(Herald of #MechaMarch) Fafner In the Azure: Are You There?

When I first re-watched Fafner, it was to the purpose of writing about it for Mecha March. Instead, it’s a herald for it and I think that works a little better in my eyes? Unless people are bothered by that. Then oh well I suppose. If you are wondering what it was replaced with, you will find out in due time :D. I replaced it because I didn’t want to have one singular tone throughout the month and Fafner is a hard show to recommend to people in some ways. It’s not very user friendly in how it’s constructed because it’s a very show, not tell kind of anime that explains itself and its world through examples. It’s also pretty dour in the beginning too. Despite it coming with a lot of caveats, I really like it. I honestly dig everything that it throws at me, because I feel like I understand Fafner quite a bit. Especially this season.

Fafner is a post-apocalyptic series following a very destructive alien invasion. The Festum appeared out of nowhere and destroyed most of the world. Not to mention that a lot of people can’t give birth to children anymore. Well, at least the Japanese can’t since its own destruction naturally. The series takes place with who and what is left. The mysterious Tatsumiya Island is the one of a few bastions, if not the last, of the Japanese people living on Earth. Yet, Tatsumiya Island tries its best to live a normal life style. There are self-produced tv shows, comics, and just media pieces in order to keep society going in some form. Unfortunately, that all comes to a head when the Festum show up once again.

Kazuki and the rest of the island!

The main protagonist is Kazuki Manabe, one of quite a few teenagers who grew up on Tatsumiya Island in peace until it was their time to fight. The island defense failed to hold back the Festum prompting Kauzuki to jump into the cockpit of the Fafner Mark Elf to take them on assisted by Shoushi Minashiro in the strategic Siegfried System. Him defeating that first Kazuki presence sets everything into motion. More young pilots thrown in the cockpit seat (Sakura, Maya, Shoko, Koyo, Kenji, and Mamoru), more festum attacks, the appearance of the Neo United Nations who cause their own brand of havok considering that they see themselves as the world police, and who knows what else is out there. In Fafner, there are many secrets hidden in the story while it goes in a fast pace, so it takes a bit for everything to connect together. Once it does, the experience of the show just clicks together.

One of the major tonal things is how dour Fafner is and it is well within the means of the story in how that is just the inherent truth of this world. It’s the end of the world. Children can be manufactured cheaply using secret means and are the ones who are forced into the cockpit of giant robots. Expensive giant robots that people care more about then the kids piloting them. There is also a huge generational disconnect that comes from the adults who survive in this horrible world and the kids who were found in it and could be replaced if they die. It is that inherent drama which leads to Kazuki doing what he does by seeking shelter at the Neo UN where he finally gets a glimpse of the outside world. An outside that Soushi and the other adults know. Kazuki returning and accepting everyone is what makes change happen.

That ties into what Fafner is about. Connection. Connections between kids of the same age, connections between generations, connections between different groups of people, and connections between human kind and the Festum. This is how the inherent cruelty on Tatsumiya Island lessens. The adults on Tatsumiya start to see their “kids” as less of a tool and more as actual living and breathing people. Shoushi and Kazuki understand each other more which allows their team work to work together. Same with Shoushi and the other pilots too. The Neo UN? Well, that’s a complicated matter. The show frames them as bad guys, but it’s a group of people who are trying their best to fight off the Festum invasion.

Then when it comes to connections, we have the golden gods the Festums themselves. Fafner is a first contact situation gone wrong. That’s how the world was destroyed and it’s clear that the Festum are more powerful. Even if the Festum are intelligent and constantly asking “Are You There” or “Can You Hear Me”, their actions are still perceived as being openingly hostile from the human race because people have died or been manipulated from them due to absorption. That is why special mecha and special humans are raised to fight against them. Otherwise, human kind would continue to die out which would cancel negotiations. Somehow a partial understanding was made in this season and there are more conversations with the Festum to come in the movie and later seasons. The only force that didn’t connect? The horrible NEO UN and you can still understand where their point of view exists. Gah.

From a production stand point, Fafner is pretty decent. The character designs are obviously from the same guy who did them for Gundam SEED so a lot of the designs look the same. Yeah, those designs are pretty cheap and lazy, but Fafner and Heroic Age have endured them to me a bit for actually doing something good with them. I really like all the production design them. Tatsumiya island is a great and mysterious living location that feels lived in. The people are very insular and know each other, characters have walked from one building to another which makes it believable. Especially since they are so different from each other. When Kazuki was at the Neo UN, the same thing happened there. A lot of work was put into making Tatsumiya and so many other locations wonderful and livable while being an invincible fortress that moved. I love that kind of detail.

The mecha are kind of bland them and I think that helps with how decently they are animated moving. Each one is hand drawn for instance. Same with the Festum designs themselves really, besides them being more CG based which helps them feel alien. I think that is fine considering the nature of how they are manufactured. Each Fafner design is singular colored, don’t stand out very much, have a very human body with a hawk like head. The only difference I’ve seen in the designs are the different colors they come in and how large Kauzki’s Mark Stein is compared to the standard Mark units. That’s about it really, but I do like that. This is a very practical world after all. The festum themselves are golden creatures with wings, but in different sizes, shapes, and abilities. I think not understanding them works in the show’s favor.

In the end, I really like Fafner Dead Aggressor. I think it’s well put together, knows what it wants to go for with confidence, and has some powerful messages going on. As stated before, I also think that it can be pretty hard to get into at first until the show reveals all its cards to the viewer. The first few episodes were hard to get through even this time and I knew where it was going and what it was aiming at. The dour town, aggressive cynicism of the show, and the fast part are hard to get through. That leads to me giving it a good even if I do like it so much. The strengths of the show and its writing still show through everything and I think everyone should give Fafner a try if they have the time to do so.

The Announcement post for Mecha March 2021 is coming out tomorrow, so keep an eye out for it. I hope to surprise a lot of you! Muahahaha. I have a lot of good shows that I really like in it and I am excited to share it all with you. Also, you can get involved too. Stay tuned!

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