Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Christopher Homer
Review Date: Monday, May 12, 2008
Release Date: Monday, May 17, 2004



What They Say
Meet Cid: Inventor, Mastermind... GENIUS.

In a mysterious parallel dimension called Wonderland, Ai and Yu are on a dangerous mission to rescue their missing parents. Lisa, master of the formidable Kigen Arts, protects them from the Earl Tyrant and his henchmen during a blitz of attacks. In Cid, however, the twins have just met their greatest ally yet! A brilliant inventor working with the rebel group the Comodeen, there is nothing existing in Wonderland that Cid cannot make or repair.

Meanwhile, Kaze, wielder of a summoning gun of awesome power, has no memory of his past. His only objective in life is to defeat his sworn rival, Makenshi. How can Kaze commit to protecting Lisa and the twins when he doesn't even know who he is or where he came from?

The Review!
A case of trying to too much with a very popular franchise which falls into the state of average.

Audio:
For this review, I listened to the DVD in Japanese. There is a nice crispness to the vocals that flow very well with no notable problems, although I noticed that at times the background effects seem to go over the lines that the characters are speaking almost drowning them out. Due to the rather amusing commentary on Episode 8, I also watched Episode 8 in English where it's presented in a nice 5.1 mix that flowed very nicely with again, no noticeable problems.

Video:
The video of FF:U at times appear incredibly stunning with some very unique and interesting aspects of CGI, but it doesn't seem to flow completed with the drawn animation, plus some combinations of colours where in a foggy or dark area the video seems a bit dull - however the transfer is almost faultless as the colours are incredibly lush when they occur (such as the showcasing of the villains in the later episodes and the CGI Summons) and is mostly a joy to watch.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with this disc.

Menu:
The menu is presented rather attractively on a bright blue background showcasing the FF:U logo swirling and chocobos running back and forth across it. Selections are easy to make with quick access/load times on the choices of episodes, language selection and extras (with the commentary track accessible from both the language section and the extra section) and each section has a different BGM from the series as well (dark and mysterious for the main menu, but more chipper for the other selections). Very unique.

Extras:
There are a decent selection of extras for Volume 2 of FF:U - as well as the standard opening and closing animation, we get two sets of productions sketches. The first is a selection of both colour sketches and pencil sketches of Lisa and Ai in particular as well as various other things like Chobi and various accessories. The second lot of sketches are in what is called the FF:U Style Guide, where there are colour shots of the summons that Kaze uses, as well as things like the Magun, the monsters in the series and the Poshepocket. The summons are pretty nice to look at and a must for FF fans as there are a lot of familiar names there...

The other big extra is the English commentary in episode 8, feature Larissa Walcott (Lou Lapus) and Ed Neal (Pist). The commentary briefly talks about the show, but in reality is a comic fest with Ed in particular having a lot of fun about his role and his impersonations - because of his over the top Pist voice in the commentary I had to go and watch episode 8 in English and found myself smiling a lot. Whilst there are brief points on what both VAs have done in the past, it's just something that is fun to listen to.

Content:
Being a player of the Final Fantasy games, I always debated whether to give this a shot but got mixed thoughts about it from friends and other reviews. However, with the show outstanding I decided to give it a shot and see for myself. At the moment, I'm still unsure about it, because whilst there are a lot of fun moments, there's nothing itself that draws me into the show completely that makes me a fan of it yet.

Episode 5 basically starts with a name used in every FF known to man, Cid, heading with Yuu, Ai and Lisa onto the subway in his latest creation Catherine, the name of his submarine. The main villain of the piece however, the young Earl, sends out one of his generals named Fungus, a rather colourful character to say the least, to chase on the waterway. The majority of the episode then focuses on the battle between Fungus and Cid, with Cid showing his skills on the water using attacks from the ship and a little help from their chocobo friend. However, Fungus is rather tough and he damages Catherine, which leads to an amusing part where Cid goes ballistic that Catherine was 'injured' and his 'Ultimate Hammer' technique. However, Fungus almost seems immortal as he keeps returning and with Cid preoccupied, he looks to finish off the party, but then the mysterious Kaze shows up and creates a summon to take him out.

