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Wordplay has always been important in the Aquarion franchise. Generally set in a world where love reincarnates thousands of years in the future, many solutions across both the original Genesis of Aquarion and Aquarion EVOL literally come out of transforming words in order to access a plethora of elaborate giant robot attacks. Even as far as those series go, the latest incarnation, Aquarion Logos, takes this love of language manipulation to a whole new level, positioning it as the most prominent factor. For a lover of puns such as myself it makes for a fascinating series, not only because it’s often quite clever, but because Aquarion Logos looks at the very way in which people perceive words.

In the original Aquarion, the Japanese title was Sousei no Aquarion, where sousei (創聖) means “construct” and “holy.” Hence, its English translation is “Genesis.” When characters combine their robots, they say, “Sousei Gattai,” or Genesis Combination. Already this is where Aquarion Logos takes a different angle. In that series, sousei is written with the Japanese kanji for “construct” and “voice” (創声). Translated into English as “verbalism,” it represents the fact that the main pilots in the series all have a talent for bringing words into reality. Whether they’re aiming to be a politician, a comedian, or indeed a “savior” as the main character Kaibuki Akira does, they believe in the power of language, and can almost literally walk the walk by talking the talk. When characters shout “Sousei Gattai” in Aquarion Logos, it thus takes on a completely different meaning.

The ways in which words are used becomes the central conflict of at least the first half of the series. The villain, a man named Kenzaki Sougon, is able to travel into the very world where words exist and transform them into creatures called “M.J.B.K.” Pronounced mojibake (literally “word monsters”), these enemies of the week (again, giant robot show) devour the words on which they are based, manipulating their presence in reality. Because of the way kanji works, many other ideas are eradicated as well. For example, in Episode 1 the M.J.B.K. is created from the word maki (巻), which means “roll,” causing things to get twisted into knots, but it’s also the word used to mean “volume” as in “volume 1 of a manga,” which causes that concept to disappear as well.

Sougon believes that people have sadly lost their connection to the origins of words, that the power of words comes from the desire to communicate what exists. Words are in service to reality, and forgetting that means words become useless. In contrast, Kaibuki Akira goes the opposite direction. He draws on the creative potential of words as a way to construct reality. The key example of this is the fact that Akira frequently refers to himself as a “savior,” and tries his best to just constantly save people. When asked why he’s a savior or why he’s so hung up on the idea, it turns out that there’s no particular reason. He takes the meaning of the word itself and makes it into reality through his actions, fulfilling its potential. The Japanese word for savior, kyuuseishu literally means “one who saves the world,” and that’s what Akira aims for.

In Episode 13 the team fights a particularly dangerous M.J.B.K. that represents Mu, or nothingness. Written as 無, perhaps people might recognize it as the symbol used by Gouken in Street Fighter IV. Sougon uses it because the power of nothingness is able to consume other words and concepts, but Akira responds by saying that nothingness also means endless possibilities. At this point, he and his co-pilot Maia utilize the signature attack of the Aquarion franchise, the Mugenken, or “Infinite Punch.” Mu is one half of the word for infinity. At another point, as the world risks being reduced to that nothingness, the word “savior” carries the potential for recovery, as it consists of the characters for “help,” “world,” and “person.” What else is needed to start over other than these concepts?

Aquarion Logos is both a powerful and silly anime, and intentionally so. It’s potentially a difficult series to watch because of how prominent kanji is, making it a bit obtuse for those unfamiliar with Japanese, particularly because English and other languages don’t necessarily utilize symbols in the same way. So far, many of the references are to the original Aquarion, but Episode 13 drops a possible callback to Aquarion Evol, so it’ll be interesting to see how things develop now that the second half has been under way.

Name: Bianca, Sazanka (サザンカ・ビアンカ)
Alias: N/A
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Aquarion EVOL

Sazanka Bianca is a teenage resident of the planet Vega and a student at Neo-DEAVA’s Holy Angel Academy, which trains pilots in order to fight against invaders from the planet Altair. As a fujoshi, Sazanka is particularly fond of her classmates, best friends Cayenne Suzushiro and Shrade Elan, the two of whom together are responsible for many of her fantasies.

As one of the many pilots capable of operating the mighty robot Aquarion, Sazanka possesses a superhuman “Element power.” Specifically, she has the ability to corrode physical materials through her “Fushokuryoku,” or “Humicane from Rotten Girl.” In addition, though not an Element power, Sazanka is extremely adept at taking photographs, seemingly able to photograph anyone in any situation, and sells her photos of both guys and girls to her fellow students.

