This female secret agent made an impression on John in his youth, but how does the sci-fi series hold up today?
Æon Flux (1992-95)
I remember it was the early 1990s and after school, around my usual dinner time (6pm), BBC2 transmitted a programme called Liquid Television. This programme originated from MTV featuring a diverse collection of animated shorts. This was where I first saw Æon Flux.
The opening titles were short but striking. A fly lands on a beige surface that is soon revealed to be the skin of a face. The fly walks up to the eye which is pure white. As the fly transverses the eyelashes, the eyelid half closes trapping the fly in the lashes, much like a Venus fly trap. The eye’s pupil rotates into view and focuses on the fly as the short’s title, Æon Flux, appears beneath.
This striking but short animation featured at the beginning of every Æon Flux episode in the subsequent programmes. Liquid Television ran for a total of six episodes and Æon Flux only ran for a tantalising two minutes. This meant the completed story ran for only twelve minutes in total. But what twelve minutes they were.
Set in a slightly odd future, our protagonist, Æon Flux, is scantily clad in a purple leather outfit even though there’s barely enough material to even call it that! She is a female agent with an amazing set of skills in both physical ability and gunmanship. Let’s not forget the final part of her signature look, the hair that frames her face with two large curls.
The opening scene of the first animation features her standing out in the open gunning down a whole squadron of enemy soldiers. After the attack is finished she gazes up at a bright room at the top of the tallest structure in the complex. We learn this is her objective and she is on an assassination mission.
I was hooked just by watching the first two minutes and I eagerly awaited the next week’s instalment. It was only when the final episode played out the full twelve-minute animation as a whole, that the plot line made more sense.
Despite rooting for Æon Flux, you start to wonder if the other main character of the story, a man called Chairman Trevor Goodchild, who would play a huge role in later seasons, was actually the hero and Æon was the “bad guy”.
This original short, for me, was brilliant, I loved everything about it. The futuristic world is fantastic including the slightly strange but beautiful art design. Everyone is drawn as thin, slender people. I especially like the design of the enemy soldiers with their unique helmet designs and the huge shoulder pads as part of their uniform.
This first animation on its own is referred to as season one. The second season of Liquid Television returned with five new episodes running for just five minutes each. Two of the major points of the original animation were carried over into this following season.
Firstly, Æon Flux dies in almost every episode. I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler but it’s a point that must be made. In some episodes, she’s gone in the first minute!
Secondly, these stories are told without any spoken dialogue. Whilst there are grunts, groans or laughter, Æon and the rest of the cast stay silent and the story is told via the visual medium alone.
Some of the shorts of season two ended on a tantalising cliffhanger which left the story unfinished and left me wanting just a few more minutes to round things up.
When Æon Flux returned for a third season, the format had changed once again. Season three consists of ten half-hour episodes. The lack of continuity was continued with Æon’s death in every episode but now for the first time, characters spoke.
The regular appearance of Trevor Goodchild in previous shorts promoted him to become Æon’s nemesis/lover in this season. The stories which were quite fantastical in the first place became even more bizarre.
Many people, including myself, don’t fully understand every episode but the director is happy for you to take away your own meanings from the show.
The production process also changed due to the amount of animation now needed for this much longer season. Whilst the visual aesthetic was still the same, the animation style had changed. In doing so, I feel the show lost some of its charm.
Created, written and directed by Peter Chung, an animator frustrated by the limitations of the characters whilst working on Nickelodeon’s Rugrats cartoon, Æon Flux regularly featured graphical violence and different themes of sexuality.
Peter said he wanted to create a show that hadn’t been inspired by anything that had come before it.
Another six-episode season was considered but failed to materialise. In an interview in 2005 to promote the complete DVD collection, Peter Chung stated he had plans to create a straight to DVD animated feature, but again nothing has been heard since.
In my opinion, I don’t think Æon Flux always works in these longer thirty-minute shows and I prefer the first two seasons.
If you want to experience Æon Flux for yourself, check out the 2005 DVD collection from MTV that contains the complete set of animations and a decent little set of bonus features.
Here is the original twelve minute short that introduced us to the world of Æon Flux.