The problem I thought seeing this was that I immediately thought this could be a pattern in an episodic way, which unfortunately turned out to be mostly true. The next episode does give a bit more interest because it focuses on the older girl Lisa. Their encounter with Fungus has left them stranded in the desert so another one of the main villains Herba sends some pumpkin like monsters to dispose of the party. We get some background on Lisa's past and we get to see what Lisa can do with her Kigen Arts, an ability which allows her to draw and use the powers of nature. Unfortunately what could have turned out to be something good for Lisa ended up with Kaze again having to save them and then leave mysteriously. Whilst Lisa getting fleshed out was good, the villain of the episode/Kaze turning up parts were predictable, and it didn't help that both the Earl and Herba are very annoying villains that are neither respectable as being evil or being a comical villain.

The formula continues, though once they return to the subway, they meet a young girl named Lou Lupis, where Ai and Yuu befriend and they find a device with Cid's logo on. As they think their luck is going to change, Lou warns not to get close to her because they'll be afraid of what she really is...a new entity then is mentioned called the Omega, scattered parts of a supreme being which is chasing after Lou and if reformed could destroy the earth. The Omega's Claw shows and chases after Lou who flashbacks to her world being devastated by the Omega. She asks if they have a mirror (which deus-ex machina Poshepocket provides) and using it, she shows what she meant earlier by confirms she's actually a werewolf. She tries to fight the claw but in vain, but Kaze shows up again and recognises the light - as the gang think Lou is killed, Lisa actually gets emotional and gets angry at the un-emotional Kaze. Whether it has an affect on him I'm not sure, but he creates a summon which just about defeats the claw, and Kaze saves Lou, and in true FF tradition, is now a member of the party.

Whilst the episodic nature and predictably hurt the disc, the final episode was the most entertaining, mainly due to the introduction of a new henchman, Pist, an extremely camp shark like creature who is very egotistical much to the annoyance of characters like Fungus and Herba. To add to the amusement, Lou seems to be in love with Kaze and we also get to see a bit of the mysterious white character Makenshi who sadly barely registered in this volume. We also get a bit more flashback to Kaze when Lou finds him and touches his hand - Kaze seems to have a romantic past with someone but it doesn't last as Pist attacks them. He's able to steal the Magun from Kaze whilst talking too much about himself which is pretty funny to be fair in both English and Japanese, they manage to get away thanks to Lou but Pist tracks them and incapacitated Lou and Lisa. Kaze baits him to use the Magun on him due to the amount of Soil in the area - it of course backfires as Kaze confirms only he can use the Magun, but when Pist returns back to the Earl, he mentions about the Omega, and the little brat gets both terrified and anxious, saying he wants to control the Omega...

There's a lot to say about the volume, both good and bad. On the plus side, it is a show that can make you smile because of the over the top characters and techniques, it's also very nice to look at despite the unusual mix of animation and CGI which you would think wouldn't fit very well. Also, there's definitely things to look forward to as the little hints here and there of Kaze and Makenshi, the new plot of the Omega and at least in Pist we have an enjoyable comic villain, whilst on the good guys side, Lou is at least interesting and her comic crush on Kaze has the potential for some good humour, and Lisa got a little fleshing out so hopefully she can now do provide a bit more action instead of Kaze always showing up. Unfortunately, the negatives do outweigh the positives - namely that the story isn't going anywhere much as the kids are searching for their parents, they find themselves in new locations, monsters chase after them, Kaze saves them, repeat. The final episode did change slightly so there is hope that it will change, but another problem was that the two kids Yuu and Ai barely did anything in this volume, and if they are considering the main characters that's not a good sign. Also, most of the villains themselves with the exception of Makenshi and Pist are really annoying - Fungus, Herba, Oscha and the Earl didn't have any redeeming qualities as either threats or as comic villains, as whilst Pist may have been as over the top as Fungus, he was much more amusing and more of a threat than the others, and protagonists need to be as strong as antagonists for a series to work, and so far, it isn't showing that way.

Summary:
In FF:U defence, there is a lot of potential now to work with thanks to the additional of the Omega plot. With some decent character additions in Pist and Lou, plus some slight development of Kaze and Lisa, the seeds are growing for the show to break out and become enjoyable, and for some moments in this volume, the signs are definitely there. Unfortunately at the moment, it's still suffering from it's episodic nature and predictability, and due to the leads not doing much and most of the villains suffering from not being interesting, the show is currently nothing more than an average series which would only really appeal to FF fans. However, the animation and CGI continues to be good and the music and extras are strong so the DVD release has a lot of benefits...outside of the plot.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Ending,Production Sketches,FFU: Style Guide,Voice Actor Commentary

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers - Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.



Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Final Fantasy Unlimited