Tatsumiyajima is the central island in the middle of a small cluster of islands, in a sleepy backwater of the Japanese isles. Not much happens there, and the island's young people go to school knowing that their lives are likely to remain peaceful and undisturbed. Or so they have been taught... but the truth is different. The fate of mankind is on the line, and Tatsumiyajima is the last line of defense against a hostile and incomprehensible enemy. At the center of it all, fighting for Humanity's continued existence, is the giant robot Fafner, the dragon that guards this final treasure of mankind.
This review is based on 4 rewatches of the anime in 2 years. So I hope this will be as unbiased as possible. As a long time Xebec fan, I must say this is by FAR the best mecha anime they've produced to date. Now I shall try to break it down to different components.
Story: The story began with a paradise-like environment, but it quickly turned into a scene of chaotic desperateness. With tons of downhill battles to begin the story, it certainly illustrates how desperate the situation is for the protagonists (and the small group of humans living on that remote island). For a
mecha anime, it is not very common to start the story the way Fafner did.
Art: The animation is directed by the same guy whose responsible for Gundam SEED and Destiny. So it is only natural that people see similarities between characters (for example, I find Kazuki very much like Shinn). With that being said, I find it a bit lacking in originality so minus 1!
Sound: Absolutely stunning. The battle music is very unique and alive! I especially love the drum beat. The OP and ED are by Angela (who sang FFXII's opening).
Character: Most character development occurred during the 2nd half of the anime (when things become less gloomy), which was a good thing because there was no room in the first half to fit those in with all the intense battles and basic background storying telling. Again minus -1 for some unoriginal character design.
Enjoyment + Overall: Although it was hardly advertised (ie. lack of media attention), Fafner's success was undeniable. Just ask yourself this, how many anime (or how many anime done by Xebec to be more precise) actually got a prequel/sequel to further expand on the story? Well Fafner is one of those! With a touching story that can make even the toughest man cry a river, this anime is definitely one of the "emo-est" show ever!
I will agree with one of my club members regarding this anime. It is underrated as a series. I've watch this anime 1 year ago but I'll do my best to write the review about it.
The story has a nice flow. Like all mecha series, it got fantastic mechas with specialized specification for each mechas, skills training and conflict between characters, powerful enemies and realiable reason(s) for fighting. Not to mention 'best friend theme' where we can find alot in other anime is also included.The start of this anime which shows peaceful school days for main characters, Kazuki and his friend make a nice twist
when the secret of the island and the reason the island is the last line of defense is exposed. As we goes more into the episodes, more secret/mystery will be reveal. I guess that was attracted me the most. The anticipation of 'what's more' and hard to guess 'what next'.
Art and Sound:
I have no comment on the arts and sound due to my limited knowledge. But I would say, the arts and sound is good, really helping in making you enjoying the stories.
All the characters are well made. The relations between the characters are well explained and there's nice development of characters along the series. What interested me the most is, how fair development of characters is given to all cast, not only focusing on the main characters. You will also noticed the variation of attitudes and issues between the casts is brought up in the series.
Overall , I enjoy the series. It's one of the series where I can't put down until I finished it. And I would love to have a rewatch of this anime *if only my sis will return it to me rite nw*. The only reason the anime didn't get a full 10 from me is due to ending which left me a little unsatisfied/sad. But it's the matter of opinion. But really, it's only the last part that I'll leave it to your opinon, the rest of the anime is great!!.
Sokyuu no Fafner is an anime of the good old Evangelion school; a postapocalyptic setting where mankind faces annihalation at the hands of a mystic supernatural species, a band of mentally depraved kids as this world's saviours, and a plot with what is, at times, fairly cryptical content. Whether or not it does it well is hard to say however; it has its strengts but also its distinct weaknesses.
The series start off quite calmly on your average tropical Japanese island, where a group of kids are attending school as if life was nothing unusual. However, soon a Festum (the series' supernatural/extraterrestrial race) attacks the island,
and it is not long before it is revealed that the island is in fact a moving fortress, and the last remnants of a Japan annihalated in the human-Festum war. Also, these kids, with Makabe Kazuki as the lead acre, are revealed to be the only characters capable of piloting a series of robots known as the Fafner - and thus mankind's main hope for survival.
