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Aquarion: The Complete Series

1 rating: 3.0
Anime & Manga movie directed by Shôji Kawamori

The complete series available for the first time in one box set!When the Shadow Angels invade after 12,000 years of slumber, humanity is held captive by fear and sheer alien dominance. Eleven years after the Great Catastrophe decimated the world, most … see full wiki

Director: Shôji Kawamori
Genre: Animation
1 review about Aquarion: The Complete Series

Good Show Made Better By a Complete Box Set Release

  • Apr 11, 2009
Rating:
+3
With titles such as Macross Plus and Escaflowne to his credit, it really comes as no surprise that mere mention of the name Shoji Kawamori stirs up excitement in mecha anime lovers such as myself. His latest creation, Aquarion, is the culmination of lessons learned from his previous endeavors coupled to the charm of a simpler time in animation. The plot, while not overly complex nor edited to appear more complicated than necessary, combines just the right elements of solid story telling to make Aquarion unique among a rich field of competitors.

The story's pretty straight forward: A Great Catastrophe has left the world in ruin and an ancient race of alien beings called the Shadow Angels have taken advantage of the weakened state of humanity to begin their assault on the planet (after 12,000 years of laying low). Earth's last hope and greatest defense against the threat comes in the form of the Mechanical Angel Aquarion. For those rolling their eyes at the fact that this story has been seemingly told again and again, take heart in the fact that this isn't just another cookie cutter giant robot show. In fact some of the nuances that make Aquarion unique among its competition can truly be called influential enough to spawn legions of imitators for years to come.

About the best way to describe the program would be to compare it to the shows it most closely emulates: Take the heavy mythological elements of RahXephon, combine them with the level of fun that made early 1980s giant robot shows so magical (think Vehicle Voltron) and finally top it all off with the victimized human element of The Matrix for good measure. If none of these comparisons strike a chord with your ability to decide whether or not Aquarion is right for you, read on. I'll break the show down on its own merit throughout this review. If however you are in fact familiar with the above analogies, there need not be another word said to influence your decision: This is giant robot action meets Atlantian mythology all done up in the crisp animation standards of today. In that regard it's worth the nostalgic undertones alone.

Perhaps the show's greatest contribution to the entire genre is the robot Aquarion itself. Sure the concept of three ultra-capable jet fighters combining to form a massive butt-whipping mecha is nothing new, the idea that the end result is completely dictated by the personalities of the three pilots involved certainly is. Known here as Elements, the individuals charged with the task of saving all of humanity one wild mechanized fistfight at a time play a far deeper role than simply glorified fighter pilots. Indeed this series makes interesting use of the concept of a person's aura as, depending on the combination of the three Elements involved in the conjunction, the Aquarion itself can basically take on limitless forms. Sorry Voltron, a single character isn't delegated the role of "forming the head" here but rather the position is up for grabs among the three Elements chosen to go out and do battle. Depending on which one snags the responsibility, Aquarion unites into a unique mode with special abilities including everything from archery, to the leg dexterity of a pro soccer player, to a punch with near endless reach.

Even cooler is that each Aquarion configuration has its own name, color motif and unique look. Part of the fun, especially early on, is determining each build's strengths and weaknesses. Aquarion literally becomes the personification of the "head" character's personality.

Villains in the show are standard fair aliens; humanoid beings bent on global conquest with a slightly "classic mythological" depth about them which is nice as it offers a unique contrast to the often-times bubbly nature of the cast of teenage good guys.

Perhaps the depth of the enemy is greatest realized in the 7th episode of the show, Knight of the Crimson Rose. Here the viewer is treated to a bit of art (poetry to be exact) and the consequence that negative emotion can inflict. The Shadow Angles capitalize on the arrogance and confidence of Aqaurion's pilots, literally forcing them to find strength through their weakness and fear.

About the oddest element this series brings to the genre would have to be the combination sequence itself. Since, as stated above, Aquarion interlocks not only mentally and physically but energetically as well, the show goes to great measures to illustrate the almost orgasmic sensation the pilots experience as they merge both with one another and the machine as well. While undeniably unique, it is a gimmick that is perhaps taken a bit far throughout the course of the 26 episodes. Especially since juvenile sexual references often pop up here and there with younger inexperienced pilots looking for what basically boils down to a sex-ed conversation from their superiors. However, I should note for sensitive viewers and concerned parents alike that the references are never pornographic or off color. The Mature rating that the show carries is certainly on the conservative side of the spectrum as really there is little here in the way of explicit violence, language, and so on.

This is a Funimation Entertainment release which, in case you aren't familiar, means the property is treated like a piece of fine art. The box, jacket, and disc art is simply top notch all the way. I often go on record as saying that with many companies you are simply buying dvds, with Funimation, you are immersing yourself in the total experience. Aquarion is no exception to this trend (although I will say that the inclusion of books as was the case with Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid would have been absolutely clutch). I'm personally quite excited to note that Funimation has decided to bundle up the previously two-volume release into a single box set. Cost for this box set is considerably less than ADV Films' single-box release of RahXephon (which is also a 26 episode series). Not only is the price better than it was to buy the two volumes, it's just nice that buyers wont have to track down two sets to enjoy the show in its entirety.

But I digress, back to the meat and potatoes of the show itself; the animation is spot-on throughout the entire series with a lush color pallet and spectacular textures. I mentioned the occasional depth displayed by the aliens but the intelligence behind their attacks pales in comparison to the mecha battles themselves. Releasing giant machines called Cherubims to the planet's surface, it is these skeletal-inspired beauties that Aquarion finds himself clashing with time and time again. In all honesty whatever shortcomings the plot suffers from (occasional tangents that do little to advance the overall prose) are more than made up for by the beautiful battle sequences. The battles maintain their status as spectacles to behold right on through to the end. The subdue Shadow Angel designs and sharp lines make for an awesome counterpoint to Aquarion's fluid curves and brighter color pallet.

Finally the series boasts a beautiful, moving musical score by Yoko Kanno. Think Escaflowne here with soaring orchestral pieces often infused with dramatic vocals.

In all, some criticize Aquarion for its inability to match the psychological depth of comparative shows such as RahXephon and Evangelion but I suspect that Shoji Kawamori's plan was to avoid falling into the pitfalls that plague such shows by resetting the proverbial clock on what makes good robot anime great. As such he makes it a very deliberate point to counteract the darker moments of the prose with an energetic and likeable main cast, creepy enemies with a bright, larger than life giant robot defender; splashes of light for every shadow.

Aqaurion is an enjoyable self-sustained series that does far better when judged on its own merits rather than it does by comparing it to similar entries. This is all made even better by the fact that it was released by Funimation- which means its loaded with extras and the attention to detail is without rival.

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