The third volume of Aquarion sees normal service resumed, with a few episodes that are cheesy even by the show's high-dairy-content standards. That's not a complaint, just a comment, though, as things really pick up towards the end. But first, after Sylvia deals with the backwash from sharing some rather intimate moments with Apollo (no, not that sort of intimate), Pierre has to deal with his own feelings - in this case, of love spurned...
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 smouldering 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.
14 - Shining Shadows
15 - Aquarion's First Love
16 - Black Mirror
17 - Merge to Eat
18 - Cosplay of the Soul
19 - Mischief Without Malice
20 - Sound of an Angel's Feather
Audio is provided in Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround versions - I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Good use is made of the soundstage both for effects and background music - which the series makes quite heavy use of - to bring atmosphere and a sense of depth to the show. Dialogue is clean and clear, and there were no obvious problems.
Video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is one of the show's main selling points - a good amount of effort has gone into making the series look good, with detailed backgrounds, lovingly-realised settings and good use of colour to bring the series to life. CG can be a bit ropey in places - it can be noticeably jumpy at times - but not so much as to be a problem. The transfer captures all of this extremely well, with no obvious problems.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Menus are a static affair, with Solar Aquarion set against a background of urban decay with options for Play All, Episodes and Setup arrayed along the bottom of the screen, accompanied by a piece of the show's background music - a rather atmospheric piece that sounds like a child's lullaby. With no transition animations between screens, it's all pleasingly quick and easy to use.
Another decent selection of extras is provided this time around. There a commentary track for episode 15, featuring J Michael Tatum (voice of Toma and dub ADR Director) and Christopher Bevan (voice of Apollo / Apollonius); a 20-minute video documantary looking behind the scenes at the creation and development of the series: and the 2005 Stage Drama, The Search for Fudo.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Silvia's been seeing Apollo's dream - of Baron's capture and subsequent death, and the pain he feels at it, seen from Apollo's own viewpoint, and more besides. It's like she's been given a download of Apollo's life memories, but she's not sure what to do with them or whether she even wants them - especially when she realises that Apollo's likely to have received some of her own memories in exchange. Seems it's a side effect of her and Apollo touching the feather - but why? Meanwhile, the Shadow Angels launch another attack - and this time, their attacker is making use of stealth technology and can't be seen. Later, Futaba - the last of the Shadow Angel children - begins to make his presence felt. Like any child, he's got a sense of fun that borders on cruelty, and isn't slow to use the Deava crew as pawns in his games - but games soon become deadly reality.
One interesting episode early in the set is episode 16, where the show's focus finally gets around to Rena. In the background of pretty much every episode of Aquarion, Rena usually just sits quietly and floats around in her futuristic wheelchair, with barely any part to play in events - to the point where you sometimes wonder why she's even there. In this episode, we finally find out, and it has something to do with your neck. She's sensitive to sunlight, drinks blood... If it acts like a vampire, it must be a vampire, and so it's not much of a surprise when Rena does turn out to be one of the bloodthirsty ones - but a friendly one, and one with a few very useful tricks up her sleeve, as she shows that, when the need arises, she can be the catalyst who saves the day. There's a different side of her shown here that makes her a more interesting character than the distant, wheelchair-bound girl we normally see, and it's good to finally see that she does serve a useful purpose.
Where Rena impresses, though, Commander Fudo continues to just annoy, with his cryptic one-liners and daft motivational speeches really just getting to me. He's a character who really doesn't seem to serve a useful, but there is the feeling that more will be made of him as the series heads towards its climax. In the meantime, though, he seems to be getting ever more over-the-top and ever more annoying, in tandem with his ever-clueless sidekick, Jerome.
Another notable episode is episode 19, which is a strange beast, to say the least. It introduces Futaba, the last child of the Shadow Angels who is set to play a brief but significant role - but it's one of those episodes where the animation quality is so low that you have to wonder if the budget ran out. Bizarrely, it's also the only episode of the series to feature a swimsuit scene, so instead of the lovingly-detailed costumes and curves you normally get when such things appear, you get a bunch of horribly off-model characters who you can barely recognise. I feel cheated, even though this seems to have been a deliberate decision to fit with the rather surreal story that the episode serves up, courtesy of Futaba's idea of a little prank. The problem is that it's a little too surreal for its own good, and I really couldn't get into it. Futaba soon gets his come-uppance for his mischevious nature, too, as the final episode of the disc sees him captured - and event which will be the trigger that sees the series build to its climax. But that's for the next volume.
Along the way, there are some great comedy interludes, with dieting and scarily-accurate cosplay both getting a look-in - and usual for Aquarion, they're little things used to teach the crews a lesson that will later prove valuable. The fun is in the chaos those lesson cause along the way, though, and episodes 17 & 18 are the best of the bunch in terms of raising a smile.
This volume of Aquarion is firmly back to The Formula, which is a bit of a disappointment now that we know how good it can be when it gets into its stride, but there's still plenty of enjoyment to be had out of the episodes here, and Futaba's appearance is worth paying attention to. I can't deny that I'm really just waiting for the next volume, though, and seeing what happens when the two sides finally go head-to-head. Still one of my favourite recent shows, despite its flaws, and well worth watching.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Episode 15 Commentary, Creation and Development of the Series, 2005 Stage Drama.
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.