At the end of every anime season, when the new stuff hasn’t started and the old stuff has ended, there’s a short window of time where a person is often willing to try an older, unwatched anime that he/she wouldn’t otherwise try. Maybe it’s boredom or just the relief from the pressure of keeping up with the latest anime that causes this phenomenon.
Whatever the reason, I found myself drawn to finally watching a series that I’ve had in my possession for over three years – all the while gathering dust and broken promises of intended attention – Fantastic Children. The result of this decision was a mixture of elation that I discovered one of the great SF (science fiction) anime series of the last decade, peaceful contentment from watching an excellent series end well, and anger for letting Fantastic Children sit for so long unwatched.
Before I get to why Fantastic Children should be watched, I want to verbally kick myself a bit.
Even though I should have known better, I let the old-time, simplistic animation style convince me that Fantastic Children was ‘obviously’ lacking in the quality department. I’d forgotten that Kaiba, Cross Game, and Kemono no Soja Erin (to name a few) collectively proved that it was impossible to draw conclusions about an anime from it’s animation style.
My other failing was that, in the couple earlier attempts that I made to watch Fantastic Children, I made a snap decision about the show’s plot potential and decided that it didn’t offer a compelling reason to continue watching. This was the wrong decision as I found out this time because the beginning episodes which I thought were boring were, in reality, the building blocks to a compelling, truly epic SF/love story. To compute how far I undershot my guess about the plot/story of Fantastic Children in terms for someone who hasn’t seen Fantastic Children would understand, it would be like dropping Gurren Lagann after a couple of episodes after deciding nothing interesting, thrilling or epic was going to happen.
Okay, that’s enough self-flagellation 🙂 .
And I’d reply, Fantastic Children is an epic SF/love story set in the year 2012 and follows a group of white-haired, blue-eyed “children” that have appeared at various times for over 500 years in Europe and now in southeast Asia as they search for someone very important to them. They are named “Befort’s Children” after a town in Belgium where they made their first appearance, their otherworldly maturity and odd appearance has led some to call them devils and vampires. Their paths will cross with Thoma, a young man attempting to spirit two escaped orphans away from an abusive orphanage, and with a secret governmental agency (run by Dumas, who also happens to be white-haired and blue-eyed) that seeks to harness a completely new form of energy.
Saying anything more and I’d spoil too much.
I can now hear the eyes now thinking, “Seriously, what is up with the animation style and just how old is this series?”
And I’d chuckle, saying one shouldn’t judge an anime by how it’s styled (hoping these readers will have forgotten what I wrote a couple of paragraphs above) but to answer the question – Fantastic Children came out in the late 2004 which makes it a contemporary of the first Full Metal Alchemist series. It’s an original creation of the director, Takashi Nakamura, and is animated by Nippon Animation, best known for their longtime work animating series under the World Masterpiece Theater banner (Heidi, A Dog of Flanders, Anne of Green Gables, etc.) and for employing Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata before they founded Studio Ghibli. (Which probably helps explain the animation style.)
The animation quality itself is pretty good with lots of fluid animation from the beginning of the series to the end and, surprisingly, there is the use of CG. (Never been a huge fan of CG myself but it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the series which says something.) Truthfully, though, once you get sucked into the story of Fantastic Children, you’ll forget any misgivings about the animation style and will probably even like how the animation doesn’t intrude upon the story.
“I’m almost convinced,” says the eyes out there in the ether, “give me a couple more good reasons why I should watch Fantastic Children.”
Gaguri at Ha Neul Seom called it “a dazzling concoction of adventure, mystery, sci-fi, romance and drama.” The Nihon Review said, “If even one anime per year had a plot as good as this one [Fantastic Children] I would consider myself a blessed individual.” Psgels at Star Crossed Anime Blog says, “Fantastic Children always kept you guessing at what was going to happen next,” while naming it the Best Story of the 2000-2009 decade and ranking it at #13 on his personal top 20. And finally, the hauntingly beautiful ending song to Fantastic Children was sung by Origa, who you might know from her work with Ghost in the Shell: SAC.
In closing, don’t make the same mistake I made in nearly passing over this hidden gem; watch Fantastic Children, you’ll be happy that you did.