Fujoshi Level:
At one point Sazanka and her fellow classmates were given armbands which shock the wearer whenever their heart rate rises above a certain amount. Placed in the same group with Cayenne and Shrade, the interactions between the two friends ended up electrocuting Sazanka many times over.

Introduction: I attended Otakon this year and got the chance to interview mechanical illustrator and designer Tenjin Hidetaka. Responsible for box art from various series including Gundam and Macross, his latest work can be found in Aquarion Evol. His official website can be found at and his Twitter is @TENJIN_hidetaka.

For the sake of consistency with the rest of this blog, Japanese names are last name first.

OM: How did you get started working in the anime and toy industries?

Tenjin: My very first anime work was Macross Zero from Satelight. I can’t remember what year it was, either 2002 or 2003, but my first anime was Macross Zero.

OM: How is it like working with Kawamori Shouji? How did you meet?

Tenjin: I met Mr. Kawamori Shouji because I had been illustrating for a Macross fansite. I was drinking with a few friends of mine I had met through the fansite and Mr. Kawamori Shouji also attended the event.

But even before I met Mr. Kawamori Shouji I had been working as a professional illustrator, so when I had a chance to meet him I showed him my portfolio, and he gave me the chance to start working with him.

OM: Does the fansite still exist?

Tenjin: The fansite no longer exists. I deleted it right away. But I think some archive of it still exists. Some very hardcore fans from the past still hold onto their precious archives of the past.

OM: I can understand that. So you work both in fantastic designs such as robots as well as more realistic designs such as planes and other vehicles. As an illustrator, do you use the same philosophies and concepts in drawing the realistic vehicles and the more fantastic ones, or are there more significant differences you have to keep in mind while drawing them?

Tenjin: I think about the practical purpose of the vehicle, how it’s used. For instance, with a Gundam it’s a weapon, an instrument of war. So I picture what a tank would be like, and I take the heavy texture of paint and use it for the Gundam. But on the other hand, for something like a Valkyrie, it’s basically a plane so I try to use lighter textures and try to focus on thinner silhouettes.

OM: I actually have a question related to that as well. When it comes to robots, we mainly hear about mechanical designers such as Katoki, Okawara, and Kawamori, who are all about designing the robot from various angles, but we rarely get to hear from someone who’s a mechanical illustrator. What are some of the unique advantages and some of the things you have to consider while drawing mecha without necessarily having “design” in mind?

Tenjin: The difference is, when there’s already a design, I need to think about what the designer had in mind. Even with something as simple as a single line, I have to think about what its purpose is. I need to focus not just on the design in front of me, but other designs that the designer has created because what I am trying to portray through my illustrations is not just the mechanical design or that one item, but the worldview of the designer, the fantastic world that the designer is trying to communicate.

For example, for classic model art for the package or box art, something I focus on is the background. By putting a lot of details in the background, I try to express the storyline of the world behind the design.

OM: You worked on Aquarion as well as its sequel Aquarion Evol. It’s been a few years between those projects. What do you feel you’ve learned between Aquarion and Evol in returning to the franchise?

Tenjin: Something I improved in is weathering texture, introducing weathering to express just how old a vehicle is within the world of Aquarion and Aquarion Evol. But with Aquarion, there are two time periods, the present and 12,000 years ago. I don’t think I was successful in depicting how things would change in 12,000 years.

OM: Related to Aquarion, it seems like 3D modeling is increasingly used to animate mechanical designs, and figures such as Mamoru Oshii have talked about how there are fewer and fewer people who know how to work with 2D designs without going to 3D models. As an illustrator, what do you see as the potential for 3D modeling for mechanical designs in anime?

Tenjin: When I first entered this industry, 3D animation was just at its start. You were seeing the very first examples of 3D animation and, to be honest, the quality was very low. But these days 3D is used very frequently in Japanese animation and very naturally and so the techniques have improved enough that you don’t really notice the differences between 2D and 3D animation. So, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about in that respect.

OM: I just have one more question. I noticed that there quite a few works in that slide show [Tenjin had in front of him an iPad displaying various examples of his box art] from VOTOMS. Do you have a particular fondness for VOTOMS?

Tenjin: [in English, without the need for a translator to explain my words] Of course!

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