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Anime review: ‘Aquarion: EVOL’ part one

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This week, on December 3, 2013, anime publisher FUNimation Entertainment will release “Aquarion: EVOL”, the sequel to the 2005 anime series “Aquarion”, and we took the opportunity to see just how much the world of “Aquarion” has changed.

Taking place 12,000 years after the events of “Aquarion”, the story of “Aquarion EVOL” follows the journey of Amata Sora, a young man who has attempted to hide a special ability, he can fly when he gets too emotional, since he was a child. One day while working at a movie theater, Amata meets a young woman named Mikono Suzushiro and falls in love almost instantly. Having worked up the courage to talk to her, Amata and Mikono head out into the city to get to know a little bit more about each other, but their would-be date doesn’t last long.

While they are out, the city comes under attack from the “Abductors”, machines from another planet that abduct people, and in the ensuing battle between the collectors and the planet’s protectors, who pilot machines called “Vectors” which are combined to create “Aquaria” (giant robots), Amata and Mikono are taken into one of the Vectors and Amata unlocks a forbidden form of the Aquaria, called Aquarion EVOL, and uses it to battle back an enemy unlike any they had seen before. Once the battle is over, Amata and Mikono are taken to an academy where they are tested to uncover how Amata was able to hijack a Vector and form Aquarion EVOL, something that should have been prevented because male and female pilots are forbidden from combining with one another.

As the two begin their new lives at the academy, a school for Elementals, humans with the ability to use special powers, Amata is shocked to learn that he and Mikono are forbidden from seeing one another, and not just because Mikono’s older brother is a teammate; the academy has been split into a boys side and a girls side with interaction between the two side restricted. The rules are forced to change however as new and more powerful enemies begin attacking, looking for Mikono and the other female pilots. This forces the two sides to team up, but after years of separation there are plenty of issues, mostly to do with hormones.

The “Aquarion: EVOL” story is an interesting, although familiar concept. In the first part of the anime, the first 13 episodes, the story mainly focuses on Amata and the rest of his classmates learning to work alongside one another as they fight to prevent their enemy from abducting anoyone else. One enemy pilot, a psychopath named Kagura, becomes especially obsessed with Mikono while Amata has his own pursuer in the form of Zessica, a fellow pilot, forcing a bit of a love triangle (or is it a square?).

Although the story seems a bit too similar to other anime in some ways it is still entertaining. The battles have plenty of action and many of the characters are likable and their interactions make for some great comedic and dramatic moments. Perhaps it is still too early in the series, but Mikono is one character that I just could like, there was just something about her that made her difficult to pull for. Hopefully as the story progresses that will change.

Visually “Aquarion: EVOL” had a good look, the picture quality was clear and the animation was smooth. This review is based on the DVD version of the series so the Blu-ray could offer even better quality. As far as the designs go, the characters all had looks that fit with their personalities well, and characters like Zessica and MIX delivered on the fan service side of things. The mechs also had some nice designs and the different combinations kept things from getting too repetitive.

The two voice casts both seemed to do a fair job with matching up with their characters, there were a few that seemed a little off, like Andy having too deep of a voice (in my opinion) in the Japanese dub, but overall both versions are equally watchable. Should you watch the series with subtitles, they are clear, easy to read and remain on screen for a fair length of time.

Included as on-disc features were English staff commentary for episodes one and nine, the textless opening and closing, a U.S. trailer for “Aquarion: EVOL” and trailers for other FUNimation releases. Also included was “The Myth of Ten Thousand Years and Two Thousand More Returns”, a featurette that offers some insight into the return of “Aquarion”.

“Aquarion: EVOL” offers plenty of laughs and action along with some fan service and fans of mecha anime should find this one worth watching. The series does have a strange pacing though, it seemed like they focused quite a bit on the relationships of all of the characters and then they would have to cram in the conflict between the two sides, so at times it would feel slow and then it would speed up without much warning. Now that much of the cast has been introduced, hopefully the next part will focus more on the main story.

If you enjoyed series like “Infinite Stratos”, “Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean” and “Vandread” or if you just could get enough “Aquarion” then “Aquarion: EVOL” is definitely something you should see.

Score

3.5 out of 5

Aquarion EVOL

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment

Runtime: 325 minutes

Number of Episodes: 13

Number of Discs: 2 DVDs (Also on Blu-ray)

Languages: English, Japanese with English subtitles

Age Rating: TV-14

Release Date: December 3, 2013

SRP: $69.98 (For the limited edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack)

(A review copy of “Aquarion: EVOL” on DVD was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.)

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