Do you remember Aquarion? That one series that so revolutionized the anime industry that its very existence soon fell into obscurity with a whimper? If you’re anything like a large percentage of the anime watching public, particularly here in the west, you likely only heard of it before getting distracted by something marginally more interesting like schoolwork or tax returns; I’m guilty of the same. However, somebody somewhere somehow at some point in time remembered Aquarion, and thought it would be a neat idea to make a sequel set so long after the events of the original series that it’d might as well be its own entity altogether.
Set at a seemingly arbitrary 12,000 years after the events of the original, Aquarion Evol follows the adventures of Generic JRPG Hero #3,787 (Amata Sora, the most generic JRPG-like name ever) as he ineffectually pines over a girl he meets in an empty movie theatre and defends Not-Neo Venezia from the threat of interdimensional beings (headed by the second alien bishounen of the season) hell-bent on abducting citizens for their own hereto unknown purposes. With help from an organization that employs boy and girl pilots that ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT FORM A UNION WITH EACH OTHER OR VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN, he does just this with Aquarion, a giant mech that he formed because of his super specialness.
Also, he flies when excited, which has apparently brought him nothing but anguish in the past. Also also, he says some lines that are so corny you could make tortillas out of them, which is probably the biggest detraction I could make against this surprisingly long first episode.
Aside from all of the above contributing to the massive cheese factor, or perhaps because of it in some cases, Aquarion Evol is off to a surprisingly good start. Amata and alien bishie are massive tools, but the overall look and feel of Evol is several steps above that of Lagrange. It feels much more robust and well polished, if a little more manufactured. The world of Evol is more than a little reminiscent of Macross Frontier, the many different characters in the military with their own personalities and struggles presenting the meat that covers the bare bones of the story. It’s hardly anything new, but it is refreshing to see something that uses what Macross so skillfully did to create an emotionally driven tale of romance in the middle of a prolonged attack by hostile forces.
The fights themselves are nothing special, but there is some inherent joy in watching two mechs battle for the fate of the world that a lack of uniqueness can’t destroy on its own. But since the drama is rather hackneyed at best and nonexistent at worst, it’s the best we’ve got for the time being.
In short, Aquarion Evol is a sequel to something that nobody really asked for, but that isn’t any reason to dismiss it outright. Its sense of adaptation of classic mecha tropes and clichés, rather than straight emulation, is what saves it from the same derision that I gave Lagrange. It isn’t particularly smart, but it has a dramatic sense that’s infectiously endearing the longer it goes. It may be cheesy and it may not set the world on fire, but it has enough of an identity to warrant at least giving a look.