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!!.
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.
And the journey begins.
I wrote the introduction in this summary-like way because it will make it easier to discuss certain elements from it later in the review.
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, it can easily be seen that Fafner is a series that holds a large amount of potential. Will it capitalize on that potential though?
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 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. With Fafner, Ubukata managed to take what had been established in the early episodes and 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 credit. 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.
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 Tatsumiya. 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...okay maybe it is most of the time, at least with this installment into the series that is. Oddly, it still looks better than some of the stuff they've made recently though. Anyway, 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 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, which I believe was comparison mentioned at least one time in the series. Backgrounds within the series are quite stunning, probably more so than the actual things in the foreground a lot of the time. 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 Tatsumiya.
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, but hey, that's just a personal opinion. Well, they are adding a little something I guess. 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." They stand out so much that it makes it somewhat hard for a character's presence to be ignored.
The Fafner units have sleek and polished designs. When speaking of the service these machines provide to the series they are rather praiseworthy. 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 (this has to do with Being and Nothingness, something I will elaborate a bit more on throughout this review). 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. Since the operator of the Siegfried System will also feel the damage a Fafner unit takes, they are in a rather difficult position. The operator of this system must possess good judgement as well as be able to function under extreme conditions to maximize the survival rate of the mission. Despite not being directly on the front lines their job is quite important to the outcome of a battle as they are in a sense 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 which can be seen on numerous instances. 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 and he is no longer who he once was. This can clearly be seen if we look at who he was before becoming a Fafner pilot. Koyo was a rather kind-hearted and loving characters in the series, a boy who would die for his friends if necessary. A boy who has been changed unwillingly.
The Festum are meant to be seen as a beautiful creature and the golden tone they possess coupled with their majestic appearances are alluring. They are a strange, complex lifeform, but an important thing to realize about their nature is that they are not attacking humanity because they want to wipe them out—at least not initially, that is. 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. They don't understand this, they don't comprehend what it is they are experiencing.
As expected, when the Festum take negativity 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 several encounters 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 another way for the series to explore Being and Nothingness.
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? Considering humanity is often fighting each other rather than the Festum a lot of the time it seems to be a rather poignant examination.
The battles within the series are what I'd describe as being engaging to watch, 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 action meshed with psychological and philosophical exploration create a special tension that, personally, kept me quite interested in what was happening. A perfect cocktail of thematic depth mixed with emotional reverberation is something that is not easy to achieve, but it was pulled off to great effect.
The music in the series is mesmerizing when it plays, being expressively forlorn and beautifully heart-rending when necessary. It certainly left an impression on me and managed to become one of my favorites. The voice acting is quite astounding in certain scenes with the emotional depth being conveyed exceptionally well. 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 across 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, taking a vast amount of inspiration from it 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 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, however, it was stated that if Kazuki's Mark Sein were to use Fenrir the destruction would extensive. 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.
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 when they are young. When their brains are not fully developed (another reason why young people pilot Fafners) 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.
Additionally, the young characters were not born via natural means. There are discussions of gene manipulation which is yet another topic in which many questions are raised. Fafner often spends its time engaging in dialogue-heavy philosophical topics or discussing its own in-universe science which can can quite extensive. Thankfully, it's actually interesting stuff that has relevance to the plot and makes sense if you're actually paying attention.
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, too, 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.
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 worth 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. What makes this really interesting to think about is that 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, which I'm inclined to believe 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 and Being and Nothingness 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. This is an act of bad faith and 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.
There is a scene at the end of Episode 15 where Kazuki emerges with Mark Sein from a lava pit and breaks out of hardened magma, almost like a "birth," or coming into Being. This is the same episode where he finally confronts his past. This is shortly after he obtained the Salvator-model Fafner Mark Sein which literally represents "Being." Kazuki now exists as his current self and no longer replaces it with a past self that does not exist.
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 and it also implies that Kazuki may reciprocate. It leaves it pretty ambiguous though, much like a majority of the relationships in the series, but you'd still have to be blind to miss it. Despite appearing very cold, Soshi's 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 as a Slave Type Festum, meaning he actually still possesses some of his own will over the assimilation. It also represents 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.
