Sentai Filmworks // 2008 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // May 15th, 2011
Grab your pilot's goggles and get your flight jacket ready. It's time to take off on a '30s style adventure.
The story takes place on another world, very similar to our own during the 1930s. While the outfits and technology are familiar, the geography is not. On this world, there is only one continent, with a huge mountain range and river splitting it in half. On the one side live the Roxcheanuk Confederation, called the Roxche for short. On the other is the United Kingdom of Bezel Iltoa, also known as Sou Beil. The two sides hate each other and have been at war for generations.
We start in Roxche territory where a studious young man named Wil (Motoko Kumai) is attempting to enjoy some quiet time during summer vacation. Then Allison (Nana Mizuki) shows up in her bi-plane and decides to shake things up. The two are old friends. Both are in their senior year, and they are facing an uncertain future. Allison is in the air force, and looking forward to a career in the military. Wil, although he is a skilled marksman, is looking forward to further study, something his nearly photographic memory will aid in.
A chance encounter with an old man reveals a secret. Deep in Sou Beil territory lies a treasure. The old man claims that this treasure has the power to end the war between the nations. After revealing this nugget of plot, the old man is abducted. Allison, being the little spitfire she is, can't take this lying down and races after the abductors, with Wil along for the ride.
This leads to all kinds of adventures, including a daring rescue from a castle, a mysterious village hiding a royal secret, a murderous politician and even a deadly mystery on a train. Along the way the two heros meet the dashing pilot Benedict (Kouichi Yamadera) and the sweet but mysterious Fiona (Mamiko Noto). These four youths will face the odds and fall in love in the first half of Allison & Lillia.
At first I thought this show was going to be similar to Last Exile, with a 1930s world filled with conspiracy, action and adventure. It does share some similarities with the older show, but Allison & Lillia is more interested in keeping things light and romantic. The chases and escapes are present, but the action scenes don't occur every episode. Instead we get plenty of character interaction, and touches of romance. Adjust your expectations and you'll find a lot to enjoy.
The first half of the series is basically three separate story arcs, each based on a different book from the novel series by Keiichi Sigsawa. What is kind of strange is that the first story arc could have been fleshed out into an entire series by itself. When it ends, it feels a little anticlimactic. The second one feels a little padded, and the third feels just about right. The final episode gives you a hint that the second half of the series will deal with a new set of characters and is set about 15 years later.
The setting is well realized with plenty of period style clothing and machines. The airplanes are the highlight of the show so far, with some excellent dog fights and Allison showing off how good she really is. But we also get to see some '30s style luxury during the train episodes. This let the characters dress a little differently and interact with a new set of characters.
The character design is on the simple side, but pleasant enough. The only issue I had was that the characters appear much younger than they turned out to be. I thought it was odd that a little girl was allowed to fly a bi-plane. But Allison is just shorter than Wil. These two are supposed to be around 18 or so. Fiona also confused me. I thought she was younger than all of them, but it turns out she's in her early 20s.
The series is fun, but so light and breezy I'm wondering if I'll remember much a couple months from now. The plots and adventures are entertaining while you're watching, but because they never delve too deep and the action never gets too intense, I was never completely pulled in. That did change with the final episode in the set. All the character moments build to a bittersweet finale which hits all the right romantic beats.
Sentai provides another solid release. The image looks great, allowing you to see the detail of the planes and setting. The sound is mixed well, with the music never drowning out the dialogue. This is a Japanese language only release, but the subtitles are easy to read and don't rush by. You get the typical clean opening and ending credits for an extra.
The setting gives it a bit of flavor, and I'm curious to see how the next generation works into the story. For anyone looking for a series that balances adventure and romance, I say check it out.
Lightweight but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Sentai Filmworks
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Open/Close
* Wikipedia: Allison & Lillia
* Anime News Network: Allison & Lillia