When the past becomes a fairy tail, the present can be all the harder to deal with.
What They Say:
After accidentally forming the legendary mecha “Aquarion,” Amata finds himself at a pilot training academy where the flirty girls love to get a rise out of him and the boys seem more interested in exploring mysterious holes and big bangs than harnessing their elemental superpowers. It’s all awkward dates, hijinks, and threesomes until otherworldly beings start abducting powerful female students.
As a mysterious megalomaniac plots interplanetary disaster, the fate of the galaxy depends on whether or not the hormone-fueled academy co-eds can come together to fight evil.
Set 12,000 years after the events of Aquarion.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the new English language adaptation is given a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series is one that works a good bit of action into it and plenty of big moments with the characters and dialogue so that it has a solid effect, even with the stereo mix. The original Japanese track utilizes the forward soundstage well with plenty of placement with action effects and dialogue while having a natural feeling to it and a good bit of impact where needed. This is given a bit more oomph with the 5.1 mix for the English track, which you can thankfully sample on the fly, and see how the battles have more bass to it and generally hits a lot more powerfully. Dialogue makes out with a bit of a louder feeling in general and this definitely translates well to the music which has a richer and more engaging feeling. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode collection of the TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, it largely looks great as it works with the Satelight animation to have a distinct look with the blending of CG and backgrounds and character animation. The series works a varied mix of locales across the set where we get alien worlds, school settings, space settings and more and it all looks distinct and vibrant with a good amount of pop where appropriate with the color palette. It’s a rich series because of the technology used within and the large amount of CG work blends very well here, in traditional Satelight style, so you know what you’re getting and it definitely benefits from the high definition transfer. Colors are rich, clean and solid and there’s nothing visible for line noise or cross coloration, making for a very fun looking experience.
The limited edition packaging of this release is pretty nice as we get a heavy chipboard box that will hold both parts of the series. The box has a great wraparound piece that works really well as the front of it has a strip of headshots along the left while the rest has one of the mecha from it that dominates while the logo is along the lower right corner. The back panel does the same kind of layout in reserve but instead of a cool and dark looking mecha, it does a more vibrant and colorful piece. It also lays things out where the men get the front panel and the women make up the back panel with a lot more smiles. Inside the box we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case where the front cover features a good array of the cast against the blackness of space with a few stars sprinkled throughout it. It’s not exactly murky but it hits some good color combinations and pieces here and has a proper epic feeling even while just showing characters. The back cover goes for an all black piece where we get a few shots from the show along the right while the left has a deep premise listing to try and connect with the previous series while standing on its own. Extras are clearly listed and we get a small and tight section listing the production credits. The technical grid lays everything out clearly for this release with the two formats in a fairly easy to read fashion, though there’s just a lot there. While there are no show related inserts, we do get some artwork on the reverse side that shows off a few characters and has a good breakdown of what episodes are on what discs, though it doesn’t list which formats they are. It’s easy to tell if you’re familiar with the releases, but numbering them one through four and repeating the material is kind of dicey depending on how it’s read.
The menu design for this release does admittedly work in its own way, but it’s still a bit of a curious choice with how to do it. The layout is standard where the top two-thirds of it has the animation while the bottom third is the navigation. The top segment has the rolling icon style images with the various shades of the primary colors coming out towards the viewer set against a murky black background. The logo plays through the middle for part of it before fading out and coming back into play. The navigation strip along the bottom has a decent off-white look to it with the logo inset in it at a good size while the actual selections are lined down next to it. It’s the standard selections that are quick and easy to navigate, but when you get to areas like the extras or looking at the episode list by title, it can get a bit small and busy. Navigation is easy though and easily familiar to other releases and we didn’t have any issues getting around.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Way back in 2005, we got the first Aquarion series that Shoji Kawamori created, which garnered a lot of attention considering what he’s accomplished over the years. Though it’s hard to stack up against those accomplishments, Aquarion certainly was popular and did a lot of things right and showed some solid creativity from the team. Seven years later, the team largely came back together for Aquarion EVOL, or LOVE if you prefer, as it works to achieve another look at many of the same themes with a different cast and going through the reincarnation aspect in an interesting way. Working with Satelight again, the twenty-six episode series (the first thirteen of which we’re covering here) garnered a lot of attention but didn’t seem to achieve the same kind of results from fans. Seven years between series is hard to overcome and using a different cast and setting doesn’t help much either.
