Fafner Vol. #6 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • 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: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fafner

Fafner Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     May 10, 2006
Release Date: May 16, 2006

What They Say
The battle-weary pilots finally start to relax, only to be interrupted by yet another Festum invasion. As disaster looms, off-season blooms and the first sign of natural conception in 30 years spark hope for the island's survival.

Meanwhile, Sakura hides a devastating secret as Festum attacks become increasingly strategic and complex. Tsubaki and Soshi step up to engage the enemy, even as Kenji succumbs to the heartbreak of battle. The island must unite to develop a defensive strategy as another Festum rushes towards Tatsumiya at a frightening speed. Can the island fend off the fatal attacks and still hold onto hope for the future?

Contains episodes 21-23.

The Review!
In preparation for the final battle to come, the storyline takes something of a break and lays out the pieces of the puzzle a bit more.

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 and Maya take the front cover for this volume and it shows off their character designs nicely against the flowing background behind them. While the designs look good and I like how Maya looks, it feels a bit weak in some way that I can't quite pin down. 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 is a big whoops though as it's actually the summary from a few episodes ago but it does list the right episode numbers. 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 the island and opens up to a two panel piece with Soshi and Kazuki together. 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 more of the secondary pilots.

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.

There are a couple of new extras for this volume which are welcome in the form of the clean second opening and the original version of it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fafner doesn't exactly hit a lull in its few episodes before the finale but things do take a bit of a slowdown at times in order to provide more character driven material. They don't back away from action pieces though since the danger level for everyone on the island continues to be high and the way the Festum are approaching them only becomes more intense as they are intent on finally ending things.

With the finale only a few episodes away, it's at a point where more of the cast must be humanized and expanded upon so that when they do make their sacrifices " and you know sacrifices are bound to happen in a show like this " we'll feel more for them as the emotional impact hits. The downtime is something of a mini vacation for the pilots as Michio and his love interest essentially create the kind of dates and places they wanted to make memories of themselves when they were young so that the younger pilots can experience the same things. It helps to strengthen their bonds more as well which is a welcome side-effect, particularly for Soshi as he's become much closer to all of them then the way he used to be aloof back in the day. There are a lot of great quiet moments between many of them as they express themselves and some very cute moments with the Goubain helmet.

The downtime is definitely important to the group since what comes after it just puts them through the paces. While it's very heavy on the action side of things it keeps strong character pieces to it as the rather expansive cast has to deal with so many of the changes that have come out of the attacks. The Festum have made a serious play for taking out the island at long last as well as humanity in general that when they do finally invade the island, it's a constant battle for quite awhile as they attack as a computer would, without emotion and just by throwing "soldiers" at it until they finally weaken things. The attacks are brutal as they finally get inside of the island and various areas get closed off due to it while the golden tendrils slither through until they can get to the heart of things in Siegfried.

The Festum have been attempting to figure out humanity for some time and keep being focused on the stronger emotions of hate though there has been progress in other areas. The island side of the attacks is really interesting to watch as it pushes through a lot of emotions with the cast that's there as friends seem to fall almost continuously in defense of everything. Tsubaki's been heavily affected by it as she tries to protect the island in her own way but the Festum aren't something that she can easily reason with. One thing I always felt was a bit weak was that piece of the closing animation with the three kids who look like they're almost in pain and tears but watching these episodes play out it's obvious there's such a grim feeling to the world around them that it's little surprise that they're like this. It's not easy for a series to carry such an emotional weight to it but Fafner I think manages to do it.

Fafner has a lot going on even when there's only a few episodes like this volume but it manages to keep it all flowing pretty well. The cast has grown rather well over the course of the show though it's managed to kill off a few along the way as well but those who've held out until now are pretty well fleshed out so that as we do undertake the final battles you can get behind them well enough. Some of the material feels forced at this point such as when they actually go to school and the like but for the most part it's just an easy way to get them all together in regular clothes and in different situations so they can work out their more personal issues. And with the threat of death looming over the entire island, it's little surprise that a lot of what's going on are confessions of love and tender moments that inspire many of them to do their best to protect others.

If there's one thing to say about this volume, it ends on one hell of a cliffhanger.

In Summary:
Fafner's felt a bit uneven at times and it took some time to get into various parts of it but after a mild lull in the middle where I wasn't sure where the show was trying to go, they've made a lot of good moves as it's progressed towards the end. There's a growing emotional aspect to the show as the times are getting more dangerous and grim that's pushing everyone in different ways as they react to it and watching it all fall out as the Festum throw everything for a loop is fun. Fafner is an interesting original creation that avoids several of the pitfalls of your manga adapted pieces, especially in terms of pacing. The more I watch the show and the more I think back on past episodes, the more I find myself liking this series. It's one that I think will flow much better in marathon form.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Japanese Opening

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.


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