What They Say
In the 23rd century, mankind has fl ed earth and emigrated to the moon. The last outpost of civilization is the Lunar Republic of Eden, where the omnipresent Citizens Administration Council grants residents everything they need. But, what do you do when you discover everything you believe is a lie? Seeking the truth, Takeru and Biz escape from the Moon and land on the desolate, yet recovering Earth. The two travel across America, looking
for the location and girl depicted on the picture found on the lunar surface. What waits them when they finally find what they’re looking for and will Takeru ever get back to the moon as he promised his friend, Kazuma, who was left behind on the moon?
For this viewing, I took in the English 5.1 dub. In a nice touch, the Japanese track is also available in 5.1. They do not really use the technology to the best it is capable of, though. There is plenty of left/right directionality, but not only is front/back directionality lacking, but there is little in the rear channels overall. What does come through it more for atmospheric enhancement. However, despite that little bit of complaint, it still sounds really good. There is no dropout among the tracks, and it all sounds crystal clear. I cannot complain too much.
Aside from some minor issues, the video is a pretty top notch job too. There are some minor gradients that can be seen in some of the cool colors, particularly in the opening and closing, but those are not too noticeable if you are not paying attention. Otherwise, some of the scenery is quite beautiful, especially when looking down on Earth from space and in some of the “natural” special effects while on Earth. And I have long loved the character art of Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy), so it was nice to see it show up again.
Fairly basic packaging for this release (though much nicer from some of the earlier releases if I understand things correctly). The disc comes in a standard amaray case with a picture of Ao standing on a cliff looking up to the sky. The back has a short summary with technical details and some screen shots. In general, it has a nice design, but it is nothing special. A misprint, though, lists this disc as being 156 minutes, when it is actually just a shade under 100 minutes.
I love the menu design for this release. It opens with a short animatic that morphs into an animated menu with five different sections animating different parts of the production sketches, while one of the cooler, more stirring songs from the soundtrack plays in the background. It gives the whole thing a very comic-book feel, and it looks really cool. The selections can be easily seen on one of the black border bars that separates the sections. So, it works as nicely as it looks. If I have any complaint, I would have liked if they had looped the menu at maybe a minute instead of just 30 seconds, but that is very minor.
There are some nice extras on this release, which are all followups to extras on the first volume. First off is the second series of short “Freedom Digests” that seem to really be nothing more than trailers for the individual episodes, and the second part of an interview with a number of the technical staff. The second part of a documentary (Freedom in the USA) shows the staff making a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum when they came over to work on location. My favorite part, though is the second part of the documentary called “Fly Me to the Moon,” which follows on from JFK’s proclamation that we would send a man to the moon right through the Apollo program. Very interesting.
After the first volume of Freedom, I was really looking forward to seeing the second half. This volume contains the last three episodes of the OVA, though the last episode is double length, so this disc is just as long as the first one. Where I thought the first volume started slow and picked up, this one kept the nice pace right through and Freedom ended up being quite the ride.
As the fourth episode ended, Takeru and Biz had made their way to Earth and found it perfectly livable, though bereft of much life. They had made their way to Florida where they found the girl in the photograph—Ao—and Takeru found himself just as smitten in person as he was with the picture.
Now, with the knowledge that Earth is not only habitable, but that there are still people living on it, Takeru is determined to return to EDEN with the truth. With the help of some locals, Takeru, Biz, and Ao set about to rebuild an old rocket with which to go back. Having found somebody to care for on Earth, Biz decides he has no desire to return to EDEN, but Ao volunteers to journey with Takeru as she has long been fascinated with space.
Unfortunately, they find the reception from EDEN rather frosty as they are immediately arrested upon arriving at the moon. It is soon all too clear that the council is attempting to keep the realities about Earth a secret from the populace, and Takeru decides that the people must be made aware, no matter what. But in his way is his oldest friend, Kazuma, who has joined the council in Takeru’s absence.
What I liked about the setup to Freedom was the strong characters and the fun twist that saw Earth as being this grand place for exploration rather than space. The strong characterization continues with the various people Takeru and Biz meet while on Earth, and it is still a lot of fun to sit and watch their absolute amazement at things that we generally take for granted, like oceans and thunderstorms. All of it is just well done.
But by the time this volume started up, I had pretty much accepted these things and was able to sit back and truly enjoy the story, which was also really well done. The writers and animators make good use of the short amount of time they have to build a believable story, and the whole time, I found that I wanted to know what was coming next.
I really liked the relationship between Takeru and Ao. Though there really is not a lot of screen time from the moment they first meet to the point where she follows him to the moon, the development seems natural, and though it is entirely platonic there are enough hints that it will progress to the next stages in time. Ao’s bright personality and sense of wonderment work really well with Takeru’s adventurous spirit and desire to do what is right.
It is also interesting how they play with the concept of the dystopian utopia. EDEN is portrayed as a utopia, where everybody has their place, is well cared for, and is never left wanting. This seems to work well for just about everybody except for Takeru, who challenges the establishment at every turn. But what is interesting is that utopian stories tend to end with the ultimate destruction of the utopian society when people realize how dystopian it really is. In Freedom, Takeru never actually tries to bring down EDEN. In fact, on more than one occasion, he even notes that life in EDEN is pretty good; all he wants do it get the council to admit to the viability of the Earth as a home again so that the two societies and beneficially co-exist. It is an interesting angle to take the utopian concept, and it was a nice change to see a construct where the ultimate outcome was not total anarchy.
Over the two volumes, I have really enjoyed Freedom. By the start of this volume, I had gotten over the sense of wonderment the first volume gave me, and instead sat back and just enjoyed the story. And the story was more that worth the time invested in it. If I had any complaint, it might be that I would have loved to have seen what they could have done with 13 or 26 episodes where they could have really developed all of the characters. But then, maybe something would have been lost too. In the end, Freedom reminds me somewhat of a Philip K. Dick story: sure there is science-fiction involved, but it is the human side to all the sci-fi stuff happening that really matters. If you like your sci-fi touched with a dose of humanity, then you really cannot go wrong with Freedom. Highly recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Talking About Freedom #2, Fly Me To The Moon #2, Freedom in the USA #2, Freedom Digest 5-7
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: September 1st, 2009
Running Time: 156 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System