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Aquarion EVOL Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Aquarion EVOL
Aquarion EVOL
12,000 years of history? Pshaw. Let’s go for 24,000.

What They Say:
The intergalactic hijinks continue as beings from a womanless planet target the girls of the newly coed Neo-DEAVA academy. Meanwhile, a mysterious villain’s plot slowly comes to light, Amata’s past is revealed, and Mikono finds herself in the middle of a really awkward threesome.

The hormone-fueled pilots will have to survive unusual training methods and swimsuit-filled secret missions in order to grow strong enough to kick some otherworldly tail, but as the boys and girls get closer to each other, they discover that destiny might not be on their side. Victory could require the legendary mecha Aquarion’s ultimate form – even if summoning it means breaking an intimate taboo.

Contains episodes 14-26.

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is done with a slightly oversized Blu-ray case that comes with an O-card for it that replicates the artwork. The front cover gives us one of the evolved aspects in a pretty serious way and with the illustration style for it, well, it’s definitely eye-catching even if it’s kind or dark and murky in a way. The framing helps it as well as it comes across as almost a portrait of sorts you’d see in a castle. The logo is kept to the upper left corner and with its simplicity and additional color it adds just the right bit of pop and elegance to it. The back cover is done with an all black background that also adds to this elegance as we get a clean summary to read as well as a breakdown of the discs extras. There’s a few shots from the show along the right and the work well since they’re mostly bright, colorful and character images. The technical grid along the bottom gets everything right in a clean and easy to read way. While there are no inserts with this release, we do get artwork on the reverse side that has four of the supporting characters along it in full length shots against a bright sky background that’s pretty nice. It’s nothing you’d reverse but it’s nice to see under the discs.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
Similar to the first half, there’s some good extras to be had here. The big originals here are the new English language commentary tracks which will give the dub fans a little more to enjoy with the voice actors they like talking about the show and their roles. We also get the original promos, the Japanese commercials and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With an almost six month gap between releases, there’s a little additional difficulty going into this series for me. With a number of years between the seasons and a strong enough connection between them that remembering or being aware of it is important enough, adding another six months may not seem like a lot. But for me, it certainly made an impact. The show did a lot in that first half to establish itself as not being just a rerun of the first series, especially in moving the story forward another 12,000 years, but it also wasn’t able to really cement itself with the new cast while leaving us with questions regarding the couple of familiar faces that were operating throughout it. And, honestly, trying to do the connections to the original series because you could see the importance of it. Which they essentially double down on here as it progresses. I can see marathoning both seasons being one hell of a ride.

With the events of the first half, which lead to the losses that they incurred, the show takes a curious turn at the start of this half by going through the funeral aspect and ending up at the graveyard. While there is a somber aspect to it all, it also turns into a bit of training with gravedigging going on. What the team is nudged into doing is essentially digging their own graves, climbing in and getting buried alive. Well, everyone except Mikono because she refuses and because we know she’s part of something bigger. What this training does though is to force the group to essentially supercharge themselves as they boost their abilities by becoming more in tune with themselves and the world through it. It’s like a forced meditation as they understand and hear all the sounds and movements of life around them and it helps to take them to the next level. So when they do crawl out, just as a new attack on them is about to hit, their skills are up several notches and they’re able to push back better. And this serves them well going forward.

With that as the launching pad, you’d almost expect a series of various fights from there, and we do get a few of them here and there. But what it wants to do more is to explore the bigger issues involving the two worlds separated by the dimensional rift. With those from the other side making their way through, the reveal is made a bit clearer as some actual dialogue happens. They need the Rare Igura, a rare woman, in order to survive but they haven’t found the one that they need. So they essentially kidnap people in the hopes of finding the right one. That has some of those on the team a little more curious and you even get Zessica volunteering for it, though that’s out of emotion after realizing that she can’t get close to Amata in the way that she wants. Unfortunately, as we learn, there’s a real price to be paid for the women that go over there.

When Mix ends up captured, which sets Andy off like nothing since he’s completely smitten by her even with the no romance rule, that sets a mission to go to their world and bring her back. While we’ve seen some elements of this world before, getting a more hands on and on the ground feel for the place definitely changes perceptions. It’s a world that’s certainly lost something and with the lack of the female element, it’s very industrial and grimy in a way. But the most revelatory thing for me was that when they do bring women there from the other dimension, if they’re not the right Rare Igura, they end up turning into men over time. Amata’s mother was brought there but she was closer to being the right one, so she ended up being put into suspended animation. Mix, on the other hand, has turned into a male and forgotten her female side, which over time makes for some complicated moments between her and Andy. But for Andy, it’s that kind of moment where he has to realize it was the person inside that he loved, not the exterior that was created by luck and genetics. I’m still mixed on the end story for her and Andy since it feels like a bit of a copout, but I also appreciate that she was put back to what she felt was natural for her.

Not surprisingly though, Fudou’s role in the series increases as the season goes on and he starts to tease out more of the larger narrative after understanding it himself. This brings him to helping everyone else slowly grasp the scale of events that are going on across the millennia, that goes back to the original story and how the cycle repeats itself. It is interesting to see how the story split in an odd and unusual way as it went on, with Amata and Kagura being two halves of a whole, and it’s certainly not a surprise of who Mikono is, but bringing this reincarnated aspect of sorts into it over these expansive generations and the need to correct it all after all this time, to restore the imbalance is a worthy story to play out. But for me, the whole thing feels like it’s being more convoluted and complicated than it needs to be. The big picture is certainly good and I loved the whole shift from EVOL to LOVE and the big ending of it all, but it lacked what felt like a coherent piece, partially because of the execution and partially because it feels like this story was stapled onto the original season and didn’t feel like it worked right. If it had been a standalone on its own, and we weren’t trying to connect events and characters in our heads, it might have felt better.

In Summary:
I came away from Aquarion EVOL without a sense of hate or a sense of love but rather just a sense of uncertainty. There’s some truly beautiful moments here and I definitely expect those when it comes to the creative team behind this series. It’s going for some grand events and themes but it also ends up doing it a bit heavy handed at times, reminding me of Arjuna. The visual quality is once against stunning and I love the designs and general makeup of it all, but I never felt for the characters – far less here than in the original Aquarion by a significant measure. And that’s likely what hurt it the most for me. I didn’t feel as invested in the characters since they weren’t given enough time to be themselves and I already felt like I had invested heavily in the cast of the first series. Aquarion EVOL and its predecessor are large, lofty and engaging shows, but it falls short of what it wants to achieve.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 15 Commentary, Episode 26 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Japanese Commercials, Promotional Videos, U.S. Trailer

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 27th, 2014
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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