"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...
StoryWelcome 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. AnimationComing 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 â€“ 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. SoundAngela (Stellvia of the Universe OP and ED theme) once again makes an astounding performance with her special voice â€“ 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 â€“ 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. CharactersXebec 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 â€“ 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. OverallWith 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.
Aliens attack and teenagers board giant robots to stop them. Yeeeeah, not exactly the most interesting of premises. It builds around that eventually to make it feel far more interesting and emotional (teen angst, alien revelations, deaths, etc.) but it never manages to be great. Something expected with any show that is animated by Xebec, a notorious studio for its unimpressive shows, and not Sunrise, the king of mecha anime. And it was also directed by Habara Nobuyoshi, who makes only shows with impressive premises but otherwise very dull plots (DNAngel, Broken Blade). Fafner can be roughly described as a combination of a Neon Genesis story with Gundam SEED characters. It is also the downfall of the show if you even make that comparison, since it can barely stand next to those colossi without fainting from fear. It doesn’t have their high production values, their engrossing storylines, or their memorable characters. Even if it can stand on its own as an individual work of fiction, it just doesn’t have the juice to back it up. It is not a bad show; it mostly suffers from a really boring and unexciting first half. The second half is much more entertaining because of the various character breakdowns and deaths (trademark of Gundam) and the revelation of the nature of the alien invasion (which is done in a similar method as Neon Genesis). The thing with it is that it heavily depends on character tragedy. It only becomes interesting when somebody dies or starts getting all emotional and not when the aliens are tough to beat or some strategy is needed to fend them off. Although this can be interpreted as a show that focuses on character drama rather the poser robot action, at the same time I doubt most people will even remember its story or characters. The reason is simple to figure out; it doesn’t focus on the characters but rather their drama. Just the opening video alone is preparing you for that; it is showing you nothing but slice of life moments and some robots shooting. But does it feel like it’s about the characters in that opening? No, they are just there to fill the backgrounds that are the idyllic sceneries and the cockpits of the robots. “Characters? What characters? Oh, right, those things that talk… I was too busy crying over their tragedy to pay attention to them.” The production values are ok; if you see past the obvious Gundam SEED blueprint. The mecha action is nice and the slice of life moments are well done but never super awesome or eye watery. I’m not very fond of the CGI used on the glowing aliens but then again it did make them look unearthly, so no worries. The main opening song is simply WONDERFUL and the rest in BGM and voice acting don’t have any hiccups in them. What I ended up disliking the most is the generic looks of the characters, which make them hard to remember (aside from being SEED clones). And surely, it is very hard to portrait drama over a bunch of teenagers piloting robots and fighting aliens if to the most part they are acting like everyday nobodies. It just fades away from memory if they seem so unimportant for you to remember. Nobody is charismatic enough to care about that much after awhile and those scenes of yelling and crying end up being more ridiculous than emotional. Some may love its slow development into an epic battle of survival and teenage angst but most will be alienated by blunt characters and a story which feels like it’s 90% about events you already have seen elsewhere or are not that great to remember. Down to it, the whole show is just too slow and dull, with uninteresting cast and overblown teen angst that borders idiocy. It may be an ok time killer but surely not something worth remembering or suggesting to others. SUGGESTION LIST Neon Genesis EvangelionGundam SEEDRahxephon
Story: 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. Animation: 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. Sound: 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. Characters: 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. Overall: 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.
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