Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Aquarion Anime Review

Aquarion
Genesis of Aquarion also Sousei no Aquarion
Funimation
Complete Collection - 4 discs
650 mins. - 26 episodes
$29.98 (2010) S.A.V.E.
$69.98 (2009)
$59.98 (2008) Parts 1-2/ea.
ISBN 704400045790
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Shoji Kawamori
Studio - Satelight

Synopsis: 11 years ago a great catastrophe befell mankind as the Shadow Angels awakened from their 12,000-year slumber.  Before their sleep they ruled the planet from the city of Atlandia (the basis of the mythical lost city of Atlantis) and harvested humans for their life force, or prana.  Humans, called 'the wingless ones' by the Shadow Angels, were merely a source of sustenance and treated as livestock.  One of the Shadow Angels, called Apollonius, fell in love with a human woman, the warrior Celiane, and turned on his kind to free the humans from their oppressors.
Apollonius (red hair) falls in love with the human Celiane
The angel Toma loved Apollonius and was deeply betrayed by his rebellion.  He vows revenge and leads the Shadow Angels in a final harvest of humankind.  They attack cities using a harmonic song to entrance humans and collect them in massive harvest beasts to be deposited in the Shadow Angels' Tree of Life.  Their ultimate goal is to restart their species by feeding enough prana to the Tree.  Any resistance is crushed by cherubim soldiers, giant mecha with powerful weapons and abilities.
The angel Toma vows revenge for being rejected by Apollonius
Conventional weapons are meaningless against the Shadow Angels and their incredible tools.  Only the Division of Earth Vitalization Advancement (DEAVA) has any success putting up a fight.  Their commander, Gen Fudou, discovered an ancient technology created by Apollonius and Celiane which allows humans to pilot three incredible flying machines, called Vectors.  The machines combine to form the giant fighting robot Aquarion which amplifies the souls of it's pilots.
Reika pilots Vector Luna and coordinates with Sirius and Glen
Each of the Vectors are distinct and form a different version of Aquarion when a different one is at the head:
  1. Vector Luna forms Aquarion Luna - green, quick and agile, forms bow and arrow for long-range attacks, favorite Vector of Silvia de Alisia
  2. Vector Mars forms Aquarion Mars - blue, very fast, forms a sword, has long legs to perform kicks, favorite Vector of Sirius de Alisia and Pierre Vieira
  3. Vector Sol forms Solar Aquarion - red, the true form of Aquarion, a perfect balance of the three Vectors, can manifest "Solar Wings" on its back, mostly used for fighting attacks, 
Solar Aquarion battles a cherubim soldier
Only special individuals called Elements are able to pilot the Vectors.  The pilots' souls make up the final component to form Aquarion and the three must be in harmonic unison for a successful "merge".  The merge infuses the Elements and Vectors with immense power to fuel Aquarion.  Each Element feels the power boost as a euphoric (almost orgasmic) release.
The base for Aquarion complete with ancient ruins and a barrier field
The Elements are all teenagers from around the world who are trained to become pilots in the secret DEAVA base:
  • Apollo is a street urchin discovered by DEAVA Elements Silvia and Pierre during a harvest by the Shadow Angels.  Apollo lived with a ragtag bunch of orphans who acted like a family before being entranced and abducted by a harvest beast.  He vows revenge and exhibits uncanny piloting abilities without any training to pilot Vector Sol.  He can even trigger the merge to Solar Aquarion.  It's thought Apollo is the reincarnated Apollonius.  His sense of smell is heightened and he seems almost feral at times.  
  • Silvia de Alisia is the capricious daughter of a noble family and looks up to her brother Sirius.  She has the power of psychokinesis and is a skilled Vector pilot.  It's thought she is the reincarnation of Celiane and therefore will be in love with the reincarnation of Apollonius, but despises Apollo's low upbringing and crude manners.  
  • Sirius de Alisia is the elder brother of Silvia and last heir of the noble Alisia family.  He is the epitome of refinement and culture.  An expert swordsman and the most skilled Vector pilot, Sirius appreciates elegance and immensely dislikes Apollo's constant sniffing.  Sirius is thought to be the reincarnation of Apollonius until Apollo shows up.  Sirius remains detached from the other Elements and eats all of his meals alone.  
  • Pierre Vieira is a young soccer player from San Jose, Chile.  His entire soccer team was harvested and he hates the Shadow Angels.  He's one of the top Vector pilots, an insatiable ladies' man, and specializes in powerful kick attacks.  Despite being hot-blooded he displays surprising maturity when giving his friends advice.
  • Reika Ko has incredibly bad luck and strong psychic abilities.  Despite her penchant for misfortune she is a top Vector pilot and one of the few people Sirius considers a friend.  
