Allison and Lillia (Season 2) Anime Review
Arison to Riria
Allison and Lillia
US Release By
13 25-minute episodes
2008-07-03 - 2008-10-02
Nineteen years have passed since the events of season one, and the two empires of Soux Bei Il and Roxche remain at peace, though there are still plenty of problems beneath the surface of the countries that comprise them.
Blissfully unaware of any of this is 15-year-old Lillia, daughter of veteran military pilot and madwoman extraordinaire Allison. Lillia's role in life is as much mother as daughter, given her mom's general lack of household skills and that her father apparently died in a conflict before she was born.
Lillia spends her vacations traveling around the continent with her childhood friend Treze. What she doesn't know about Treze is that his parents happen to be royalty in a country where only one heir is allowed, leaving him to lead a semi-secret life as a normal citizen while his twin sister is publicly acknowledged as heir to the throne.
Vacations in these families, however, seem to have a way of running into terrorists, hijackers, and all manner of international incidents.
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Season 2 of Allison and Lillia takes up 19 years after the adventures in season one left off, following Allison's 15-year-old daughter Lillia and her friend Treze through a trio of four-episode story arcs. It's got almost as much adventure, more satisfying multi-layered plots flavored with a shot of international politics, and a pair of teenaged protagonists who are almost as much fun as Allison and Wil, plus said troublemakers and their friends back as adults. The visuals seem smoother and more comfortable as well, and the voice cast is just as lively and fun. The positive adjustments compensate for the less-fun changes, so the second season would be almost as much fun as the first were it not for a completely pointless bit of murky morality early on that undermines the character empathy and a final episode that runs itself off a cliff at the very end for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
It hamstrings itself early on and ends on a maddeningly frustrating note, but season two of Allison and Lillia is otherwise another solid, fun chunk of adventure.
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Allison and Lillia is technically two seasons of one series, but for all practical purposes it's more like "Allison and Wil" followed by this sequel, "Lillia and Treze"--that's how the novels it's based on are set up--so for the sake of not blowing too much of the first season's plot I'm going to review them separately.
Season 2 of Allison and Lillia takes up nineteen years after the adventures in season one left off, following Allison's 15-year-old daughter Lillia and her friend Treze through their own series of adventures. The original cast is still around as well, occasionally joining in the chaos during this trio of four-episode story arcs. This review is going to be one gigantic spoiler as far as the end of the first season goes, so if you're at all sensitive to such things just plain don't read it.
I'll start right out and say that this season has one of the most spectacularly bungled finales I have ever seen--the plot literally drives off a cliff (and yes, I do mean literally). There's a last-minute twist that is so desperately screaming for an explanation it had me jumping up and yelling "What the hell just happened?!" at the TV. Given that the entire series is centered around relatively involved plots wherein all the bits and pieces eventually fit together to reveal the whole, skipping the final "and that's how it happened" moment is an insult to the series and about as frustrating as endings get. It also manages to abandon one major sub-plot entirely and gloss over a couple more.
The disastrous end just results in a bitter aftertaste; the series also forces in some unnecessarily murky morality early on that colors the whole experience. For the spoiler-averse, it's enough to say that there's a reveal that adds nothing to the narrative and severely hurt my empathy for the characters, and by extension my enjoyment of the whole thing. Honestly, it's so bad it nearly ruined the show for me.1
In essence, the two weaknesses of season one--a weak end and pointlessly murky morals--are repeated and magnified. Fortunately, most of the strengths are still present as well.
Lillia and Treze are a switch-up on the dynamic of Allison and Wil. Despite having the same voice actress as the young Allison, Lillia isn't a clone of her mother. Rather, she seems to have inherited the worst traits of both parents--Allison's craziness and brains (or lack thereof) and Wil's tendency to panic. Treze, in contrast, is competent, smart, and relatively confident.
This essentially sets up Lillia as the emotional and slightly nutty backup pushing Treze to get things done. She's not quite the glorious madwoman that Allison was, but she's still quite likable, particularly when she exposes some of the humorous scars that bad parenting has wrought. Of course, when you add in that nearly every other character in the series knows more about her background than she does--for no good reason I can discern--you end up feeling a little sorry for her while you're laughing. Seriously, Allison and Wil are awful parents.
Treze isn't nearly as much fun, since he's basically cool and competent in all areas, though Lillia is nutty enough to frazzle him on occasion for some good cheer. The romantic subtext is much more up front (and a little less fun) this time, but their dynamic is still one of a team, a definite appeal.
The one area this season matches its predecessor is the adventure department. From train hijacking to a royal hostage situation, there's no shortage of elaborate plots, clever escapes, and high-speed excitement. Neither of the two main characters have as much piloting prowess as Allison, but they still manage to work in a decent variety of vehicular shenanigans.
