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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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10/31/2005 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Fafner, Vol. 2 Ultimate Sacrifice"

Fafner, Vol. 2
"Ultimate Sacrifice"

DVD
Distributed by Geneon

Review by Tom Good

I tend to mentally classify anime according to how much yelling they contain. Action/adventure and science fiction anime often have a lot of yelling (with some notable exceptions like Cowboy Bebop). And for some reason, stories with giant mecha are usually scream-fests. There may be a direct correlation between the size of the monsters or mecha that the heroes must fight, and the amount and volume of yelling.

The yell factor usually counts against an anime for several reasons. First, it annoys my girlfriend, who makes me turn down the volume. Second, yelling is authorial laziness made audible. I mean, how much effort would it take to write dialogue like this:

"Hero-guyyyyy!!!"

"Sidekick-guyyyyyy!!!"

"Over heeeeeeere!!!"

"Look ooooouuuuutttt!!!"

"Gyaaaaaaaaaaah!!!"

"Noooooooooooo!!!"

(Fafner's dialogue is much better than that. It is just an example of the type of thing that bothers me in some other anime.) And finally, though yelling ought to inject more emotion into the story, it usually backfires, especially if characters who were just screaming their lungs out forget all about their feelings a few seconds later.

I mention all this because even though Fafner is about kids who pilot giant mecha and yell a lot, it packs more of an emotional punch than most such stories. These kids care about each other, and we see that not just when they yell each other's names in the heat of battle, but also in quieter, thoughtful moments back at the base, or when they talk about each other's lives. And here, problems that occur in one episode are not forgotten in the next. This is a nice change from the episode-amnesia that can plague some series. To avoid spoilers I will not divulge any details, but this disc contains some powerful moments and bold plot developments.

Fafner also has some interesting political overtones. The "Neo U.N." of this future world is presented as an oppressive, manipulative body that "bullies Japan." I am not sure what this is supposed to mean, whether it represents a direct, literal complaint about the actual U.N. of our era, or whether the Neo U.N. stands for America, or something else entirely. Certainly the development and deployment of the advanced new mecha could represent the re-militarization of Japan, though in the context of the story this is done in justifiable self-defense.

Fafner surprised me with its emotional depth, and proved an entertaining discovery.

Like the other Geneon DVDs I have reviewed, Fafner has good English voice acting that sounds natural and convincing. I have come to expect this from Geneon discs. There was a time when the big advantage of anime DVDs over video tapes was the option to listen to the Japanese audio with English subtitles, rather than having to endure the horrible English dub. Fortunately, it seems like those days may be at an end. It is still great to be able to choose between audio tracks, but now it is more often a choice between two good ones.

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