Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Aug 23rd 2007
Wings of Rean
With Lyukus in the hands of the resistance forces, Aesap uses her father's trust in him as a fellow holy warrior to avail himself of the equipment and opportunity to find her. The two grow ever closer as her father and stepmother begin plotting to throw Hojo into the turmoil of war. By raising the level of aura power to critical levels with the bitterness and hatred that war engenders, they hope to harness the power necessary to achieve King Sakomizu's long-held ambition of returning to Earth to wreak vengeance on the Americans. What Aesap does to further or hinder their heartless exploitation of the victims' misery will depend on his own conscience, as well as little interference from the Ferrario and the Boots of Rean themselves.
Years ago, Reader's Digest had the brilliant idea to "condense" lengthy novels, paring them to lengths suitable to those with limited free time by excising such time-consuming nuisances as character-building, atmosphere- and setting-establishing descriptions, and regulated pacing. Watching Wings of Rean is like reading one of those books, a short work crammed with incidents and characters obviously intended for a larger stage, whittled to almost non-existence by their time constraints and incorporated into a story so stripped-down that it's no more than a chain of plot-points.
Rean comes across as an attempt to tell an epic story with only six episodes. Interesting touches (using Aura Battlers to net fish) and potentially engaging personal problems (the moral ambiguities of Aesap's deceptive insinuation of himself into the king's graces) crop up regularly but are almost immediately lost in the merciless march of events. An entire kingdom of occurrences, people and places—linked by only the barest of cinematic threads to their names—are bandied about with blithe impunity, rendering much of the dialogue virtually incomprehensible, a serious problem given writer/director Yoshiyuki Tomino's dialogue-heavy preferences. Epic is good, but horning it all into a work under three hours in length is insane. That's not epic, just confusing.
Tomino isn't helping things. He seems unwilling to pare his plot down, preferring to shorten the length of time spent on each plot point rather than remove them outright. Couple that with his unwillingness (or inability) to linger on or emphasize important points over unimportant ones or to dwell on their effects on the minds and emotions of characters, and you get a mere series of events rather than an involving drama. Those attempts at drama that haven't already been defused by the breakneck pacing, like Lyukus and Aesap's budding relationship (and who can resist a little romance?), are lost amidst the running mouths, needlessly complicated plotting, and Tomino's "emotional manipulation be damned" directorial style. That this volume dives headfirst into poorly elaborated Byston Well mythology (Aura power is apparently generated by human emotions, and Aura machines "power up" on Earth) only further complicates the already complicated proceedings (though Dunbine veterans will find themselves on firm footing).
The bland, unconvincing character interactions and personal touches are partially attributable—along with the plucked-from-the-rear suddenness of personal developments—to the pedestrian use of the perfectly competent epic score. Like the characters and visuals, the music is simply hung on the bones of the story, enslaved by the plot rather than interacting with it in the narrative/audio/visual feedback that customarily marks the film-making art. This peculiar sense of disjuncture is all the more mystifying given the confluence of visuals and music in the excellent closing sequence, an abstract vision of flocks of fluttering wings carefully choreographed to Anna Tsuchiya's delicate performance. Then again, Tomino has always had an eye for powerful compositions (Lyukus' and Aesap's Aura Battlers mimicking their display of affection, the king posing like traditional theater player, spiraling dismembered mecha) but no grasp of how to string those images together to create an impression or meaning beyond that of the moment. Which is perhaps why his opening sequences (remember Overman King Gainer?) are so often better than the series themselves. On a purely budgetary level, the imagery in Rean is superb—especially the backgrounds and the imaginative ways that the aura machines move—and the character designs are darned attractive when they want to be (and when they're not being completely ridiculous—the occupants of Byston Well could give hair-styling advice that would make an '80's butt-rocker blush). Unfortunately the similarity of many of the Aura Battlers (originally differentiated in Dunbine by their bright color-schemes) makes battles difficult to follow.
The booklets that come with each volume help to keep the jargon and events straight in one's head, while the on-disc video of the staff location-hunting in a helicopter is a welcome look at how some of the images in the series were born, though it does contain footage from episodes not on this disc.
Were it allowed to stretch itself out over a few more episodes, Rean might have some promise. A dash of romance with the promise of spectacular destruction to be wreaked on Tokyo makes the prospect of another two episodes much more palatable, and the sense that the characters are running around in unnecessary circles has disappeared (events have a definite sense of purpose this time around). But the series (and its director) keeps tripping over its own epic ambitions. And it still costs twenty bucks per episode, sans English dub.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Feels less like a big, loud, pointless mecha runaround; interesting closing sequence.
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