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Fafner Review

February 6, 2005

story 7.5/10

Fafner screenshot Welcome to the small island outside Japan. Here people go to work every day, kids go to school and life is good overall -- until the Festums come around. Festum is an unknown creature which hovers in the air. It’s big, golden and has various capabilities depending on the Festum type. To fight against these creatures Alvis (the local battle command which is located underground) prepares for battle, weapon depots rise from the ground, along the coastline rocket launchers appear, a shield is raised and fighter jets are sent out.

In addition, Alvis has something called "Fafner". It’s a robot intended to be piloted by chosen children on the island, and during the first episode a child is forced to pilot it. To pilot this Fafner you get into it, put your hands into a couple of red cups full of goo to control the hand movements. Furthermore, a special neural network interface hooks up the pilot -- and if the pilot doesn’t use the special intended suit the hookup will hurt like hell. Once hooked up the pilot will feel the Fafner as if it was himself.

Now, does this by any chance even remotely remind you of another series? There is this old show from 1995, produced by Gainax, called Neon Genesis Evangelion, which started out basically exactly the same. I had a lot of trouble with Soukyuu no Fafner during the first episode. It was so much NGE that I ended up commenting on what might happen in the next sequence and so on. Later in the show a lot of elements from RahXephon will show up aswell. Once the main elements of NGE and RahXephon have been introduced the show manages to somewhat profile itself.

The battle between the Festums and this island/humanity is well depicted. Anything from the people in the shelter to the political roosters are shown. The whole show later on turns quite metaphysical and deals with questions about life and its existence. It’s done in a fairly easy to understand way and the show never gets deeply philosophical, like NGE did. The story, while heavily unoriginal is implemented in a most excellent way. The story flows well, the character introductions and buildups are handled well and the new elements are introduced well.

It also seems like the Japanese staff is full of those types who like to use German words for every technical detail. Now, we know that some Japanese people are keen on that, but man, these people at Xebec must really worship German as the show overflows with it. So if you know German and a bit of Norse mythology amongst some other things, then you’ll have an easy time understanding the reasons these words were used.

The show is concluded in a fairly normal way and there weren’t any surprises. It was an alright ending, although a small OAV epilogue certainly wouldn't hurt to have.

animation 9.9/10

Coming from Xebec, the creators of Gundam Seed, many things hold the same standard if not higher. The colors used are clear and crisp. Mostly brighter colors were used. The CG is used here and there, and was integrated flawlessly with the 2D, looking quite pleasant. The big thing is the character designs which are of a very high standard. The designs are one of my personal favorites and differ from many of today’s design styles.

The characters look good anatomically -- we’re shown everything from overweight to lanky people – and they end up looking very natural. The faces look great with lots of contours that give a good depth. The lips are clearly accentuated which is another thing I liked. This also helps give the face depth, and the front and side profiles looked great. The eyes are of a more oval type, but once again the eye size and design varied depending on the type of body frame. The iris and pupil is very well drawn, which also helps add depth. The eyelashes are also somewhat special compared to many other designs. They’re most visiblel above the eyes, but they’re more fringed than straight. The hair is another thing which is drawn superbly. The hairstyles all end up having some form of volume. It doesn’t matter if it’s short hair, shoulder length or long hair. The various haircuts look very fitting and voluminous.

The Fafner designs also hold a high quality. They’re quite well detailed and the battles look quite good. The weaponry consists of everything from a pea-shooter to swords. There is also a progressive knife... Anyhow, the weaponry design also looks good. Soukyuu no Fafner also features one of the best scenes I’ve seen when it comes to firing a weapon, the impact, and the aftershock. They’ve really managed to animate the power of the weapon which was used.

All in all, I’m greatly satisfied in this department. Everything was handled pretty much with perfection. The only little thing I have to bark about is the lip animation. Sometimes the characters end up looking more like they’re quacking rather than talking. Both the upper and lower lip moves up and down in synch (like a bird with its beak). The image shown during the ED animation is very good. It’s a very simple, but yet emotional piece of artwork, and with these character designs it all ends up looking superbly.

I’ll give this section 9.9 it’s as close to perfection as it gets.

sound 9.5/10

Angela (Stellvia of the Universe OP and ED theme) once again makes an astounding performance with her special voice – this time with the two songs Shangri-La (OP theme) and Separation (ED theme) which are very pleasant to listen to. The OP & ED animation is good and goes well with the theme songs.

As for the background soundtrack, it’s there, but not so visible. The soundtrack style follows that of many sci-fi mecha shows with more pom-pom classical music, which reminded me of the NGE OST every now and then – nothing special with other words. The very emotional parts are built mostly around the ED tune "Separation" which is of a slower, emotional, ballad style character. There are various versions of the song used: a standard version, instrumental piano version, piano + vocals, Piano + Cello with the vocals and so on. These various versions are all very good and fit the mood they try to set. The VAs put up a great performance and really make the characters come alive, whether they go haywire, become hysterical or laugh.

characters 10/10

Xebec didn’t let me down in this department. One of the reasons I came to like Gundam SEED as much as I did was because of the characters, their depth, actions, reasoning and interactions. At times Soukyuu no Fafner feels like a little mini-version of Gundam Seed form that point of view. As mentioned before, this show is a lot about the characters and their actions.

I, for instance, have never really given a deeper thought to this "use children in battle robots" scene, as no other show has gone any deeper. It seems like that’s become the norm: (of course we have to use children!) and there hasn’t been much more emphasis than that. NGE did deal with this somewhat but it felt like a smaller thing compared to everything else which went on. But in Soukyuu no Fafner the whole absurdity of the situation struck me. The relationship between the child and parent is depicted in a good way, and when their child heads out to battle it’s easy to emphasize with the parent or sister. This show also, once again, shows that letting children go to war is not a good idea.

Another thing which is shown superbly is the death of close ones. I don’t mean that the actual death of the character was shown superbly with lots of blood. It’s a war, and people die, and this leads to various consequences. People take a close person’s death differently. How the various people react is shown in a humanly believable way, especially the parents who have to see their child go before them; some say the cruelest thing to a parent is when they outlive their child. There is particularly one case where a character dies... The whole buildup to this event is, although predictable, one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Once again, together with the superb character design, the great VA acting, the personalities which feel very human and real – this show will undoubtedly make the viewer feel empathy (if the viewer likes this kind of drama of course).

I have never given a 10 before. 10 is perfection...but I simply can’t find anything at all to complain about. The characters, their depth, actions, reasoning and interactions are handled exceptionally well. Nothing is rushed, nothing feels forced, and noting feels out of character.

overall 9.5/10

With all of the good values in this show I will overlook the fact that I’ve never seen a show borrow more heavily from other shows before, nor have they used as many German words before. This is something for those who enjoy sci-fi, mecha battles, great visuals, and first and foremost, the drama surrounding war.

A short and simple roundup of a long review.

Anime Info

"Are you there?" This is the question that the aliens always demand before they attack. The quiet island of Tatsumiyajima is secretly the last line of defense against mysterious invaders. In a quiet and rustic villiage, children were raised without any knowlege that they were born to pilot the Fafnirs, giant robotic war machines of terrible powers that are the only thing that can defend all they hold dear.These children's struggles will be the only thing that can hold off an enemy that attacks both our bodies and our sense of identity...


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comments

Assiman avatar Assiman
Sep 14, 2009

"nor have they used as many German words before."

Legend of the Galactic Heroes anyone? ;)

Great review anyway. I was planning to watch this anime, but something about this review changed my mind. Weird.

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