Reviewby Luke Carroll,
Freedom - Complete Collection
A new vision of the future from the creator of Akira
In the 23rd century, mankind has fled Earth and emigrated to the moon. The last outpost of civilization is the Lunar Republic of Eden, where the omnipresent Citizens Administration Council grants residents everything they need. But what do you do when you discover everything you believe is a lie?
A single photograph with an inscribed message found inside a rocket launched from Earth leads a group of young men to question the counsel ruling the seemingly utopian city. But what length will they go to discover the true meaning of Freedom?
When the time comes for a commercial company to celebrate their 35th anniversary you would usually expect to see a few advertisements, a sale, or maybe even a limited edition product. What you wouldn't expect to see however is an amazingly gripping seven episode OVA series being created under the premise of a promotional project. And yet that's what Japan's infamous Nissin Cup Noodles have managed to do here with Freedom. Drafting in childhood legend Katsuhiro Otomo and animation powerhouse Sunrise, this three hour long series will take you on an astronomical and thoughtful journey as you follow a group of friends and their quest to answer a very simple question, what is Freedom?
In the not too distant future, man has managed to colonise the moon. Their eventual goal is to use the lunar satellite as a stepping stone to Mars. However things go catastrophically wrong when a space station circling Earth inexplicably falls, causing an environmental catastrophe that envelops the Earth in a hazardous red cloud. Unable to reach the planet's surface, the lunar communities declare the Earth uninhabitable, joining forces to form the utopia known of Eden. Using the guise that the incident was due to human's destructive ways, the government gives very little freedom to its citizens. Everyone is constantly monitored, and careers are pre-arranged. However between finishing school and starting their careers teenagers are given a small reprieve.
It is here where we meet Takeru and his friends Kazuma and Bis. They may appear to be an odd trio at first, but their love for illegal racing and Takeru's fascination with Lunar Terrain Vehicles means that these boys soon find themselves facing the wrath of Eden's disciplinary council and resulting volunteer service. However whilst out unsupervised on a routine surface check, Takeru witnesses an object crash onto the surface. Inside the crater is a number of photos and items that appear to be from Earth. Armed with this knowledge, Takeru is soon swept into a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the very beliefs Eden has bestowed upon its citizens. Not wavered by the looming council threat, Takeru and friends decide that travelling to Earth is the only way to find out the truth and learn why Eden has been hiding it for so many years.
Unfortunately saying much more would diminish the impact that follows these events. However I will say that the series runs with numerous themes, all of which come together in a satisfying ―if a little predictable― ending. The pacing will certainly draw a few dislikes from viewers though. After the initial three episodes, things almost grind to a halt as the series takes on a new path that helps further the story and its meanings. Thankfully the seventh and final episode springs things back into life and with a bunch of new twists emerging by this stage, the pay-off is certainly worth the wait.
At first glance, one could easily associate the all-CGI animation with that of Appleseed and it's sequel. A closer inspection however reveals that the techniques used in Freedom appear much more like those found in recent cel-shaded video games. It's a sort of pseudo 2d/3d effect that does at times have the potential to produce some wonderful imagery (especially on a HD set), but it certainly wont be to everyone's tastes. With Katsuhiro Otomo at the character art helm, it's hard not to notice the Akira influence that oozes into every crevice. Takeru is a dead ringer for Kaneda in almost every way, and indeed much of the cast appears to hark back the famous classic. The background art though is by far some of the best to have graced the animation scene in recent years. The hand painted scenes suit the CG art surprisingly well, and blends in almost seamlessly.
This Blu-Ray release does unfortunately contain a few noticeable aliasing issues with the finer art, some slight stuttering during pans and a rather woeful yet thankfully short zoomed in moment during episode four that had the quality on par with a low resolution video. These issues however are rarely noticeable, and likely wont even trouble most people. If there is an animation to show off your Blu-Ray set up on, you couldn't go wrong with Freedom.
Backing up this visual treat is a pair of equally high quality audio tracks. Recorded in DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1, both the English and Japanese presentations come across wonderfully clear. The shuttle launches and extensive use of explosions unfortunately do show a lack of bass with both tracks, however most people won't find it a big issue. The Japanese track does however run about a second out of sync during the later half of episode 4, something that will certainly irritate a few people. The opener "This Is Love" by Hikaru Utada suits the series well, and with a mix of real footage and manga overlays, doubles a visual treat in itself. It is also worth noting that the Prologue episode (which also makes up the first few minutes of episode 1), is in Japanese only. It's not a release killer (and was acknowledged by Madman as an oversight), but I'm sure it'll leave a few viewers scratching their heads at first.
On the extras side of things, Freedom contains an absolute slew of content. On top of the usual clean opening and closing credits and trailers, there's a number of features which cover various aspects of the project as well as research trips. The most notable of these is a two part feature called "Fly Me to the Moon" which covers the history into the Apollo projects. Despite a solid first half, the second segment is let down completely with missing subtitles, an issue I hope is isolated. Some of the more interesting extras however are the "Another Vehicle Race", "Nissan Cup Noodle TV Digests" and "Freedom: The Hope". These three short clips are full of unused and experimental shots, however watching them after the series is certainly recommended. Rounding out the list is a digest for each episode, next episode trailers, and a message from the characters.
Like Akira and Appleseed before it, Freedom pushes the boundaries of how animation is done. It's quality and character driven story is certainly some of the best to have come out in recent years. The uneven two-tone pace may put a few people off, however those that stick with it will be rewarded handsomely. It may forever hold the title as the series built to promote noodles, but if a company milestone can produces works such as this, then I certainly hope to see a lot more in my lifetime.
© 2006 FREEDOM COMMITTEE
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B+
+ Boundary pushing animation, thought provoking.
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