From here the plot accelerates, slowly, but steadily. It tends to stumble at points, and it, like many mecha series of its kind, has all these weird concepts and technologies, many of which are hardly, if even, explained. A pill you have to learn to swallow, I guess. The pacing is generally good, though, taking time to relax and develop the characters inbetween the more action-filled sequences.
Unfortunately, it suffers from the "frequently not making sense" syndrome, and from time to time characters say absolutely nonsensical things, or explain concepts in such a manner; I can only assume this is an attmept to be deep and mysterious gone slightly awry.
Its charcaters are a mixed bunch; your average cast of mentally depraved teenagers; most of them having troubles with depressing pasts, extreme self-confidence issues or other such negatively laden emotions and experiences. They're handled respectably, for the most part, and some of their stories are quite fresh and almost touching. Some, however, fall short of the stereotype treshold both in concept and execution, while others are victims of the "repetitive gag" syndrome, and one or two at least are victims of "not making sense" syndrome.
As a whole however, both the characters' conflicts and the plot made me want to keep watching, made me wonder how it would end up in the end. Was I satisfied? Yes, and no. There's no top marks, but it certainly wasn't bad.
The series' soundtrack is very often absent, or quiet - which can be efficacious at times, but at other times I feel it works against it purpose. When there is music, it's generally good; a few outstanding tracks and a lot of generic ones; especially towards the end of the series there are a few very good themes that are used. The opening and ending themes are performed by angela, a band whose msuic I love more and more by the minute. Their vocalist has an amazing voice, making the themes are a true pleasure to listen to! Voice acting is generally solid, with a few outliers in both directions - as with the rest of the show, it is generalyl not mad, but not outstanding either.
Animation-wise, the series tend to be, at times, quite iffy, especially when it comes to character designs and facial reactions. The mecha are animated well and the battles are entertaining to watch. The colouring is a bit bland, but is remedied by good work in the lighting and shading departments.
Thematically it touches upon many subjects that its genre brethren touches upon. Death, and existence. Individuality, and life. The Festum have a habit of asking the seemingly insignificant question "are you there?" - a question with a more metaphysical implication than one would think at first. Can you truly be said to live, to be here, if you have no reason for living? If life holds no intrinsical value for you?
Summarized, I'd say that Fafner is a solid series. It's nothing outstanding, nothing extremely great, and there are mecha series of its kind that are better - but it was enjoyable. The series finale was good. The soundtrack was as dramatic as it needed to be. It had its distinct detracting elements, but nothing you can't swallow and see past, resulting in a fairly enjoyable experience.
Lying in the ocean is an island paradise; its inhabitants peacefully going about their lives. A cool breeze sweeps through, lightly caressing the body of one of the residents. Ominous music calmly drifts into the viewer's ear as the camera brushes across the tranquil scene hinting that something is "off." A voice heard by all suddenly rings out, clear as the azure sky on a bright summer day—
"Are you there?"
The voice entraps those who hear it; an ethereal feeling washes over the body; the residents are frozen in place.
The voice is gentle...
It seizes the very soul of the one who
"Did they find us?" a man's voice cuts through the air.
Emergency alarms blare piercingly.
A strange word dances across the screens of the electronic devices on the island:
The residents evacuate to the island shelters, a strange feeling gripping them—its younger inhabitants having strange thoughts rush into their minds, thoughts they shouldn't have. They instinctively understand what is happening; they have been conditioned as such. Should an emergency arise, certain elements about what they need to understand the situation have already been implanted within their brain.
A creature has breached the island's shields, its form enriched with a golden luster—the Festum. Its beauty entrances those who see it.
Alvis, the island's last line of defense, and its members rise to meet the looming threat to their peace, a fierce battle quickly ensuing.
"Is it reading our minds?" a panicked voice shakes in the cockpit of a plane.
"Are you there?" the question rings repeatedly through the heads of the pilots facing the mysterious creature.
Their minds have been breached—they must resist, or risk assimilation.
As the creature swiftly finishes them off, havoc rapidly spreads throughout the island.
A young boy's assistance is requested.
Led to the Fafner unit—a machine named after the giant who became a dragon from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen—he is asked to pilot it in order to fight the Festum. How is he to fight in this machine if he's never seen it before?
