Series Recommendation: Soukyuu no Fafner: Heaven and Earth

Do you think the azure sky is beautiful?
Did you just finished watching the first season of Soukyuu no Fafner and was either shocked by the ending or wanting to know what happen next? Xebec has some good news for you. 5 years after the seemingly conclusion of Dead Agressor, Fafner returned with an entirely new look and setup the stage for one of the best mecha series in the modern age with a 90-minute movie. The Heaven and Earth movie really show us what a huge difference good animation and good storywriting can achieve – a difference as big as heaven and earth – you might say.

The movie continued from the end of season 1. We got reminded what happened at the end and the sacrifice of a certain individual. And miraculously, that sacrifice caused a certain change in one particular Festum. Months after the battle, the people of Tatsumiyajima is still continuing with their everyday life, with their Fafner development and training, hoping to prolong the peace. Kazuki after losing his best friend as well as his eyesight has forfeited his position as a Fafner pilot. But when a certain Festum arrive at the island, the lives of the islanders were thrown into chaos again – as a new threat loom across the horizon…as well as a ray of hope.

+ Plot: After Tow Ubutaka took the reins of the script after episode 16 of the first season, the writing of the series became much tighter. However, it was a bit too late to salvage season 1’s pacing. But in the movie, he showed us what Fafner can tell. The movie also featured the crucial element that quickly became the core theme of all Fafner entries that come after. The conflict shift from a desperate battle against an incomprehensible enemy to a search for a new way to communicate, to pacify. However, all the pain, all the loss suffered are still scars upon the survivors of the island.

The way they built off of the old generation pilot onto the new gen – where the former cast trying to teach and protect their kouhais as best as they can, while also literally throwing them into conflicts that they know for sure are life-threatening. We can see massive development and growth in Canon, in Tomi, and in Kenji and Hiroto as well. Kazuki, rather than changed, is more like “repressed” and “imprisoned” due to a certain loss, as well as struggling to live without his sight, but in the movie, he has regained the hope he thought he had lost.

+ Animation: This is where the “fun” begins. Xebec has switched all the mechs to 3D – animated by their CG team Xebec Zwei and the GOAT of 3D mecha animation: Studio Orange. The Festum are mostly just the same with more shiny texture, but the Fafner received the mother of all glow-up: fluid animation, dynamic screenplay and awesome SFX. The Fafner moves in an extremely organic way, like the pilots have become one with the unit. You can feel the impact and the “muscle” of each Fafner which is just a joy to see. After this movie, Fafner’s 3D animation just keep getting better and better, so the decision to switch animation style is definitely the best one that the staff has made.

+ Mecha Design: The aesthetic of the Fafner are still there, but with some changes. Since they switched to using 3D for the Fafners, each unit model gain more details, mostly on the mechanical side. The Fafners look more mechanical yet move more organically, which is a great contrast to the true nature of the Fafners. The movie also introduced some new equipment for the Fafners, as well as new unit. Alvis is, in a way, pretty similar to NERV in Eva here they keep pumping out new stuff with a seemingly endless supply of resources (like seriously where did they get the materials and manpower to do this in addition to their “day job” as well).

+ Music: Angela once again knocked it out of the park. Fafner exclusively uses Angela as their theme song performer and that’s as good a decision as switching to 3D animation. Atsuko’s powerful yet emotional voice just hit so hard in the feels. Even the lyrics aim to jerk your heart around with how depressing Fafner get at times, yet always, always manage to provide a ray of hope at the end. The BGM are also very great, especially the iconic “Neidhöhle Kaimon” that plays at the eve of decisive battles.

+ Conclusion: Fafner: Heaven and Earth is where the series shred its former shell and begin to evolve. The movie has exceptional screenwriting, intriguing story, absolutely gorgeous animation and awesome music. The first season walked so HnE could run. And Fafner from this point on picked up so much that sitting through 25 episodes of the first tv series was so worth it. Highly recommend you to check out this movie to see what a significant change it was.

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