Animated Series Review by Diana DeRiggs, MaceVindaloo
Directors: Howard E. Baker, Peter Chung
Producer: John Andrews
Rating: Victory Star Destroyer
Aeon Flux is publically a model for a foot fetish magazine. She is also apparently a double-agent, mercenary, and terrorist. The geographically interlaced countries of Monica and Bregna are separated by a high-security wall, complete with booby-traps and stormtroopers to prevent the Breens from crossing into the relative freedom/anarchy of Monica. Chairman Trevor Goodchild, medical doctor and leader of Bregna not only doesn't get understand why the Breens are not more grateful -- they don't have hunger, poverty, joblessness, crime anymore -- but he hires Aeon for spy and terrorist work within Bregna, and has sex with her on a regular basis in various kinky and off-beat guises.
Sound familiar? Just any sexy, twisted spy/deception film? The difference is the surreal nature of the stories, and the fact that it's an animation. Created in the very early-1990s, it was released alongside other "Liquid TV" shows, originally sponsored by MTV as a sort of contest/project and broadcast for late-night viewing. Aeon Flux grew into a 10-episode classic, along with the original 6 very short episodes first season on "Liquid TV," where she got into extreme situations and died at the end and the 5-episode second season of short films. The shorts had no dialogue, or maybe very little, and this was Chung's effort to see how far he could push complex stories without any spoken diologue. He wanted to force the viewer to concentrate directly on the graphic elements for clues about what's going on ...
There is plenty of "graphic" to ogle -- Aeon herself has a shockingly gaunt, lanky fashion model body and wears "practical" pleather clothing with sleeves/gloves and crotch and boots and weapon holsters, and that's about all. She has a weird, demonic hairdo which falls to pieces when she's in love or it gets wet. Things violently and often mindlessly explode and billow with smoke and noise in comicky color and sound in her wake, and her jolting, jagged, yet elegant moves (kind of like an athletic spider) do catch your eye really very effectively in Chung's colorful, ornate world. Whether she's running over the top of the concrete wall separating the two nations, being transported behind enemy lines in a coffin drop, shooting explosives while singing to herself about "danger boy," taunting Trevor, or pulling her "work clothing" on -- or off -- Aeon is addictive to watch. Her relationship with Trevor is similarly rubbernecking invoking -- who's in control here, anyway?
Peter Chung's "experiment" has been referred to as "American Animé" ... and let's face it, the Japanese can do a nice job on some of the animé genre. But Aeon Flux is creepy, intelligent, sexy, and great stuff; another fan has commented, "This is what animé can be once it cracks puberty." These days, there is much more of the edgy, grown up animé with good soundtracks to view, but in 1991, it was a revelation. In a sense, this seems the first of the more extreme stuff, where the heroine can be drawn to such an extent that she becomes hideously ugly to the eye, and where sex becomes a visual nightmare. I used to get home from work at 4am and be too wound up to sleep ... I'd turn on MTV to catch this show and let it bend my pliable mind. Hey, anything that takes the place of hallucinogens yet is still bizarrely entertaining is good, right?
It's an American-made product made by Chung, who is from Korea, and I especially liked that we aren't seeing something that has been filtered through a Japanese cultural lens, then fed back to us. That's the most annoying part of Japanese manga and animé ... that and the icky voices. Although many fans decry when Aeon Flux started to have dialogue, I don't think it detracts from the confusing nightmare qualities of the episode stories. I do like the voices of Denise Poirier and John Lee as Aeon and Trevor. Nearly everyone else is billed as "additional voices" -- remember that this was experimental and likley they wrangled as many favors as they could to save on time/money for voices. Also, back in the 1990s, voice actors were not respected as they are now.
The drawing style has been called "Heavy Metal/ Japanimation"; paired with a techno soundtrack, the edginess is actually felt as well as heard. The writing is solid among all the surreal sets and stories. The opening is especially poetic:
That's Trevor and Aeon talking to each other ... pillow talk? Mission code? Or both?
It was good that Chung stopped making these after 10 episodes. As beautifully and disturbingly surreal as the mind and world of Aeon Flux is, there are limits which should always be observed, including this one: leave with a bang. It is as Aeon herself would have wanted it, considering how many times she died in the first two seasons of the non-talking shorts!
Aeon Flux is available on partly on DVD (including many illegally made bootlegs of digitized VHS files) and VHS formats. There is an accompanying book called The Herodotus Files, which are satisfyingly twisted and surreal, too. We hear rumors that Charlize Theron has been signed to play Aeon in some movie adaptation, but you know what? Live action won't do what Aeon Flux did, and no Hollyood script could hope to capture the eerie logic and beauty of Bregna/Monica or it's desperate people. We were fortunate enough to have experienced Aeon in all her scary "American Animé" glory, and we feel blessed enough already.
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