Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Christopher Homer
Date: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Release Date: Monday, July 19, 2004



What They Say
Hidden throughout the vast landscape of Wonderland lie the crystalline pieces of an entity called Omega, which once consumed whole worlds, but was shattered and scattered over land and sea. Now, Earl Tyrant has sent his minions out to gather the crystals in hopes of reuniting Omega. With its collected energy under his command, the conniving Earl will become the supreme ruler of the universe!

The Review!
Some moments show that there is some promise especially early on, but unfortunately it soon returns to the same old formula.

Audio:
After listening to the commentary on the previous disc and it's subsequent episode, I decided for this volume to listen to the English track. Like previously, due to the 5.1 track, there are no problems and it actually sounds a lot better than the Japanese at times as it sounds a lot clearer considering some of the background noises heard. This problem was in the previous disc as well though and when I listened to the Japanese track it was still there unfortunately, otherwise it's a very clear audio.

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 shining red background this volume, 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 various characters and instruments used in the series such as of Yuu, Lou (in both human and werewolf form) and the one off characters like Sagi and the Desolates, and of course Fungus in his original and giant forms. Also on this volume we have a section showing the Key Animation/Production Backgrounds of each of the four episodes - some stunning artwork is shown as again it's both in pencil and colour format, where everything from the corridors and the buildings to the Ciel Monolith and Fungus's mushroom based world are showcased. It's very beautiful some of the artwork to say the least.

The other big extra like last time is an English dub commentary, on episode 12 featuring Grant James (Fungus) and Lainie Frasier (Chocobaba). Unusually, Lainie commentating on this episode as Chocobaba didn't feature yet it was still a very good piece as similar to Volume 2 with Ed and his over the top Pist character, Grant hams it up with him switching to his Fungus voice on and off, which had me in stitches as whilst I'm not fond of the character, the voice was perfect and whatever qualms I may have the show, I absolutely loved the dub and this commentary was no exception - whilst it did the usual bits about other roles and their characters, it dealt with the VA's background and what other things outside of anime they've done - I was particularly amazed that Grant actually worked on Weird Al Yankovic's cult movie UHF - whilst maybe not a commentary about the show itself fully, it was still very informative and entertaining.

Content:
After mildly stepping into the FF:U world last volume, I wasn't either particularly impressed with the show nor particularly hated it. It was just...there. So I hoped that as I watched more volumes that it would start to get interested. And this volume at least early on seemed to change from the pattern that it set out as, but then fell back down to earth with a sigh.

Episode 9 starts off as pretty much the other eps have - the kids in a new area, this time a factory, and still trying to find their parents. The different here though is Kaze is actually with them from the start...and Lou is obviously ecstatic about this, which is definitely amusing - Lou seems to add a real spice to the cast to say the least. The Earl and his merry band are searching for the Omega as the Earl continues to annoy me with his bratty nature, but the factory introduces us to some drone like beings called The Desolaters, working on something called the Endless Project, which is basically like machines, they fix something up, then takes it apart, fix it up and repeat - if they stop work, they apparently die as is shown when the character Oscha takes control of the area and turns the block into a finished project - a giant drill like robot. Lou and Ai both aid as Kaze (and Chobi!) help defeat the monster completely with Final Fantasy victory music. The episode was definitely quite entertaining mainly because of Lou's interactions with Kaze and Ai, Yuu and Lisa's all wondering what the heck is going on...

