As we Otaku know, anime isn't a genre itself, but rather an encompassing
term that several genres fall under. There are mecha shows, and magical
girl programs and fighting series etc. etc. I've seen a lot of anime
over the years and have enjoyed shows of all types, but Fantastic Children
took me by surprise. It's not an easily categorized program and
feels different than most other anime. The series is quite enjoyable,
and a lot of that has to do with the unique nature of the show, and tells
an interesting tale that has a lot of surprises. Originally released
as individual volumes in 2006, the entire series has now been collected
in one 6-disc case.
A strange group of children seem to be traveling forward through time.
Always looking about 11-years old, with stark white hair and wide round
eyes, these children apparently never age. Pictures of them have
been taking in the 1800's on up, and the very few people who have realized
that there's something strange have named them the Children of Befort.
These children are looking for someone, someone very important to them.
They search for a young girl about their age who paints odd pictures of
islands floating about colorful lakes. Each time they get close to
her they discover that they're too late: she's already died.
So they have to wait for her to be reincarnated so they can start their
In the South Seas a young man named Thoma lives a care-free life.
He lives with his parents, but often travels in his boat to an island only
he knows about, relaxing in the shade of giant statues from some forgotten
civilization. One day he sees an odd girl on his island, Helga, an
orphan who has run away from the group home where she lived along with
he only friend Chitto. The two runaways are soon recaptured, but
something about her strikes Thoma and he sets out to release her.
Helga seems to be the girl the Children of Befort are looking for, but
what do they want with her, and how does this tie in with a government
research project that has gone awry?
This series moves very slowly, especially at the beginning, but there's
enough mystery to keep viewers engaged. And that's also the key word
for this show: Mystery. The creators intentionally make everything
opaque and a bit hard to follow. Just who are the white-haired children?
Why do they want Helga? Who is their nemesis and how does he fit
into everything? And just where did that giant robot come from?
All these are answered in time, but it will take a bit of patience and
concentration to unravel all of the mysteries.
Despite the slow pace, the characters in the show do develop and the
plot, intricate though it is, does emerge. It's worth waiting for
these revelations as the show is very original and many of the questions
that the show raises have unexpected answers. This was a program
that kept me guessing and thinking and that's a good thing even if the
first half could progress a bit faster.
The animation to the show is also interesting. It has a retro
feel to it, and a flat look that actually works rather well. The
faces are all rather simply rendered, though the Children of Belfort each
have a distinguishing characteristic so viewers can tell them apart, but
the backgrounds are colorful and lively, especially on the South Seas Islands.
They're nicely drawn with bright colors and a good amount of detail.
This set offers viewers the choice between the original Japanese soundtrack
and an English dub, both in stereo. I'm not one of those people who
hate dub tracks, and there are several anime shows where I prefer the dub
to the original Japanese track. This is not one of them. Stay
away from the dub track. This is one of those dub where many of the
actors feel they have to put on fake accents to show that the various characters
come from different places. It's really annoying. Not only
that, but it is almost impossible to loose yourself in the story while
you listening a character talk with a bad fake French accent. I only
screened a couple of episodes in English and that was all I could stand.
Both soundtracks were clean and had a good amount of fidelity. There
were no audio defects worth mentioning.
The full frame video looks pretty good for the most part. Some
of the scenes that take place in the past are hazy and the colors are dimmer,
but this was obviously intentional. The parts of the story that take
place in the present are clean and clear with generally bright colors.
There is some aliasing in the backgrounds, but it's rather minor, and there
is some digital noise apparent in places, especially when one color takes
up most of the screen. Neither of these are distracting however and
the show looks fine.
There really wasn't much in the way of bonus items in this set.
The final disc has an extended ending sequence that ties up what happened
to some of the characters a bit more, and there's also a clean opening
One really nice extra isn't listed on the back of the box but came with
my sealed, retail version of the set: an OST CD. This CD was
in a paper wrapper and just slipped in between the other discs. The
cool thing was that they enclosed the CD booklet also, which was a nice
thing to do. It's too bad the case art wasn't included also, but
I'm not going to complain.
This show isn't for everyone. The slow pace and retro animation
will turn off a lot of viewers, but those that stick with the show will
be rewarded with an interesting story that is both unique and enjoyable.
They could have cut an episode or two out, just to get things moving a
bit quicker, but that's not the worse of complaints. If you're looking
for something a bit off the beaten path that's unlike other anime, you
could do worse than this series. Recommended.