Fafner Vol. #7 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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. #7

By Chris Beveridge     July 24, 2006
Release Date: July 18, 2006


Fafner Vol. #7
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Before Kazuki's very eyes, Soshi is kidnapped by a Festum along with the Siegfried System. In order to rescue Soshi, the remaning pilots of the Tatsumiya Island join forces with the Human Force in an all out battle against the North Pole Mir...

The Review!
Fafner comes to a close with the final three episodes and it's heavy on angst, emotion and action.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Probably the most perfect cover for the end of this series based on how the relationships have gone and the goal of this volume, the image of Kazuki and Soshi together like this with the ghost-like nature of Soshi is spot on. The softness to the background and the colors as well as the emotion that's evident on Kazuki's face is fantastic. 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 Kazuki and Maya 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras round things out nicely for the end of the series as it has the clean endings for the three episodes on this volume as well as a clean version of the opening sequence for the last episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Fafner has had some awkward volumes because of the mix of episodes that have landed within them, the final volume with its three episodes is one of the better ones of the series as it feels all very self-contained. The material on this volume feels very much like it should as the closing act of the series that brings it all to resolution. If Fafner was a three hour movie, these three episodes would bring it all together beautifully.

The pilots have experienced a lot of pain and emotion over the last few episodes and battles which has left them feel empty and hollow to some extent. With so many friends and relatives lost, comrades that they've fought with to help protect everyone, they know that they have to continue but it's all weighing on them. The loss of Soshi in particular is hard on Kazuki but it doesn't take long before they learn that he is necessarily dead yet; the Mir is simply keeping him alive as it's trying to understand the fighting system that Soshi's been using. What surprises everyone is that this information comes from the enemy itself in the form of Akane as it tries to do things that seem right to it through the influence of Akane herself. Meeting with her "husband", she tries to tell them about the changes that have propagated since Akane gave herself to the enemy and became a part of the larger picture.

The explanation of what a lot of the enemy is about comes to light through Akane in the large portion of the first episode that she takes up here and it's interesting to get a cleaner discussion about how this curious race has lived without taking on the aspect of time into itself and only now dealing with it because of what Akane did. The introduction of the concept into its whole changes how it deals with everything since it previously lived as something that was everywhere/everywhen and always existed and didn't exist. As interesting as the concept is, it doesn't get too much play as it's beyond the scope of what's essentially an action series but it provides a really nice backdrop to the angst and action that's coming up.

Understanding what's now at stake after Akane lays it all out, the island and its inhabitants know what they have to do and the kids are more than willing to do it now that there's even a glimmer of hope about Soshi being alive. With the island set so that it will never move again, the kids take to their machines and with a strong plan on how to survive and reach their targets as supplied by Akane, they head off to the North Pole to engage the Mir directly. Unfortunately for them, or fortunately depending on how the battle would play out otherwise, humanity has decided to throw everything it has at the Mir in a last ditch effort to remove what they see as the contagion on their planet. The size and scope of the sea and aerial fleet is staggering here as Kazuki and the others are brought to it and their final mission starts.

Everything in this volume just seems to click as it all plays out, from the character moments that happen as the cast deals with the repercussions of the last battles. The losses have been strong and it's deeply affected a number of them. The lead-up to the battle is great in how it puts the kids to the test of dealing with pressure and the adults in having to deal with not being able really help them in any way, never mind trying to be both strong and comforting for the various losses. Losses that both the kids and themselves have had over the course of it. Even as much angst and emotion as there is to it, it's fairly well restrained and not overplayed. The quiet before the final storm moments are somewhat cliché but it's simply very well done here.

Fafner's had its moments throughout where it's certainly seemed a lot like certain other series, especially with the number of comparisons to Neon Genesis Evangelion. As it evolved it really came into its own though and these last couple of volumes have given it a real strong sense of story where it's been able to tell what it wants to without being too confusing or filled with a lot of religious overtones. It may be a bit simpler because of that and maybe not quite as much real depth, but what we get here is a strong story with a lot of great action. I was also somewhat unsure of the character designs at first with the series coming so closely on the heals of a couple of other shows by Hisashi that this one started to blend in. But again, as it progressed and the simple fact that these characters ended up being more emotional than other shows that they really separated themselves well.

In Summary:
At times, Fafner was hard to take in because the break-up of episodes across seven volumes lead to either some really quiet volumes or others that just didn't have a great flow to them. The ending of the series brings it all home beautifully though and looking at the series in full it proved to be far more enjoyable than I thought it would be at first. The show gets plenty of grief for similarities to other series but I think it does a good job of breaking into its own identity as it goes along. This is definitely a show that I think will benefit from marathon style viewing or at least a couple of volumes at a time, especially when it gets into the three episode volumes at the end. While it won't be a standout among the giant robot shows with kids as pilots, it's one of the stronger ones out there that will have some real strong fans behind it for some time to come.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Endings (3),Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI set to 1080i, 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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