Reviewed by: Spike
Released by: Geneon
Age Rating: 13+
Region: 1 - North America
Volume 1 of 7
Length: 100 minutes
English 2.0 Stereo
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
The inhabitants of Tatsumiya Island live a fairly restful life, going about there daily lives as normal safe in their peaceful little world. That is, of course, until that peace is well and truly shattered by the arrival of an enemy from the sky. With only the eerie phrase "are you there?" as a warning, the Festum appear, these enormous extraterrestrial invaders intent on assimilating everything in their path. Accompanying this assault it the realisation of the truth for the younger generation that their island home is in fact a secret military facility built for their protection. This shock only intensifies when they learn that only they can pilot and support the Fafner, a huge humanoid robot that remains the last line of defence between humankind and the Festum and their strange powers.
While the dub is fairly reasonable in the everyday encounters between the characters, it really breaks down whenever they try to do anything emotional and ends up sounding dull and forced. Unfortunately the subtitles are not exactly much better with several conversations making little sense and others having occasional hilarious engrish-style errors. The animation is not quite as slick as other series made this recently and the elements of CG used sparingly and mostly for the malevolent Festum are not integrated very well with the rest of it. The design however is excellent with an obvious amount of time spent on everything from character and costume design to the locations and mecha. The music isn't too bad, being neo-classical in style and focusing on lively but slightly sad strings and piano.
The characters are quite interesting with the lead pilot Kazuki and coordinator in the base Soshi having an interesting dynamic that will obviously develop as the series unfolds. The other kids in the show all have varied personalities and circumstances leading to great amounts of interaction between themselves and the adults. The adults themselves are strange and often secretive, leaving the viewer to wonder what they really know and what secrets are being kept in the depths of the base and in the history of the situation.
The premise of the show is the real let-down here, a young boy finds out that he is the only one capable of piloting the only craft capable of defeating an unknown enemy that attacked without warning, even though it hurts him to do so and he questions his reasons for fighting. After viewing the first disk Fafner seems to be almost identical to Rahzephon, and as such, borrows heavily from Evangelion even to the point of having to destroy the central core of the alien intruder.
To be fair, I quite like giant robot anime and rather enjoyed Fafner, but it just hasn't done anything new yet and looks like it will fall into the same old traps of other Evangelion-esque shows. Apart from the relative predictability of the fighting, the real thing that lets Fafner down is the lack of polish on the show, which is strange as it hails from the venerable Production I.G. studio who among recent shows produced Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, one of the nicest looking anime to come out of Japan in a few years. If you like giant robot shows then Fafner may hold some extra entertainment for you, however I think the smart viewer might hold off for the moment to see if this show will prove itself to be an innovator rather than an imitator.