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, and also rather 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. I'd like to talk about more, but for now I'll hold off.
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. 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 and were always—there. Hope remains ever-present within Fafner's story.
The meaning of life and death is explored extensively 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. She represents a Valkyrie.
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 by those who want it eradicated since the Festum, being a hive-mind, are learning new strategies and tactics from their encounters with them. At this point, Canon, is forced to make a decision, by her own free will. 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?, the series ask. 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 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 probably 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 she is being forced 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. Being in such internal turmoil that all she needed was someone to hear her and to realize she was here with that alone being proof enough that she was, in fact, there.
Kazuki implores her to make the decision for herself and if she doesn't then he will disappear with her placing her in a situation where she now has someone 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 stream down as she begs for Kazuki to tell her what she should do. He refuses, telling her to make the choice herself. So, she does. She makes a decision of her own.
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—being blind is a form of nothingness—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.
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.
The beginning of Fafner was quite confusing as it went straight to the action. Going straight into the action is often never a good idea since it’ll leave the viewers confused. Now if this were only the first episode and the second episode takes place a few months earlier then it would work. Gungrave, Berserk, and the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya used this technique. Haruhi used it quite effectively as it made more viewers come back for the 2nd episode to figure out what was going on. I guess my biggest problem is the fact that the action was relentless
for around 9 episodes and they tried to create drama in that time frame. This is simply not possible with out proper character development/knowing the characters. For example, a certain character dies and they make it quite a big event and extremely dramatic. However, this character was only a step above some random faceless character. If this series were 50 episodes then I can under stand the pacing but it was only 25 episodes. It’s as if the creators realized that Fafner wasn’t popular enough to make into 50 episodes and cut their losses.
Around half way through the series, Fafner starts to slow down. Here things got better as there was proper character building and story progression. Now when drama hits it can actually affect the viewer. Sadly this happened way too late in a 25 episode series as there was quite a bit of potential in the Fafner universe. Thankfully, Fafner does save itself by creating a satisfying conclusion, albeit a bit rushed. I also felt that Fafner could have improved its ending by providing some kind of epilogue.
Music was one of Fafner’s better qualities, especially the OP/ED. Also, the character designs were the same as Gundam SEED so it quite hard not to make comparisons. However, in terms of animation quality Fafner compares quite favorably. So while the beginning went straight to the action and was a bit confusing it was nevertheless pretty. If you’re a mecha fan then its almost worth watching just for the action scenes. As far as I recall Fafner doesn’t use repeated animation sequences, one of my pet peeves.
Fafner is a fairly entertaining mecha anime, especially for mecha fans. It features good animation and very good music. However, Fafner didn’t provide anything exceptional and doesn’t rise above the pack of mecha anime. In addition, it was severally hurt by inappropriate pacing for a 25 episode series. It is quite sad to see so much wasted potential. Finally a proper epilogue would have greatly benefited the series.
Important: Forgive my english please. As a french person it's not always very easy for me.
It's been awhile since I didn't not rewatch this serie and I should do so. This anime is one of my favorite anime of all time for now and I doubt that one day it will dropped from my top ten. I'm doing this review by trying to covince the more people to watch this awesome serie.
Story: Incredible!! It was so well built that when I watch it I was like: EH!!It could happen one day in a not so far future. There's no cliché except for the first episode
when Kazuki became the pilot of the Fafner Mark Elf because, currently, is the only one who can do this. Wait... this isn't even a cliché... it's an anime law come to think of it. At the beginning, you may look at this and say: well... it's like kira yamato. He will fight to protect his friends. Fortunately, this is not what will happen, since all of Kazuki's friends will fight one day. People sometime made comparison between Fafner and Evangelion. Yeah... maybe sometime... but I like Faner more than Evangelion (the anime of Evagelion is a little bit disappointing, but the manga is really good). Also some people complain that the show is slow and the battles are boring. Do not forget, there's a lot of character development in that show and I disagree for the battles, there's no stock animation like *cough*Seed Destiny*cough* and they are very thrilling. And the final, just completely amazing and outstanding!!
So for the story: 10/10 (just awesome).
