Fantastic Children Complete Collection (Anime Legends) (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, July 04, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 04, 2008
What They Say
Over the course of many years in many different lands a group of mysterious children called "The Children of Béfort" have been seen time and time again. They spend long months and years traveling from place to place searching for one particular girl.
In the 21st century, a boy named Thoma lives on a small southern island called Papin Island. He meets a girl named Helga who is captured and taken back to the orphanage she ran away from on nearby Chikao Island. But Thoma, together with Helga's young friend Chitto, devises a plan to free her. However, when they get to Chikao they find that government agents have come to the island searching for an escaped prisoner!
What seems at first to be a standard fairy tale type fantasy story takes some interesting twists and turns, revealing Fantastic Children to be an excellent blend of mystery, drama, and tragedy.
I primarily watched the original Japanese audio. Both the Japanese and English tracks are clean and clear. I felt the English track was a bit hard to listen to, as the voices didn't match the characters as well as I would have liked. Overall the sound in the show is very simple, primarily dialogue and a few sound effects as needed. The sound effects used are the most basic sounds, and on a few occasions some odd sound choices are made. It is worth pointing out that Fantastic Children does have a nice soundtrack.
The show has a very simple animation style and primarily uses a subdued color palette, both of which are well represented in this transfer. There are a few issues with artifacting on a handful of shots, typically when there are fine line details present, such as the eyebrows of some of the characters. There are a handful of digital shots, which are pretty well blended with the overall style of the show.
Fantastic Children comes in a double sized black keep case. The cover art features Hilda and Thoma in front of a European city shrouded in mist, the logo is prominent at the bottom of the image. The back of the case has a lengthy description of the show, a list of the features and extras, staff credits, a list of all 26 episode titles, and a small picture of the Children of Befort all on a dark background. The overall effect of the case artwork is fairly somber and refined.
Four of the discs are stored on swinging flaps, with disc one and six held on the front and back of the case. The discs themselves all have nice subdued artwork from the various locations within the show, with a yellow decorative border giving them a similar overall look.
The menus are all rather nice looking, using pencil sketches of locations from within the show. The main menus are all exterior locations, which lend a European flare to the look. There is a strip of moving images from the show running vertically down the center of each menu, with the menu options listed on the left hand side. Each menu on the disc has a different piece of music from the show.
There isn't too much in the way of extras for this show, with the primary extra being the standard clean opening and closing. However, there is one excellent extra, which is the special ending to the series. This additional ending answers some of the lingering questions left once the show ends. There are also previews for other shows on each disc.
The copy of the show I received also has the soundtrack included, which is a nice bonus, as the music for the show is excellent. The soundtrack disc also came with the CD booklet, which has some nice watercolor artwork, and folds out to show a handy timeline for the entire show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fantastic Children beings with the mystery of the Children of Befort, a group of white haired blue-eyed children searching for a woman who paints strange landscapes. We learn that the children are somehow capable of jumping to different time periods, and that they are being investigated by a detective who is obsessed with understanding the mystery of the children. Though it is not clear what is driving the children on their search, it is very clear that the children are all tormented and struggling to achieve their goal. The difficulty of their situation is made clear when one of them, Palza, leaves the group to live with the 19th century family he is with. The parting with the other children is an emotionally charged scene, though the reasons behind the emotions aren't yet clear. We later learn that the Children have memories from some other version of themselves as well as their current memories, which include feelings for their present families.
We are also introduced to Thoma, a simple and energetic boy who lives on an island with his mother and father. Thoma runs into the quiet and extremely introverted Helga, who has run away from the orphanage where she lives. Something about Helga fascinates Thoma, and he is sad to see her sent back to the orphanage. With the help of Helga's friend Chitto, Thoma plans to free Helga from the orphanage again. But they find the island where the orphanage is overrun by a brutal government agency searching for an escaped prisoner. Thoma and Chitto manage to help Helga escape, only to run into the prisoner, who turns out to be a dying old woman. The woman belongs to the agency, GED, which has taken over the island, and dies before they are able to take her back.
The story develops slowly as Thoma hides Chitto and Helga on an island near his home and he slowly tries to win the trust and friendship of Helga. Meanwhile, the Children of Befort are continuing their desperate search for the reincarnation of an artist who paints the same painting over and over. This painting is the same as the one Helga is always drawing, and is the place she is trying to find. When one of the Children goes to the same island to visit the robot he has stowed there, he sees one of Helga's drawings, and knows that they are close to finding the person they have been searching for.
However, Helga and Chitto leave the island during a storm to find the place in Helga's drawing, and are picked up by a ship run by GED. Thoma and the Children both search for Helga, and team up to try to find her. When they reach the ship it is under attack by an old man, who like the old woman is the result of an experiment run by GED, which prematurely ages them and grants them strange powers. The Children seem to have an understanding of the experiments the agency has been performing and wants to stop them. The leader of the Children, Agi, confronts the old man and is able to stop him before something terrible happens.
Once everyone is together, the Children take Helga, Thoma, and Chitto to the place where the painter lived. They explain that Helga is the reincarnation of the painter, and that she actually was originally Tina, who they have been searching for. Helga relives the memories of her previous incarnations, and realizes that Tina and the Children are all from another planet, which is the inspiration for her drawings. The Children were scientists on the planet of Greecia, and after some political turmoil sent Princess Tina to Earth for her safety. However, the king was not happy with their decision and sent them to find Tina and bring her back to Greecia.
The Children had then had their spirits sent into human bodies, and began the long journey to locate Tina. However, Helga does not want to return as she realizes that she may once have been Tina, but is now herself. Things grow increasingly complicated with the appearance of Tina's younger brother, Dumas, who is obsessed with finding his sister and has been using GED to create the device that will send her spirit back to Greecia. He takes Helga against her wishes and prepares to send her back. He also reveals that the Greecian ship he arrived on also contains the original bodies of the Children. As things reach a climax, Thoma comes to understand the source of his fascination with Helga, which turns out to be extremely tragic.
Thoma and the Children are able to save Helga from being sent back to Greecia, but then they must confront their shared past. Helga helps Thoma to realize that he is himself, and not just his past life. The Children too have to confront their pasts, and realize that they have to give up the hope of returning to Greecia. They must all do their best to live the lives they have. The ending is really excellent, though there are a few lingering questions, which are thankfully resolved in the special ending extra.
Though Fantastic Children does take a while to get rolling, there is enough mystery to keep you hooked until some startling revelations are made. The blend of adventure, mystery, drama and tragedy is well handled, and keeps the story lively and interesting. Although the animation style is simple, don't let the looks fool you, this show is as Fantastic as the title claims, and is definitely recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Alternate Ending
Review Equipment: Samsung HLT6187S 61" DLP HDTV, Sony DVP-NS975V Progressive Scan Up Converting DVD player, Pioneer Elite VSX-81TXV DD/DTS receiver, HDMI cable, JBL Multi-Channel Speaker System with 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fantastic Children