Shelf Life Aquarion Evol
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I spent about twenty bucks on an anime figure last week (Eli from Love Live, in case you're wondering), and now I'm fighting to hold myself back from buying more. I used to buy figures on a regular basis, and nothing quite beats that initial thrill of seeing how your latest purchase looks on your shelf. The only problem is that you eventually end up with far more figures than places to display them. That's why I only buy one or two a year these days, but I can already hear that tiny voice in the back of my head arguing that there's still space for at least one more. There's always room for one more, right? Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: Teenage delinquent Tatsumi Oga finds himself stuck taking care of the infant son of a demon king with the help of a demonic maid.
Extra: I'm positive I watched a few episodes of this series at some point, but I'll be darned if I can remember what I thought about it. Luckily, we've got some reviews here and here to stand in for my terrible memory. You can also stream the show on Crunchyroll.
Synopsis: After being haunted by nightmares of being attacked by a giant monster, Ryo Utsugi is transported to a remote mountain range where he encounters a powerful demon named Dante.
Extra: Would you look at that, two shows about demon kings right in a row. No review coverage for this one, but our user ratings average out at around 5.0 out of 10.
Synopsis: Daijiro Kyogoku takes over his family's sweets shop, only to discover a giant robot in the basement. When robotic monsters attack the city it's up to Daijiro and his robot to defeat them by serving up giant desserts.
Extra: The art style may look old school, but this series of shorts actually came out in 2015. You can stream it on Funimation.
Synopsis: Teenage mechanic Renton Thurston's dreams of becoming a mecha pilot come true when a mysterious girl brings a powerful robot into his grandfather's shop for maintenance.
Synopsis: Robot pilot Ryoma Nagare is sent to jail after being framed for the murder of Getter scientist Dr. Saotome. When Saotome returns from the dead with a plan to exact revenge on the world, Ryoma sets out to defend mankind with the help of Getter Robo.
Synopsis: After killing the son of a wealthy businessman, Golgo must evade the relentless pursuit of the CIA, the FBI, and the military.
Extra: No official reviews for this one, though it does have an average of around 6.0 in our user ratings. While this movie doesn't seem to be streaming anywhere, the more recent TV series is available on The Anime Network.
Synopsis: Caught between his melancholy housemate and a girl who claims to have given all of her tears away, aspiring author Shinichiro searches for a way to help his friends.
Extra: This series was previously available as a box set from Bandai, and we've got a review of that release here.
Synopsis: With Yamada's family troubles resolved, Takanashi and company turn their attention to the various budding relationships at the restaurant.
Extra: You can read my episode reviews for this series here, or my review of part 1 here. (I guess I'm the unofficial Wagnaria guy here on ANN.) You can stream this season on the Aniplex Channel and Viewster, and all three seasons are available on Crunchyroll.
When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace - Complete Series BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.34 Barnes and Noble|$38.99 Right Stuf
Synopsis: The five members of a high school literature club suddenly develop supernatural powers, but their lives don't change quite as much as they expect.
Shelf Life Reviews
What happens when you combine giant robots with rampant innuendo and blatant double entendres? James finds out this week in his review of Aquarion Evol.
It starts with the core premise. Humanity resides on the planet Vega, constantly enduring the attacks and abductions of hostile forces from the neighboring planet Altair. To combat this threat, the Neo-DEAVA Academy has trained up super-powered teens called Elements to pilot mecha known as Vectors. These Vectors can combine together into Aquaria to enhance their powers, though due to ancient customs and technological limitations, male and female pilots are forbidden from combining with the opposite gender.
However, this all changes one day due to a chance meeting between Amata Sora and Mikono Suzushiro, the aforementioned fans of the Aquarion mythos. When they find themselves chosen to pilot a Vector together, they end up tearing down the barrier that prevents pilots from combining together, leading to the birth of Aquarion, their most powerful fighting machine yet. Mikono and Amata join Neo-DEAVA Academy and begin forming relationships with the other young pilots in an effort to end the war against Altair once and for all.
Also, when the pilots combine together, they experience an overwhelming flood of emotions and physical pleasure, making the entire process an incredibly obvious metaphor for the blossoming of romantic and sexual feelings in adolescents. I would also be remiss in mentioning that the events of 12,000 years ago seem to have a lingering effect on Aquarion Evol's characters, with cyclical history and reincarnation being two topics heavily interwoven into the plot.
So yeah, Aquarion Evol has a lot going on. I have absolutely no experience with the original Genesis of Aquarion, so I approached Aquarion Evol with about as fresh a perspective as possible. Does it hold up as a piece of standalone entertainment, or does it crumble beneath the weight of an overwrought mythology and its own tonal dissonance? The answer to both of those questions is yes.
