Aquarion Season 1 Box Set 2 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 59.98
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Aquarion

Aquarion Season 1 Box Set 2

By Chris Beveridge     July 24, 2008
Release Date: July 15, 2008

Aquarion Set 2
© FUNimation
The scope of the problem the world faces becomes all the more apparent as the Shadow Angels set about to ensure their survival.

What They Say
Betrayal and death raise the stakes of this end-times battle that is systematically destroying two species. Each believes itself just and moral; the passionate humans and the ancient Shadow Angels. The smoldering debris from the collision of two souls over 12,000 years past has rained destruction for the ages; eons of legends and pain meeting up with the truth as Aquarion soars over Atlandia, on a collision course with fate.

The real meaning of unity lies now exposed in two halves of the same heart, darkness and light that together make a whole. As the Shadow Angels and their wingless rivals rush toward their destiny, the secrets of the Solar Wing are revealed. This could mean either the end of the world or its redemption... One way or the other, the war ends now.

Contains episodes 14-26

The Review!
Aquarion gets a pretty solid audio release for the most part and for the English language adaptation in particular. The original Japanese mix is presented in its stereo form as it was broadcast on TV and released to DVD in Japan at 192kbps. The English mix takes a drop in the encoding as it goes from 448kbps from the first set to 384kbps for this one. The only reason for it I can imagine is to eke out every bit of space needed due to the video and extras being done in such a poor way. The increased bass to it alone helps to set it apart from the stereo mix and overall gives it a much more in your face feel when the Aquarion gets into it with the Cherubim. The Japanese mix is no slouch for the most part though and it conveys the show in a serviceable enough manner with clean and clear dialogue and minimal but decent placement.

Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Unlike the first set, which spread the thirteen episodes across three volumes, they’ve decided to put it on two discs here in seven/six format, with the second disc having about two episodes worth of extras as well. The materials are in great shape here and come across as very clean looking and free of problems. The authoring showcases a bit of banding in a few scenes which is still pretty normal for TV grade CG animation as well as some of the minor aliasing that crops up. Colors in general look very solid but there’s a greater presence of noise in the backgrounds due to the generally lower bitrate. The authoring tools used are certainly better than a year ago and they get better results – and frequently hit some high peaks – but the transition to this format does not feel promising.

Aquarion is a first for FUNimation in that they’re releasing a brand new series in half season sets. Most of their series have been done through traditional single route and the majority of those have had very stylish starter sets with bonuses or unique packaging. Aquarion is weak when it comes to this but it’s a trade off that I think is worthwhile. The box that contains the two thinpaks isn’t a whisper thin piece but it isn’t the kind of heavy chipboard that most have come to expect from them. The front of the box has a good looking dark image of the Aquarion set against a slightly star filled sky with the logo along the top. It’s mildly deceptive as it says “Complete Series” below it but just under that in smaller type it says “Part One.” The back of the box has a lightly glued on sheet that sells the show pretty well with the artwork and the summary while promoting the past credits of some of the creative staff. Underneath it is a decent piece of artwork of Silvia and Apollo with their hands pressed against each other. Silvia looks decent here but Apollo looks rather poor and almost childish. The technical grid is kept to the bottom of the packaging in very small print, but at least the insert that’s glued onto the back talks up the amount of episodes and runtime for the extras.

The individual thinpak keepcases are very well done as each of them showcases the Aquarion in a different mode set against a black background. It’s very stylish and looks great with the CG mecha designs. These stand out a lot better than the soft box that holds them in fact. The back of the cases contains a list of what episodes are on the volume, their titles and a lengthy paragraph summary of each of them which must have driven some poor copywriter nuts. Each of the cases are clear which means reverse side artwork. Each of them is given over to a different character with slightly different coloring through which they showcase scenes from the series and the Aquarion in different configurations. Unlike the first set, no pencil boards are included.

FUNimation has come to love the letterbox layout for a number of their shows and Aquarion is little different. Each volume has a different piece of artwork through a small strip placed near the top of one of the Aquarion modes with the logo place to the right of it. There’s some nice coloring above it and the bottom portion has a soft subdued image of feathers with sunlight striking out from it. This is also where the navigation is kept, though it does look minimal on the first two volumes since they don’t have any extras on them. Add in a bit of choral music to the otherwise static menu and you have a decent looking series of menus that fit the theme of the show but don’t do much else. Access times are nice and fast but even without the alternate angles FUNimation discs are problematic when it comes to player presets. Nothing is picked up for my presets and the full translation subtitle track is still listed as Japanese.

The extras for the release are all kept on the second disc and there’s a good chunk of them as the packaging exclaims that there’s over forty-five minutes of them. The opening one is one of the best of them as it’s a twenty-two minute piece that goes into the creation and development of the series as it follows Kawamori around the offices and in every aspect that he was involved. Having seen him in a number of these before, they don’t disappoint because he’s talkative and enthusiastic about it even after all these years. The next extra is a fifteen minute piece that has a few members of the cast doing a “stage drama” in front of an audience while scenes from the show play behind them. This is definitely fun if you like the Japanese voice actors and want to see them in actual full on performance mode.

