Fafner Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, January 21, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What They Say
After he is taken hostage, Kazuki learns once and for all that he has been partially assimilated with the Festum. During his captivity at the Neo UN base he is reunited with his mother, but all is not as it seems since Festum assimilated Kazuki's real mother when he was just a child. He has precious little time to ponder this mystery as the Neo UN launches a full-scale military takeover of the Tatsumiya island.

The Review!
With Kazuki in the Neo UN's hands, the battle for humanity's future takes some strange and decisive turns.

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.

Kazuki graces the front cover once more this time with another one of the Nothung style models behind him that takes up all of the background so there isn't any of the usual great blue seascapes that have graced previous covers. It's a decent looking piece and certainly within the context of the show but it's missing that extra something to draw you in like the blues did before. 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 piece with the trio of Kazuki, Soshi and Maya. 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 Tsubaki.

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 for this installment focus around episode 15 of the series which had a non-standard ending as the show bled into it which means we get a clean version of it as well as one with the original Japanese credits list.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Fafner moves into the second half of its run, there are some very interesting revelations about how the world works and what happened thirty years ago that more than clears up some basic concepts of things but at the same time the series works in a way that, at least in a bi-monthly viewing format, makes it difficult to keep up with as there are simply a lot of characters with a lot of connected relationships who rarely use each others names. This may not be much of an issue if you only watch a couple of series but when you juggle forty or more of them it's a bit of a hindrance.

The storyline as it progresses through this volume is one where there is simply a lot of changes going on and giving the large ensemble cast a variety of motivations to work through, never mind the numerous agendas and promises made in the past that must be carried through. Kazuki's supposed defection in the previous volume, with him heading off in his Nothung Model only to be captured by the Neo UN, has put a lot of variables on the table and a whole lot of uncertainty for those on the island. With so many relations to Kazuki in different ways, from his father who must have some faith in his son to Maya who has such strong feelings for him but knows that he isn't able to return them, there's an element of trust that wants to exist but with the betrayal's that they've all undergone over the years from those who left it's hard to really believe it too deeply.

Kazuki for all his intent of not wanting to lose who he is in the midst of the fighting and to be seen only as a savior or an empty figure of some sort finds that his time at the Neo UN base could offer some possibilities for him to do some good while avoiding any actual fighting. This turns into a false hope though as those around him, several of them from the previous generation who lived and served on the Alvis island, have their own ideas about what Kazuki should do and those who have a strong connection to him. It's given away on the back cover unfortunately as we learn that the Festum have assimilated his mother and he gets to meet her here but it's an interesting twist to things as she's something that could be a medium or go between for the two races but instead we find that she's completely gone and for years the Neo UN have had a human form Festum in their midst trying to understand humanity. Of course, this is all well and good until they really realize that there cannot be any true peace between the two since the Festum, in their prime form at least, are all about returning the universe to its zero balance.

Or at least I think so. Fafner's larger storyline at times seems grander than is actually playing out and a lot of it is simply lost on me partially because of the way the show is being viewed. The more I see it the more I'm convinced that this is a great show to marathon but a difficult one to take in doses since it's just so chock full of things going on, even as angsty as it gets. Similar to a couple of other shows that I've been seeing at the same time as this, it's a show that has some beautiful moments of clarity, scenes and sets of dialogue and backdrop that just click perfectly, but then shifts back into normal mode where it's difficult to keep it all running together. Learning more of the past in this volume with what happened in Japan and how the world reacted thirty years ago is highly illuminating. Then we get a lot of time spent with Tsubaki and we're back to wondering just what it all means and trying to piece it together. But it may just be that from volume to volume there are things that I'm not seeing that aren't carrying over to make it all flow.

In Summary:
Fafner has some great moments in this volume, be it detailed moments in history or strong character relationship areas as well as some very well done action pieces. The four episodes here do a solid job of picking up from where everything started to change after Kazuki's defection and showing the rapid succession of events based on what the Neo UN has gained by it. At the same time, some elements lightly touched upon in the past are coming to the fore and how they're affecting things make it all feel rather unsure and convoluted at times, keeping the viewer from feeling as involved as they should be. It's still enjoyable overall but there are some serious moments of frustration that I'm feeling throughout it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Episode 15 Clean Ending,Episiode 15 Japanese Ending

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