Aquarion EVOL continues on its brash way, although it seems to be trying to grow up a little. Sometimes. (Part 1 review here.)
With Kagura’s attack having left the Academy in shambles and the Elements in distress over the loss of their friends, it’s time for the kids to counterattack, led my the mysterious Zen Fudo and his ever inscrutable speeches. Emotions are running high as the various couples grow closer together in the midst of rain hormones and as Mikage continues to scheme. But, there is yet hope as Amata and his friends take the fight to Altair and battle to bring peace to both worlds. Love will show them the way
The Good and the Bad
With the events of the first collection’s final episode, Aquarion EVOL seems to have turned a bit more serious — at least as serious as a show willing to literally bury its characters alive to unlock their powers can get. With the impending threat of Mikage’s machinations hanging heavily over the events of the second collection’s plot, there are no more full-episode digressions into hole puns and even Zen’s over-articulated declarations feel weightier than they had previously. The whole show seems to have engaged a level of self-seriousness that the first thirteen episodes never really touched — it’s still all highly excitable and incredibly grandiose, but it feels less joyful than the first half of the show.
Frankly, I preferred the first half’s reckless, silly abandon to the second’s tenser plotting. If the first half was Okada and Kamamori running around tossing confetti into the air, the second half is them sprinting around the room with brooms cleaning everything up: it’s still fun and still absurd, but it’s also as if adolescent vigor has been replaced by an equally adolescent sense of responsibility. Part of the problem is Mikage’s seeming omniscience and omnipotence. As the main villain, he’s billed as a being completely driven by hate and demonstrates power without any limitations besides his own whims. He can teleport anywhere, attack at any place, see anything, and possess the bodies of anyone he wants. Yet he persists in playing games and only uses the full extent of his power when he chooses to. The effect of this is to leave us with a villain who ought to be unbeatable fooling around long enough for the power of love to defeat him. Consequently, it ends up feeling less like Mikage is manipulating the game and, in a sense, reveals the narrative strings holding the story together.
The serious feel of the second half also dampers the energy from the lovable cast of characters. After watching these kids make fools of themselves for thirteen episodes, it’s hard not to love them, but it’s much less fun to watch them suffer through the harsher plot points than it was to see them enjoying the exuberant thrills of love and life. Aquarion EVOL just keeps piling tension on without many releases and, while such drama certainly maintains engagement, it gets exhausting to continually be on edge. No longer was I screaming or laughing in unadulterated elation at the show’s nonsense; instead, I was biting my lip, worried about how everything would turn out. Which is fine, except that the Aquarion EVOL I came to love in the first half was a show of a different nature and that was the show I was hoping for in the second half. EVOL never loses its sense of humor; it just sort of gets buried underneath a lot of other stuff.
But, in the end, the right people end up with the right people and love heals the wounds created by love’s betrayal. Unless you’re familiar with the previous series, it’s best to just gloss over the references to the original Aquarion as much as you can — let EVOL be its own experience — it stands better as its own story than it does as an extension of the previous series’ mythology.
The visuals remain consistent with the first half of the show, tending towards lushness and floridity without seeming out of place.
Like in Aquarion EVOL’s first half, Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack remains superb. The second opening theme takes some getting used to and, while I was really digging it by the end of the show, it’s unquestionably inferior to the first opening, lacking the magnanimity of Akino’s “Mesame!”. The second ending theme, “Yunoha no Mori,” by Yui Ogura as Yunoha, is certainly the weakest piece of theme music in the show and is a sad replacement for the ethereal beauty of the first ending. I’m not a huge fan of Yui Ogura to begin with, so although the instrumental elements of the song are good, Ogura’s performance comes off as tinny and insubstantial.
As with the first collection, the second comes with a few commentary episodes and clean versions of the theme songs. Nothing out of the ordinary or of note here.
While it’s nice to see lovable protagonists save the world, I can’t help but wish that Aquarion EVOL had preserved its light-hearted bombast from the first thirteen episodes, rather than pitching into the heavier conflicts. The series’ main charm is its over-the-top attitude towards everything, but that charm gets swallowed up partially by the scope of the show’s plot.
Final Grade: B
This review was initially posted on The Otaku Review. The original article can be read here.