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"Fafner": Feel the Angst While Drinking Your Bebop Cola!

What happens when you take the plot of Neon Genesis Evangelion, add some really messed-up giant robots, get a character designer coming off his peak, a popular new JPop artist, and enough angst to fill up the entire United States? Well, you get Fafner: Dead Aggressor, that’s what.

Cover art for Fafner: Dead Aggressor Volume 1: Arcadian Project.Life was good on Tatsumiya Island. Kids are just getting out of school, parents are cooking delicious dinners, and everyone’s happy. It truly is a paradise.

Until the Festum arrive.

These weird alien beings (who apparently come in different shapes and sizes, though we only see the “Sphinx” type on this volume) are trying to assimilate mankind, and if what Sohji says is true, then they’ve already taken a nice big chunk of the planet. Luckily, Tatsumiya Island has a weapon that can defeat the mighty Festum: a giant robot known as Fafner. Unfortunately, the Neo U.N. wants Fafner for itself, so the island is forced to hide its very existance from the rest of humanity. And the only one who can pilot this mighty weapon is one Kazuki Mayabe, who isn’t exactly thrilled about having to fight against giant aliens while hiding out from humanity. Oh, and his father is the head of the security company of Tatsumiya, known as “Alvis.”

I guess after the spice war, Captain Murphy decided to move to Tatsumiya Island instead of going back to Sealab. Though why he didn’t make a giant Barbeau-bot instead of Fafner, we’ll never know. All Sealab 2021 jokes aside, “Alvis” is a really crappy name for a defense company. Anything that reminds you of an iconic rock-and-roll singer is not something you want to use as the name of your defense.

But anyway, that’s the minor point. If you’ve visited any message board topic about this series, then you already know that the name of the game is angst. And lots of it. Kazuki doesn’t like being a pilot, or that his father is the head of Alvis, or that his peaceful life has been disturbed. Sohji doesn’t like how Kazuki’s father runs things, and apparently he’s also angry at himself for being male, since he looks extremely femme. Kazuki’s mother and father apparently don’t want to be in their positions, and they also know that if Kazuki continues to pilot Fafner, bad things will happen. Then there’s a character who apparently doesn’t like the Mayabe family or something, another character who seems to have a special connection to something else, and another person who’s not all that angsty right now, but if the ending credits have anything to say about it, she will be pretty soon. Since this is the beginning of the series, the angst level isn’t much higher than in other series, but it’s looking to raise the bar very, very soon. Because, you know, pretty people can’t be happy. They have to be sad, or else we won’t care about them. No, pretty people suck and need tragedy in their lives.

All that being said, there is more to the series than just a lot of angst. In this volume we only scratch the surface of the story, but there are lots of interesting questions for the series to answer. What exactly is the Fafner control system made out of? What is the Siegfriend System that allows Sohji to connect to Fafner? Why does Tatsumiya Island need to hide itself from the rest of the world? What are the Festum? What about all the non-human animals? Why do these Festum keep asking “Are you there?” and why do they need to assimilate humans? Who exactly is that almost-naked girl bathed in pink, and why is she being used as an engine? We don’t get answers right away, but this series definitely has my interest.

I’m not thrilled with the design of the giant robot, though–the stringy design combines with an extra-long backpack to turn me off. I’ve always been a big fan of the humanoid-style robots (like the Evas or the Gundams), but the Fafner just looks wrong to me. (On the other hand, the supporting giant robots that’ll be introduced in the future look pretty decent so far.)

The animation, though, is simply beautiful. Movements are solid, the atmosphere is nice and sunny, and the coloring is perfect. Really, the only complaint I have is that the series isn’t in widescreen (which would fit this series so well). The CG, which is mainly limited to the green/pink nerve backgrounds and the ocean, is also very good and gives the series a visual oopmh. If only Gundam SEED had this kind of animation. Hisashi Hirai (Infinite Ryvius, s-CRY-ed, Gundam SEED/Destiny) also does the character designs for this series. While, yes, Kazuki looks a lot like Athrun Zala from Gundam SEED and Sohji looks a lot like Rey Za Burrel, I don’t really mind it. I’ve always liked Hirai’s character designs, even if he re-uses a lot of them, and they look different from the standard anime design, which is good in this case. However, if you don’t like Hirai’s design, you might not be able to focus on the story, animation, or music.

This is what the Box looks like for the Starter Set.The latter, by the way, rocks. Both the opening and ending themes are sung by angela (Stellvia fans will reconize her), and while they won’t get into my Top 10, both songs are pretty good. (Warning, though: if you can’t stand her high notes, the songs here will turn you off for a while.) Background music is pretty good as well, though not quite stand-out. Dubbing is done by our good friends at Bang Zoom, so you’ll hear lots of your favorite VAs, including Johnny Young Bosch (Vash in Trigun, Kiba in Wolf’s Rain) as Kazuki. Thankfully, BZ performs up to their usual excellence to bring you an awesome dub. For you purists, the Japanese track is also included.

As this is a Geneon DVD, extras are limited: clean versions of both themes, including the special versions created for the first episode, and trailers. There’s also a reversible cover and a pin-up insert. I’d have rather had commentary or interviews or stuff like that instead. Come on Geneon, get in the game!

Do you like the character designs from Gundam SEED? Do you like the singer of the opening theme to Stellvia? Do you like angst? If you said yes to all three, you’ll likely enjoy Fafner. If you said no to all three, then stay away from this series at all costs.

Episodes included on Volume 1: Arcadian Project
Episode #1: Beginning (Paradise)
Episode #2: Life (Confession)
Episode #3: Truth (Labyrinth)
Episode #4: Departure (Escape)

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