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The Criminally Underappreciated Genius of Aeon Flux #cyberpunk

In a recent installment of our history of cyberpunk series, we looked at the influence of Japanese cyberpunk anime on the evolution of the genre. A US-based animation series that, while not cyberpunk-proper, also had a significant impact on cyberpunk (on The Matrix, for instance) was Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux.

Aeon Flux first appeared on MTV, as part of their ground-breaking Liquid Television series in 1991. It appeared on that program as six short, densely-packed films (with no dialog). From there, it became it’s own MTV show that ran for 15 episodes.

Aeon Flux was also made into a video game and even a live-action film, starring Charlize Theron, in 2005.

In a dizzying surreal, hallucinogenic, and extremely unique animation style, Aeon Flux tells the story of a sort of future ninja assassin, the titular Aeon, who is sent on a number of missions from her home country of Monica to infiltrate the neighboring totalitarian state of Bregna (lorded over by the sinister Trevor Goodchild). The show raises questions about morality, free will, freedom. choice, the state vs. the individual, ends justifying means, the nature of reality, and many other weighty subjects, all explored through experimental, mind-bending animation and brilliant visual storytelling.

Given the uniqueness of this series, and how influential and inspiring it was at the time, it is sad that it seems largely forgotten. Generations of younger fans of sci-fi, cyberpunk, and anime only know of Aeon (if at all) from the 2005 movie, which was a glorious flop.

Hopefully, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, this post will remedy that. The following video serves as a worthy introduction to the show.

[Caution: Adult themes and salt language ahead]


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1 Comment

  1. Aeon Flux remains the most interesting & unique video production I have ever seen; not just among animated series, but among all TV & movies overall. No other shorts come close, no miniseries or web video begins to approach it. Not just for the initial shorts (in which the protagonist dies in each episode & the only word spoken is “plop”) but the subsequent series as well, which expanded upon & explored the trans-human world established in the shorts. I particularly recall the colony of spider-people who appear as both a deadly threat and a food source, Trevor’s hypocritical transparency speech, & the falling spy episode.

    At the time I couldn’t help but wonder what the Monican agents’ mode of cloning/reinstantiation might be, & whether their memories are recoverable or perhaps even monitored continuously?

    I developed a vague impression that Trevor & Aeon’s relationship pre-dated the Bregna & Monica empires in some way, & yet the two of them each in their own way seemed to be used as tools by their respective communities.

    The 2005 movie felt no worse & no better than most other superficial cash-in action spectacles of the time, to me. It filled in some questions I’d had with exactly the explanations I’d expected, while offering nothing more to chew on, & utterly diminishing the previously diverse & alien world outside the two empires to an insignificance so complete that other places apparently weren’t worth even mentioning, much less showing any glimpses of.

    I think even now there’s no other story that captures even a fraction of the bizarro aesthetic popularized by the animated series. The best thing I could compare it to is Transmetropolitan; yet I feel that is more a strong setting with a less compelling story behind it. Comics like The Maxx had a strong story but for me they didn’t approach the captivating familiar-yet-disturbing visual appeal of some scenes in Aeon Flux. Certainly I have never enjoyed a war story as much. FLCL & Redline have visual appeal to spare but their stories are onion-paper thin.

    I don’t pay for media, as a rule; but I’d gladly shell out $4 an episode for more Aeon Flux, if it could actually continue the same theme without adding or subtracting anything. The temptation to explain or simplify would most likely ruin any attempts at a new production run, but perhaps with the right people on board, a network like Adult Swim might be able to pull off a satisfactory return to the most viscerally fascinating thing I’ve ever witnessed on a monitor…

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