Art: Again, you have Hisashi Hirai doing a lot of characters that we might have seen in his others series. For example: Kazuki is a mix of Shinn Asuka and Athrun Zala in my opinion (not in personnality fortunately). My point is, if you like Hisashi's design like me, you're gonna fall in love with the characters. The mecha are also really special. Like Code Geass, there are really different from the other shows you might have seen. By the way they look, they seem to have no "face". A head but no face. You know what... there a really cool and I can't understand people saying they look like EVA. They are really different.
Sound: This is one of the best soundtrack I ever heard. The choice of instruments are excellent. It fits perfectly with the action and the calm moments. Also, I'm a big fan of Angela's opening and I will say that it's probably my favorite opening of all show that I watched until now.
Character: This is where Fafner gets, in my opinion, 12/10. The characters are very enjoyable and interresting, but they put also some "cliché" in their personality. Do you need to care about this cliché, NO!! By the way it's handle, there's no problem with the characters personnality, because there just to lovable. You have your main character who is really calm and happy with is life at the beginning, but want to end all the terror once he gets into the fight. You have the girl who seem not worthy enough to pilot a mecha, but at the end, is one of the best pilot they could get. You have the guy who hate to fight and doesn't want to be involved. The guy who is scare about the battle, the guy who doesn't give a crap about the pilot, but cares about the Fafner, the little girl who is sick and can't do anything, the girl who wants to become a pilot to avenge her father's death and the guy who wants to fight with a giant robot. But all of them will change during this serie (some of them will die during the show) and this is what is really the best about this anime.
Character: 12/10 (I don't care if the limite is ten).
Enjoyment: In 2 episodes, I became impossible to stop. I watched the serie in 3 days and was really amaze by this show that handle the story and the characters like no one does.
Overall: I won't say it's the best show of all time, since I didn't watch necessarily a lot of anime, but I know how to determine what is a really good show. Watch it, you won't be deceived!!
Overall: 10/10 OUTSTANDING!!!!!!
A good story played out by unconvincing characters.
I have been hearing this title for quite some time now and expected something decent at the very least. I had almost dropped it after 9 episodes due to execution and characters but I found myself thinking about the plot after a while and came back to it.
The show greets you with a great song by angela, and ever since Stellvia of the Universe I have been a fan of angela and the singer's voice. The opening sequence is one of highlights of this series.
However, the first 10 episodes is very difficult to get through. Instead of throwing
some action at me to get me hooked and then slow down to explain things, it just kept at it. When it did slow down, it was only to point out things that were very hard to accept. Let me state a few questions that I could not find answer to:
* Why does the commander of the whole base goes out to pilot a fighter jet as any other grunt and gets killed right away?
* Why bother with having (not one but two) shields when they are hardly able to stop the enemy for whole 2 seconds?
* Why is the first pilot so good?
* Why is everyone around so influenced/infatuated by him?
* How did they manage to remain hidden for so long and then suddenly all hell breaks loose?
* How come you have guns that Fafners handle that are able to hurt the enemy but you have no stationary, more powerful versions of these?
* Why does the enemy wipe automatic defence systems right away but does not attack Fafners in the same way?
I also could not get over how the writers of the show had a MESSAGE to convey and how characters did everything to validate it. It was not people's natural behaviour that pushed the story forward here, it was the MESSAGE. There were many instances where someone acted like a completely different person because that suited the story. There were many cases of sudden, unexplainable change in behaviour that, again, were there only to point the viewer at a particular idea. I felt I was watching characters being jerked sideways by invisible strings to make them behave as it was required of them.
This series also miserably fails at creating drama in first 10 episodes. Attempts to force me to see something as very sad were so blatantly obvious that I could not help but reject them. Sometimes less is more.
Warning: mild spoilers starting here.
The case of commander dying so quickly (and then we get obligatory “grieving by a loved one” scene) is repeated on much grander scale very soon. Second pilot is designated, enemy attack follows and the she self-destructs to take out the threat. The problem is: she was hardly given any screen time for me to get to know, care about her and understand her motivation. All we know as she decides on a flight to her death is that she was a gentle girl of very weak health, as if the show is telling me: “look, a frail girl is flying to her death! This is sad! Cry!). And I thought pulling FMA or Steins;Gate on cute characters was obvious (who watched – knows).
