The 2nd Dimension

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Viewing Journal: Freedom (complete)

OAV Overview
DVD Info

Overall= B+
Story = B+
Video = A+
Audio = B+


In the year 2041, mankind created their first space colony on the moon. But after a freak cataclysm devastated human civilization on Earth, the republic of the moon built a domed megalopolis known as Eden. Now in the year 2267, a boy called Takeru spends his time engaging in hover-craft races against rival street gangs, unaware that he is about to embark in the journey of unearthing Eden's origin. (Source: ANN)

So it's been like seven months since I last reviewed anything. That's not to say that I haven't been watching anime in that time, it's just that I have either had trouble trying to figure out how to review things or simply put it off -- but NO MORE! I have a backlog of six or seven shows/movies/manga/books that I want to write about, so I have vowed that I will not watch anything new until I have completed this batch of reviews. Of course, it has been a while since I actually watching these shows, so I'll have to rely on the few notes I took and my unreliable memory. As a result, the next few viewing journal entries may either be brief or vague or downright inaccurate. But at least I'll have them done, right? Anyway, here we go...

The first series on my list -- which I saw I think back in December 2009 or January 2010 -- is Freedom. This is a 6-episode OVA about a teenager named Takeru who lives a restricted life in a enclosed metropolis on the moon...that is until he finds a photo of a girl which was supposedly sent from the long-thought-uninhabitable Earth. Takeru becomes madly infatuated with this girl and dedicates himself to traveling to Earth to meet her. Of course, first he has to find a means of getting to Earth, not to mention getting past the Moon's governing council which is intent on hiding the truth about Earth from the citizenry.

I've always liked stories about teenagers challenging societies and the governments that run them. When I was younger, I liked the idea that a kid can have a huge impact on the world and do things that adults can't. These days it has more to do with a fondness for that youthful optimism where nothing is impossible. Takeru embodies that optimism coupled with tenacity and naive passion, and these qualities make him ignore both pragmatic and paranoid opposition and push him to follow his new-found dream. Overall, his passion is really what makes this anime for me.

Other than that, the sci-fi setting is also impressive. It isn't that the technology is believable so much as it is detailed and expansive. Things like the mechanical details of the motor bikes, and practical considerations like the fact that the government imposes a curfew in order to conserve energy -- all make the storyline seem more real and engrossing.

Of course, the biggest selling point for this show is the animation. It is computer animated, but more like cell-shade animation or something similar. It is still 2-D but you can tell from the fluidity of the characters and the way that they move that it is not hand-drawn. And even though the characters' movements occasionally appear unnaturally stiff, 98% of the time they move naturally and have dynamic facial expressions -- unlike most other computer-animated shows I've seen. I think part of that is due to the Katsushiro Otomo's (Akira) character designs. He does not use the traditional huge-eyed anime characters. His art style is simple, clean, and realistic in terms of character proportions. Plus, unlike a lot of other anime, his character designs don't shift in their art style for comedic or dramatic effect and their facial expressions are not as exaggerated. So since his designs are so solid and consistent, they animate well with computers -- which, by their nature, are not as spontaneous or abstract as hand-drawn animation.

The music is also pretty good. Though honestly I can't remember much of anything other than the opening song, which was done by the same singer who did "Beautiful World" from the Evangelion 1.0 movie -- Utada Hikaru.

Of course, this isn't all sunshine and roses, as there are a few things that bothered me about this show. For instance, although Takeru was a great character and I enjoyed watching youthful passion, none of the other characters were as strong and were mostly uninteresting and passionless cliches. For example, Takeru's friend Bizmarck was the whiny one in the cast and was always telling Takeru that his plans wouldn't work. I can understand his role as an antagonist to the story, but the fact that he seemed to have no personality other than to complain really grated on my nerves after a while.

Also, the story often does a great job of creating a sense of realism by bringing up practical concerns, but then throws those concerns out the window the minute they got in the way of the the story's progression. For instance, when Takeru and Bizmarch finally get to Earth, they need to find this girl that Takeru loves. And at first the story seems to recognize the fact that searching an entire planet for one person is a near impossible task for two kids on a motor bike. But almost as soon as as the characters recognize this fact, they are given a series conveniences that allow them to find her. I'm not sure if you would call that deux ex machina, but regardless it seems like a cheap way for the writers to solve a narrative snag.

Another thing that bothered me about the story which was the fact that the moon's council had told its people that the earth was uninhabitable due to a nuclear fallout from years earlier (or something -- I can't remember exactly). But of course, Takeru discovers that the Earth is alive and well once he sees it in the moon's sky. Now putting aside the fact that no one bothered to look at the earth in the sky before this; the story never tells what actually did happen to the Earth? Was there a nuclear war or not? If so, was the earth ever not inhabitable? If so, how did people survive there? Those seemed like major plot points that could have helped make the story more believable, but were never properly explained.

Of course, you can't talk about this show without mentioning the blaring Ramen Cup Noodle logos blatantly splattered in every episode. The show I think was actually created as an advertisement for Cup Noodle, so it's understandable. But the logo is so blatant and out-of-place that it seems like more like a running-gag than an advertisement. But really you only see it once or twice briefly in each episode, so it doesn't interfere with the story too much.

So anyway, that's Freedom. It's worth watching if you can pick it up cheap on Amazon or eBay. I remember when it first came out there was a huge stink about the fact that each DVD cost like $50 for one episode-per-disc. But now I think you can get the whole collection for less than that. So if you have the time, I think this one is worth watching.

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