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Aquarion #1 PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Monday, 30 June 2008 16:00
AquarionTeenage kids and giant mecha - now there's something you don't see every day. Aquarion doesn't do much to step outside what you'd expect from the genre (well, apart from having their pilots become.. aroused.. by the whole 'giant robot transformation' thing - I kid you not), but despite some iffy CG it still manages to start as fairly interesting and get better from there...

Check pages 2-4 of the review for screenshots & episode summaries - there are quite a few episodes to work through here. That doesn't equate to a lot of story - Aquarion has A Formula™ and sticks to it religiously - but somehow it all works out in the end.

Earth, an indeterminate date in the future. The planet is recovering from the Great Catastrophe, where the Antarctic ice melted and flooded huge areas - humanity is still scraping a living, and is far from getting back to the prosperous times before the Catastrophe. Unfortunately, along with the floods, another problem was unleashed - the Shadow Angels, a race of beings that had been sealed away for 12,000 years but are now free again. They live off Prana, the life-force of living beings - and of which humans are a particularly good source. Led by Toma, the Shadow Angels have been harvesting what humans are left from the ruins of the Earth's cities, and the future is not looking bright.

Enter Deava, a military organisation led by the cryptic Commander Gen Fudo. He had been responsible for unearthing the three parts (or Vectors) of giant mecha Aquarion during an archaeological dig, and now he's leading humanity's fightback. Crewed by Element users - humans with special abilities that make them suited to being Vector pilots - Aquarion is one of humanity's last hopes. The other, is the mythical Solar Wing, a Shadow Angel who 12,000 years ago switched sides to help humanity seal away his brethren. We have Aquarion - we just need to find the reincarnation of the Solar Wing.

That's the setting - all fairly straightforward, yes? Add a huge cast, though, and things get a little bit harder to follow. You don't really need to worry about the Shadow Angels at this stage, other than Toma, but Deava's a diverse group. Fudo is as annoying as hell - he speaking in riddles and parables, and is almost impossible to follow. His second-in-command Jerome is constantly over-ruled and made to look a complete fool, just so you remember who's really in charge. But it's the Vector pilots who are the key to the story. First up is Silvia, reincarnation of the Solar Wing's human lover Celiane - short, cute, angry, and worryingly obsessed with her older brother Sirius, another pilot to whom elegance and grace are far more important than anything else. At first it's assumed that Sirius is the Solar Wing, aka Apollonius - but the arrival on the scene of street urchin Apollo raises a large question mark over that assumption, and Sirius and Apollo are soon at each others' throats.

There's also former footballer Pierre; bad-luck charm Reika; telepathic twins Chloe and Kurt; vampiric girl Rena; tech genius Jun; and Tsugumi, who could be described as having an explosive personality. Literally. Each episode focuses on some aspect of the training of this lot of misfits, with part two of the episode inevitably bringing a Shadow Angel attack and a chance for some of the gang to put what they've learnt into practical use. It's a completely rigid formula - it's only come episode 12 that there's a break made for a mid-season mini-climax - and that works against watching more than an episode or two in one sitting, as the show can quickly get repetitive. Break it up, though, and it's great fun, in a guilty-pleasure kind of way. The series has been referred to elsewhere as Aquaricrack, referring to its addictive qualities, and it genuinely does fall into the "so bad it's good" category - you know exactly what's going to happen in any given episode, and yet to can't stop watching, or stop enjoying it while it hauls you along kicking and screaming.

There's a heavy emphasis on CG graphics, which aren't quite up to scratch - there's plenty of colour and detail to them, but it seems the animators may have pushed the limits of their technology a bit too much as it can get decidedly jerky in places, which really does detract from the eye-candy value of it. Other failings include the characters of Sirius (an annoyingly prissy pretty-boy) and Reika (whose curse of gloom soon becomes tiring), but such shortcomings are easily overcome by what's perhaps the show's unintentionally-comic masterpiece: the gattai or union sequences between the pilots. You see, combining the three Vectors into Aquarion seems to be a positively orgasmic experience, in every sense of the word, and you get to the point where you just want to see how the characters react. Somehow, having Silvia go all cross-eyed with pleasure while exclaiming "Ikuuu!" (look it up - and it doesn't mean "It's working!", as the subtitles would have you believe) never gets tired, and makes up for the almost complete lack of any other fanservice in the show.

Aquarion has the feel of a show that wants to be taken seriously, but you'll get a whole lot more out of the experience if you don't - look for the absurd, revel in it, and the show suddenly works on a whole different level & becomes much more than the sum of its parts. It's far from being perfect, but somehow that doesn't get in the way of it being thoroughly enjoyable - although that's maybe on a level that the creators didn't intend. For the few stories where the series breaks from the formula and does something different - episodes 12 & 13 on this set - it really shines. Hopefully the second set will have more of that sort of episode - but either way, I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Rating - ****