Take Neon Genesis Evangelion. Strip out the gratuitous nonsense religious symbols. Add gratutious German words instead. Also, sap 80% of the emotion and personality from the main characters and add a couple of glaring plot holes, and you get Fafner. While I didn't like NGE as much as some, I gave the series a bit of a pass because it had one amusing excuse: Anno was nuts when he wrote NGE, and the series is a brilliant take on his degenerating mental and emotional state; it gets weirder as the episodes go by.
But Fafner gets no such excuse. For at least half the series, I was trying to figure out exactly what was going on. Who were these "festum" enemies? Angels? Aliens? Something mankind created? They seemingly have mankind on the ropes(an informed thing; we don't see much of it), and attack the island where our heroes reside quite regularly. Apparently, the only thing that fight a Festum (a sort of golden glowy figure) is a mecha called a Fafner.
Why? Wish I could tell you. It's one of the big plot holes. Maybe they wanted to copy NGE, or just make a mecha show and toss in some plot, but there is no real good reason why these mecha are supposed to be the only thing that can fight the festum. Indeed, as we find out later, tanks and planes can fight them, too.
Well, not at the start, whcih is another glaring plot hole. Guns, missiles, and beams seem to just go off course or have no effect, and yet our heroes keep using them. Hey, the first hundred missiles just went off course or exploded and didn't do squat, so let's keep repeating that!
And you find out early on that this island has the only Fafners that can defeat the Festum, and that's why the New United Nations wants them. Except... they have two mecha already that can defeat the Festum, so why do they need the Fafner mecha? Granted, they are supposedly not as good as Fafners, but they get the job done. Can't they just mass-produce the ones they have? And it turns out, there's really nothing too special abotu Fafners (with the exception of one dumb reason), but the pilots themselves that the island has raised, but saying more would be a spoiler.
It's probably a bit of a stylistic choice, but I didn't like the character designs here. While the fact that everyone has black lines on their face that looks like a darkened blush is just a minor nitpick, the major one is: barely anyone can show much of any emotion. Seriously. Take Kazuki, the main hero. Imagine him happy. Imagine him angry. Imagine him sad. He's got the exact same face for all of them. I'm not kidding. Some people are a bit better, but they all share the "um, just take my word that I'm emotional right now" kind of face. In this day and age, you can do much better on showing facial expressions, and not just have your heads be puppets.
I'm not one to normally notice sound. As long as it's decent, I give it a pass. It's very rare that I watch a show, and notice how bad the music is in relation to what's going on. There's some horrible piano that goes on during some tense times, that doesn't fit the mood at all. A few other times, I had to cringe at the music being played, because it didn't match up with what I was seeing. And while some may like the opening song, I found its wailing to be painful. Your milage may very.
The facial expression issue I mentioned above are a big killer here; meet the cast with no personality! Seriously, half the characters are made up of one trait, and show little to no other emotions or expressions other than that one. That's now how you build an empathetic cast.
But the other big killing point for me was just how stupid these people were. So, the kids of the island (the mecha pilots) didn't know there was a base hidden in the island, nor that Earth had been under attack by strange creatures. I can buy that. But once a creature does attack and the base is revealed AND one of the clueless kids (Kazuki) is grabbed without much of a word and told "Hey, pilot this mecha against a creature that you didn't know existed 10 minutes ago," he's surprisingly lax about going along with it. Not a word of "What the hell is going on? What is that thing? Why do I have to pilot this?" I mean, Shinji in NGE may have been an emo wimp, but at least he asked questions and was suitably freaked out about what was going on.
Even after the first attack, not one of these kids bothers to ask any obvious questions: "Why are only we kids piloting these mecha? What exactly are these creatures? Why are they attacking us?" That's another glaring plot hole. I mean, the adults of the island have basically been deceving the kids all along, and it's obvious that the kids think the adults are liars, but the kids are surprisingly easy about going along with all this without even asking about the enemy. How would you feel if you were suddenly told to fight an unknown enemy? Wouldn't you want to know why YOU had to when everyone older than you just hung back? Wouldn't you want to know why you are fighting? What exactly this enemy was? What if humans had been the ones to provoke the aliens and therefore you should be trying to make peace?
Also, whenever they attack, the aliens continue asking "Are you there?" over and over again. The kids are told not to respond or it will doom humanity, but the kids never ask why that is, and we, the audience, are never told why that is. So, um, just ignore that. It's just the plot trying to be deep.
Nobody asks these questions, and therefore I have to dock them points as one of the dumber casts I've watched.
I went into this with high hopes, since I had heard it was a decent mecha series with a deep plot. But I found too many glaring plot holes, and the characters lack of expressions and personality really drag this one one down. Technically, the plot is mostly decent, and things will make some sense near the end (but still lightly touches NGE levels of BS), but a lot goes unexplained. And the kids never think to ask questions, just blindly doing what they are told (although some may whine a little about it).
Combat between mecha and creature isn't too bad, either, so if you're the kind of person that likes that, you may be interested. Just be prepared for the mighty mechs to swoop in firing all their ineffective weaponry first, before actually doing the thing that works. Because, hey, it didn't work last time or all the times before that, but it might work this time!
Slow-pacing, especially early on, hurt it as well. In a good series that has some nice plot twists later on, I can tolerate this; slow-pacing usually is a result of developing characters or introducing us to them. But most of the cast I couldn't tell apart even half-way through the series. I knew Kazuki, the cold-emotionless guy that sat in some red conatiner, the girl with the brownish-red hair who I guessed would end up the love interest of Kazuki, and everyone else was a blur. And although that girl likes him, he barely acknowledges this. Seriously, he shows more emotion towards the guy in the red goo which makes you think it's a yaoi series (and there are probably fanfiction writers out there writing yaoi about this), but the only real romance is between man and woman, and very lightly at that. I kept hoping Mr. Robot Kazuki would show some emotion that he was interested in women, or show that he was aware of Maya's very obvious feelings, but for the most part, he barely pays her much attention.
Anyway, I don't really reccomend this series, unless you've got nothing else to watch. It was a mecha series that was trying depserately for a deep plot, but was left hurting by too many glaring plot holes and people who had little in the way of personality.