A red gel-like substance with rings inside it. His fingers reach out:
"I know this."
He has begun to understand, the locks on his mind have been lifted, the ideas blocked away are starting to come to him.
The unit starts up, and the Siegfried System crosses with the visual and auditory sensors of his brain, projecting a reddened image of someone—a boy who was once his friend. He must unite with the Fafner to face that which threatens the safety of his home; he must become the Fafner.
Here, the journey begins.
Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor/Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor, or simply, Fafner, is a series that starts off with a bang, quickly thrusting the characters and the viewer right into the midst of a conflict. Numerous questions are immediately raised, mysteries that leave the viewer hungry for answers. Fafner's first episode is fast-paced and rapidly drops a large number of concepts onto the viewer's plate which could easily be described as far too much, far too quickly. This rapid influx of material to take in could possibly elicit some confusion within the viewer as well. A lot of information is given in just a single episode, and, while this can be a bit overwhelming, by paying close enough attention, it can easily be seen that Fafner is a series that holds a large amount of potential. Will it capitalize on that potential though? Well, if you've seen my score you've probably already deduced that it does do something right.
Fafner is a series that initially seems to struggle to find itself, but, soon enough, it demonstrates that it does, in fact, have its own identity. Fafner has several ideas it wants to explore, a number of interesting places it wants to visit, significant messages it wants to communicate, and a large cast of unique and fascinating characters to develop. There is a lot I want to talk about for this series, and, as a result, I'm not quite sure how well this review will be structured, but I'll try my best to keep it flowing smoothly.
To begin, the writing in the first ten or so episodes of Fafner is not anything special for the most part, and it leads to a number of the ingredients of the series feeling under-cooked or unexplored. While I say this, the first episodes certainly did keep me entertained, and, by the end of the series, I came to have a new appreciation for them and what they managed to achieve, even if the execution left much to be desired. At around the mid-way point of the series the writing sees a significant improvement as it is at this point that the one who handles the script for the series was changed (I think it was around Episode 15 that it shows the change in the credits). Another individual takes the helm, Tow Ubukata, a man who will probably forever be recognized for his failures (Psycho-Pass 2, Ghost in the Shell: Arise) while his successes fall into obscurity. Changing writers was possibly one of the best decisions made regarding this series, a decision that likely allowed it to gain far more popularity than it probably would have otherwise. The previous handler of the script, Kazuki Yamanobe, was, unfortunately, not equipped to produce something of suitable quality given his circumstances. Although, I will say that I certainly could see that the effort was there and will give praise for that. However, as far as I can tell the only thing he had worked on prior to Fafner was a short-form series, and since Fafner he has written very little as well. Meanwhile, Ubukata had recently emerged as a name with his cyberpunk novel, Mardock Scramble. With a slick efficiency he somehow managed to take what had been established in the early episodes and expertly unite everything the series wanted to achieve in a cohesive way. He succeeded in galvanizing the messages the series wanted to portray with a polished finesse and for that I give him a lot of well-deserved credit. I lament the fact that this change may have come too late for some watchers though. A number of those who were watching this series probably did not reach this point, instead choosing to clock out and drop the series before it really managed to truly find itself. As I contemplate my feelings on the series I can't help but be grateful that I did continue to watch it as it gradually managed to become one of the best series that I have been fortunate enough to see. Since writing on this first installment into the Fafner franchise, Ubukata has written all related content for the series. Down the road, Fafner would go on to get multiple sequels, a prequel OVA, and a movie. I personally think that it would be accurate to say that Fafner is a series that was made, and continues to be made with a lot of passion, as it's quite possibly the best series Xebec has ever produced: visually, plot-wise, character-wise, everything about it screams a burning love for its content, a love that would only manifest itself even more strongly in future installments.
Fafner is a series that has a rather melancholic, yet simultaneously optimistic tone, strange as that may seem. It certainly features a rather tragic story, but there is an ever-present tint of hope lingering in the air—a faith in humanity. Within Fafner, humanity is basically fighting a losing war against a silicon-based lifeform from space, the Festum. Having been pushed to the brink of extinction, much of Earth is left a ravished wasteland. In this ruined and broken world people are simply trying to survive by any means necessary. One such group is found on the island haven of Tatsumiyajima. There are also other groups such as the Neo U.N., as well as those that can be found in Exodus (I won't be talking about Exodus here though. That's a review for another day) grappling for survival, each seeming to hold slightly different ideals.
