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J. Michael Tatum
Many Millenia ago, a mystical race known as the shadow angels were defeated by humanity when one of their own named Apollonius "the solar wing" defected over his love for a human girl. In present day, the Shadow angels have returned and reduced earth to a wasteland. For Eleven years the mysterious "Shadow Angels" harvest humans' life-force using giant Harvest beasts guarded by Fearsome Cherubim titans. But now, humanity has a fighting chance in the form of the DEAVA organization and their three "Vector" spacecrafts. Able to be piloted only by special young people possessing magical "Element", these Vectors can combine into the mighty "Aquarion" mecha which is able to change form to adapt to different types of combat.
Into this conflict comes a wild orphan named Apollo who possesses powers unlike anything anyone has ever seen. He is rumored to be the reincarnation of Apollonius and is promptly recruited by DEAVA, much to the chagrin of his fellow pilots like the princess Silvia de Alisia who detests Apollo's uncultured nature. A most unlikely couple, yet a most predictable romance subplot that one could see coming from a mile away. And in keeping in Shoji Kawamori's style, a third party for a love triangle is introduced in the form of Silvia's older brother (almost incestuous yes?).
Anyway, "Genesis of Aquarion" was meant to be an ambitious project for Kawamori and his creator owned studio "Satellite" but that ambition does not seem to show. The story is a mix of themes that have come before; a healthy dose of evangelion's quasi-religious ramblings, a dash of Escaflowne fantasy, obvious 70s "super robot" anime influences, the love triangles of Macross and narrative style of magic academy type anime. Little has been done to mask the show's various influences and as such, any long time anime fan watching this would be constantly plagued by the feeling of "where have i seen that before?". Not to worry, because YOU HAVE seen that before. The story is rather unoriginal and only gets more confusing by the second half. Clever references to the writings of Carl Jung and some metaphysical undertones, stuff that could have made this series feel a lot smarter, gets completely kicked in the nuts thanks to half baked, almost insulting, execution.
Shoji Kawamori is a smart man. Within the combination of the mecha lies the concept of a metaphysical unity of body, mind and soul. But instead of explaining this clearly, he chooses to portray this "bonding" as.......sex, literally. Thats right, as the three vectors insert parts of themselves into one another to combine into Aquarion, the pilots suddenly appear nude and go into throes of what can only be described as sexual ecstasy. Just one example of how something clever gets ruined by bad taste brought about by the Japanese addiction to fan-service.
Though the story of Genesis of Aquarion is a mess. It is at least a magnificent looking and beautiful sounding mess. Composer Yoko Kanno infuses the series with an epic orchestral score and otherworldly vocals, cementing her lofty reputation among the anime fandom. The voice casts too, both English and Japanese ones, maintain an excellent chemistry throughout, allowing the characters' contrasting personalities to shine and play off one another. Both Japanese and English voice tracks are decently acted and on par with each other but neither are perfect; the Japanese voices do lapse into bouts of over-acting while the English script had minor changes here and there for better lip sync but at the cost of veering from the original dialog. A Chinese dub exists in south east Asia but it suffers from severe miscasting and under staffing. It sounds as if each Chinese voice actor performed multiple roles as many characters sound similar.
Narrative Flaws aside, Aquarion is truly a technical achievement. Gorgrous character artwork and imaginative production designs make Aquarion a treat to look at. Though the traditionally animated characters are typical TV series standard, it is the computer animated (CGI) mecha that never fails to astound. Bearing a level of detail and fluidity only seen in anime feature films, the CGI seems to be where most of the show's budget went into. Future anime would be hard pressed to meet this level of artistic professionalism, though it is hoped that the future directors do not sacrifice likable characters, a coherent story and originality for technical visual exquisiteness like what happened here.
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