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.