ADV Films // 2002 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // September 30th, 2004
Behind the corners of human reality lurks a hidden war for the domination of Earth.
Kyouta Kamikurata is a high school senior with dreams of pop idol stardom; he spends his afternoons practicing with his band mates Shingo and Junichi in the loft above his parents' convenience store. Misato Yukimura, president of the Cosmopop Talent Agency, discovers them and offers them the chance to record their first single. Just as things are looking up, however, Kyouta begins having visions of strange female warriors battling in the sky; little does he know that he and his girlfriend Yoriko will soon be the focal points of a war for the control of humanity.
From that point on, things get even sillier. I guess it's possible to create an entertaining story in which the future of mankind rests on the outcome of a mystical conflict between rival pop stars, but the producers of Aquarian Age don't even come close. Imagine your fate being determined by whether or not Justin Timberlake can defeat Donnie Wahlberg, and you'll begin to see where this series starts to go awry. Now imagine those two stopping the fight every fifteen minutes to sing and you'll see how it gets worse.
The real problem here is the inability of the creators to fuse the disparate story elements. The musical side of the plot dominates the five episodes included in this release, and it's not the least bit interesting; if I want to see teenage girls chasing a band through the streets, I'll sit down and watch A Hard Day's Night. The supernatural elements of the plot are pretty much ignored; we do get some glimpses of the conflict (usually in the form of ribbons of light dancing in the night sky -- some fun, that), but for the most part they play like afterthoughts. From the information I could gather from the background materials on the packaging insert, Aquarian Age began life as a trading card game, and I doubt Kyouta's band was a part of the game. It's easy to see that the pop scene elements do tie into the impending conflict, as many of the characters in this part of the story will obviously have a role in the battle (the foreshadowing here is rather heavy handed), but so far the storylines don't balance. I can only assume the various threads will be woven together in future installments, but by then it will too little, too late. The interminable buildup here crosses the line into simply padding the running time.
The music itself doesn't help. I know we're dealing with pop singers here, but the songs are incredibly vapid; if a plot involves as much music as is presented here, a little more effort couldn't hurt. Kyouta's band is also a bit of an oddity. He plays harmonica and handles vocals, while his pals employ a Fender Telecaster and what appears to be a Kurzweil keyboard they picked up at Michael Kamen's estate sale; they somehow manage to get a pretty big sound out of these instruments, but I'm not sure how, nor am I sure who's playing drums (the sounds are there, but there's not a drummer in sight). Kyouta's harp playing sounds as if he's just been released from the joint, but it somehow manages to drive teenage girls wild, which is odd; did Toots Thielemans have this many groupies? There is also Ryusie, a famous singer who is also represented by Cosmopop; David Bowie is his obvious physical inspiration, but he too is saddled with elevator music. Remember all those girls at Budokan screaming for Cheap Trick? I guess good taste wasn't passed on to future generations. On a side note, there's also a score cue that resembles the sad walking-away music played at the end of every episode of The Incredible Hulk; it's good for a laugh or two, but I don't think that's what the composer had in mind.
Considering that this series was initially broadcast in 2002, the presentation should be better. The picture is washed out in numerous scenes, edge enhancement is rampant, backgrounds in many are riddled with artifacts, and the blacks are actually closer to slate grey. Also, why isn't the transfer anamorphic? (Did MGM have a hand in this?) The original Japanese stereo track is okay, but the only real channel separation or low end response comes during the songs; the English dub contains a little more separation, but sonically that's really the only difference. Extras include ADV previews, a Japanese promotional trailer, opening and closing sequences minus the credits, production sketches, a documentary featuring the English voice talent, and an insert booklet that reveals information that should have been covered in the series itself.
I would advise you to pass on Aquarian Age. Even if you're intrigued by the plot or simply a hardcore anime fan, the technical quality of the disc doesn't justify spending your hard-earned cash. Throw a rock and you'll hit a better series than this one.
ADV Films and MADHOUSE, Ltd. are guilty of foisting technically and artistically mediocre product on the viewing public. The guilty parties are sentenced to repeated Pokémon viewing in the hope that seizures will soon be induced.
Review content copyright © 2004 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening/Closing Animation
* Japanese Promo Trailer
* Production Booklet
* Production Sketches
* Behind the Anime Featurette
* Official Site