Six years after the original series ended, Studio Xebec decided to release a sequel to Fafner in the Azure (Sokyu no Fafner), titled Heaven and Earth. The film picks up right where the series left off and shows the residents of Tatsumiya Island, having to once again fend off against the alien invaders, called Festum. Kazuki, one of the main Fafner pilots and still on the mend, with having temporary blindness from the last battle, is constantly reminded of the sacrifice of his dear friend, Soushi. After encountering an evolved Festum creature, a boy shows up looking exactly like Soushi and begins to create a dialog between the two races. But with time running short, the inhabitants of Tatsumiya Island and Kazuki must decide, whether they wish to unify with the Festum or continue their war against the alien race. While very much continuing to be as redundant and trite as the original TV series was, Fafner: Heaven and Earth, showcases the argument of what the series could have been, on a visceral level.
I never enjoyed the Fafner TV series, because I never felt as though it was doing anything that hadn’t been done before. It was very much a by the numbers mecha show, that showcased some nice character designs by Hisashi Hirai (Gundam Seed) and borrowed heavily from Neon Genesis Evangelion. The feature film slightly makes up for the series, by showing some great action animation from Studio Xebec in the Fafner battles. The action sequences are truly impressive and left me wondering why Sengoku Basara: The Last Party (check out here) couldn’t be this way. Even though I loved the overall animation for the project, the film has plenty of the same issues as the series and ultimately never does enough to warrant a full pardon. The conflict leads to the same, us versus them mentality, while at the same time trying to convey the message of coexistence, through the Misao Kurusu/Soushi clone. This makes Fafner: Heaven and Earth a film that manages to meander in its own shortcomings, while looking great at any moment it gets.
The film comes in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, with a nice reversible cover from Funimation. The video on the Blu-Ray comes in an AVC encoded 1080p HD transfer, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The film looks really stunning in HD, much more prominent than the upscale that the original series had on Blu-Ray. The Festum creatures in new CGI elements look much more believable and do a much better job in their overall presentation in the film. The audio for the film comes in both Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes, one being the original Japanese language track and the English dub that Funimation made, in house. Both do an incredible job at presenting the film with fidelity and a spectacular mix, where you can’t really go wrong with either one. From the sound effects, to the use of the surround channels, all the way to the performances, both tracks offer some monumental audio and it really comes down to one being in the mood to either read subs or not. The extras are practically nonexistent, with only a commentary by the English cast, a few commercials and trailers for other shows.
While I certainly enjoyed the animation and battle sequences in the film, Fafner: Heaven and Earth continues a story that was very much rooted in a mediocre TV series, which only makes the film worth watching only if your a fan of animation or genuinely cared for the original in the first place.