Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Anime Review: Aquarion Evol

Ack, my schedule yesterday was a bit thrown off so it wasn't until long after I went to bed that I realized I had completely forgotten to write this post. I've been in a bit of a blogging slump lately so I've decided that I'm going to take next week off to see if that helps (since this is hardly the first post I've forgotten to write recently). 
In any case, Aquarion Evol! I started watching this with a friend to cheer them up one day without having seen the first show but after a bit I decided to watch the first show as well to understand the back story better which I decided not to review since I have complicated feelings on it. In short, the ending was strong and I liked the premise (darker than I was expecting), but it had too many comedy episodes which made it seem like they had forgotten the premise which ultimately didn't mess well and made the series feel awkward. However, Evol does a very good job summarizing the important parts of the original series so you don't have to watch it to watch Evol (if you do so desire however, Funimation has licensed it for Region 1 and it can be found on Hulu). So, how does it's sequel, because that's what it is (the original series even has To Be Continued after the last episode), fare in comparison? Well, again it's a bit complicated.

Aquarion Evol

Summary: 12,000 years after the events of Genesis of Aquarion (and 24,000 years after the war between angels and humans that started everything) Earth is facing a very different kind of threat, people from another world in another dimension who have come to try and steal away women in hopes of finding their "true eve." Not that this concerns Amata, a boy with the odd power of being able to fly whenever he has strong emotions (via wings on his feet), and Mikono, the untalented sister of Neo-Deva's most talented aquarion pilots. But fate has brought these two together and to Neo-Deva to fight and perhaps fate has even more in store for them.

The Good: Quite honestly I started watching the show because the premise of "teens ride in mechs that combine in a three-way orgasm" sounded utterly amusing (hell, I always giggled when the characters in Star Driver started yelling about how libido affected their piloting abilities) and no that's not an exaggeration or simplification of the show, that is literally what happens. Unexpectedly, with a show that has almost-sex as a major part, there's a lot of romance and I ended up liking a lot of the side characters and their romances more than I expected. It's a fun show most of the time for it's over the top and regular random moments (and believe me, Fudo is never as strange as he was in the original here) never failed to have me laughing, although I don't think all of those moments were meant to be funny.

The Bad: Ultimately the stakes never felt as high here as they did in the first show, even when the story was at it's climax it felt forced and silly. And speaking of the first series, the "twist" regarding this round of reincarnations (since there was a twist in the first series that meant there had to be one here as well) makes very little sense considering the first series and produced some weird continuity problems*. Finally, while Mikono and Zessica (another female character) both had their good moments neither of them were as well fleshed out as they could be which bothered me. It's true that the guys weren't much better but both of the girls had a lot more potential to be deeper, more interesting characters so this was rather unfortunate (as was the choice in Zessica's outfit, I try not to get too annoyed by what female characters wear, otherwise I would be annoyed all day long, but her second outfit was facepalm worthy dumb).

The Audio: Yoko Kanno returns to work on the music (and either one or both of the openings, at a glance it seems like ANN doesn't specify which) and the music is quite fun. It's big, often over the top, and blood-pumping which fits with the show very well. Both of the ending songs are a bit sadder but tragedy is part of the story as well so in the end they both fit well (although it took me some time to get used to the second ed). The music was some of the most fun parts of the show and, while I don't feel the need to buy the show on DVD, I would happily buy the soundtrack regardless.

The Visuals: Evol has different character designers from the original series (which is immediately obvious during the flashback scenes) and overall I liked how this series looked more than the original. Sadly this show isn't very visually distinctive, there's no stylistic flair in the designs, coloring, backgrounds, etc. and even the mechas don't look so distinctive that someone unfamiliar with the genre would be able to recognize them (compare to say the mechs from Gundam or Neon Genesis Evangelion which are immediately recognized by most anime fans). So, while the show is pretty, it's not something that will stick in most people's minds a few years after the fact.

In the end it was a fun show but not an especially good one. I was entertained, I had fun watching this is with my friend, and in that way the show served it's purpose, but considering some of the problems it had I just can't call it a good show despite those reasons. The show is not licensed in any way, shape, or form in the US but has been solicited for an Australian DVD release if people really want to buy it and don't want to pay Japanese DVD prices. 

*since I need to get specific here, spoilers for Genesis and Evol: in the first series it's implied that Fudo Gen is 12,000 years old and that he was the third pilot of the original Aquarion which I thought was a neat idea (the OVA/movie version of Genesis introduced a new character for that but that's an alternate continuity). In Evol however it's revealed that he is Apollonius, the angel who fell in love with a woman and jilted his lover (Tohma/Mikage) and started the whole mess which wasn't implied at all in either series and something like that NEEDS foreshadowing. Also, that means that Apollo (and by dint his reincarnation in Evol) was not the reincarnation of Apollonius but in fact a dog which had about three minutes of screen time in the original (which I only noticed because I saw fan theories that Rena, who either is Crea or reincarnated into her for Evol, was that dog reincarnated 12,000 years later). The only thing it does is explain why Touma is still angry and reincarnated (since at the end of the original series he seems to have accepted his fate and not be mad at Apollonius anymore) but I'm pretty sure the story could have figured out a way to work without him.