The adolescents of Tamiya island are in for a rude awakening: wha they thought was a peaceful island somewhere off the coast of Japan turns out to be an enormous floating fortress. Every adult has a 'day job', doing stuff like pottery or making tofu -- but when the need arises, they don their uniforms and descend into the bowels of the island. Long corridors connect mecha bays, command centers and even an underground jet runway!
It turns out that the world is under attack from an alien lifeform known as Festum. Festum can create mini-black holes (for lack of a better description), and seek to assimilate humankind.
During an attack from a Festum, Kazuki is brutally awoken from his idyllic dream, and forced to pilot a Fafner -- a mecha capable of withstanding the attacks of the Festum.
Humanity is caught in a desperate struggle against the Festum. They can read minds, making it almost impossible to keep the locations of strategic resources a secret for them. All of the world has been laid to waste, and the survivors have formed the Army of Humanity. Basically, all human effort has been directed to combating the Festum.
They have employed a 'scorched-earth' tactic with regards to Japan, which did nothing to endear the survivors of that attack to the Army of Humanity (and it's political arm, the New United Nations). The Japanese survivors used their resources for the Alvus project, to construct aforementioned island fortresses. They took great pains to preserve human culture: there's a man who draws the manga his son reads, there's a conbini on the island, and the commander of Alvis is, in his 'spare' time, a potter.
And the Alvis project has lots of resources that are superior to those of the rest of humanity: the Fafners and the associated weaponry, an assortment of jet planes, some sort of cloaking device and various nuclear bombs and cruise missiles.
They have gained most of the impressive technology by fusing humans with Festum. Instead of the foam-at-the-mouth extermination strategy the New United Nations pursues, the inhabitants of Tamiya island seek to co-exist with the Festum -- which isn't easy.
You see, the Festum are like some sort of anti-existance. To be assimilated by a Festum is to loose all sense of self. The tagline 'Are you there?' is used to great effect in this situation by Tsubaki, the island's Core. The Festum want to eradicate all traces of 'being', of 'self'.
Towards the end of the series, an interesting development takes place: the Festum are forced to start thinking because of their confrontation with the humans. Through combat, the Festum are forced to consider their place in the here and now, to be aware. In essence, the humans are forcing the Festum to be what they do not want to be.
Reading this all back, I realise I haven't said anything about the trials of the teenage kids who are forced to pilot the Fafner mecha. There's not much to tell, really. If you have seen Evangelion or RahXephon, you know how it goes -- though Fafner is more like RahXephon than Evangelion. What did surprise me is that the protagonists never lose their will to fight, never sink into the deep pit of depression that we see in both Evangelion and RahXephon. This makes watching the episodes a more enoyable experience.
The series is produced by Xebec, and the opening and closing theme are sung by Angela -- known for her rendition of 'Brilliant Road', the opening theme of Stellvia of the Universe (another Xebec series). The music throughout the series is pretty decent.
The animation is very well done. The difference between CGI and cell animation is hardly noticable -- the technique really has come a long way since the days of old.
In the first episode, there is talk of Fafners, the Siegfried System, the Cave of the Norns etc. I was hoping for a story that was inspired by the Norse sagas -- but that never materialised. It's like the writers needed a few cool-sounding names and just got a few from a book on Norse mythology -- and that's it. Perhaps it is for the best: who would want to name his mecha after a giant who slayed his own father out of greed?
- Really interesting story and setup;
- Great animation and artwork;
- Inspired by Evangelion and RahXephon, but by no means a clone.
- I really can't think of any.
It's a mecha series, but it is not about the mecha. I think this one has something for everyone to enjoy. A 9.