Tuesday, 3 January 2012

蒼穹のファフナー / Soukyuu no Fafunaa / Fafner in the Azure

Of all the anime I’ve watched, including all those that are many years in the past now, Fafner has been by far the most forgettable. Even the likes of Ragnarök and Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai, which I barely gave a thought to since I finished them, years ago, left much more of an imprint than this. Without prompting myself, I could remember little more than that it was a mecha series about kids living on a funny crescent-shaped island when most of the rest of the world had been destroyed, and that there was a satisfying final scene with a secondary character fulfilling a dream of being on TV.

The rest – main characters, antagonists, reasons for fighting – were largely gone. I couldn’t even remember the mechas themselves, and all I wrote when I finished the series at the end of March 2005 was a note to say I was ‘watching the final episodes of the angsty, occasionally moving but mostly bland Soukyuu no Fafner.’

Bland, I think, sums up my feelings on the series, another attempt at a new Evangelion that fell well short. Mecha in general is not my favourite, unless it’s funny, like Big O or Gurren Lagann, or does something subversive like Bokurano or, indeed, Eva. Giant robots tend to get in the way of plot development and have never struck me as very cool to watch, which I suppose is their whole purpose. I tolerate them in the likes of Eureka 7 and GunXSword, but when I think back without mecha specifically in mind, I tend to forget they were even there. Macross was another I found very forgettable. About the only time I thought of Fafner again was when I saw Gundam SEED and the protagonist looked so like Fafner’s (same designer).

The plot, as I have now reminded myself, is that the little island of Tatsumiya-jima managed to survive the onslaught of the monstrous Festum only by being cloaked, and the populace grew up in halcyon isolation. One day, though, they are discovered, and their only chance is to deploy their giant robot. Inevitably, the pilot is killed and it falls to a handsome teenager to defeat the enemy. He does, but this brings the island to the attention of both the Festum and the rest of humanity, who want to know why such a powerful weapon was hidden away.

The plot turns tragic quickly, and underpinning everything is melancholy – the children, previously so sheltered, must now fight and very possibly die. The only light relief comes from the aforementioned boy, Hiroto, who wants to be famous.

The main problem with Fafner is that it’s 26 episodes (and an OVA side-story, which I watched later), during which not a lot really happens, and generally the tension comes from people not wanting to take part in any action but stay safe and do nothing. This does not make for very compelling viewing, and perhaps is why I was left so indifferent.

Nevertheless, there is now a film and rumours of another series on the way. And perhaps when there is little else to do or watch, I shall spend a bit of time checking them out.

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