Fafner Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 20, 2005

What They Say
Nothing has been the same ever since the Festum invaded the island. While the population copes with constant attacks and battle preparations, the leaders of Alvis struggle to move forward under increased political pressure from the Neo UN. Meanwhile, battle fatigue has set in for the young pilots and, while Kazuki is away on a rescue mission, Shoko is pressed into service to pilot the Fafner with devastating results.

The Review!
The danger continues for the young pilots as the Festum continue to attack and the Neo UN comes at them with their own demands.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a solid active mix for the forward soundstage with lots of audio cues being moved across the screen both in terms of dialogue and sound effects. With the way some of the action sequences go there's also a good sense of depth to it as things move around the screen. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this release look to be of really good quality as there's practically nothing wrong with how this looks. With such recent animation, bold vivid colors and clean line work, it avoids all the usual troubles and instead just has this really great clarity to it. With so much of it taking place in exterior shots around an island, the amount of blue that's visible that usually gives trouble is pretty much a non-issue. The town and interior locations all look great as well with their more photorealistic style for the buildings and settings and all of it just maintains a very solid and problem free feel.

Using new artwork created by Hirai, the second installment goes with another group shot of several of the lead pilots together with a familiar backdrop of their mecha and the bright blue skies. The blues are pretty heavy with this show and this volume seems to be no exception. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and some large panels of illustrations along with the listing of episode numbers and titles. The summary gives a brief bit of the premise but not took much while the remainder of the cover goes with the discs features and extras and basic production information. The insert included provides a very heavy blue filtered shot of a Festum against the sky and opens up to a nice two panel shot Shoko and Maya out by the ocean. The back of the insert provides target release dates for the remainder of the series. The reverse side of the cover has the original Japanese volume cover art that features Ssoshi and Maya.

It's been good to see so many new Nightjar menus lately and this one is no exception as it takes the DNA style concept used in the show in the visual monitors and applies it here with very striking color and graphics while bringing in new displays and character artwork. The navigation is easy to use along the bottom and available at all times which is great for making sure it's always interactive. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to get around with. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

The extras are minimal but sweet with a gallery collection of the Japanese DVD cover artwork as well as what the reverse side full spread out cover artwork looked like. I love looking at these as they look fantastic.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Fafner progresses on, it's a series that really is pushing the idea with its early episodes that it's going to be more focused on angst and drama and some action rather than really detailing the storyline that's here. They pull a bit of a trick early on here that changes the motivations and feelings of the cast and while I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing, it's something that a lot of shows don't do so I was happy to see a chance of any sort being taken with a show that's often referenced as being far too influenced by other series.

After the events of the first volume with the Festum arriving and decimating parts of the island, it's on the move with far less of its command structure than it started out with and just trying to avoid the aliens and the Neo United Nations so that they can get some down time to figure out a real plan. Both of these avenues get shut off with this set of episodes though and fairly heavily at first. Makabe's being thrust into the role of commander has him taking the helm at the worst time possible for Alvis and making the best of it that he can. He's forced into making decisions that are basically the lesser of two evils, especially when it comes to the Neo United Nations. In accepting their terms for working together, he has to give over one of the mecha units to them and they'll stop interfering so heavily. This goes against a lot of what he's feeling, as well as several others left in the command structure, but their options are just very limited at this point.

The other avenue that he tries to keep to is keeping the Festum off their backs for a bit so that people can adjust to the change that they just underwent and for the new pilots and command level crew to be able to take things in outside of a battlefront. There isn't really any animosity among the pilots nor real distrust but there's an uneasy feeling that they all seem to have outside of Kazuki who keeps apart from the rest of them in general. Makabe's plan goes down the tubes though when the Neo UN arrives to pick up their Fafner and they all find themselves under attack by the Festum. These aliens are brutal with their micro black hole style weapon that keeps devastating ships left and right and does a lot of damage across the island. All the pilots are out there doing their best to defend everyone as Makabe needs them to defend the Neo UN ships as well.

While not a huge surprise or something that will radically change the series at this point, they pull the idea of killing one of the pilots and making it the sick one, Shoko. She dies a rather interesting death in the battlefield by taking out one of the Festum in a trap after she goes off her rocker trying to stop it with a pistol. While she hasn't been heavily developed, she's someone that we've gotten to know fairly well since the series started due to her illness and being different from everyone so there is a bit of an impact with her death for the viewer but it's a huge impact on the cast as they reel from this and try to figure out what their real right path should be. This brings in the huge angst factor but it doesn't get into real teenage uber-drama at least.

The dealing of this is handled over the next couple of episodes as everyone throws themselves into training or just coping with it in their own way and it leads to an interesting area where a new island is discovered that's similar to Alvis. We learn that Alvis wasn’t the only island created under the Arcadian Project but in order to protect all of them very little was told to anyone else about these other islands. Since there could be a lot of useful material or more on the other island they form up a few of the Fafner's and go to check it out, which after the way the last battle on Alvis went is something that they're quite leery of. This is also mixed in with remembrances of the past for characters like Kazuki so we're able to identify with them more and their little oddities.

In Summary:
Fafner offers up a good mix of drama, angst and action with this installment of episodes as well as a surprise or two but it's very light on actual plot or real revelations of useful information. Visually it continues to be a gorgeous show to watch and it's got a lot going for it in this area with the locations of the lush islands and the beautiful seascapes. But I also really enjoy the mysteries that are inherent in the underground Alvis areas itself. The show still has more than enough to tease about there being a real plot underneath but it's not building too heavily on it at first and rather letting the characters emote a lot for now.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Cover Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fafner