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Aquarion: Volume 2 (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000123827
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 28/11/2009 18:59
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    Aquarion: Volume 2

    7 / 10


    Last month, the unexpected happened. I liked a mecha show. It's a genre I can hardly bear; whiny teens piloting giant robots into battle (without once referring to an instruction manual), battling alien menaces, and winning the day through superior willpower. It gets even worse when they go all power rangers, and have to combine their vehicles to make the ultimate robot. There's always a sword involved, and a trite exclamation to go with each transformation. Don't get me started on the need to yell out the name of every fighting move before it is executed. Aquarion has all of this, and it has it in abundance. Yet for some reason, volume 1 endeared itself to me. It was the sheer energy of the piece, or maybe the unquenchable thirst to have as much fun with the premise as possible. It's hardly been a month, and already volume 2 has arrived. Let's find out if my reactions were genuine, or if I had been unsuspectingly suffering from a concussion that week.

    In Holy Genesis Year 0011, after 12000 years of slumber the Shadow Angels of Atlandia attack an Earth already weakened in the Great Catastrophe. They seek the prana energy that every human possesses, and the weakened inhabitants of the world have no defence. No defence, except the Mechanical Angel Aquarion, which was rediscovered by Fudo Gen, and has been put to use in defending against increasingly devastating attacks. The Aquarion is a giant robot, comprised of three vehicles or vectors. Each vector has to be piloted by a unique individual with a multi-dimensional aura, an Element User, and these Element Users are in short supply. When they merge their souls in perfect harmony, they can combine the elements of Aquarion to create an unstoppable fighting machine. Some elements are more harmonious than others, and a feral child named Apollo was plucked off the streets as he had the right multi-dimensional aura. More than that, prophecies state that he is the reincarnation of Apollonius, the greatest warrior of them all. Fellow pilot Silvia is apparently the reincarnation of Apollonius' love Celiane, but she's none too impressed by the foul-smelling, animalistic youth that they find, believing instead that her brother Sirius is the true heir to Apollonius' soul. But they will have to work together to save the world.

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    The next 7 episodes of Aquarion are presented on this disc by MVM.

    7. Knight of the Crimson Rose
    Sirius is an odd fellow, a throwback to a more civilised age, quoting poetry and looking for beauty in the midst of battle and devastation. Naturally such a philosophy is at odds with Apollo's outlook, as is Sirius' disdain for the prophecy, when Silvia believes so strongly that Sirius is Apollonius incarnate. This three-way friction causes problems, more than they are expecting, as Toma has noted Sirius' appreciation for the finer things, and has devised a suitable test for Aquarion. A beautiful light appears in Memphis, and soon the pilots of Aquarion are enraptured, and then turned against each other.

    8. The First Merge
    Everyone is talking about merging, the moment when the three vectors come together to form Aquarion; it's a spiritual, sensual experience that is causing a whole lot of gossip in the girls' locker room. It also causes a little consternation for Tsugumi Rosenmeier, who has yet to pilot Aquarion into battle. Jun also is untested as an Aquarion pilot, and both of them look up to their seniors for advice and experience when it comes to merging. The problem is that like all the Vector pilots, Tsugumi and Jun have abilities beyond the human. Tsugumi's ability is that when she gets excited, and her heart flutters, things around her explode uncontrollably. It's why she's both looking forward to, and dreading her first Aquarion mission. And when that mission does arrive and she's called to report, she's nowhere to be found.

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    9. The Path to Dreams
    There is a new Mythic Beast attacking, only this one attacks in dreams. The world over, children are falling asleep and failing to wake up. Fudo Gen realises that the path to dreams has been opened, and issues new orders to begin sleep training. The sleep training turns into a full-blown mission, when all but five of the Aquarion pilots are trapped in their slumber. Now Apollo has to lead Pierre and Chloe in battle, but it's a battle that has to be fought in a nightmare.

    10. Stars In The Sky, Flowers On The Ground
    There's a new Shadow Angel looking to pick a fight. Moroha believes that Toma alone shouldn't challenge Solar Wing, so he commissions a new Cherubim soldier, and comes to Earth to wreak havoc on Aquarion. He needn't have bothered. Apollo and Sirius are at each other's throats more than ever and unable to harmonise while flying Aquarion. It winds up with Silvia severely injured at the hands of Moroha.

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    11. Happiness At The Bottom Of The Lake
    A mythic beast in a lake attacks a school bus full of children. Meanwhile Reika is still worried about Glen, who has remained in intensive care since they first encountered Apollo. She's blaming herself more and more for his condition, and lamenting her bad luck. It all comes to a head when she sees ghostly children reaching out for her from a damaged computer monitor. It's too much and she decides to leave Deava and the Aquarion program.

    12. The Time Of Amber
    An artefact has been recovered from South American ruins, a feather, perfectly frozen in amber. Testing back at base reveals the impossible. Rather than a fossil, millions of years old, it's actually only 12000 years old, and dates back to the last war against the Shadow Angels. It's immediately placed out of bound from the pilots, and immediately Apollo and Silvia start looking for a way to get closer to it. Meanwhile in the Upper World, the Shadow Angels grow concerned that the wingless ones will defile one of their sacred artefacts.

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    13. A 12000 Year Old Love Letter
    Toma attacks, determined to recover the feather, and this time he's brought a secret weapon to put Aquarion off guard, Apollo's friend Baron. But there's more than just a feather at stake in this battle, the fate of two worlds rests on the outcome, as well as the truth behind Apollonius' betrayal of the Shadow Angels 12000 years previously.