Some positive adjustments are that the politics behind the various schemes aren't quite as confusingly complex, and some of the villains are relatively sympathetic characters themselves. These two factors work together to make the larger-scale drama more directly engaging, which makes up for the somewhat lower volume of shooting and flying going on.
The other notable strength of the stories are the numerous tie-ins with the past. More or less everyone from the first season makes an appearance, including some more subtle connections that give a nice sense of continuity. It's worth the price of admission to see a far more competent adult Allison and Travas (nee Wil) back in action, as well as the still-passionate Benedict and Fi standing together through thick and thin.
The visuals aren't much different from the first season, though it does seem more comfortable and consistent, with fewer of the occasional awkward bits that marred the otherwise solid animation. The character animation is still only of average quality and the action comes in short bursts between relatively static scenes, but the attractive background art and expressive faces compensate well.
The acting is nearly identical--literally in the case of Nana Mizuki, who voiced the young Allison, as Lillia. Hiroyuki Yoshino as Treze is also likable. The new actors taking up the adult Allison and Travas (Houko Kuwashima and Toshiyuki Morikawa) are also standouts--definitely older, but still entirely recognizable. The same can be said of the music--the same lilting opening theme, and a variety of cheerful orchestral fare throughout.
So, wrapping up, we have almost as much adventure as season one, more satisfying multi-layered plots flavored with a shot of international politics, and a pair of teenaged protagonists who are almost as much fun as Allison and Wil, plus said troublemakers and their friends back as adults. The second season would be almost as much fun as the first were it not for a needlessly murky bit of morality undermining the character empathy and a bafflingly bungled climax. Still, though it hamstrings itself early on and ends on a maddeningly frustrating note, season two of Allison and Lillia is a solid, fun chunk of adventure.
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Topping the list of light adventure fare is the classic Nadia, which is quite similar if a little more fanciful. The same can be said of Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky, while Porco Rosso has a similar fascination with aircraft and WWI-era setting. Similarly alternate-world low-tech can be found in Last Exile, though that series is a bit heavier and more military in its theme. Though the mood is drastically different, I'll also mention Dennou Coil as another of NHK's "kids'" series with much broader appeal than you'd think.
Notes and Trivia
The story is based on the six books in the "Lillia and Treze Series" of light novels by Keiichi Shigusawa; they follow the four books in the Allison series, on which the first season is based. There is also a third set of three novels in the Meg and Seron series, following some of Lillia and Treze's friends.
There currently exists no manga adaptation; the story was adapted directly from the novels by NHK, Japan's public broadcasting equivalent of the BBC, airing on their high-def BS2 channel (it is, of course, in high-definition format as a result). There is, however, a piece of Nintendo DS visual novel software; the DS is held vertically like a book, with the text displayed on the screens overlaid on images from the story. The character designs and visual style of the anime adaptation are taken directly from the illustrations in the novels.
Footnote 1: I think the pointlessly murky morality is worth a substantial rant, relegated to this footnote because it's a significant spoiler:
The problem extends from the twist ending of the first season. That season left Wil defecting and abandoning his young wife to protect the world's newfound peace as a secret agent, a decision so poorly justified that it seemed completely at odds with his established character. Still, seeing superspy-Wil back with a bit of his personality intact was almost enough to make me forget the clumsy rationalization.
Travas is, I assume, intended to be a slightly tragic character who has forsaken his own desires to follow a duty to larger things. This is fine; it fits with his near-pacifist character as a youth and is addressed clearly and dramatically with a moral conundrum toward the end of this season. The problem is the first story arc, where it's revealed he was planning on letting an entire planeful of orphan children die at the hands of terrorists. Why? So far as I can tell, because it's more convenient. Certainly not necessary, because when it turns out his own daughter is on the plane he changes course and orchestrates a situation that saves the children and apprehends the villains. In fact, the series doesn't even kill them--it's that nice. So, he's cruel and self-serving.
This makes little sense and turns him into a flat-out villain for all practical purposes. It adds nothing from a story standpoint, only serving to sap all empathy I should have had for him and color the remainder of the series through the lens of "He was going to kill a planeful of orphans!" Not to mention makes you wonder what happened to him over the last 15 years and why Allison would still date a creepy, amoral spy. Basically it darn near ruined the whole series for me for no reason at all.
US DVD Review
Sentai Filmworks' aptly-named "Generation 2" box set of the entire second season has been announced for July 2011; it's listed as having Japanese (only) audio with an English subtitle track, along with clean opening and endings.
Probably 10-up, though that may even be strict depending a bit on how strongly you feel about the serious themes and occasional violence.
Violence: 2 - There is no gore at all, though a few people do die onscreen and there's discussion of more serious violence.
Nudity: 0 - Nothing whatsoever.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Little more objectionable than a romantic kiss.
Language: 1 - Hard to say without an official English translation, but likely little in the way of strong language.