Aquarion Evol is an incredibly difficult show to review, because it's almost two different shows at once. Half the time, it's attempting to be a low-key adolescent romantic comedy/drama, and then it spends the rest of its energy trying to work out an incredibly convoluted science fiction fable about the power of love or something. It never fits together in a completely satisfying or compelling way, at least not for me. Still, it was surprising how the show managed to grab me with romantic tropes I don't usually have much patience for, while at the same time completely losing me with the science-fiction/action elements I usually love.
Aquarion Evol is kind of a tonal mess, shooting for easy laughs and predictable teenage drama while also trying really hard to run with some of the most overwritten sci-fi gobbledygook I've seen in a long time. The on-the-nose sexual metaphors don't really help either. It's been a long-standing practice to use mecha stories as an allegory for the angst and uncertainty of puberty, so I don't have a problem with the concept in theory. My issue comes from the fact that Aquarion eschews any notion of subtext, putting its “Growing Up and Having Feelings About the Opposite Sex is Difficult” themes up front so hard that there's no room for subtlety or nuance. This could be compelling stuff if done right, but Aquarion spends much of its first half mining the material for cheap jokes.
So imagine my surprise when the comedy and romantic developments ended up being what I liked the most about Aquarion Evol. It happened slowly, almost imperceptibly, but I eventually realized that I was actually really interested in seeing how all of these young pilots turned out. The love triangle that develops between Mikono, Amata, and a feisty young woman named Zessica ended up being genuinely compelling, and I was compelled by the sweet and heartbreaking journey of Yunoha, whose Elemental power renders her invisible to the world she finds so terrifying. I even wanted the guy obsessed with holes to find his happy ending. Even though I had to wade through a bunch of bad jokes and really obvious symbolism to get there, I ended up appreciating my time with these characters.
This is a good thing, because the overarching plot of Evol never managed to be more than vaguely interesting. This show was apparently made to cater to people that have never seen Genesis of Aquarion, but I have to think that some of the twists and turns the show doled out in its back half would have had more impact if I had gotten to see the original series first. Even still, there was just something about the overcomplicated mythology and laborious world-building that never clicked with me. Whenever the robots arrived to start fighting, I sighed a little, because it meant taking away time from the more easy-going and lighthearted storytelling that the show does a hundred times better.
Still, if the sci-fi action had to underwhelm me, at least it was polite enough to be gorgeous along the way. Aquarion Evol is exceptionally well animated, occasionally even stunning, and Funimation's excellent Blu-Ray set does the show justice in every way. In addition to a colorful and fluid high-definition transfer, we also get a great-sounding English dub. While the translation leans a bit too heavily into the corny jokes at times, all of the actors do a great job, with Caitlin Glass putting in an especially endearing turn as Zessica. We also get a nice bevy of extras, which is an excellent change of pace given the bare-bones sets I've been covering lately. In addition to the usual trailers and clean theme songs, we also get some commentaries from the dub actors and producers. They're pretty fun and engaging, though they occasionally wander into spoiler territory, so I would recommend waiting until you've finished the series to check them out. There's also a neat making-of featurette that provides some behind-the-scenes material and other insights from the Japanese crew, which is always awesome to see. Couple all of this the DVDs bundled in, and this release comes out to be quite the steal.
In the end, I ended up really enjoying about fifty percent of Aquarion Evol, with the other fifty percent being quite forgettable, which makes the show a pretty textbook example of a “mixed bag.” If you've seen the original series, this might be an even easier recommendation, since the larger plot machinations might work much better for you than they did for me. For everyone else, this show should be approached with appropriate reservations. You're not going to find mind-blowing science fiction, and the corny jokes and unsubtle metaphors miss as often as they hit. Still, if you're willing to overlook those flaws, or just really want to spend some time with interesting and endearing characters, you might want to give the show a chance.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Marco:
"Hi, my name is Marco and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I love Japanese culture, especially video games, manga and anime. As you can tell from my shelves, video games are my main passion (I have even more kept in other rooms) but I still enjoy anime and manga even though I don't collect as much.
I first got into anime and manga by watching things like Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon as a kid and as a teen got into things like Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion. As an adult I still watch a show here or there (JoJo!) but not as much as I used to. My favourite manga is by far JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (Parts 5 and 7 in particular) and my favourite anime is Cowboy Bebop, with Casshern Sins a close second.
As for video games, my favourite of all time is Final Fantasy IX. Playing that game as an 11 year old flipped a switch for me and gaming has been my true passion ever since. I mostly enjoy RPG, action and fighting games. I can't list them all but my favourite series are Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, MegaTen, anything by Grasshopper Manufacture and anything by Platinum Games. My favourite creators are Suda51 and Yasumi Matsuno.
Hope you enjoy my collection."
I've got that same Evangelion platinum set on my shelf, or at least its US market equivalent. Awesome collection, thanks for sharing!
If you want to show off your own collection in this column, send me your photos at [email protected] Go on, you know you want to.
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