R2 DVD Reviews
Tuesday, 09 February 2010 00:00
Aquarion heads into its second volume, which also happens to be the volume where the series takes its first departure from the usual battle-of-the-week formula to provide the first direct confrontation between the Deava team and Toma. With events of 12,000 years ago having been touched on a number of times, it's time to get Toma's take on what happened all that time ago...
7 - Knight of the Crimson Rose
Assignment time: to write a report on the Power Stones the Aquarion pilots use, but without the use of the 'net. The base library has an old Greek book with just the information Silvia needs to complete the report - but Reika's got the book on special reserve for Sirius. Cue another bout of jealous-teenager-angst. Silvia's main problem, however, is that she keeps seeing "flashbacks" to her mythical forebears - she believes she and Sirius are their reincarnations, but if the legend repeats itself, she looks destined to be separated from her beloved big brother. Meanwhile, it seems that Sirius has a bit more in common with the Atlandeans than he'd probably like to admit...
8 - The First Merge
One of only two members of the main Aquarion team who hasn't had a chance to pilot yet, Tsugumi's beginning to get more than a little curious about what it's like to be in the pilot's seat - especially after what she's heard about what it feels like (you've seen Silvia's face when Aquarion combines - you know what she means). Her curiosity is infectious, too, and so fellow piloting-virgin Jun's busy sounding out the guys about how they've found the experience. Let's just say the simulator doesn't give the whole orgasmic treatment. Eventually Tsugumi gets the call to pilot a live mission with Apollo and Jun - but she's hiding a secret that she's worried may prevent her from being able to perform well in battle...
9 - The Path to Dreams
The Shadow Angels seem to have come up with a new form of attack, as people the world over are falling asleep and not waking up - a form of coma, if you like, brought on by the power of dreams. At the Aquarion base, they're taking the phenomenon seriously, with the crews being brought to sleep in the same hall under medical supervision, but even that doesn't prevent the power of the Shadow Angels reaching them. Apollo's one of the few to waken after the first attack, and is smart enough (for once) to realise that if they're going to be attacked in their dreams, then they'll have to fight - and win - in their dreams as well. And the price for losing may well be eternal sleep...
10 - Stars in the Sky, Flowers in the Ground
Toma's lack of success in dealing with the Solar Wing is drawing a certain amount of disapproval amongst the Atlandeans, and so another of their number is given the tools to do the job, and it's not long before the Aquarion sees action against the new boy. But there's a problem - shortly before the Aquarion was scrambled, Apollo and Sirius had been involved in a little fencing skirmish, which Apollo won by resorting to what Sirius felt were unfair methods. Silvia was more than a little annoyed at him for that - and now she's one of his partners on the latest call-out, there's just a little bit of friction between them that's getting in the way of doing their job. Can they win without teamwork? Simple answer: no, and that's a lesson that's hard for certain people to learn...
11 - Happiness is at the Bottom of a Lake
Reika's bad fortune seems to be at work again, with Glen, her former partner and one of the Aquarion's original crew, still in a deep coma. And the weather's lousy, too. The end result is a deep depression for Reika, which the Commander sees as a problem - she can hardly perform at her best when worried that everything she does will somehow lead to misfortune. Her luck doesn't seem to be getting any better, either, so she eventually decides to leave the Aquarion base, hopefully taking her bad luck with her. As luck would have it, her train encounters a strange phenomenon - one that's already taken a number of children, and now Reika could be the next victim...
12 - The Time of Amber
An underwater archaeological site produces an unusual find - a single feather, sealed in amber and dated to have been from around 12,000 years ago. That's unusual in itself, as amber shouldn't be able to properly form in that short a time - so perhaps it's something from the time of the Winged Angels? Commander Fudo's orders for nobody to touch the feather only succeed in piquing Apollo's curiosity, so along with Silvia he breaks into the vault - and together they discover the past. Meanwhile, Toma makes plans for retrieving the feather - and he's not planning to play fair...
13 - A 12,000-Year-Old Love Letter
Apollo comes face-to-face with Toma, who would quite like to have a word with him about events 12,000 years ago. While Apollo's only just been introduced to his past, Toma remembers it in vivid detail and relates some of the details - by way of introduction before beginning the task of killing him. Facing defeat, Aquarion retreats back within the barrier shield, but when Apollo realises that Toma has Baron with him, the temptation to rescue his friend is too much to bear. But saving Baron may just bring greater disaster on the Aquarion base...
Six episodes of Aquarion goodness on this release, and for the first four of those The Formula reigns supreme - a day-to-day issue for some of the Deava pilots, followed by the appearance of a Mythic Beast and a combat workout for Aquarion. The first three of them are decent enough, with jealousy, determination and the power of dreams all featuring. The fourth of the set was the one episode here that I found tedious, though, with Reika being the focus of events. Ever since her first appearance in the series, she's been harping on about her alleged "misfortune" and the way that her mere presence seems to bring bad luck up the Aquarion team - it's a subject that I've found annoying since the get-go, as it's really just her feeling sorry for herself and looking to project her own failings onto a curse of some description, so having an entire episode based around her trying to escape her bad luck just rubbed me up the wrong way. On the plus side, I suppose there's a chance now that Reika can move on to being a more positive and useful character, but I'll believe it when I see it.
While most of the 'filler' episodes are enjoyable enough, though, the fun really begins in episode 12, where the show breaks its usual routine to kick off a short 3-episode arc (the third episode is held over for the next volume) that delves into the past, to events in the last war against the Shadow Angels, and to the past lives that Apollo and Silvia have memories of. This is where Aquarion really shows what it's capable of: most of the series is enjoyable in a 'guilty pleasure' kind of way, where you allow yourself to be carried along by the general insanity of the characters while realising that most of the episodes aren't really anything spectacular, story-wise. When the show gets serious, though, it's in another league, where you can watch a real story unfold, and where the lead characters cease being the cookie-cutter cutouts that they are for most of the series to play their parts in something far more engaging and, at times, quite moving. That a show which plays for laughs for most of its run (even though that does appear to be accidental) can come up with a story arc this good is quite an achievement, and begs the question as to why it's not like that all the time.
Not that I worry too much about that, of course, as for better or worse I do still find the standalone episodes enjoyable, in their own flawed way. All the flaws that I mentioned in the review of the first volume are still here - slightly iffy CG, some characters you just want to slap some sense into, and Jerome being shown to be a complete waste of space at every opportunity - but the charm of the show is almost inescapable. The filler is enjoyable despite itself, and once the real meat of the story kicks in it becomes compelling for all the right reasons. Well worth watching.