Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Dec 7th 2012
Fafner: Dead Aggressor
BD+DVD - Heaven and Earth
Two years have passed since Soshi was taken by the Festum and life has slowly begun to move on for the people of Tatsumiya Island. All is not entirely peaceful, however, when Kazuki begins to have strange communications with Soshi before a human-shaped Festum appears. It seems that these alien beings have begun to feel human emotions and aren't entirely sure what to do about it. Is lasting peace possible? Or will outside forces annihilate Festum and Island alike?
First, a word of warning: do not attempt to watch Fafner: Dead Aggressor - Heaven and Earth unless you have recently watched the Fafner television series, conveniently re-released recently by Funimation. The film is a direct sequel to the TV show and jumps in with no recapping whatsoever, so viewers who haven't seen the original since Geneon released it back in the day will spend the first part trying to remember precisely what happened while those who missed the original will be utterly confused.
The film opens two years after the ending of the television show. The Festum have largely been absent and people on Tatsumiya Island seem to be settling down, although Alvis continues to plan for any emergencies. Yurika has been raising her daughter, Maya and Kazuki are working at the cafe, and life is moving forward. For Kazuki this is a little more difficult, given that he lost most of his vision during the series' finale, and he is clearly still haunted by the loss of his friend. He doesn't appear to find anything odd about the occasional conversation he has with the absent so-shi, and for at least half of the film we are left wondering if they are real or guilt-induced hallucinations. Such pastoral scenes (relatively speaking) last for roughly the first fifteen minutes of the movie, at which point a mysterious ship ploughs into the breakwater and Kazuki is back in his Fafner. The ship contains a humanoid Festum, who has come specifically to speak to Kazuki and appears to be linked to so-shi. This opens the door for the old golden variety to attack...but now they appear to be using human tactics. Have years of assimilation with humans started to effect the aliens?
At an hour and a half, Heaven and Earth wavers between being too long and too short, sort of an odd contradiction. The motivation for the battles (which are much smoother and more flashily animated than in the original) is never crystal clear newer pilots in their mechs can all sort of blend together, particularly on the battlefield. Taking longer to explain precisely what is going on would have been helpful; on the other hand, the real meat of the movie, perhaps even its raison d'etre, takes place during the last two minutes before the credits. Surely this, if it was the sole motivation for the film's existence, could have been tacked onto the TV show's final episode?
For all of that, Heaven and Earth does do some interesting things with the original material. It touches on the health benefits of the Island's shield, for one, which does make certain elements of the story's world make more sense, and it also takes the Festum's endlessly repeated question - “Are you there?” - and turn it from a creepy child's game vibe to a much more defiant one, with humans repeatedly shouting, “I'm right here!” The animation, as has been mentioned, shows the improved techniques brought about by the march of time, and while the Blu-Ray is sharper and a little brighter, both versions look quite nice. The Japanese cast remains the same as in the TV series, though the English cast has changed in some cases. The new actors do a good job matching the previous ones, however, so there is very little disconnect between the two on an auditory level.
Ultimately Fafner: Heaven and Earth is an unnecessary sequel. While the key issue resolved in the very end is one that will please some viewers of the original series, it by and large does not add to the overall experience. Alternately too slow moving and too fast paced, this lacks the urgency of the television series and doesn't change enough to fully justify its existence. It isn't a total waste of time, but there are moments when it comes close.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B-
Music : C
+ Nice animation, bright colors, and one issue from the TV series fully resolved. New dub comes pretty close to matching the original dub.
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