If there's one thing that Xebec is notoriously well-known for it's their visuals, and not in a good way. In a number of their series of today they are frequently absolutely horrendous, but that is not the case with Fafner...most of the time. I do believe the animation is impressive in several scenes, but there are also a lot of scenes where it could have been better. I can't say the animation is anywhere close to being perfect because it will take a hit on occasion and there are times where it can be rather awkward. However, while the animation (or lack thereof in some instances) is not the best in this first installment into the Fafner franchise, I think the art/artstyle of the series manages to significantly make up for it.
The color choices within the series are rather muted and possess a gloomy hue that adds significantly to the tone of the series. The ocean that surrounds the island on all sides is a dark blue, frequently giving off a rather lonely feeling, which is often oppositely weighed against the feeling of unity that can be found among our cast of main characters. The darkened ocean also gives a feeling that perhaps it could represent the internal feelings of some of our characters within the series at times. Existentialism is a big part of this series and the dark, lonely, melancholic ocean can often come across as something meant to be compared with the struggle for finding meaning in one's life or finding who you are. A character may feel lost in that black ocean as they struggle to find where it is they belong in the world. Backgrounds within the series are absolutely stunning. The greenery on the island boldly asserts its presence and the grey and brown colors that adorn the homes of the residents add quite a realistic feel to them as they dot the land across Tatsumiyajima.
Character designs within the series are likely going to be very hit or miss. They were handled by Hisashi Hirai, an individual whose designs are certainly unique. Probably most well-known as the character designer for Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, he handled them here for Fafner as well. While they seem to be rather disliked by some, I actually liked the character designs in this series. I think the designs do a good job of placing an emphasis on the character. For a story where characters play a massive role, these designs make them seem more "visible." To clarify what I mean, I think that due to the designs it is somewhat hard for a character's presence to be ignored because they stand out so much. When a character design is different from what one might usually see it's more likely to leave a bigger impact on someone, wouldn't you agree?
The Fafner units have sleek and polished designs. When speaking of the service these machines provide to the series they are extremely praiseworthy. Anyone who knows me probably knows that I enjoy a mecha series with good justifications and well-thought out features of its mechs, and the Fafner units are certainly interesting. When a pilot is chosen for one of these machines they essentially must become the Fafner unit. They are not a pilot of the unit, they are the unit. I guess it could be said that it "merges" with them. They see as the Fafner sees, they feel as the Fafner feels. This naturally means that they will feel the damage sustained by the machine as well, but to keep them fighting efficiently it will be reduced by transferring it to the operator of the Siegfried System. The Siegfried System is essentially where the one who commands the Fafner units directs them from during an operation. The operator of this system crosses with the minds of all the Fafner pilots to get the layout of a situation so as to be able to command an operation accordingly. When a Fafner unit sustains damage the operator of the Siegfried System will also feel the damage, so they are in a rather difficult position. The operator of this system must possess good judgement and quick thinking as well as be able to function under extreme conditions. Despite not being directly on the front lines their job is quite rough and infinitely important to the outcome of a battle. It could be said that they are responsible for the lives of all the Fafner pilots. The fact that the ones who link with the Fafner units must essentially become those machines is the reason why it is far more difficult for adults to be pilots. Seeing yourself as something else, using your imagination to visualize yourself as something else, is much, much easier when you are younger. This explains why it becomes much more troublesome to pilot a Fafner unit the older a person is and would be the reason as to why the Fafner pilots are young. The Fafner units themselves are machines designed to combat the Festum's abilities. In order to make their pilots function as efficiently as possible they directly link with them and bring to the forefront their survival instincts by stimulating the Reptilian Complex. Rage, fear, anger, hatred, etc. can come forward and can change their pilots mental state so they can fight the Festum effectively. It can also change the person themselves after they leave their unit. As a result of this, the machines are quite dangerous to the well-being of their pilots. This can be seen on numerous instances throughout the series. When inside the Fafner a character's established personality can completely change, shifting to one that is far more animalistic in nature. The after-effects can probably most clearly be seen in Koyo's change after Shoko's death. Having had feelings for her, the Fafner unit stimulates his anger and hatred at her death, frequently manifesting in him lashing out at Kazuki verbally, as his rational thought has been affected by the Fafner unit. Koyo's behavior would probably aggravate viewers who don't understand why he is behaving the way he is. They may just think he's being a jerk. He's not though. He's been altered by his Fafner. He's not who he once was. This can clearly be seen if we look at who he was before becoming a Fafner pilot. Koyo was one of the most kind-hearted and loving characters in the series, a boy who would die for his friends if necessary. But, as an effect of being a pilot of the Fafner he has been changed unwillingly.
