This is the dawning of the age of Judge Brett Cullum.
Five supernatural factions have been fighting against each other for many centuries, with the beginning of Aquarian Age always in mind.
Rising popstar Kyouta begins to see visions of mystical girls fighting while he plays a New Year's Eve gig with his band, and he thinks he might be losing it. Certainly mystical girls fighting over him couldn't be real. Except they do exist, and his destiny is calling. Soon he and his girlfriend Yoriko become involved, and the battle for Earth and Aquarian Age lies in their hands. They find themselves in the middle of a war they never knew existed. All their dreams of being normal are shattered, and Kyouta's designs on taking over the entertainment industry will have to be put on hold.
Aquarian Age Sign for Evolution Collection, one of the latest releases from ADV Films, contains an entire anime series in one convenient value priced boxset. I love these thinpack collections of entire anime series, because I was always impatient waiting months for the next installment of a continuing story. I usually sit down and rip through an entire anime disc in one sitting, so these are perfect for people like me who gorge themselves on marathon sessions. The only thing missing from these collector sets are the extra features often released on the individual discs, and the insert sheets.
Aquarian Age only suffers slightly without the glossary of terms included in the original series DVDs. I was a little lost at first as to who was what, but quickly caught on to what was happening in this elaborate series. It's an interesting tale that effectively mixes a simple teenage romance with a supernatural cosmic battle. It's manic, bright, and beautifully colored. Don't let the deliberately slow pacing in the early episodes turn you off—Aquarian Age picks up steam as it goes along. It's meant to be a slow burn, which builds to a trippy climax that satisfies in the end.
It's interesting to look at Aquarian Age as an illustration of exactly what an ADR house like ADV does when it works on a series. If you watch an episode in the original Japanese, you'll notice a slightly different tone from the American dub. The Japanese series has a more mournful, dispirited quality, while the English actors give the characters a little more life and wonder. Both versions are equally compelling, but it's fun to compare and contrast how the vocal directors in the two countries coach their actors to create two distinct versions of the same story. Another interesting comparison is the sound quality of each language. The English translation is delivered in a speaker-thumping surround mix, while the original track is an austere stereo track. The sonic design makes the performances change as well.
The animation for Aquarian Age is traditional, with a twist. Madhouse Studios was responsible for the visuals, which combine standard realistic hand-drawn images with computer enhancements and CGI effects. The design of the show is richly detailed with an emphasis on color as a dramatic device. The real world appears stark and gritty, while anytime the supernatural warriors appear things turn bright and almost garishly monochromatic. It's a handsomely drawn production, and a cool showcase for the art of anime. Character design is unique, and you won't have any problems figuring out who is who at any point. The transfers are quite beautiful. ADV provides solid work in delivering the show, which relies on extremes from dark shadows to high gloss color which turns on a dime.
The series is a little bit overcrowded with five warring factions, a couple of rock bands, and throngs of screaming girl fans. Part of the reason for this mass of characters is that the series was based around a collectible card game in Japan, and they had to include enough of each side to satisfy the fans of the cards. Aquarian Age was originally shown in Japan in early 2002, and inspired quite a few mangas without having one as its source material. The series was also meant to attract both boys and girls—the female faction would tune in for the romance element, while the boys would appreciate the battles and rock music.
The score for the series is a real standout. Yuki Kajiura is noted for his work on NOIR; he provides a moody musical background that really helps increase the level of dramatic tension. Also notable are the pop songs sung throughout the series, many of which were provided by a real Japanese progressive rock band. Aquarian Age is definitely well produced musically. One strange sound note, though: on every opening title sequence in the ADR surround mix done by ADV, the title song loses a little volume about halfway through. It's a strange gaffe that I noticed in all thirteen episodes.
Aquarian Age Sign For Evolution Collection is another great set of DVDs provided by ADV for anime fans. This one doesn't have the built-in fanbase of more popular titles, but it's still strong and of a high quality. The affordable price point of this series set should tempt collectors who like an entire show in one shiny attractive package. It's definitely worth the investment.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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