"Freedom" Vol. 6 Reminds Us Why We Should Reach for the Stars
Bandai Visual’s Freedom certainly lives up to its name, resolutely refusing to settle down in one place for very long. What started off as a grand conspiracy theory sci-fi story set on the Moon turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland buddy flick by volumes 4 and 5 of the series. With volume 6, Freedom returns to the stars in a story where an Earth population with barely any technology sets out to launch two teenagers to the Moon in a rocket. The resulting tale mostly drops the “fiction” and aims more for straight “science,” with a few concessions to dramatic tension and time constraints.
The latest volume of Freedom picks up nearly two years after the last one. While Biz has settled into an uneasy comfort with life on Earth, Takeru still remains restless. After expending so much effort to get there from the moon, he now seeks to return to the lunar city of Eden to spread the truth about Earth. He gains an ally in Ao, the girl whose photo sent him on his quixotic quest in the first place. In a parallel story to his, we learn that her father was part of an earlier failed effort to reach the moon, and that she seeks to follow in his footsteps despite the disapproval of those close to her. Determination and elbow grease leads to a rocket cobbled together from the remains of the Air and Space Museum, leading up to the tense and thrilling moment of truth as the launch clock ticks down.
If there is a complaint about this installment of Freedom, it is that the flashbacks to Ao’s father’s rocket launch of the past are not quite distinct enough from events of the show’s present. There isn’t an easily discernible cue that a flashback sequence has started, meaning that there were several moments of confusion and rewinding required to puzzle out the timeline of the story being told. At one point, a young girl with Ao’s trademark pigtails made me wonder if the story had jumped forward a decade or so to show Ao and Takeru’s daughter before I realized that it was a flashback with a younger Ao. However, these hiccups are minor and go away fairly quickly, and it must be said that the parallel attempts to get to the moon make for fascinating viewing. Of course, there is a last-minute emergency in Takeru and Ao’s launch, and a suicidally brave act of self-sacrifice to try and resolve the emergency, but it’s easy to forgive the slightly overused plot twists because they’re done quite well.
It may beggar belief that such a society would be able to prepare a lunar rocket for launch in what seems to be a matter of weeks, but Freedom manages to sidestep this problem with copious amounts of “let’s put on a show!” enthusiasm and passion. Americans have become incredibly jaded about space and space travel of late. Perhaps the years of spacefaring science fiction have blinded us to the beauties and challenges of the real thing. Perhaps the entrenched bureaucracy and several high-profile failures of NASA have soured our taste for exploring the final frontier. Perhaps we just have other, far more immediate terrestrial problems on our minds. This last volume of Freedom manages to be a delightful antidote to such thoughts, communicating the awe and power of manned space flight and reminding us once again what an incredible achievement it is to get to space at all. Their passion and amazement turns out to be quite contagious.
As with earlier volumes, Freedom volume 6 is a beautifully produced but very short DVD, running less than 30 minutes end-to-end. It continues to use the DVD/HD-DVD hybrid format, even though HD-DVD has now officially been euthanized in the market, and all the special features of the movie are on the HD-DVD layer of the disc. As with all the other volumes, the visual presentation is incredibly beautiful even on the standard-definition DVD, and Bandai Visual provides an excellent and readable set of subtitles to go along with the Japanese language soundtrack.
With just one more volume to go, it is hard to see how Freedom will manage to tie off its many loose plot elements in time. However, this is perhaps the best compliment one can give to the series, since it is easy to find yourself rooting for the characters and hoping that they’ll get a decent sense of closure. Freedom sure has been a fun ride, even if (or maybe because) you have no idea where you’re going.