Secret Santa Project Review: Aquarion EVOL aka Vandread: The Third Stage

hisui_icon_4040 You could also call this Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!! Third Season if you like. The common thread is these are all mecha shows about the battle of the sexes. But I am actually talking about Aquarion EVOL, the rather unexpected sequel to Genesis of Aquarion, by famed mecha director Shoji Kawamori. It is also my pick for my solo Secret Santa review this year.

First off the bat because of several complications Kate did not participate in the actual draft of  Secret Santa this year. I think it has to do in part with the fact that each year we participate it we have to watch horrible shows that sap our very will to live. That was no small factor in her decision. But apparently once she was out of the equation I got nothing but great titles to watch.

I had to choose from Aquarion EVOL, Darker Than Black, and The Legend of Black Heaven. I actually had to choose which cool show I wanted to review not what poison I wanted to kill me. I mostly went with Aquarion EVOL because we have not had enough mehca anime reviews on the blog in a while. That is as good a criteria for a choice as any. I wonder if this good selection this year will tempt Kate back next year.

On the other hand maybe it would be better if I just do it alone if it breaks the holiday curse.

A little background before the formal review. I have never seen Genesis of Aquarion. I own it on DVD but it is in my pile of shame. I only know of the show from three sources. The Internet has a generally disapproving opinion of the show with some outlying positive pundits. (So the standard opinion of  almost any mecha show.)  There was the Veef show review that was mostly there to defend the show despite its flaws. And lastly there was my sister’s review of the show. It was an hour and a half of her complaining about everything wrong with the show to me. At the end of her rant I asked her what she thought of the show. She replied that she liked it a lot. That is Carol’s standard reviewing method.

I’m sure everyone is now gravely disappointed that Carol was not the one to team up with Kate to do an anime blog.  I’m sorry, but fate is a cruel mistress.

It has been 12,000 years since the events of Genesis of Aquarion and an additional  12,000 years since the incident that started the story in the first place.  All those events have moved into the realm of myth and legend. Humanity now lives on the planet of Vega and must routinely fend of attacks from the planet Altair, who come to steal women. When Amata Sora meets Mikono Suzushiro the dynamics of the conflict will change as a tale of reincarnation, love, and vengeance enters its third and perhaps final act.

Man. That summary makes this story out to be some serious business. There are some high drama, tense love triangles, and crazy robot fights in this series. This is a mecha anime from Shoji Kawamori. But this is more of a happy Tomino show than a dark Tomino show on the Bald Wizard robot show spectrum.

The structure of the story is about a tale of love and betrayal over the course of  24 millennium but you will mostly remember the goofy antics,  ridiculous theatrics, and cool fights more than anything else.  They are probably the stand out part of the show. The serious sections mostly act as a structured framework for everything else.

I have another confession to make. Before watching this show I actually thought that Andy W. Hole, MIX, and Zessica were the main characters and the source of the love triangle. Only after watching the first episode did I realize that Amata and Mikono were the main characters. It is not that they are bad characters. They are enjoyable. They sadly just sufferer a bit from main character blandness. Amata is a bit of a generic nice guy with inklings that he could be a more hot-blooded guy. Mikono is a bit of a wet blanket with lots of moments of a warmer character underneath. The main problem is when the rest of the cast is so extreme and vibrant their sort of milquetoast personalities tend to make them blend into the background more. I am a little sad that Mikono was not the military otaku they originally designed her to be. It might have made the love triangle a little more interesting when both women involved were equally compelling.

Speaking of the love triangle we have to get to the darling of the show, Zessica. She is rambunctious tomboy who constantly wears revealing outfits. So of course she is the more popular character than Mikono. She is almost scientifically designed to be more appealing to male mecha fans. Mikono is the Akane Tendo while Zessica is the Shampoo. But Zessica is also the girl who the main character meets after Mikono. As we all know by shonen love story law the first female the protagonist meets in any romantic fashion is the woman he is destined to be with forever. As Amata meets Mikono first it means that Zessica is destined to be long-suffering third wheel. I’m not sure if that endears her to the audience more or if it just makes them madder that she never had a chance.

I have to note that she dresses provocatively in the first part of the series but oddly her outfit is even sillier when she is more covered up. Chocolate Misu and Ryuko Matoi look at that outfit and feel slightly embarrassed for her.

I would be remiss not to mention Kagura Demuri. He starts off as a one of the main villains who wants to kill Mikono. As the series goes on we learn that he is actually in love with her but has a twisted way of expressing his love. He says to opposite of what he feels like some sort of Bizarro Superman. So whenever he says he wants to kill her he actually means he wants to boink her. I know he has a bit of a fan following but I distinctly saw him as the weaker of the spanner in the works love interests. Then again he does have a fairly important place in the plot but to expand on that more would be spoilers.

The rest of the cast is really where the show really shines for many people. Andy and MIX often feel like they are almost as important to the plot at the main trio. Andy being the horniest guy in a team of very pent-up guys makes him the natural foil for the misandrist MIX. Andy even has the power to open holes where as MIX can close them which is probably the least subtle metaphor in a show filled with unsubtle sexual symbology. But they do take that imagery and use it to effectively develop their relationship quite nicely. Also there are some rather bizarre but touching parts to their story in the last third you might not see coming.

