Freedom is a sci-fi cum thriller set in the distant future after the Earth has become inhospitable and mankind has relocated to the moon. The lunar Eden Base, as it is known, was initially developed as a launching pad to send the humans to Mars, but once a disastrous shift in Earth’s climate left the planet desolate, all interest in colonising other planets apparently dissipated.
Fifteen year old Takeru (Daisuke Namikawa) spends his time on Eden colony racing motorised trikes/moon buggys, ably supported by his best friend, Kazuma (Morikubo Shotaro), and mechanically-minded yet horrendously introverted Bismarck (Kappei Yamaguchi). Initially the three have nothing to worry about aside from competing racers and resident bullies, but once Takeru stumbles upon the notion that there is still life on Earth, he resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. Those in charge of Eden aren’t happy about this, and do their best to stop Takeru discovering the true nature of the conspiracy and letting the truth become public.
Freedom was devised as a promotional series to help advertise, of all things, Nissin Cup Noodles, but don’t let this bother you. Aside from the fact that characters are regularly spotted eating such products, it’s a strong series in its own right. The character and mechanical designs are courtesy of Katsuhiro Otomo, who has previously worked on Steamboy and Akira (one of the characters even looks like Kaneda).
The story is one of the simpler anime narratives around. It ensures that the show has broad appeal, yet the lack of complexity may bother some. Suspension of disbelief is one of the areas in which Freedom is found lacking. The ease with which teenagers salvage, build and pilot planet-hopping rockets is ridiculous, and it’s something that one has to turn a blind eye to. The characters are fun, even if nobody is particularly memorable. People’s moods can completely turnaround at the drop of a hat, as is often the case in anime, however there are some emotional moments spread over the series that really hit home.
The animation is at times… controversial. The vehicles and other hardware are CGI, which is nothing new and works a treat. However the characters appear to similarly be cel-shaded CGI wireframes, which means there’s no plasticity to their features. It limits their expressions and their bodily movements can occasionally resemble marionettes. As the episodes went on, I got used to it, but it was still less than perfect. The action scenes, however, are wonderfully suited to CGI, and these are second to none. The trike races in particular are thrilling.
The Blu-ray presentation is beautiful. Freedom features some of the best matte paintings I’ve ever seen. The futuristic architecture and barren landscapes are wonderfully detailed, sometimes resembling the work of the French artist Moebius. The sound is impressive also, apart from a glaring error that showed up in episodes four and seven, where the audio was out of sync with the visuals. I’ve never experienced this before on Blu-ray (or DVD for that matter), however in this instance I was able to switch over to the English dub, which didn’t suffer from the same problems. Hopefully this will be rectified in future pressings.
Despite the simplicity of the narrative, there is a great sense of exploration and discovery about Freedom that, at its peak, reminded me of ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’ (Taiyô no ko Esteban), excepting of course that this series only runs for seven episodes, as opposed to that classic 80s cartoon’s 39. It’s an entertaining piece of science fiction meets conspiracy thriller, and the unique visuals certainly leave their mark on the viewer.
The Freedom Complete Collection is available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Madman.Rating: