Geneon // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // July 28th, 2005
Their paradise was a deception...
The children of Tatsumiya Island think their home is an idyllic utopia. They are unaware the island is really a military fortress designed to combat the threat of the Festum, telepathic alien invaders who have come to Earth in an attempt to assimilate humanity. The centerpiece of the Tasumiyan defense system is the Fafner, a mecha that can only be controlled by a select few of the island's children.
Sound like anything you've already seen? The plot of the anime series Fafner is more than a bit familiar, but we'll get to that in a second. Meanwhile, here's a brief summary of the episodes included on this release:
* Episode One: "Beginning (Paradise)"
A Festum Sphinx materializes above Tatsumiya Island. The island's defense shields are raised, fighter planes are launched, and all of the schoolchildren are herded into an underground bunker. Preparations are made to launch the Fafner into battle, but the young pilot is killed while being transported to the mecha's hanger. Kozo Minushiro, the commander of the island's military, sends his son Soshi to find Kazuki Makabe, a teenager who is unaware he is next in line to pilot the Fafner.
* Episode Two: "Life (Confession)"
The Fafner is launched. The Sphinx attempts to communicate with Kazuki; Soshi, who is linked to Kazuki through the mecha's Siegfried monitoring system, tells Kazuki to ignore the Festum's attempts to enter his mind. The Sphinx is eventually destroyed; Soshi's father is killed during the battle, leaving Fumihiko, Kazuki's father, as acting head of the Tatsumiyan defenses. The schoolchildren are allowed to leave the bunker; they are shocked when they see the shields and missile batteries now dotting the landscape of their home. Kazuki confronts his father about the lies the adults of the island have been telling their children.
* Episode Three: "Truth (Labyrinth)"
Kazuki begins training in a simulator. A Neo U.N. reconnaissance plane flies over Tatsumiya Island. Fumihiko thinks the island, which uses a cloaking device to conceal itself from the rest of the world, must be moved to a more secure location. Dr. Tomi, the scientist in charge of finding Fafner pilot candidates, begins testing the abilities of high school students. The parents of the eligible teenagers are notified; most of them don't take well to the news, but they are unable to prevent their children from being drafted. While wandering through the Fafner command center, Kazuki sees a phantom roaming the halls. This phantom, which has assumed the form of a young girl, leads Kazuki down into the bowels of the complex. What he finds there shocks him, but a Festum attack calls him away from his discovery.
* Episode Four: "Departure (Escape)"
The Fafner once again flies into battle, this time attached to the Lindwurm, a large plane that is piloted by Soshi. Fumihiko hopes the Festum will be distracted by the snooping Neo U.N. plane long enough for the island to be relocated. Kazuki ignores orders and attempts to rescue the spy plane after the Festum attack it. The island is moved, the Festum are repelled, and the U.N. plane secretly manages to capture evidence of the existence of the island and the Fafner.
Like I said, it's derivative. The most obvious sources of inspiration for this series are Neon Genesis Evangelion and RahXephon, although in this case inspiration borders on outright theft. The plot and execution of Fafner are so similar to Evangelion you'd think the people behind that classic series would sue, and the Sphinx machines employed by the Festum are nothing more than gold-plated versions of the RahXephon. I wasn't expecting this series to be wholly original, but would a couple of fresh ideas be too much to ask for? Another problem is the sheer number of characters introduced in these episodes. The cast of characters is large and the individual players are often indistinguishable; there's not much in the way of character development in these episodes, and as a result I found it very hard to keep track of who's who.
I do have to admit that the show succeeds on a technical level. The animation (primarily traditional cell animation, although it has been augmented by a bit of CG work) is beautiful, and it's well represented by Geneon's flawless transfer. Both stereo audio options are very pleasing, with excellent channel separation and some nice low-end activity. The English dub is a bit more dynamic than its subtitled Japanese counterpart, although the dialogue loses quite a bit in translation and the voice acting is pretty bland. Extras include creditless versions of the show's opening and closing sequences, as well as previews for other Geneon releases.
Fafner is a joy to look at, but you've seen it all before. There's a slim chance diehard mecha fans will be pleased with it, but even for them I'd advise a rental. As for everyone else, I suggest skipping it.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening/Closing Animation
* Anime News Network Page
* Official Site