The Festum are meant to be seen as a beautiful creature and I believe it. The golden tone they possess coupled with their majestic appearances are utterly alluring. They are a strange, complex lifeform, but something important to realize about their nature is that they are not attacking humanity because they want to wipe them out—at least not initially. They are simply confused and do not understand humans. The Festum are a hive-mind species that constantly assimilate information and refer to themselves as "we." Being a hive-mind they don't comprehend a humans way of life. They wonder "why" humans are doing such strange things. They genuinely believed they were helping humanity when they began assimilating them. And this is where changes gradually began to manifest within the Festum. Emotions are a foreign concept to them, and when humans are assimilated frequently negative emotions are what is running through them as it happens: hatred, anger, etc. As expected, when the Festum take this into themselves they will eventually learn such emotions themselves. This gives rise to a Master Class Festum referred to as Idun, a Festum who has learned hatred from humanity. He is consumed by it and it eventually leads to a big encounter with him in the series. The Festum do not have individual will; they are created by something called the Mir, their "God," which they cannot go against, as the will of the Mir is their own will. The Festum are also used as a way for the series to make a point. Festum are something that a vast majority of the world believe needs to be eradicated. A few people however, such as some of those on Tatsumiyajima, believe coexistence with each other is possible, and efforts will be made to try and see this happen. This is a primary topic of the series, the idea that two separate, intelligent lifeforms can understand one another. It's also done to try to make yet another statement: if coexistence between humans and Festum is a potential possibility, then shouldn't it also be possible between all humans as well? This seems to serve as a commentary on the reality of our own world.
The battles within the series are what I'd feel comfortable describing as heart-pounding, seeing as they will always manage to find a new way to innovate old ideas, successfully managing to keep each one unique and special in its own way. The whirlwinds of electrifying action meshed with psychological and philosophical exploration create a special tension that, personally, kept me quite engaged in what was happening. This perfect cocktail of thematic depth mixed with exhilarating action, and emotional reverberation is something that is not easy to achieve, yet Fafner pulled it off to great effect.
The music in the series is mesmerizing when it plays, being expressively forlorn and beautifully heart-rending when necessary. The soundtrack is one of the best I've ever encountered; it's up there with Mushishi's, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom's, and the ones I've heard from Yoko Kanno if you want me to measure it against other soundtracks to see what level I think its quality is at. It certainly left an impression on me and managed to become one of my favorites. The voice acting is astounding, especially in certain scenes, as the emotional depth is perfectly conveyed in a manner that, occasionally, had me feeling emotional myself due to the exceptional delivery of some of the lines. The pain that can be sensed within some of the lines is so brilliantly expressed that I cannot help but marvel at the talent on display at times. Kazuki's pain as his best friend Soshi disappears as he screams, "Soshi" repeatedly is heartrending. The touching poignancy of Episode 15 when Kazuki confronts his past and realizes that what he wants is to protect the island, his home, is deeply moving to see play out, especially for a character who has struggled to find his place in the world. The opening theme, "Shangri-La," and the ending theme, "Separation," were both done by angela. The opening theme drips into the viewer's ears with a blend of ominous instrumentation mixed with a heavy-hearted delivery of sorrowful lyrics, while simplistic, yet relevant visuals progress across the screen. The visuals of the ending are even simpler, just zooming in and out of three characters with solemn facial expressions, as the melancholic and mournful music plays out.