In addition to that, there’s a ten minute section that has music videos in it that are separated by chapter marks. These could have been broken out a bit more (do they have names?) but they’re very nicely done pieces that work well with the music and the clips used. Another fun little extra is a three minute long piece that’s done as a “silent manga movie” in which stills are used in conjunction with anime pieces and partially rendered CG pieces to tell a comical little story in a rather jagged form. Several minutes worth of commercials for the series release are also included as well as the clean forms for the opening and closing sequences,

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second half of Aquarion is one that has me feeling much as I did about the first. There are some beautiful moments to be had here, some great looking animation as well, but it feels a bit uneven at times and it seems to fall too much into the “Shadow Angel of the Week” mode without the impact that it needs. There are definitely connecting threads throughout them, which is all the more apparent in collected form like this, but the episodic nature of the stories themselves is all the more evident as well.

Not unexpectedly, a good chunk of this set is focused on those smaller storylines that get resolved in one episode. Some of them are amusing to watch, especially as there are a few that seemingly revolve around food. One storyline has the entire region being laid to waste when it comes to its food supply as a Shadow Angel agent destroys it all. Nothing else can get in there at the time so everyone goes for a week or so without food, which leads to them all wasting away while trying to figure out how to deal with the situation. The whining and lethargy is actually amusing to watch as some of their personality traits stand out a bit more because of it.

Other stories are a bit unusual and play to some fairly standard fears. One such episode revolves around the idea that Rena is actually a vampire as everyone starts to become anemic and some have apparent bite marks on them. Naturally, Rena simply looks the part and plays the part well, but it finally does go a bit towards explaining her nature which has been left fairly untouched so far. It’s episodes like these where the show has a hard time maintaining its energy since it’s using a fairly standard plot idea and trying to stretch it out while also making sure it provides for some story continuity with what’s going on. Sometimes it works well enough but more often than not it comes across as contrived, which is admittedly fairly standard for many series so it’s not a heavy black mark against this show. But I feel like Kawamori – and Satelight – should have done better with it.

Occasionally, Aquarion does try to do something a little unusual. The one that stands out the most revolves around the core cast of characters being toyed with in a way as they go into something of a dream state between things. This is represented by a very different animation style, one reminiscent of Tekkonkinkreet, where that reality feels distinctly different. At first you might suspect that it got farmed out to a really bad and cheap animation company, but they do manage to tie it all together as it goes on. It’s very jarring at first and you’re left wondering what they’re doing. Satelight has done this in other series – with much greater effect in Noein I think – so it wasn’t a surprise to see it here. It simply wasn’t executed in a way that made it seem like it was intended rather than outsourcing gone badly.

As Aquarion starts to get to the meat of things, it does become a lot more interesting. The changes it goes through as Tomas starts to mess with everyone by tweaking Sirius is a lot of fun, since it shows just how gullible Sirius can be for all his intensity. The twists with Sirius and Silvia wasn’t exactly original or something that you couldn’t figure out, but the reveal for it was nicely done through the way Tomas hinted at bigger things for him. The show does play a few tricks as it tries to confuse the viewer as to who may really be who when it comes to the past lives, and that adds to some of the fun as you wonder whether we’ve been fed false information for some time.

With so much of the core storyline occurring in the final six or so episodes, there is a bit of a rush to it, especially when you get to the last two and start to wonder how they’ll wrap it all up. Like many stories, it does come to a fairly quick and epic conclusion, and not without some mystery to it, but overall it does feel pretty satisfactory. Elements from the past get brought back which feels a bit forced, but so much of the show is simply shrouded in mystery. What’s backing the Aquarion project and those that keep it going is kept out of the picture which helps to keep it from feeling complete. The Shadow Angels get a fair bit more play about what went on in the past during all of this, but their history feels rather incomplete as well which keeps it from reaching a proper epic level. Aquarion has so many grand ideas here and such a length of time to work with, but it instead spends a bit too much of its time on the inconsequential stories, stories that do help to build up the secondary cast a bit admittedly.

In Summary:
As much as certain parts of Aquarion bother me, I have to admit that it’s a fairly fun show. I’m not quite sure it’s one that stands up as well in collected form in some ways because it shows off its weaknesses a bit too easily. FUNimation also didn’t exactly wow me with this second set in terms of presentation. Cramming the thirteen episodes on two discs, reducing audio quality, reducing video quality and cramming around fifty minutes of extras on the second volume doesn’t exactly endear me to it. Additionally, it feels like there’s less of a “value” here because we went from a thicker three disc set to a two disc set with no price change. Perception wise, I think they did this half wrong and they should have mirrored what they did in the first set. It’s not terribly done, but the reduced value and quality overall gives me a lot of pause with how they may do things in the future.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Director Shoji Kawamori, 2005 Stage Drama, Music Videos, Manga-Style Silent Movie, Actor Commentary (Episode 15), Original Commercials, Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer. 


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