Another gripe I have is with the way it portrays the "evil" characters. They are introduced in much the same way as the Big Bad Wolf from Red Riding Hood: rotten to the core and ugly to boot. A pair, foster parents, badmouths their adopted son pretty much from the get go. You have to be pretty screwed to do that to someone you've seen growing and whom you cared for for about 16 years of your life, and it's not just one parent, it's both of them! It's even more difficult to swallow since their son seems to have grown up all-right. And when we see how bad are they? It turns out they are spies and it gives even more ground to expel them from the island. Talk about fortuitous development.
* Second half
The Festum are attacking, and this time it's Kazuki who is supposed to ride the Fafner, a gigantic robot, designed to save the island, that the remaining japanese call their home.
Soukyuu no Fafner is so much more than just one of thoose Mecha-series. It has a wonderful animation, music and the best characters.
It made me laugh, made me cry, and sometimes it was to exiting I couldn't breath.
The characters are wonderful, and I think they make this anime so great!
The story was a little complicated for me, but still it was good.
I loved the one-hour-last-episode. I remembered I was squeesing
my pillow extra hard during that time.
Fafner tries to be a good show but it is such an average typical mecha filled with forced, cheesy, and fake dramatical moments that despite it retaining some entertainment value and possessing a good mystery draw to uncover, this show is hard to watch. The drama is filled with cheesy lines and other additions such as forced tears and little to no sufficient character development to ensure viewers would feel anything during these emotional or dramatic scenes. During fights pilots often scream like maniacs and it can carry on a bit too long when they do. Only a few characters have any
development or capacity to draw viewers in enough for form a connection. Most enemy characters have no sense of connection or development that result in enemies a bit too flat. The flow of the story draws little to no distinction who the enemies are and yet the islanders end up feeling like abused victims though they never appear to blame any of the enemies or have the will to resist or retaliate once they are face to face. Nothing really stands out as unique so about the series from other mecha or other anime.
*Untapped potential to be a much better anime
*A theme of resolution other than violence
*Though few, there are some likable and somewhat developed characters
*Imaginative look at an apocalypse futuristic setting in an alternate world
*Humans with unique gifted qualities perfect for facing the crisis
*Most characters totally lack any development or connection to viewers
*Dramatic and emotional moments are cheesy, fake, and forced
*Lousy non universal views of morals and ethics though done in a confusing conflicting way.
*No sense of consequences for bad decisions such as betrayal
*Poor story logic (mostly to do with poor emotional scenes, betrayals and behaviors of those betrayed, and non sensical lines that do not line up with previous dialogue, actions, or results.
Fafner is an anime rife with symbolism, it is a mecha anime somewhat in the vain of Neon Genesis Evangelion. In fact most of this anime reminded me of Evangelion, down to the music and most of the mood of this show, except the one thing that separates it from Evangelion is the fact that it manages to stay optimistic throughout most of the series.
It takes a couple episodes to get off the ground but I think Episode 6 is when the series really changes things up, you will see a lot of characters perish throughout the course of this series, but in this episode
there is an emotional shock that really changes the tone of the series and from there you start to realize what kind of a world this place is. In fact what is most interesting is that for many of the battles the pilots are almost helpless against the Festum and they only barely manage to escape with their lives.
The Animation for this show for it's time is great, now granted it is only 5 years old, it's pretty standard animation, The Battle Scenes are the biggest key in this series and for the most part they succeed.
The Music in this series is it's biggest strength, Tsuneyoshi Saito and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra do a beautiful job on the music, of note is the main battle theme "Opening of Nightmare's Gate" which really gets you into the moment the second it starts. As for the Opening and Closing, they are handled by the great Japanese Pop Duo of angela, atsuko (the lead singer) does a phenomenal job on the vocals for both the opening and closing, the closing theme song of this show not to mention the ending animation that accompanies it are among the highlights. I cannot say enough good things about the music for this series, it is definitely within the Top 10 of anime television series scores.