It's no surprise that a series based on something like Norse mythology can get quite dark and rather tragic. Frequently, I'm left to wonder if this franchise will end similar to the world-ending event of Ragnarok. This series takes a vast amount of inspiration from Norse mythology and a few other things related to it. This is probably most obvious through the name Fafner, but also other names like Fenrir and Mjolnir. These are only the most blatant of instances though, and to go further into detail of the other little things would result in this review being even longer than it's already going to be*, so I'll just briefly mention one thing. Fenrir, in this series, is a self-destruction weapon on the Fafner units, there to allow the pilots to detonate the machine so as to avoid assimilation. This is a sad preventive measure so it doesn't force allies into having to kill someone who was once their friend after assimilation. This Fenrir function may be hinting at a Fafner unit eventually using it's Fenrir function to detonate with the Mir, the "God" of the Festum, seeing as Fenrir is foretold to kill Odin during Ragnarok, if coexistence can never be found (this is only speculation). Looking more into these related things that the series takes inspiration from could help you to get more out it in the long run.
The Neo U.N. often take on an antagonistic role to the island of Tatsumiyajima. They are another faction of humans who are trying to survive in this broken world. To call them purely "evil" is to have missed the point though. Their methods can be very extreme, but I can understand why they are the way they are in this world. It makes sense, though they may not be agreeable methods, I can see where they are coming from. Additionally, just because the people at the head of this group may be that way is no reason to assume that all the members of the group are that way. Everyone is simply trying to survive, by whatever means necessary, in Fafner, and it is interesting to note that although mankind faces a common enemy they are not always united. It would be a mistake to call Tatsumiyajima entirely free of sin as well. After all, they are making their younger generation fight. Even if the adults can't pilot the Fafner units, that's still no justification. These battles are all the more dangerous because of how the Fafner can alter the mind. The island also hides itself from the rest of the world. They have the means to fight back more efficiently against the Festum, but prioritize their survival above all else. Again, this is an understandable action. After all, they are a small island, and their help can only aid the world so much before they find themselves in a situation they cannot defend themselves against. Also, the island "conditions" its residents. They have certain information planted into their minds so they can be able to understand things in an emergency situation. The information is locked away until a situation demands it necessary to flow out. This can be seen in the first episode. It's not made all that clear, but most obviously we can see this in Kazuki with how he instinctively understands how the Fafner works. (This also has to do with existentialism and the absurd in a way.) His exclamation of, "I know this." serves to show that the information locked away is gradually being released. Gene manipulation is yet another topic in which many questions are raised. Fafner treads a very grey line of moral ambiguity. On the one hand humanity faces extinction by being unable to fight back effectively against a complex lifeform. On the other hand, they can fight to survive even though it requires less than desirable methods to do so. Questions about humanity are then asked in the process. What is the meaning of peace? How far should humans go before their humanity is "lost"? Do the ends justify the means? Where do we draw the line?
Fafner has quite a large cast of characters,** but there is something that unites the Fafner pilots: they all display signs of Savant Syndrome in some way. This is how they are chosen to be pilots. Individuals with signs of Savant Syndrome may display abilities that are far beyond the norm in some aspect. For example, Kazuki has athletic prowess, his ability going far beyond the others in his age group. Koyo is mentally sharp, easily performing well in academics. Maya has keen observational skills, to the point where she can deduce a person's feelings simply through their gestures/behaviors. She can also climb rock faces without safety equipment just because she will instinctively understand the most effective way to do so after seeing its face. Shoko has a seemingly high pain threshold. Fafner is a series where the character's are of great significance and often drive it forward. Existentialism is one of the biggest aspects of this series, most frequently manifesting itself in the form of the question: "Are you there?" Variations on this are asked and stated by the characters throughout the series as