Series Recommendation: Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor

Anata wa….soko ni imasu ka?
Are you feeling happy? Do you feel like you’re stuck in an impasse in your life where you’re neither unhappy or satisfied? Do you want to experience a roller-coaster of emotions from excitement to despair to hopeful then go through it all over again? Then Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor is definitely what you’re looking for.

We’ve all seen depressing mecha series, such as Ideon, Gundam Victory and Evangelion. But none deliver the feeling of ultimate despair quite like Soukyuu no Fafner. The saga of the Azure has finally “ended” this year (for now). So we’ll make a detailed recommendation for each installment in the franchise, starting from the first animated series.

The series’ premise is not the most unique in terms of basic settings: we got alien invaders that is threatening humanity’s existence. And in response, we build giant mechs to combat the extraterrestrial threat. But the catch is not everyone can pilot them, but only certain people whose genes have been artificially engineered, and you guess it, teenagers are the ones that were chosen for war. They have been enjoying their lives without a care, until they are thrust into life-or-death battles where a fate worse than death awaits.

+ Plot: The teenage-children-turned-giant-mech-pilot isn’t the newest trick in the book. But in Fafner, becoming a pilot also comes with a price other than risking their lives in battle. And that “risk” put another weight on the already heavy and desperate situation of the series. Piloting a Fafner isn’t glamorous or honorable, but rather just a means to survive. We see most parents trying their hardest so their child won’t have to go to war, and trying to give the pilots some sense of normalcy amongst the conflict. The mix between daily life and combat really add another layer to Fafner. As we see the characters enjoying their daily lives, getting thrust into battle and then resuming their lives again.

The saga of the Azure is quite an amazing one. But for around the first 15 episodes of the first season, the pacing and plot progression wasn’t too consistent and there are gaps that could use some expanding upon. However, the story as a whole is very solid. The characters are relatable – even if we aren’t “literally” in their shoes. We can see and feel what they feel, since the show is literally showing it to us. Kazuki Makabe – the main character of the show, is at the centre of everyone’s relationship along with Minashiro Soushi – a semi-deuteragonist of sorts. If you want to compare their relationship (and looks) with Kira and Athrun, I wouldn’t completely deny it either.

+ Animation: The first season of Fafner was still using hand-drawn 2D animation by Xebec. And to be brutally honest, it was mediocre. The story and characters definitely carried the show, as the combat animation are often sluggish and not too detailed. For a 2004 series, it wasn’t the best in town. However, it succeeded in communicating the weight of the giant robots, the crazy, desperate fight against the alien Festum threat. It wasn’t until Heaven and Earth that they switched to CG, and made a complete 180 in quality.

+ Mecha Design: Naohiro Washio is an absolutely excellent designer. He worked on Gundam 00, Valvrave and Heroic Age. The Fafner designs, at first glance, have grotesque proportions that doesn’t make any artistic sense. Their bodies are blocky, but arms and legs are all curvy. Their arms are elongated like an ape, and their heads are so small it could easily get lost in the body. They are truly an incomprehensible machine. But as the series go on, we start to realize why they were made that way. While the core bodies of all Fafners are similar, each has its own distinctive features and weapons that symbolizes its pilot, making them unique in their own ways. And the Fafners are also a definite proof that Japan LOVES German names.

+ Music: Angela is a perfect choice for performer. Atsuko’s powerful and emotional vocal delivers the perfect songs for Fafner. Her voice is strong yet gentle and sometimes carries a sad tone to it. The OST can make you hype for the upcoming battle, hopeful for the future and at times, feel lingering desperation. The opening “Shangri-La” makes you feel pumped for the episode ahead, yet its lyrics portray a desperate journey. The ending is just so somber and sad that might make you tear up if you’re on a sad episode.

+ Conclusion: Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor might not be the best looking and best written Fafner series, but it is nevertheless the start of one of the best mecha franchise. The series itself set the plot and characters for so much more development in subsequent series. Watching this series will definitely not make you regret it after. After this 26-ep series, you can either go on to watch the Right or Left OVA or Heaven and Earth movie. Both are nice entries in their own right

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