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Amata is a lonely boy abandoned by his parents, but things are starting to look up when he meets a shy girl called Mikono and they hit it off right away! Unfortunately, they’re immediately attacked by the alien robots that periodically invade their city. An organization called Neo-DEAVA fights these invaders with flying robots called Aquaria. When they come to rescue Amata and Mikono, it’s revealed that Amata has the power to pilot an Aquaria. And Mikono, who always thought of herself as useless, has it too. Together, they unlock an ancient technique: the ability to merge Aquaria into even stronger robots called Aquarion.

Neo-DEAVA recruits Amata and Mikono and enrolls them in the school where they train super-powered teens to pilot the flying robots. The technique that merges Aquaria into the more-powerful Aquarion requires love between the pilots. However, if that love becomes too strong, the union will be dangerous; so, love has been forbidden at the school. But now the Aquarion technique is back, and Neo-DEAVA needs its power. The school begins walking a fine line: encouraging its young pupils to develop bonds strong enough to form Aquarion unions, but preventing them from falling so deeply in love that their safety is compromised. It’s a difficult and perhaps impossible task. Meanwhile, the alien attacks are escalating. Can Neo-DEAVA stop them?

The story largely follows Amata, but we also get Mikono’s perspective and those of some characters from the alien world, Altair. The conflict between Altair and our protagonists’ world is an old one: the series references a war that took place thousands of years ago between humans and the fallen angels of Altair. On both sides, people from the past have been reborn in the present, and their destinies are tangled up together. Now Altair is trying to kidnap human women so that the fallen angels, who are all male, won’t die out. If that sounds complicated, it is. Individual characters’ actions within the series are generally easy to follow, but the overall plot is convoluted, with key elements dropped suddenly on readers in the final volume.

It’s easy to sympathize with most of the characters. The teens may squabble, but they can be counted on to rescue each other and fight the good fight. At the same time, they struggle with being suddenly introduced to love and romance. There are doomed lovers and a complicated love quadrangle. In addition to love, lust makes frequent appearances. In a recurring joke, Amata’s superpower—becoming lighter than air and floating—kicks in whenever he’s attracted to a girl. One girl keeps trying to make him float, usually by hugging his arm so that it’s squeezed between her boobs. There’s a kiss or two in the series, and some skimpy outfits, but no sex. Metaphorical sex, though, abounds: the Aquarion unions, each of which involves three characters, are said to feel “so good” and are the subject of much excitement at the school. During a union, the three characters are drawn seemingly naked (no clothes, but no visible nipples or genitals). They aren’t touching each other, but are often contorted and wearing expressions of ecstasy, sometimes with lines like, “My whole body is so stimulated!” These unions take place about once per volume, and involve a variety of characters.

The lines of the artwork are thin and delicate. The shading is straightforward: simple dot-based screentones and bold pure-black areas create rich, intricately-shaded images. The characters, robots, and backgrounds—which range from cityscapes to the high-tech Neo-DEAVA school to the alien world of Altair—are all finely detailed. Characters are visually distinguished by their hairstyles and clothing choices.

A small note: the books have a number of minor typos. Nothing big or frequent enough to impede reading, but more than I’m used to seeing in manga.

Complete at five volumes, Aquarion Evol is primarily an action series, but there’s no small amount of relationship drama. The tone ranges from funny, to urgent and action-packed, to sad and wistful. The overarching plot might leave some readers scratching their heads, but fans of giant robot battles and brave, spunky teens saving the world and falling in love will likely enjoy this series.

Aquarion Evol, vols. 1-5
by Shoji Kawamori
Art by Aogiri
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781935548799
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781935548805
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781935548690
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781935548683
Vol. 5 ISBN: 9781935548829
One Peace Books, 2015

 

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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