*Major Spoilers Warning
Following on from Soukyuu no Fafner: Exodus, Fafner the Beyond is proving to be a surprising sequel. Full of hard-core mecha battles and philosophical values, Sunrise’s film series continues to bring exciting action to audiences of all ages.
Okay, so as a brief recap, Soukyuu no Fafner: Exodus ended with the people of Tatsumiya Island moving to a new island. In the process, they sacrifice their old island to seal away the new Mir, Altair. During the ensuing battle, Soushi Minashiro (CV: Kōhei Kiyasu) dies and is reborn as a baby. Kazuki Makabe (CV: Makoto Ishii) then raises the baby on his own and calls him, “Soushi Minashiro” in Soushi’s honor.
Fafner the Beyond picks up a couple years after the events of Exodus. It begins with Kazuki Makabe and the other fafner pilots descending onto a battlefield in a attempt to rescue a small group of children (including Soushi) who has been kidnapped by Maris Excelsia (CV: Sōma Saitō) , a fellow Esperanto. After a grueling battle, the operation fails and Maris escapes with the children. Three years later, an older Soushi is living happily on a fake Tatsumiyajima with his family and best friend, Maris. Soushi is led to believe that their side, the Benon, are the good guys, while Alvis and the Esperantos are the enemy. Most of the inhabitants of the island are Benon who have taken on the form of deceased Alvis pilots and crew staff e.g. Michio Hino (Legato) (CV: Tsuguo Mogami) , Yumiko Tōmi (Selenoa) (CV: Yukana) and Tsubaki Minashiro (Floro) (CV: Tamaki Nakanishi).
Despite peacefully living on the island, Soushi still desires to see the outside world. So, one day, Soushi decides to use an old ham radio broadcast system to make contact the outside world. Successfully fixing it, Soushi makes contact with Kazuki. During their conversation, Kazuki asks Soushi if he wants to learn the truth. The next day at school, Soushi sees Kazuki and decides to make contact with him again. That night, Kazuki agrees to show Soushi the truth, but warns him that he may lose his peaceful life in the process. On the night of the festival, Soushi sneaks away to go to the meeting spot and meets Kazuki. Greeting him, Soushi asks how Kazuki knows about him. But before Soushi can get an answer, the pair are interrupted by Tsubaki/Floro. A siren then blares alerting everyone to the intruder. As the townspeople corner the pair, Tsubaki/Floro pleads with Kazuki to let them live in peace and leave Soushi alone.
Angry, Kazuki remarks that he won’t and tells Soushi the truth that he was abducted. This angers the residents and causes them to turn into Festum who proceed to attack them. Protecting Soushi, Kazuki summons his Fafner and escapes with him, while Alvis and the other pilots launch an assault on the fake Tatsumiyajima. Escaping to the ship, Kazuki and Soushi get out of the Fafner and Kazuki explains what is going on. Suddenly, Tsubaki/Floro appears and begs Soushi to come back with her. Kazuki remarks that its pointless because the island is about to sink soon. Despite Tsubaki/Floro’s pleading, Kazuki angrily claims that their peace was built on the blood of innocent lives. Kazuki then erases her, infuriating Soushi who angrily tells him that he will kill him.
Listening, Kazuki tries to explain to Soushi that the island and his family were fake. But, a still grieving Soushi refuses to listen and tries to go back to the island. However, the damage is done and the island is destroyed. Raging, Soushi is knocked out by Kazuki who leaves him in the care of Alvis. After Soushi regains consciousness, Alvis explains that they are heading to Wadatsumijima, their home. Over the course of the journey, Soushi bonds with Miwa Hino (CV: Sumire Morohoshi). Arriving at their destination, Soushi is guided to meet Ruby Carmine (CV: Rio Sasaki) and her assistant, Dylan (CV: Anri Katsu) who leads him to Mark Nicht. Getting into the cockpit, Soushi activates the machine and hears the message from his previous self whose ghost merges with his body. The last scene ends with a furious Soushi preparing to attack the island while calling out Kazuki to face him.