Tow Ubukata who wrote this series and has written Heroic Age, Le Chevalier d'Eon, Mardock Scramble always manages to make his characters written very realistically, he tries his hardest to ensure that the characters are not predictable and frankly there are not many stereotypical anime characters in this show. But I think Ubukata's greatest character writing comes in the creation of the enemy force known as the Festum, Ubukata manages to give you bits and pieces of information about what the Festum are really about, you eventually come to see that the Festum are not exactly evil in nature but basically are shaped by another reason entirely, one that I cannot give away for risk of spoiling it.
This is not a series that is enjoyable per-say, like I enjoy the story-line and learning about the characters through-each episodes but in some ways, this series is bitter-sweet, it's not a happy and not a sad series, you feel somewhat unsatisfied after the ending of it, as of this writing, I have not seen the Fafner Movie but i will probably get around to it and the maybe my feeling of the overall Franchise will change.
Fafner is in someways a different kind of a Mecha series, but it does fall within the range of what I call an Emotional Mecha series, it has melodrama, ethical questions and an enemy that does not understand humanity.
After reading a few reviews I thought "heck people seem to like this and it has a sequel running, could be interesting right?". Well right of the bat in the first episode I had a more or less "wtf" moment and it wasn't a good one. We go from cliche school setting to super powerful next to impossible to kill boss fight in a instance. Oh in classic mecha style all defenses are useless and we have a professional scrub force that gets instawhiped, like why even bother. Out goes our hero, badabing badaboom boss fight is over.
The good stuff about the show
is sound and art, sound in particular is great.
The bad stuff: well the story is non-existent the first six episodes, characters are just background material as we don't get to know a thing about them. While it wasn't a Suzaku Kururugi (code geass, I was baffled that he didn't die like 500 times in that shows first ten episodes) for me but the "main" duo are presented so badly and story forced into stupidity that I just lost interest. A cake covered in poop is still a poop cake no matter how nice the filling is and this show something like that.
That turned into a ramble.
In short: great music, colourful and for the most part good art, really badly presented story, character presentation is borderline criminally bad and finally lots and lots and lots of stupid cliches.
If you are looking for action fiesta there are better options and if you are looking for a good story there are better options too. Your mileage may vary but to me its a no go.
I have watched many mecha series over the years and I have to say Fafner is a solid series but is far from original. The story was alright with some similarity to Evangelion and Raxephon. I would recommend Fafner to anyone who enjoyed either of those. I thought the art style was pretty well done, and found some of the plot points and characterization was pretty unique and interesting.
Let me make one thing clear with Fafner in that the series isn't gonna win any awards in originality considering the number of cliches and plot setups in the mecha genre it pulls from teens forced into fighting an alien threat to the mental anguish faced by said teens as they are faced with the reality of war. If you're approaching the series to expect anything different from the mecha genre, don't waste your time watching this as going with this mentality led me to drop Fafner two years ago due to my disappointment with its unoriginality. But if you're approaching the series for an
engaging plot while knowing it's not gonna be offering much new, then Fafner offers up solid, yet flawed, engagement to look forward to in its 26-episode run.
The main draw to the series comes in the form of the teens involved in the battle with the Festum alien threat. The series slowly builds up in revealing the major elements of its plot and how they come to affect the teens who get forced into the conflict with the Festum. Some shocking secrets regarding the true nature of the island home that Kazuki and his friends live on and the purpose of their upbringing on said island come to affect Kazuki and several of his friends throughout the course of the series. Each of the characters have their differing levels of growth and development that come about as a result of these revelations throughout the course of the series. They are also impacted by the realities of war and the nature of their upbringing as the series isn't afraid to make its major characters go through large amounts of suffering or even kill them off. This does result in the series dipping into melodramatics with the characters at a number of points as they angst over their situation. But the series knows when to show a level of restraint with pushing its drama in most instances where it doesn't get too overbearing.
Other elements of the series are a bit of a mixed bag. There's an element to the series focused around tensions between the islanders and the Neo U.N. resistance faction, which the series tries to play up for drama to show their different mentalities of approaching the Festum threat and treatment of those in their factions. But other than Canon's developments, this story element is a bit subpar and didn't feel too significant for me due to the lack of focus on the Neo U.N. The show also gets a bit too heavy at points with dipping into its Norse mythology nods and techno-jargon where the former has no symbolic relevance other than "rule of cool" and the latter can get convoluted to keep up with. While the Festum do get their focus with exploring their motivations, the series never does bother exploring their origins nor much of the past history of how events in Fafner had started thanks to the Festum threat. Also, this series may get too overwhelming with its serious mood for some folks as there aren't many breathers in the drama for one to get a break from the show's serious developments.