well. And here, I will now make a point of stating why I find the confusion of the earlier episodes to actually be something of value in this series. Whether it was intentional or not, this sense of disorientation, or confusion, that the viewer is subjected to in these early episodes is likely to be eerily similar to the feelings that the characters within the series are experiencing towards the situation as well. Suddenly, these characters are thrust into an absurd world that they do not understand. As such, I see what we experience as the viewer as being a mirror for what the characters themselves are experiencing since we, too, are effectively thrust into this absurd world. Now for what makes this really interesting to think about: an individual's beginning in existential thought starts with a sense of confusion, and this confusion that is created within us, as the viewer, at what is happening during these early episodes is actually quite ingenious if it was intentionally done. Considering how thorough the existential exploration in this series is, I'm inclined to believe this was in fact the case. (Still, some of the writing choices needed more polishing in these earlier episodes.) Often we can see a character's struggle for identity and meaning in their absurd world. I will use Kazuki specifically as an example to further illustrate more on the aspect of existentialism within the series. Kazuki routinely denies himself and his existence as a result of his past with Soshi, where he believes he scarred and left Soshi's left eye blind. Kazuki's denial of his past can be seen as his leading an inauthentic way of life in that he is not living in accordance with his freedom. Fafner, as a series, can be seen as the story of Kazuki "creating" himself and then subsequently acting in accordance with this self that he has created. He will act freely as who he is and live an authentic existence, and he will not act as something he is not or blame his actions on something or someone else. Kazuki struggles to find the meaning to his life, and, he eventually comes to realize that what he wants more than anything is to protect his family and friends on his island homeland. Soshi cannot pilot a Fafner unit as a result of his left eye being blind which leads Kazuki to think he must do it in his place. But, as a result of Kazuki's journey in the series he will not be defined by what Soshi or anyone else wants him to do or to be, but rather by what he chooses to do and what he is. Kazuki's freedom and that which he is responsible for are connected to one another. Soshi is a stoic young boy and he was Kazuki's best friend in childhood. Over the course of the series it seems to be implied that Soshi's feelings for Kazuki go beyond mere friendship. Despite appearing very cold, his aim above all else is to protect Tatsumiyajima and its residents, possessing strong leadership skills and exceptional judgement. He wants to be a Fafner pilot so he can protect the island, and laments that he unable to do so, having to manage the battle from the Siegfried System instead. Koyo is eventually assimilated by the Festum, though he will still help the island when he can, representing that humans and Festum can eventually understand one another. At one point he is almost killed by an island resident because of his assimilated state, but the realization that "Festum don't cry." saves him as it is understood that he is, still, Koyo in the end. Maya's presence brings a large of amount of comfort to the character's in the series, particularly Kazuki. She is a gentle, loving girl, but also very strong-willed, especially when facing the Festum. I'd call her the glue that unites everyone together, her overall importance to the story being of the utmost significance. She would do anything for her friends, even if a great burden is forced on her in the process. The characters are probably one of Fafner's strongest elements and are some of the most well-developed I've come across.
When a character dies in Fafner, they never disappear from the story. They may be gone, but they are never forgotten; they are always remembered. This creates a strong sense of unity between our characters and it makes their affection for one another have an authentic feel to it. People die in Fafner. A lot of people. No one is safe, no matter who they are in the story, they can die at any time. Death can be sudden and unexpected, but it comes anyway. It's always breathing down the neck's of the characters, ready to strike at any instant. Even so, the deceased will still have a roll to play within the narrative as their memory is lovingly held within the hearts of the living. Even if a character dies they are always—there. Hope remains ever-present within Fafner's story. The meaning of life and death is explored extensively in Fafner as well. The Core of the island, Soshi's sister, Tsubaki, teaches the Mir about what it means to live and die, a concept that it has no understanding of within the series.
