Of all the anime from 2004 I’ve seen, Fafner would be low on a list of series I’d want to be revived with a feature-length cinema continuation. I’d love to see more from the Gakuen Alice manga, or the strange world of Fantastic Children. More Onmyou Taisenki would be a great guilty pleasure, and what happened to that
But this 2010 big-screen release was for forgettable mecha cliché-bag Soukyuu no Fafner, the anime I called the most forgettable I had ever seen. Watching this did bring back various memories, but I’m damned if I remember who most of the secondary pilot characters are, or care about them in the least.
We continue shortly after the bittersweet ending of the series. The island is temporarily safe, but the Festum are still out there. Soshi has given away his existence and Kazuki is not only angsting over the loss of his homoerotic love interest, but losing his eyesight too. Meanwhile, various people who have been assimilated by the Festum are suspended bodily in tubes or wandering the island in ghostly form as some sort of protectors, which if it was contextualised and made meaningful in the series I have entirely forgotten about, with them never managing to be anything but jarring here.
Of course, the Festum come back, mostly still back to their old tricks of trying to turn everybody into crystals because it will in some way help with their infertility problems. This time, though, they send a humanoid Festum to live amongst the humans, using Soshi’s memories to aid it, as well as using its unique personal impressions of the beauty of the sky as a starting point to empathise with the humans. As a kind of surrogate Soshi, he begins bonding in a rather homoerotic way with Kazuki, though he is much more boyish and naïve. The humans don’t accept his proposition of siding with them and wiping out the rest of humanity and all the other festum, so a new battle ensues. Only this time, the Festum have learned human tactics and can use their weapons against them – and there’s a humanoid version to yell at in order to convey true feelings and talk their way out of war by convincing a hostile alien race that nobody wants to fight and everyone should live in harmony. This, of course, involves much tearful yelling and giant robots hugging. At one point, a huge mecha punches through the giant sword of his opponent using its giant fist, rending the weapon in two, because it is so powered up by righteous emotions. Fafner tries hard to be very serious and artsy and elegant, but when it comes down to it, it’s as silly as anything in Gurren Lagann.
And I think I’d forgotten just how homoerotic the series was, a bit of a fixture of mecha since…well, at least Gundam Wing. The pretty boys fighting for their lives are always having meaningful bonds that go deeper than friendship, which I’m sure feeds right into many a yaoi doujinshi. Perhaps this is what Fafner had that Fantastic Children didn’t – angst-ridden, lanky, wide-eyed and vulnerable teen characters that are oh so easy to ship. I’d like to think there was more to it, but…