After a rather tepid and slow-moving start to the series, Fantastic Children finally began to pick up the pace towards the end of its second volume, leaving with it the promise of a far more engaging story as the show progressed. It's been a while, but now volume three has landed on my desk, so can it live up to its burgeoning potential?
At the end of volume two, we saw the runaway orphans Helga and Chitto slip away from the hospitality of Thoma and his parents in their search for the mystical subject of Helga’s subconscious and artwork. Of course, this wouldn't be much of a story if Thoma didn’t give chase to catch up with the duo and help Helga on her way, and that's exactly what happens, with the young hero of the piece setting off on his boat in stormy seas to find them.
From here, the various disparate elements of the plot all come together very quickly, as Helga and Chitto wind up getting entangled with the attempts of GED to capture the mysterious and dangerous Kirchner, while Thoma ends up in league with the Children of Befort, who are also searching for Helga - Although they know her instead as Tina, leading to the eventual revelation of this girl's true origins.
From that last paragraph alone, you should be able to figure out that the pace picks up dramatically in this third volume of Fantastic Children, and to its great credit - After taking so long to put all of the building blocks of the story in place, they are now being put to genuinely good use, creating a fascinating anime which enjoys tying up some loose ends while opening up yet others. This isn't a show that tries to be non-stop and action packed, nor does it have much time for frivolities and thus keeps a straight face throughout, but somehow this works in its favour, keeping the viewer engaged and genuinely interested in the various feelings and motives of all of the main characters portrayed.
The only thing that really continues to let the show down is its aesthetics. The animation really isn't very special at all, and the music is... Well, morose and annoying – Think Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. So, if you're one of those people who need your anime to look and sound good, you'll almost certainly be put off from the very start. Otherwise, I'm personally really pleased to see this series blossom - I ended my volume two review predicting this disc would make or break it, and thankfully it's lived up to its potential to provide the truly engaging story it showed glimpses of earlier in the series.
On a final note, after two volumes with five episodes apiece it's hard not to feel a little disappointed by the inclusion of only four episodes on volume three, one of which is the dreaded recap episode (Although to be fair, you might actually need it for this show, and if you're a real cheapskate you could use it as an excuse not to pick up the first two DVDs), but given the overall quality of the series now its reached its peak, I can easily forgive that in lieu of the enjoyment to be had from the story as a whole.