    Aquarion gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, as befits a modern anime. As you would expect, it is an NTSC-PAL standards conversion, although there isn't a major prevalence of softness of ghosting in the image. What you probably will spot is the judder in the pans and scrolls. Aquarion is a Satelight production, the same people who made Noein and Heat Guy J, so there is a comfortable familiarity in the character design style. However, for a comparatively recent anime, it does seem dated in the way that it blends, or rather fails to blend CG animation and traditional 2D stuff. The kick ass mecha and villainous Cherubim are depicted in bright, shiny, geometrically exact CGI, while the character designs are plainly 2D, and they don't go together all that well. On a rare occasion, one of the characters would sprout polygons, and become CG him or herself, to better fit in a 3D background, a little like Vexille or Appleseed, and I'd be left scratching my head, wondering what had just happened. All that said, if you can put Aquarion's visual oddities aside, you'll also find that it's a vibrant, and fluidly animated show, lacking in those static moments that I usually associate with anime, and instead showing the results of a higher budget and a greater number of man hours spent at the computers.


    You have a choice between DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Japanese here, along with optional subtitles and signs. I can tell you that as usual I was happy to listen to the original language track, but I did sample the English and found it to be one of the good ones, with a decent cast and good performances. I think Aquarion is one of those rare anime that I'm happy to watch in either language, and given the action packed nature of the show, then the 5.1 soundtrack is definitely a plus. Besides, with Yoko Kanno's great music accompanying this show, you want to hear it all at its best.

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    Aquarion is turning out to be quite the guilty pleasure for me. Just as with the first volume, I had a great time with the seven episodes on this disc, despite all the clichés and tropes that I loathe. Or maybe it's because of all the clichés, as Aquarion is a show that is determined to have as much fun as possible within its well-trodden genre. By the time this show was made, the usual teenagers in giant robots stories had been done to death; they had even been subverted in the sublime Neon Genesis Evangelion. It would have been difficult, if not impossible to exceed what had come before, so the creators didn't try. Instead, it's like giving a popular symphony to a world-class orchestra to perform. You know exactly what it's going to sound like, but even then, it will sound better than you would expect. This show looks to all intents as if the creators had as much fun as possible while making it, and that sense of fun is infectious.

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    This volume begins and continues in much the same way as the episodes on the preceding volume. These are almost little episodic training missions, following a regular format. The first half of each show invariably involves the Aquarion pilots undergoing some bizarre training, or involved in some interpersonal conflicts that have an odd aspect to them. In the second half of the show, the Shadow Angels attack, and lo and behold that training from the first half, or the odd aspect of the interpersonal conflict actually has bearing on how to defeat the menace of the week. These are very much rinse and repeat episodes when I describe them in that way, but the odd thing is the sheer variety of stories that Aquarion has to offer. One reason is that the characters are so well written, their personalities so defined, that I was more invested in their problems and how they dealt with them than the uniformity of the episode structure. Also, there is a lot of variety inside the format, strikingly different monsters of the week. We have a negative emotion sucking pretty light, we have a Cherubim impervious to external attack, a Shadow Angel that attacks from within dreams, and an enemy made from water. It all requires differing approaches from the defenders, and each episode plays out differently. Again, with the character dynamics at the heart of each episode, you hardly notice the routine.

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    This is also the volume where we learn more about the Shadow Angels, the 12000-year-old war, and the natures of Apollonius and Celiane, Apollo and Silvia. It certainly is interesting to learn more about the Shadow Angels, and that they aren't just euphemistically named. They may indeed be the winged angels of legend, only not as benevolent as we are led to believe. 12000 years ago, their prey was humanity, in their quest to reshape the world to their liking. Apollonius' story turns out to be quite mythical and appealing as well, with the implications for Apollo and Silvia quite charming, and also leading to their relationship developing in this volume. It also heralds the end of the training missions, and the start of what looks to be a major story arc, quite possibly one that will go all the way to the end of the series. When the Shadow Angel Moroha attacks, it's the trigger for some major friction between Apollo and Sirius, and also causes some confusion for Silvia, who is injured in the battle. Up till this point, she is hopelessly devoted to her brother, believing whole-heartedly that he is the true reincarnation of Apollonius. But here her affections begin to shift towards Apollo, and Sirius begins to grudgingly accept him as well.

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    But it's when Toma attacks in the final two episodes that we begin to see where this series is going. The retrieval of the feather is the trigger that opens Silvia and Apollo's past life memories, and we get the healthy dose of back story we have needed, explaining what this war with the Shadow Angels, and indeed the series is truly about. Another interesting dynamic between Toma and Apollo comes to the forefront, especially with the reveal of Apollonius' fate that indicates that Toma is chasing a lost bromance. Also there is the reveal of Silvia and Sirius' true natures, and it becomes apparent that the story is taking a turn for the serious. That's underlined by Apollo facing a tragic loss, and at the same time realising that he isn't alone.

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    Aquarion is schlock. I can foretell most of the complaints about this show, and they will boil down to a long list of other shows that it cheerfully rips off. I certainly can't argue with that, and will also readily accept that there are many shows out there that will be better than this. I don't care. Aquarion is fun. It has high production values, and even with all the clichés and stereotypes, it's tightly written and appealing. Best of all, it refuses to take itself seriously. It's like they made this mecha show just for me.

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