Yunoha Suroor (aka anime Fluttershy) takes a little while to appear in the show but you can tell that she quickly becomes insanely popular. She gets the whole second ending just to herself. Zen Fudou reminds me of the leader of the Gutsy Geoid Guard from GaoGaiGar. He will be an interesting character to anyone who has seen the original TV series and maybe even a bit of a shock. The rest of the supporting cast is equally vibrant. Secondary characters like Malloy DirezzaSuomi Konepi, and Shrade Elan feel fleshed out and distinct. They all get an important role that gets used several times in the series. Even some of the minor characters have gained a fan following just for how much they stand out.

I don’t want to go too much into Jin Muso but I feel they could have done more with him in the show. He was the only person I wanted them to do more with. He has some great moments and had they been expanded on a bit more they could have made him even more interesting.

Also what is up with the girl with a bag on her head that appears in most episodes?

There is also Sazanka Bianca whose whole propose in the show is mostly to be one half Ranka jokes and one half fujoshi jokes. Since I really like Megumi Nakajima she gets a whole paragraph to herself. That is the joy of writing a solo post.

As this is a robot show so the mecha are an important part of the cast. If you want the real deal mecha talk than I suggest you go to the Veef show review. Andrew and Carl can give you the real skinny about the robots in this show. I just thought that the fact that the Aquarion is made up of three different robots and depending on who is in charge determines which robot they form when the combine was cool. That means you can get either the Aquarion Spada, Aquarion Gepard, Aquarion EVOL depending on which of the three ships is the main ship. On top of that all of the pilots have special powers which also let them do special attacks through the robot adding an additional attacks depending on who is piloting the three mecha. It is a nifty effect that lets different pilots have different styles even in the same robot. Also the fact that the special attacks have their own logo screen in cheesy but in a brilliantly entertaining manner.

The music is by Yoko Kanno so I almost feel like I could just close the book right there. Lets put it this way: People still buy the Brain Powerd soundtrack just because it is her work even if they hate the rest of that show with all their heart and soul. It is not her best work but it is a very solid sound track. It borrows a bit from her previous work in Genesis of Aquarion while adding some new material as well. Considering the amount of links between the two shows it actually adds a bit of an additional bridge between the shows to reuse certain pieces. Overall the soundtrack tends to go back and forth between poppy and orchestral depending on the mood.  For awhile I much preferred the first opening but the second opening definitely grew on me over time. I will say that Fragment of Eve stands out for me as well. It might just be the relentless pace of the song and the catchy bridge.

If I did not make it apparent by this point this show can be very silly. It has themes of Zen and Tantric Buddhism and well as Christian symbolism. But it is all nifty window dressing in a way that Evangelion would even call silly. At its heart it is a sex comedy with robots and a slightly more serious tale of reincarnated lovers in the background. But it is clear that the robots merging is a metaphor for sex in a classic Go Nagai style that has been used from everything from Vandread to Godannar. Andy constantly complaining about being tired of combining with guys when he just wants to merge once with a girl says volumes. That also means your going to get some fan service every episode. Zessica wears a robe for several scenes and then throws that off and never goes back to not showing off the goods. But the show is equal opportunity with some solid hot guy action as well. Otherwise what would Sazanka do with herself?

As a sequel the show is … interesting. As a new fan I got along fairly well having not seen the first series. I did think to myself that certain revels would have had more impact if I had watched the original but I never was lost not having seen the progenitor. On the other hand some fans of the original might be mad at this show. It does change some major factors that have the potential to make people really feel betrayed. I think it was an unexpected twist but your mileage may vary. Then again it was not like there was a huge and rabid fan base for the prequel so if you are going to take liberties I guess it is best with a show like this.

I think this show has solidified a simple fact for me. While I love the entire spectrum of mecha shows I have a soft spot for silly mecha shows. I can sit down and enjoy a deadly serious show like Armored Trooper Votoms, Gundam Unicorn, or Macross Plus but I tend to be a bit more critical on them. On the other hand the bar for enjoyment for something like Turn A Gundam, Macross 7, or Star Driver is lower. I won’t love any show with funny robots. I still don’t like Majestic Prince but I can easily have fun with robots if the creators want to have fun as well. I can’t watch Godannar without a goofy smile on my face. Aquarion EVOL gives me that same warm feeling.

Aquarion EVOL is sexy and funny with a dash of some more serious elements to make it feel more than just gags and T&A. I think the highest praise I can give to it is I would recommend it to Kate fairly easily. And that is no small accomplishment. Aquarion EVOL is LOVE.

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3 thoughts on “Secret Santa Project Review: Aquarion EVOL aka Vandread: The Third Stage

  1. Shinmaru says:

    Happy you had so much fun with EVOL! It was my favorite show from last year, and I watched it again with a friend of mine recently. (He’s not a mecha guy at all, but EVOL endeared itself to him almost instantly.) It’s such a silly show, but it’s also easy to get behind the characters because they all have such heart.

  2. Bradley says:

    I think this is straight-up the best anime sex comedy, even though most people don’t think of it in those terms. Can anyone name a better one?

  3. Luz says:

    I don’t think this can be compare to vandread who’s sexyness although real was quit subtle,I tried watching this show but as you mentioned,the main character’s blank personality,that obligatory maiden in distress girl and the show’s constant overly ridiculous way to include fanservice and that fake love triangle (green hair girl is an ovbious third wheel) ,in other words it’s a case of “I WANNA SEEEEEL!” so big I had to dropt it.
    although a little too extravagant I do like it visually and the rest of the cast as you say contrary to the main characters were charismatic.

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