  • Glen Anderson is friends with both Reika and Sirius.  He's a top Vector pilot as well, but suffers a grave injury during the mission when Apollo is discovered.    
  • Jun Lee is a science nerd and otaku.  He is an unparalleled inventor and has the ability to sense how things work around him.  Although not very skilled at physical combat maneuvers he has a strong will and never gives up.  He is one of the rookie Elements new to the DEAVA team
  • Tsugumi Rosenmeier is timid and another rookie Element along with Jun.  She loves old mechanics and Jun instantly finds an interest in her.  She passionately idolizes Reika and has a secret power which haunts her.  She is short with a surprisingly large and well-hidden bust.  
  • Kurt and Chloe Klick are fraternal twins with a telepathic link.  They are ideal background support members, but also good Vector pilots.  Chloe is a target for Pierre's advances (she's a girl and breathing after all)
  • Rena Rune is a mysterious, wheelchair-bound, and blind girl who apparently can read the auras of people.  She exhibits strange powers and a proclivity for drinking blood.  Combined with her pale complexion it is hinted she may be vampiric in nature.
The different forms and components of Aquarion - from top left and
clockwise Aquarion Mars, Solar Aquarion, Aquarion Luna, Vector
Luna, Vector Sol, and Vector Mars 
DEAVA and the Elements are challenged by the angel Toma with each successive battle posing a newly designed threat.  Commander Fudou acts as sage and mentor to the team giving them special training lessons to prepare for each new test.  Events are building to a crescendo which will determine the fate of the entire human race.  Can the stubborn Elements unify and energize Aquarion to save the day?
Apollo is thought to be the reincarnated Apollonius
Pros: Yoko Kanno does the soundtrack (Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop), some good theme songs (particularly 2nd opening theme "Go Tight" and ending theme "Omna Magni"), Shoji Kawamori directs (Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross, Macross Plus), great visuals - mecha designs for the combining elements of Aquarion, character designs, backgrounds, Apollo reminded me of a young Wolverine from the X-Men (especially the constant sniffing), couple good plot twists at the end, doesn't take itself too seriously
Silvia experiences a particularly good 'merge'
Cons: Shadow Angels are bland villains, Cherubim Soldier mecha designs are boring, too many training episodes, story drags on for 3/4 of the series until the final few episodes, felt like a mash-up of a bunch of different shows (Evangelion, Rahxephon, Getter Robo), a lot of goofy episodes
Silvia, Apollo, and Sirius get fired up fighting the Shadow Angels
Mike Tells It Straight: Aquarion felt like a mash-up compilation of many different mecha shows.  It contains every stereotypical character and plot element of the giant robot genre.  Giant mecha piloted by angsty, young adults must save the human race from an evil alien force.  The rascally underdog hero Apollo, ice princess Silvia who is too good for everyone, pompous noble Sirius, and cryptic sage Fudou were all pretty standard.
Toma plots another attack with fellow angel Otoha
The combiner robot aspect with the Vectors creating different Aquarions was pretty cool.  All of the computer graphic elements of the mecha battles were top notch.  Kawamori is a master of mecha (having been involved with both Macross Plus and Escaflowne) and the Aquarion robot is impressively complicated.
Solar Aquarion gets ready to throw down!
The visuals and music were great, but I felt like this show fell a bit flat.  The heroes and villains weren't really bad ass enough at any point.  It had too many goofy training episodes.  I think they were meant to help us get attached to the characters, but felt formulaic and monster-of-the-week.  The theological angle with the angels has been done before in both Evangelion and Rahxephon.  Aquarion didn't bring anything new here except maybe Kawamori's environmental comment at the end with the Tree of Life.
Silvia, Apollo, and Sirius merge
Speaking of the ending, it felt rushed and I didn't really mind seeing a few characters bite the dust.  Guess it was a bit of redemption for some.  I get it Kawamori, you're making a homage to all the great vintage combiner mecha shows of the past, but not taking it too seriously because they were all a bit ridiculous after all.  Nice touch with the orgasmic merging and gimmick moves.  I can give Aquarion a fair recommendation for being a slick-looking mecha show with nice music.
Solar Aquarion powers up
The story was kind of a let-down with delusions of grandeur and mediocre pacing.  I expected more from it and usually really enjoy this type of show (giant robots smashing things and all).  A quasi-sequel was released called Aquarion Evol which stars a whole new cast of characters and some reincarnated versions of old ones.  It focuses more on comedy and fan-service, but answers some questions left by the first series.
Solar Aquarion manifests 'Solar Wings'

TO BUY and Recommendations: