the background story and history of the series. Then that last ten or so episodes brings the characters and sidestories from the beginning of the series and tie everything together.
The pace may seem a bit slow for those who are used to action right away and in every episode. Many of the episodes are used to tell the story and advance the plot, or explain the history and background rather than pure action. And because of the complex plot and how everything is weaved together, some parts of the plot may take some time to develop. But I found it interesting enough that it's not a boring explaination, and it does help to understand the plot much better. And worry not, there are plenty of action interspersed throughout. Personally, I find the pace okay, it's just that there's so much to take in and explain that it takes time. I find the plot to be interesting, and not too confusing to understand, and it did leave me wanting to know more after every episode. And in the end, all of the questions that I wanted to ask have been answered, so I find the ending to be satisfying.
Overall, it is an enjoyable series, and I'd recommend it. In fact, I think this series needs more love and attention.
Typically anime, and fiction in general attempt to either tackle one genre or a small number that flow well together, in some cases, works might even try to incorporate two contrasting genres. Fantastic Children is one of the very few titles that brings together an amalgamation of these categories, ranging anywhere from sci-fi and mystery to action and adventure and even to slice of life and romance with hints of comedy scattered throughout all in one coherent, overarching story. So the question remains, does Fantastic Children blend all these genres together well while still maintaining a solid and engaging story, or does its very own
ambitious nature pull it down?
Fantastic Children begins by immediately throwing down some very clear and interesting juxtaposition at the viewer, the first scenes are filled with tension and mystery, yet the character designs appear to be very cartoony. This juxtaposition is what struck me most about this series and was an element that I felt it handled beautifully, especially considering the nature of the story, which revolves around the mystery of a strange group of children who have roamed the earth for over five hundred years, disappearing when they near the age of eleven only to reappear somewhere else under different identities. While the children appear very cartoony they are in fact very adult in their actions. This design choice reminded me heavily of works such as Yuasa Masaaki’s Kaiba the 2001 animated film, Metropolis, which also had cartoony characters contrasting a much darker story and setting.
After presenting us with this contrast, the anime weaves multiple story lines that eventually connect together in one way or another to reveal previously concealed layers of the story. In theory this idea is simply brilliant however when it came to the execution I ran into a few minor gripes that pulled the experience down a bit. Before getting to my problems with this set up I want to cover what I feel the anime did well with it. Firstly the mystery elements and tone were handled almost perfectly. The first half of the anime hooked me on the mystery through using the fear of the unknown to catch my interest and invoke a feeling of discomfort. I have seen very few anime titles that managed to handle this well and I was very pleased to see this one pull it off as well as it did. The use of various abstract imagery such as ruins contrasting with futuristic technology and bizarre landscape with a crescent moon sent chills down my spine and got me invested.
However as the mystery’s build up ends and it’s time for the work to answer all the questions it has asked throughout the series, it feels a bit underwhelming due to a number of reasons. Firstly, not all of the story lines flow together as well as one may hope them to, the biggest example of this is a subplot in which a detective named Cooks is looking into the events surrounding the mysterious children. While cooks looking into the mystery in the early parts of the anime gives the viewers a confused lens that they can connect with his presence disintegrates in the later parts of the anime and it feels as though his entire purpose was to simply give the viewer’s insight, which I found to be very disappointing considering that he had one of the most likable personalities in the series and had a lot of potential as a character.
While the finale of the series was well written and flowed well with the narrative and even had some beautiful imagery and use of symbolism it relied very heavily on the viewer being attached to the cast, which was something it did not put in much work into. The cast of fantastic children felt very superficial and generally lack luster. The mysterious white hair children lacked enough individuality to be easy to attach to, they had a few differing characteristics and a few of them were even given backstories but it felt too little too late as at the end they seemed to blend together without being able to stand out. The only character outside of Cooks who had even a hint of personality was Thoma, a child who lives on a small island with his family, is trained in martial arts and is very energetic and optimistic, making him heavily resemble characters such as Jim Hawkins from Takarajima and Shuu from Now and Then, Here and There. Unfortunately Thoma received too little screen time despite playing a vital role in the story and had his character moments scattered too thin throughout the plot.
