Fafner Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 24, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What They Say
The team is in the fight of their lives when the Festum attacks them on a mysterious island. Koyo goes on a rescue mission and saves the day but at a great personal cost. After the dust settles the remaining pilots try to get on with their lives as best they can but Kazuki's mind wanders back to his childhood and to an unpleasant memory involving Soshi. But running away from his past only compounds his problems when he is duped into leaving the island and gets captured by the Neo U.N.!

The Review!
Fafner gets close to the halfway mark and the changes are already evident as the cast begin to make the hard choices about how to survive.

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, this piece continues with the heavy emphasis on the water and shades of blue though it's not quite as outright lush as past covers as it's more focused on Kazuki in the foreground while a lot of the background is of the Fafner. 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 diving underwater and opens up to a two panel moody piece with a couple of the character set against a darkened sky. 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 Canon and Mioshi.

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 only extra included in this release is an art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first twelve episodes of Fafner has been interesting to watch. The first two volumes had plenty of interesting material to it and even though there are a few standards to the genre there (as opposed to what some seem to call rip-offs of other shows, which only did the same themselves) there just wasn't a hook in the characters that really drew me in to truly look forward and enjoy each volume a lot. In a way, the first two volumes almost felt a bit surreal in the way they didn't quite connect.

The third volume had a bit of that first mostly because it quickly follows up on the previous episode with the rapid escape sequence from the island so that they could release the Fenrir attack that would eliminate all the Festum there. The escape goes relatively well and even a pair of missing folks are saved at the last minute but not without yet another sacrifice, this time of Kusagai who finds himself attacked and assimilated by the Festum that attacked him. This is the first time that we've seen a fully assimilated person and the result of it, which is used as something to shock the other pilots into understanding exactly what they're up against. The most surprising is the reaction of the parents, though maybe less surprising if we knew them a touch more than the basics we've known, as they're completely furious at Koyo over what happened and are pushing hard for a new foster child to help raise. There are some intriguing moments that are touched upon within this family in the early episodes here that play out very well.

While things certainly haven't settled down overall in the series with the number of attacks there've been, the various kids are all finding themselves finally having a bit of time to start digesting it, especially having seen what happened to Koyo. Each of them is dealing with it different, a lot of it just keeping it inside, but they're also dealing with the larger picture of what's been going on since they've learned of the outside world. This is gnawing more at Kazuki than anyone else since he's trying to figure himself out more and more, especially as others around him that are taking up the roles as pilots become more and more aggressive. What's problematic for him though he's unaware of it is that Kariya is being subtle enough in manipulating him. His realization of needing to see the outside world so that he knows what he's truly fighting for is understandable since he wants to be on an even plane with Soshi who has seen it, but his methods are the real issue as he leaves with Kariya in the Mark Elf with his Fafner without telling anyone.

One thing that a lot of stories do that I wish some would break the mold on a bit is to tell both sides tales equally. With this set of episodes we finally get to see some lengthy material on the other side of the story and understand what's happened to the world and to meet up with those that Kariya actually works for. The introduction of a pair of new Fafner style pilots on the Neo UN side is intriguing enough, especially as one of them is a friend of Kazuki's from the island, and it plays out in a really interesting manner as we also get a new pair of pilots on the island to help fill the ranks now that Koyo and Kazuki are out of the picture. These guys are more comical but they're able to show the differences between the mindsets of those who handle these things. One of them goes so far as to wear an anime styled helmet when he gets into things and takes on an entirely different personality. It's almost literally a split personality since he doesn't seem to remember things afterwards which is an interesting way of dealing with such a stressful situation.

A lot of things simply seem to come together better in this volume and other than some of the forced nature of Koyo's outcome, it doesn't feel like it's as tightly choreographed as the previous two volumes, particularly in regards to Shoko. The characters are all starting to feel more human at this point as the stresses they're under are starting to come out and the situations that the adults have created are becoming clearer as well for everyone, which only makes some of this harder. The foibles and weakness of the adults is also becoming more obvious as they did what they had to do to survive and are trying to impart that onto the kids, though the kids are obviously having a much more difficult time. If anything becomes a problem is that the cast starts getting so large at times that you want people to wear name tags or for a family tree chart to be provided with the release.

In Summary:
This set of episodes has a lot of changes going on for the characters and their situations as well as some really fun action moments. The battles between the Fafner and the Festum have been generally angsty in their nature so far and it starts off that way as well here but there are some really nice changes made with the arrival of some of the new pilots. The animation for show continues to be slick and attractive, especially with all these lush ocean scenes, while the character designs are very appealing as I've like Hirai's stuff for awhile now. This volume starts to feel more real than the first two and like more things are coming together as more things are brought into focus.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,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