What They Say:
On a world where the single massive continent has been literally cut in two by mountains and rivers since the dawn of time, the ongoing wars between those on the opposing sides have continued for so long that the memory of when they first started has long been forgotten. But now, as the war between the alliances of Roxche and Sou Beil extends the conflict into its 130th year, a chance encounter and a hastily staged rescue attempt launches fighter pilot Allison and marksman and bibliophile Will on an incredible journey – a journey that could possibly end the wars once and for all!
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is presented in its original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show has a rather simple approach to events where it’s a mild at best stereo kind of show. The action scenes don’t thrill all that much and it’s fairly bland overall, but it does convey things well and admittedly feels appropriate for the series. There’s little in the way of things like directionality or placement as it has a full feel to it and most of the time the characters are speaking one at a time with out anyone else on the screen at any significant difference. It does have a clean feel to it and it’s problem free, but it has that sense that the whole thing was kind of phoned in when it came to mixing it.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes here are spread across two volumes in a standard six/seven format with no noteworthy extras to be found so space isn’t an issue. The production by Madhouse feels like it’s not exactly the B level team that animated, as that would be a little generous. The show has a very basic look about it with little in the way of detail and a kind of flatness about it. There’s an old school feeling to it in a way but it reminded me a lot of the Michel series that came out a few years back as there’s a lot of soft colors that look decent but nothing with any real pop to it. The transfer conveys it all well but there’s not a lot to write home about here as it has a minimal effort feel.
Allison & Lillia has a standard packaging in that both discs are inside a single sized keepcase. The front cover looks really nice as it works with an 1930’s feeling that the show gives off with Allison in her pilots jacket looking serious even with a grin on her face as various planes fly behind her against the cloudy sky. The bottom portion of the cover si given over to the logo which is kept simple but has a really nice sense of style about it, especially with the white backgruond and the use of the black and blue colors. The back cover uses similar colors with its approach while letting Will be the key player here along the right. Most of what we get here is a good block through the middle that covers the setting and premise for the show along with a look at what extras there are. Add in a few strips with various shots from the show and the bottom segment given over to the technical grid and you’ve got a solid cover layout that makes everything crystal clear and is problem free.
The menu design for the series is pretty appealing as it lets each disc focus on one of the main characters, Allison on the first and Will on the second, where they stand to the right taking up most of the screen while to the left of them is a breakdown of the episode numbers and titles with some relevant design nods towards the planes to tie it all together. The additional pieces along the bottom cover other parts of the discs, mostly the extras or trailers and credits, but it’s all quick and easy to navigate since there aren’t any language setup options and you can just dive right into it.
The only extras included in this release are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Allison & Lillia is a curious series as it’s based on a few light novels by Keiichi Sigsawa where the first half of the series focuses on the Allison character’s story while the second half will focus on the Lillia character, who only makes a minor appearance in this set overall in the last episode. And with that name in the title, it gets confusing for awhile as you wonder what it means within the series, though it does end up being a very interesting premise that makes me want to see the second half. Something I can’t say I was feeling all too strongly throughout the show because of the style of it and the actual execution of it all.
The series takes place in an alternate world in the year 3287 which feels like a variant on the 1920s and 1930’s here. The world has been involved in some wars, which led to the Great War, and now its been ten years since things ended but there are still intense tensions between the countries of Sou Beil and Roxche. Into this setting, we’re introduced to the character of Allison and Will, two young adults who have been orphaned because of the war and are finding their own way. Allison has become an air force pilot after being left at a famous orphanage when she was eight while Will was there even longer. The two have become close friends even with Will still in school and doing well while she’s working her time in the military. They have a close bond but Will seems pretty oblivious to Allison’s interest in him, which is a mild recurring gag within the series.
The structure of the series is one that I really do like, but it’s the execution that makes it problematic. Allison & Lillia has an overall storyline that it wants to tell about these characters, but it breaks it up into three arcs here that are all generally self contained and advance the time line by about six months between each of them, which does let them all grow in some way. What hampers it is that it feels like it’s very much aimed at a tween crowd at best where it’s all very superficial in the stories it wants to tell, since it never gets into the characters in any great detail and just skims over plot points rather than digs into them, and it’s all reinforced by the animation which is of a simple nature. The combination of all of this gives us a show that has some potential, but can’t really capitalize on it.
The first arc takes a little bit of time to introduce the characters before it has them going on quite the chase to rescue an old man who was abducted by Sou Beil for unknown reasons. They have a sense of justice about them and go off on their own across the border to get him and bluff their way into it. The arc does a barely acceptable job of making the settings clear and establishing the countries, but it makes it very clear from the start about how it intends to tell its stories as they explore the old mans seemingly fabricated stories about the past. Their discovery, alongside a Sou Beil military officer named Benedict, has them changing the course of history for both nations in the blink of an eye and everything, at least on a superficial level, turns all hunky dory. It’s not exactly a fanfic kind of unfolding of events, but it misses so many things that need to be covered for it to feel authentic that it comes close.
The second arc has Will going to the country of Ikstova where he meets up with Allison again as well as Benedict who, having been asked to take credit for the discovery, is now known as a Hero with a capital h. The story has a decent exploration kind of gig going with it as Will and Allison head out into the snowy lands to explore, but they get sidetracked in a storm to a small village not even on the map. It’s here that they meet Fi, a young woman who herself is about to change history when Benedict comes looking for them after the storm and runs into her instead. It turns out that she’s the crown princess that was thought dead ten years prior when the entire royal family died. It’s easy to see the path here, albeit with a minor twist, but it plays out much like the first arc in that things end too easily and to pat.
The third arc takes elements from that one by putting Fi an Benedict on a train with Allison and Will as they go on the expensive new trans-continental express. It turns into a traditional murder on the orient express style kind of arcs where everyone finds themselves caught up in something larger when an assassin is on board to kill a VIP and they become involved. It again has a very superficial feel to it as a new character is introduced with Major Stork, a security attache to the VIP who is so obviously not what he seems that you just want to roll your eyes. There are a few layers here, but what could salvage it is the very end when a few revelations come to light. But it’s all so empty with the emotions because the characters are so one dimensional that you wonder why they tried to go that route by this point.
I had never heard of Allison & Lillia prior to it getting licensed and in watching it, I was surprised it was a Madhouse production because it doesn’t feel like one of theirs. The overall premise of it is certainly solid and it has a lot to offer when it comes to the ideas behind it. And I especially like shows that spend some time with individual arcs like this that then move forward in time so that it doesn’t feel like a constant series of events. But there’s never a feeling of true connection here as it has no depth, no emotion to it. It’s that particular kind of superficial series where it does everything by the numbers but without any heart. It’s not terrible, but it probably reads better in the original novel form and even this adaptation of it would have been more engaging twenty years ago as it feels a little displaced from there. The more that I saw of the world here, the more I wanted to know, but the less the series wanted to share in an earnest way.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 17th, 2011
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.