On the visual end, Fafner is standard in its quality for a mid-2000s title featuring subdued color tones to accompany its serious mood and a decent amount of detail added to the designs of characters, mecha and scenery. Scenery shots are great on the eyes featuring different parts of the island in gorgeous detail, but character designs are typical for an anime series and the Fafner units aren't too pleasing on the eyes compared to the various Festum they fight. The show has its moments of great battle sequences when the Festum threat begins to intensify in later episodes and multiple Fafner units get dragged into the fight, but doesn't stick out too greatly compared to other shows airing at the time like Gungrave and Hell Girl.
Overall, Fafner does deliver a somewhat solid story with its focus on Kazuki and others as they struggle with learning shocking secrets and making life-or-death decisions as they become further immersed in the war with the Festum. While having its issues and not really breaking the mold for the mecha genre, it is still a decent watch if you can look past the cliches and frequent melodrama that are packed into Fafner.
Soukyuu no Fafner is an anime full of good ideas that could have been even better with some adjustments here and there.
The world of Fafner combines elements of Evangelion (Festum = Angels), Gundam (teenage pilots and "real robot" action), and even Star Wars (Mir = The Force) to create an original flavor. Shades of Huxley's "Brave New World" can be seen in the too-idyllic Tatsumiyajima setting, and the characters themselves spend a lot of time absorbed in philosophical thoughts and arguments. Unfortunately, the plot isn't quite as unique as the setting, and it's a little slow to develop - but in the second half
of the series, the plot picks up and the revelations and mecha action come fast and furious.
Artwork and sound are fine, neither excellent nor terrible. The Fafner mecha, with their twisted torsoes and lanky limbs, are a little strange to look at (and we don't get enough good looks at them), but at least the artists dared to be different. I think Hisashi Hirai's character designs are fine, but I'm not sure that everyone feels the same way.
The characters are where Fafner falls a little flat. The supporting cast, though large, is quirky and likeable, but most of them are doomed to die, and only one of their deaths (very early on) really made me feel anything. That particular death, however, is handled very well and brings up another strength - the chemistry among the entire cast is very good, and it's easy to believe that these people are friends, family, and comrades who mean something to each other. However, the main characters - Kazuki and Soushi - come off as bland and unmotivated to me, and Commander Makabe may be the most unqualified and uninspiring commander in all of mecha anime.
That said, Fafner is more than the sum of its parts. The final episodes of the series that tie everything together really deliver, and made me feel like it was worth it to watch that far. If the main characters had shown more personality, and some information that was necessary for understanding the world the characters lived in had been shared earlier, I think Fafner would have been even more engaging. If you need a less-mainstream anime to satisfy your mecha cravings, or if you're feeling a little philosophical, then try Fafner - you'll probably enjoy it.
I found out about Soukyuu no Fafner quite some time ago, actually it was 8 or so years ago when i was looking for something similar to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Even though i heard many good things about the show, the stigma of being a very "shounen ai" anime kept me from watching it. With the airing of last years second season i decided to finally give this mecha classic a shot.
The story about angsty teenagers piloting giant mechs against an alien invasion of so called Festums doesn`t deserve any awards for creativity, though i have to admit that the show throws a multitude of
themes into the mix that were really interesting. The theme of young people being thrown out off their ordinary lifes, facing the grim reality of a war for survival, was very well executed and one of the strong points of Fafners narrative. Not only is the loss of innocence strongly emphasized in some of the shows calmer moments with the reocurring metaphor of changing into something else while piloting the fafners but also portrayed in the opening with childhood pictures of the protagonists. What sets Fafner apart from shows like Evangelion though is the stronger emphasize on the theme of family. Seeing how their parents struggle with the decision to send their children off, basically beíng child soldiers was one of the strong points of the first half.