While the somewhat distant nature of the main cast resonated very well with the mystery elements it fit poorly with the slice of life, romance, action, and adventure segments and brought the impact of the work down. When the anime was in mystery mode playing on the mood and tone it managed to engage me very easily, but when it was trying to play on its other elements it felt very bland, the tone and setting simply did not fit with those genres and it all felt poorly focused and even a bit jarring at times.
The animation, done by Nippon Animation didn’t do the title much justice either, while I do adore the art style and the way it contrasts the mystery aspects of the show it does very little to enhance the slice of life, action and adventure moments. The anime uses a very somber color pallet of mostly bland colors that tend to take away from the more action oriented and slice of life segments but works decently with the mystery ones. The color pallet is not the only thing that held the visuals back at times. The fluency and consistency in terms of animation was very sub-par, even for its time. While there were a few good looking scenes scattered throughout the anime much of it looked very simplistic, especially when showing shots from a far distance, it looked very distasteful, the recurrence of these poorly animated scenes only increased as the series progressed and some of the later episodes simply look atrociously animated. The anime also makes use of some of the most jarring and out of place CGI I have seen, the CGI not only poorly fits into the work but is also inconsistent, at times some objects such as robots appear to be digitally animated while at others are clearly CGI. This feels less like an artistic choice and more of one made due to a lack of resources or time.
All around Fantastic children is a work that I felt bit off more than it could chew due to various limitations that it faced, however despite the fact that it’s a bit underwhelming in areas it still offers a very unique experience different from most anime out there making it a work I can’t help but lightly recommend, especially if the concept intrigues you, however if you are going to try out this title be wary of its pitfalls and don’t set your expectations too high or you might just end up being a little disappointed.
Things go pretty slowly for a while, but if you're watching and wondering if things eventually pick up, well, yes, they do, around ep. 11, and most of what happens is explained, although it's not really anything as complex and sophisticated as Stand Alone Complex and there are certainly a few loose ends and deus ex machinii. (Not as complex as Stand Alone Complex? Just call me Unrealistic Expectations Man.) Normally I drop a show 2 eps in if it doesn't catch my interest, but this is a favorite of one of my friends here, so I kept watching.
What do I think? I think it
could have used a bigger animation budget and could have been cut down from 26 to 22 or even 20 episodes.
Animation is kind of low budget. Fantastic Children looks and feels like it was made in the '80s. The color palette should have at least been more vibrant. I mean, sure, you have only so much money for your budget. But if you look at, say, Noir, or Requiem from the Darkness, they managed to have some interesting animation without spending a ton of money on it. What if everything looked like the paintings in the ED? OK, maybe that's impractical, but it's still possible to look interesting on a budget.
There is way too much time spent on shots of people just standing around, or extended close-ups of people looking surprised. There are a few things where a situation is first explained, then shown. It would have been better if it had just been shown. And, in general, the pacing is just a bit too slow for me. It's not that I don't appreciate Mushishi or Kino's, but that's not the style of this series. You can almost but not quite just skip a couple of the early episodes. Just don't watch eps 1-10 when you feel like watching something where lots of stuff is happening.
There are a few pretty silly things. The guys with hats, for example. It's also a bit disappointing how not all of the characters that a lot of time is spent with get to actually do much.
Voice acting is good. (The characters get intense towards the end, which is tough to do.) Some of the music, like in the last parts of ep 18, is alright too. (Yes I like the ep 18 Russian version of the ED better. So sue me.) The ED is mizu no madoromi, sung by Origa, by the way. But why oh why did they have to have some of the characters try to sing?
So is it worth watching? Does the ending deliver? Overall I'd give it a 7, which means worth watching but not worth buying, and I'd say it's better than or but worse than or . The drama and action pick up continuously towards the end, so the second half is better than the first. If you haven't seen, say, Gankutsuou, I'd suggest watching that before this, but Fantastic Children isn't *bad* and I don't regret watching it. The characters aren't cardboard cutouts, and there's not anything else like that to make me *dislike* it. There are just better series out there. I guess I'd suggest watching it if you like puzzle series and Final Fantasy. Especially Final Fantasy. I'd say it reminds me most of El Hazard the Magnificent World, minus comedy and with somewhat better characters and somewhat slower paced and a bit less coherent and most importantly minus the awesomeness of cat-based armor technology.
Well, I hope this review can help someone decide whether to watch Fantastic Children, but I somewhat doubt it.