The biggest concern many have with this series is whether you have to know the original in order to watch it. While I remember aspects of it, it isn’t one that I remember in great detail so it was a concern of mine as well. What Kawamori did in working with this series was design it so that it’s pretty accessible, though I hear the second half works to connect it with the original more. What we get here is a story that takes place twelve thousand years after the original and the story of the original has long become a fairy tail, pieces of which are known in the abstract and are known by most, though treated as such. That allows the connection for fans of the original work while for new viewers, you get to experience it much as the characters. It’s a piece from the past that they know and it has emotional connections, but it’s not required.
We’re introduced to the leads quickly as we see a young man named Amata who works in a movie theater trying to get through his life while hiding the problem that he has, which is that he can fly. Not well and not with any degree of control, and it’s not something he shares. He weighs down his boots in order to stay grounded, but heightened emotional feelings cause him to get lighter and it’s harder to be held down. And that’s exactly what happens quickly to him when he sees a young woman named Mikono in the theater that has a deep love for the fairy tail from the past that was made into a movie, something few people really share. That creates an instant connection between them and they manage to spend some time together right from there. It’s a quick way of bringing them together and to have them talk about how the city has changed so much lately while out and about.
It’s here that we learn about the alien Abductors that randomly come to the world and kidnap people after causing some level of destruction. These strange machines come across from a dimensional rift and appear to be unmanned, though that’s about to change. What the people of this world do is defend using a series of craft called Vectors, piloted by people who are known as Elements because they have special powers that can be directed with it. Separated by gender, there are two sides that face off against the enemy and each gender can combine in threes with their own gender which changes the makeup, design and capabilities of the combined craft. What we see with this new attack though is that the enemy, which comes from the planet Altair with a really serious issue that’s causing them to invade, has sent through a pilot this time. One that has discovered the potential of Mikono and is intent on getting her.
It’s no surprise that she and Amata end up being drawn into things, his power realized and then forcibly enrolled in the program. Considering their involvement causes the seal that kept the genders apart from merging and flying together happens, it’s not a surprise that he becomes a part of events. But like any good show like this, so many details are glossed over and it just proceeds in a superficial way. We get an array of characters who are Elements that populates the academy that are training to fight the enemy, we get all sorts of hidden agendas and comical additions that surface now that seemingly key players like Amata and Mikono arrive and it shifts from just muddling through a defense to taking on a proactive and aggressive nature. At least when there isn’t a lot of amusing fanservice and interactions between the boys and girls that also now find their school going from segregated to integrated. It’s not bad but it’s pretty by the numbers for a lot of it as we learn the quirks of various characters and the jockeying going between some of them.
As this half of the season progresses, it naturally builds to a bigger area as we get more details about what’s actually happening. The interesting – if predictable – part of the show is when one of those from Altair comes through, a young man named Jin who was the last male child born there. He’s intent on finding the Eve that they need and he ends up spending time at the academy as a potential Element himself. He’s basically doing recon here but he’s so confused by the way of the academy, largely owing to the number of women there, and it’s easy for him to get confused and scared. It’s a bit too much in some ways since surely there are recordings and memories others have of women and how they were a big part of their world for him to be like this. But it does work well enough here and Jin is fun to watch as he engages with the group and particularly the younger characters. And, of course, he’s a big part of how the mid-series finale works as his friends from his homeworld make an attempt at getting what they need and he’s put in the middle.
While it’s been a long time since I saw Aquarion, it was a series I certainly enjoyed and felt complete with. Aquarion EVOL manages to stand alone nicely here, though obviously you get more out of it if you saw the original, as we’re set twelve thousand years in the future and the past is repeating in a familiar but different way. The series essentially takes the same themes as before and reworks them a bit with a new cast and different configurations. It works well enough and is certainly enjoyable, but I suspect that it may actually be a show that works better for people that are brand new to it since it is just that, new. Whereas for others like myself, it may be too familiar without truly striking out on its own or feeling like a full continuation. But with the second half supposedly tying closer to the original, we’ll reserve some judgment until then. It’s definitely a beautiful looking show in many ways, has some fun fanservice and works some great themes with a solid cast though and was a fun experience overall.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentaries for Episodes 1 & 9, The Myth of Ten Thousand Years and Two Thousand More Returns, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 3rd, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.