There is a scene in Episode 17 that manages to perfectly encapsulate everything Fafner wants to say in the most brilliant fashion. To this day this scene is one that sticks with me because of how well-executed and genuinely heartfelt it was. An attack is launched against Tatsumiyajima Island by those who want it eradicated, and one character, Canon, is forced to make a decision. Kazuki, comes out to face her, but instead of doing so in battle, he does so in spirit. Canon has lost everything in life—she has no family, no friends, and still worse, no identity to call her own. Is she really there? As a means to cope, she has shut all things off, living only to follow the orders she is given, even if that order means her own death. She is incapable of making choice. She won't make one. Canon, holding the key to whether Tatsumiyajima will survive or not faces Kazuki, and, as I stated, rather than engaging in an all-out battle with her, Kazuki simply talks to her, facing one another in their machines—facing one another, not in combat, but by facing each other's hearts. This is not something that Canon is mentally suited towards given her circumstances. She is "broken" and doesn't believe she has any real thing to call her own. She believes that she does not exist anywhere. She will be able to easily follow an order that leads to the deaths of a lot of people because she is empty, so she can't really understand. This is one scene where I really have to hand it to the voice actors because the emotion, the pain, and the genuine desire to understand one another is palpable. In this encounter there is another thing that needs to be understood, the two are in their Fafner units, units that I've said heighten the survival instincts and the darker emotions found in humans. Rage, anger, hatred, you name it, the Fafner units are a stimulus to bring it out and make their pilots fight better. By all means Canon should be flying into a violent rage. But she's not. She's getting angry, but she's struggling. The fact that she is pushing herself so hard and that she is being pushed so hard, that Kazuki is forcing her to make a choice for herself is a testament to how desperate she was for someone to reach out to her; to just try listening to her. She was in such internal turmoil that all she needed was someone to hear her and to realize she was here. That alone would be proof enough that she was, in fact, there. Kazuki tells her to make the decision for herself and if she doesn't then he will disappear with her. This changes things and forces her into a situation where she now has someone here who has shown that they do care about her well-being. She's not alone and she deserves to be here and experience the emotions that everyone else does. Tears fall down her face as she begs Kazuki to tell her what to do. He refuses, telling her to make the choice herself. So, she does. In this scene there is no blood, there is no violence, and no one dies. There are only two people who manage to understand one another despite being on initially opposing sides. Canon makes a choice for herself; thus, Canon is someone; she is Canon; she is the only one of herself in existence; no one can replace her because she is the only one who can be uniquely her. She is a seemingly hopelessly broken individual, who with the help of others, slowly begins to pick up the shattered fragments of herself and piece them back together.
She is here.
This scene hits the existential aspect of the series, while simultaneously showing fighting is not what is needed to allow humans to understand one another. It seems to want to represent that we are all human, we can all understand each other if we try, and we can be there to help one another when it is needed. Canon eventually becomes a resident of Tatsumiyajima, and is adopted by Yoko Hazama who had previously adopted Shoko. Initially feeling like she doesn't belong on the island she eventually grows to love it. There is still hope in this broken world, even for those who have suffered immeasurably.
Fafner, true to what it has established itself to be, ends in a rather bittersweet way, with a nearly blind Kazuki returning to Tatsumiyajima where he vows to wait for Soshi's return forever. Kazuki has found where he belongs in this world and what he wants, his character journey reaching completion. Despite being unable to see, he has never seen just what it is that he wants as clearly as he does now. He at last fully understands himself and who he is; he is an authentic existence true to who he has created himself to be. He is Kazuki—the Fafner. He will protect the treasure, his home, Soshi's home, just like the Fafnir from Norse mythology that protects treasure as well. And so he'll remain on Tatsumiyajima.
He is, undoubtedly—
Honestly, I can see the characters own struggle for identity in the series as a mirror for the struggle of the series itself to find its identity too; a struggle that it eventually overcomes spectacularly as well.
So, is Fafner perfect?
No. It's quite flawed in certain aspects, particularly initially. But it's perfectly flawed. It's flawed in such a perfect way that it almost seems as if it is boldly expressing its themes through its own imperfections: "Hey, I'm flawed, but you know what, so are humans; accept me as I am, just as you would them."
And accept it I did.
*I may add more on this to the review in the future if I feel like it. I'll leave a status on whether that has been completed here. Status: Incomplete
**I may add more on the characters/discuss more characters as well someday. I'll also leave a status on whether this has been done. Status: Incomplete
***This review may be updated upon a re-watch to correct some mistakes I may have made in it. It has been sometime since I have completed this series, and, while there should be no major errors, something may not be entirely accurate, so I apologize to those who read this review if there are a few minor inaccuracies. This review was mainly written for my own reference to help me sort out my thoughts on the series. (However, if someone takes the time to read it or finds it useful I certainly won't complain.) There are things, such as further discussion on the characters, that I don't feel like I have elaborated on enough yet/don't feel like I can do well enough without a re-watch (I would need to refresh my memory so it can be as good as possible), so the review will likely see updates at some point.
Hey, what were you doing back in 2010? Hopefully, you were spending your time wisely by watching some of the best anime movies that year had to offer. And if you didn't, then here's the list to get you up to speed!