Fantastic Children follows the story of a group of mysterious white haired children and their hunt to find one individual, Tina, a search which not only spans Europe but has been going on for hundreds of years. The year is now 2012 on Papan Island where a young boy named Thoma meets Helga, a quiet girl who has runaway from her orphanage in order to find a place she has always drawn in her paintings. Thoma is a martial arts student, living a quiet island life but he is yet to know about the amazing story that is about to begin.
Much to the series credit, the remarkable story of the children of Befort is told from a number of different perspectives; from Thoma who is trying to help Helga to reach her destination, from a detective who is searching for missing children and from the children of Befort themselves. If this sounds like a big story, it certainly is. Ambitious in its story telling, creative in its art, Fantastic Children is a fantasy adventure story, shifting paces between quiet island life to frenzied chase scenes with remarkable ease.
In this volume, Detective Cooks stumbles upon an old photo of the children. The date on the back is a hundred years ago but the children do not appear to have aged a day. History records that they appear every hundred years or so and at the age of eleven, suddenly die only to appear a hundred years later. Cooks had originally been assigned to investigate the disappearance of one of these children, Flo, but he is quickly drawn in to the mystery as he discovers a link between the children, a mysterious black stone and a secret organisation.
There are two touching scenes in this volume. The constant running is starting to take its toll on the children who are being hunted by mysterious forces. Hasmodye, one of the children of Befort remembers one of his past reincarnations, memories of being surrounded by a family who loved him and being able to love in return. An exhausted Hasmodye wants to stay there but Aghi, the leader of the children of Befort is scared of losing Hasmodye so forces him to remember who he really is. This is the fate of the children of Befort – to have no family, friends or lovers – always alone. It’s Aghi’s actions which made me wonder – what is wrong with wanting a loving family? Even Flo, whilst searching for Tina, sees her father through a café window and runs away in fear of being recognised. He looks worn out and Flo remembers him from when she was a child, the warmth of parental love, all that has been left behind. No matter how mature they may appear, these kids are essentially still children at heart.
There are potentially many pitfalls with such a complex story, but so far the series has not fallen into any. The animation is lush, switching from Victorian cityscapes to lush island tropics. The character design is subtly different for all the children which adds to their personalities- leader Aghi with his narrow eyes is formidable and unrelenting whilst Hasmodye is gentle and soft spoken. Even though we don’t know who these children really are, or where Helga is actually trying to reach, it is still an intriguing story and an enjoyable experience to watch.
Watching Fantastic Children is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle which can only be solved one piece at a time, but with no cover to guide you, the end result could be anything. But I for one am hoping that it will be something magnificent.