First shown in cinemas on May 17, 2019 , Fafner the Beyond has an unusual showing format. Despite being shown in cinemas, the film is actually a mecha anime series which has been divided into three episodes per part, making the total length of the series about 12-13 thirty minute episodes. The down side is that there is a long wait in between each part. However, the up side is that it only increases the excitement and anticipation for long term Fafner fans. Structure-wise, the plot is rather simple and straight-forward. It is not very complicated and easy to follow. However, the mysteries and motivations behind Soushi’s kidnapping and both Benon and Alvis’s actions are still unclear. However, while the first and third episodes do a wonderful job of reintroducing the main characters and the show’s basic key concepts, having background knowledge of the other Soukyuu no Fafner series and films are key. If you haven’t watched Fafner in a while, viewers may not recognize the some of the newer Fafner pilots like Sui Kaburagi (CV: Kensho Ono), Mimika Mikagami (CV: Yui Ishikawa), Reo Mikado (CV: Nobunaga Shimazaki) and Miwa Hino.
One of the key themes hinted in this part is one’s truth. Being an immature teenager, Soushi doesn’t yet realize that his pursuit for truth beyond the island will lead to the destruction of his peaceful life. He grows up believing that the life he has lead is real. This point is further emphasised by Koyou Kasugai (CV: Ryōhei Kimura) when he has to explain to a complaining Misao Kurusu (CV: Ryōhei Kimura) why Soushi is so upset. However, when he finds out that this is not the case, Soushi is naturally shocked and visibly mortified. He becomes unable to believe anything without solid proof. Even when presented with proof, Soushi finds a reason not to believe it and chooses to lash out at others instead. It is only when he hears his previous self’s voice that he starts to believe. Additionally, this is also true for both Alvis and Benon. During the scene where Tsubaki/ Floro pleads with Kazuki, both sides do have valid points. While it is true that the Benon kidnapped Soushi and that their peace wer created from sacrficing, it is also true that Soushi has grown to become their son to Legato and the others. It also makes for an interesting twist as compared to the first season, Alvis are now the inavders instead of the Festum.
Okay, so the animation in Fafner the Beyond is of amazing quality. There are a lot of great battle sequences and naturally all of the landscapes are beautiful. The chracter designs are once again done by Hisashi Hirai who also worked on the Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny series. What stands out particularly besides the older appearances of many of the main characters is how the Benon differ from regular Festum. While most of the Benon have normal Festum forms, fighters like Legato and Maris have a navy blue humanoid body with gold lines weaved across it. They are also capable of utilising Fafners and may have yet more unknown strange powers. Maris’ human design is also particulary intriguing as he resembles Akira Nishio, a former Fafner pilot. It is also surprising that Tsubaki or rather Floro is the Walker-class Festum.
Of course, when one thinks of Fafner, naturally one thinks of the Fafners themselves. From the outset, it is clear that many of the Fafners have been upgraded or rebuilt to deal out a greater payload in damage. They also now have different callsigns. For example, Kurusu now operates Chronos, while Rina Nishio (CV: Ryoko Shiraishi)’s mech is now called Izanami. Kazuki has also stopped using Mark Sein and Miwa Hino now pilots it.
So for the first part of Fafner the Beyond, most of the emphasis is on Soushi Minashiro. Being a reincarnation, Soushi naturally has no memories of his previous life. While he does share some traits with the previous Soushi like his burning curiosity and thirst for knowledge, he is quite different from him. This burning curiosity also leads to trouble as it destroys the peaceful life he has lived up till now. Even while growing up among the Benon, Soushi feels like a part of him is missing and is actively searching for something. However, due to his young age, he is quite immature and emotional as he lashes out against others and starts crying to go back home. One can argue that it is because he may have been aged up like Miwa in Exodus, however, we don’t know how old he actually is in the first episode.
The other major difference between old Soushi and new Soushi is their relationship with Kazuki Makabe. In Soushi’s previous life, he was quite close to Kazuki and considered him to be his most important person. However, because of Kazuki’s actions in killing Tsubaki/Floro, the new Soushi now hates him despite being curious of him at first. However, for Kazuki who is noticably older and more mature, he still cares about Soushi and acts like a father figure to him. Whether or not they will reach a mutual understanding is still yet to be seen.
As with all things, there can absolutely be no Fafner without Angela’s amazing songs. The new opening, “The Beyond” does not disappoint in adding an exciting new layer to the show’s message of growth and maturity.It is action-packed and feels like the start of a new journey. While the ending theme song, “Naze ni (Why?)”, brings out the sadness of Soushi’s emotional struggles and his inner turmoil over his identity and place in the world. With the background music, most of the songs are a remix of previous tracks from the previous series. But they do add a level of nostalgia to older fans of the show.
Overall, Fafner the Beyond is off to a great start. I hope the other episodes will be as interesting as this one is now. It is great to see Kazuki and the others again and I hope mecha fans who watch this show will go back and watch the other ones again.