Sadly the shows focus drastically changes towards a pseudo philosophical approach to themes like existentialism, the meaning of life and the concept of understanding each other. Even though these themes aren`t uninteresting on their own, quite the contrary, they just feel not well executed at all to the point where the show starts to feel unnecessarily convoluted, even pretentious. There are many other shows (other than NGE) that dealt with these kind of themes in a much more cohesive and elaborate way (Rahxephon, Serial Experiments Lain, Zegapain).
The story itself though, as earlier mentioned, is nothing special, to the degree of being quite bland if not for the convoluted mass of (never explained) terminology it throws at you. It`s as if the writers try to cover up their lack of creativity with pretentious terms and convoluted concepts. That may sound quite harsh but despite the beforementioned themes the story in itself wasn`t more then mediocre.
If you are looking for heartshattering drama though, this show will not let you down. Without spoiling anything, Fafners reputation of being one of the most saddening anime is quite earned. Just be prepared for melodramatic death scenes... You know, the good stuff.^^
For death scenes to have any meaning the show of cause must provide characters that you can empathize with and Fafner, for the most part, delivers. Actually i would say this is the shows biggest strength, though also its biggest flaw. Let me explain: Almost all the side characters (and there are many of them) are not only characterized perfectly, with their own physical, psychological or emotional burdens to carry, but also go through some drastic character developement. This of cause ties in to the beforementioned themes of the loss of innocence and familiar bonds, as the show spends quite some time on how the characters live with and relate to their respective families. That of cause makes some of the dramatic deaths even more intense for the viewer as you really feel the loss those people must experience at that moment. Needless to say, i can only give highest praise for that accomplishment.
But as great the side characters are, the main character did in no way resonate with me. This may be because of his quite "shounen ai relationship" with Soushi (even though a romantical relationship is never directly stated or even "physical", the show makes it quite clear that Kazuki shares a very "special" relationship with Soushi). Without insulting fans of the shounen ai genre, i have to say that this was very alienating for me, to the degree that i couldn`t relate to Kazuki at all. The problem is: He came off very unsympathetic because he was very distant to most other characters beside Soushi, even to his close friend Maya, who clearly had feelings for him. Well, nonetheless, i am quite aware that this is extremely subjective as fans of shounen ai would definitely like his relationship with Soushi. For me though it was hard to relate to Kazuki.
In the art and animation department studio Xebec did a wonderfull job in bringing the beautiful landscapes of Tatsumiyajima island to life. That is especially true to the very detailed and vibrant scenic backgrounds. The animation itself was also really good for its time even though i have to say that the mecha fights weren`t the main attraction here. I didn`t expect the mecha-battle animation to be on par with something studio sunrise could pull off, but at times i felt that the mech fights were really boring and uninspired. The character animation though was really good. Yes, Hisashi Hirai`s character designs are a hit or miss, but i feel that they felt much more distinct in Fafner than in let`s say Gundam Seed. It also helps that there are some really creativ character animation sequences to underline certain chracter driven moments.
The soundtrack was also amazing, even though there were some tracks that were more than inspred by NGEs OST. Interesting enough it was recorded by the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra. I also have to mention the amazing opening and ending themes by japanese artist angela.
All in all i have to say Soukyuu no Fafner was an interesting experience to me, even though it had its flaws in the story and character cathegories. On one hand the story was quit simple and uncreative if not for the needlessly convoluted pseudophilosophical approaches, on the other hand certain social themes like loss of innocence, familiar bonds and how to live a peacefull life in a world under constant attack were mor than interesting. The shounen ai approach to the main character will certainly leave a sour taste for some viewers, but i think the excelent side characters mak up for it.
Not to forget the intense, heartshattering drama, for what the show is known for.
I`d say, if you`re a mecha fan you should definitely watch this show.
Fafner is the story of a paradise island called Tatsumiya and its people who have managed to stay hidden from the alien attackers called Festum. With the help of the island's teenagers who are able to pilot the Fafners, the military send them out to fight the Festum.
I truly enjoyed watching Fafner. The animation is superb, the music is engaging (doesn't put you to sleep) and the storyline is very good. I like mecha type anime and this one had it all. Hints of romance, action, friendships, sorrow, acceptance...So many emotions in this anime and well worth watching. I certainly recommend
it for all the mecha lovers out there.