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Aquarion #1 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Monday, 30 November 2009 00:00
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...

1 - Memories Of Heavenly Wings
Two-thirds of Earth's population has been killed - the Antarctic ice has melted and flooded huge areas of the world's land. To make matters worse, a race known as the Shadow Angels have arisen and are fighting humans for supremacy, making life for the survivors less than easy. Apollo lives with a group of wandering orphans, trying to eke out a living by any means - legal or not - but it seems he has a special ability that makes him of interest to military organisation Deava: he's an Element user. Just as the group sent to make contact with Apollo get their hands on him, the Shadow Angels attack & it seems Apollo will be one of their next victims - until Deava's giant mech, Mechanical Angel Aquarion comes to the rescue. At the height of the battle, Apollo's abilities are revealed...

Deer in headlights?Meeting

2 - Beast Of Darkness
The Shadow Angel that had escaped last episode returns to Atlandia, carrying its cargo of 'wingless ones' - humans. Meanwhile, Apollo has been carried to Aquarion's home base, where he's being held captive and questioned - these people don't seem to have any appreciation for what he did during his first battle. While Apollo languishes in the dungeons, the Shadow Angels attack again, and Aquarion is scrambled with pilots Sirius, Silvia and Reika in control - but Reika's still suffering after her last battle and can't complete Aquarion's transformation. Below ground, Apollo is aware of what's happening, and takes Reika's place aboard Aquarion. This time things don't go quite to plan though, as Toma, leader of the Shadow Angels, is prepared for him...

InterrogationGattai

3 - Element School
Two new Aquarion pilots have arrived on the base - Jun Li, and Tsugumi Rosenmeier. Along with the other pilots, they'll be attending classes to learn how to control their Element ability. Reluctantly, Apollo's been drafted into the class as well, and looks set to be a disruptive influence from the start, especially since the others don't really appreciate his presence. As for the other new recruits - Jun is very much the bedroom hacker type, while Tsugumi is the shy, quiet type who's quite overwhelmed by what's going on around her. She's also a science geek. The three new recruits' first simulator run is something of a disaster, but there's something about the way Apollo and Silvia interact (both their powers and physically) that is beyond what anyone expected. Later, when a harvesting beast is detected and the three Vector fighters are launched, Apollo can't resist stowing away on Silvia's Vector Luna - but even his presence can't snatch victory from the jaws of defeat...

Wrong moveUnfriendly advice?

4 - Barefoot Warrior
While Apollo looks back on the time he spent with Baron - all very touching - Toma and the other Atlandeans look forward to their future, and their plan to use the Solar Wing to revive their Tree of Life. Back at the base, it's physical training day for the Aquarion pilots - but before any hard work, Commander Fudo wants to have a look at their feet, as apparently, you can tell a lot about someone from their footprints. Later, Sylvia, Apollo and Pierre are given piloting duties when two harvesting beasts appear, and the importance of feet takes on a whole new relevance...

Nice modellingPiloting

5 - King Of The Underground Labyrinth
Apollo's disappeared into the labyrinth under the base, in the hope of finding (and perhaps 'borrowing'?) a Vector, so Fudo's made finding him the objective of a special training exercise - and with all the traps that are built into the labyrinth, it's no easy job. Safety in numbers seems to be the way to go, and the time the various teams that form spend together gives them a chance to learn a little bit more about each other. Just when Apollo finds his way to Vector Sol, however, a mythical beast appears and begins harvesting humans, leaving Sirius with a choice - follow through on his nebulous plan to save Baron, or do some good now?

TsugumiApollo & Fudo

6 - To The Other Side Of Emotions
More training for the Aquarion crews, this time in an attempt to improve their attack power through creative use of the imagination - once again in pairs, and once again with Silvia raging that her beloved Sirius has been paired with Reika instead of her. The aim: to hit your partner at a range of 100 meters, using nothing but your own aura, and a little lesson that a distance is only far if you think it is. When Sirius and Reika opt for some out-of-hours extra training, both Silvia and Apollo find themselves curious to find out exactly what's going on, although for very different reasons. But the appearance of a harvesting beast soon brings training to an end once more...

Sylvia & TsugumiAquarion Luna

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. Enigmatic Commander Fudo is as annoying as hell - he speaks 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, at least as far as these episodes go, 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 you 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 those looking for it to break out of its routine, keep an eye out for the second volume, where the first of two frankly epically good story arcs take place, proving that the show can be really good when it puts its mind to it. This volume sticks firmly to The Formula, but doesn't suffer from that as much as you might expect. Well worth seeing, in a decidedly guilty-pleasure kind of way.

Rating - ****

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