...but then suddenly, just like that, Lou leaves the party. Kaze also vanishes as well so any hope I had of Kaze staying with them for a while rather than being the last minute saviour ended after one episode, and Lou, one of the few actually interesting characters of the series, has gone after just a few episodes herself. And unfortunately, this means we're back to square one as the next episode showed. Again, a new area but this time Ai and Yuu seem to spot their parents running into a mansion. The mansion inside turns into a jungle and after some amusement with Chobi eating some giant chilli peppers, the trio are separated - all of them are eventually captured by Herba, with a character called Sagi, a weird blue kid looking very out of place even in the world of Wonderland, tagging along with Lisa, who seems to recognise him from somewhere. The 'parents' was of course a trap set by Herba, but as expected though, Kaze appears out of nowhere (through one of Herba's portals) though this time they have to rely as well on a combo of Chobi and Poshepocket to escape the trap. The revelation of what Sagi was to Lisa though fell rather flat not to mention how Kaze got there through Herba's portal seemed rather improbable to say the least, as the show seems to have returned back to the episodic and predictable format from the last disc.

The next episode follows the same routine, however gives focus to Chobi, the chocobo friend following the main group. Here, they meet a weird old woman by the name of Chocobaba, who I supposed you'd call a Chocobo Ranger, as she's herding a mountain full of chobocos as Chobi obviously is interested in this area - Chocobaba is a weird lady and doesn't really answer any questions the trio have, but instead talks about the legend of the legendary Chocobo Ciel...a legendary chocobo because it won races...and could fly. It leads to what could have been a potentially sad moment when Chobi leaves to be with his own kind, but as they leave the area back on the Subway, they are attacked by another piece of the Omega, resulting in the three being separated. As Kaze shows up, Chobi senses danger and puts his foot on the Ciel Monolith and transforms into the Chocobo Ciel, which seems to be a transformers version of a Chocobo with bright white metallic wings - as Kaze fights the Omega piece, Chobi returns to his human friends and escapes with them on the Subway. The potential for at least a heart felt moment was ended as Chobi returned so quickly it wasn't surprising...or interesting.

The final episode though returns us back to the Earl quest to search for the pieces of Omega - whilst Herba and Oscha both appeared briefly in episodes 9 and 10 the main villains hardly had a look in this volume. Sadly, the humorous Pist and the mysterious Makenshi don't take the field as instead Fungus gets the attention, as he's the only one of the main villains who hadn't found a piece of Omega. Upset, he is led to a piece of his home world that hadn't been destroyed after Chaos descended. Not surprisingly, Yuu, Ai and Lisa are all there as well and with Chobi new abilities as Ciel and Kaze's appearance, they get into another scuffle with Fungus. Here, he shows some new abilities as in his home world, he's able to absorb the energy of the mushrooms to turn into a giant and smashes Kaze around for a bit. This battle is actually decent as whilst Fungus still isn't really either a comic villain or a threat, Kaze has to rely on a different strategy than his usual Magun summon attack as it doesn't affect Fungus, and is forced to combine two summons inside of Fungus to defeat him - but despite that, Fungus continues to restore himself and the resulting energy seem to cause Kaze to get stuck in that area as the main three escape...

If the last episode was supposed to be anticlimactic though, it didn't really work sadly. The main problem with the show again seems to be its weakness in both of its antagonists and protagonists. Lisa, after getting a little development last volume, is virtually invisible apart from a couple of small instances of her power, and Yuu and Ai continue to rarely do anything either - whilst the villains for the most part continue to be neither good villains or comic villains and fall into the stage of being either annoying or boring. The show's few interesting characters though also fall here as Lou leaves after one episode, we don't know much more of Makenshi or Kaze, and Pist didn't really appear either in this volume. The episodic formula continued as well which didn't help though the first episode was very promising until Lou left, and the last episode at least didn't end in the usual Kaze victory as we don't know what has happened to him so there is at least something to look forward to the next volume and hopefully the show will break the episodic formula as the Omega plotline continues to grow.

Summary:
I can't fault the show in terms of visuals or in vocals - it has a very good English dub which must be listened to at least once and just smile at some of the over the top voices like with Fungus, Lou and Pist. And for moments, the series is slowly beginning to grow as some episodes have more charm than others. However, the continuing predictability of the battles, the episodic formula, and the rather poor development of the main characters (both heroes and villains) still doesn't make this show as a must see for me. Unless the show begins to pick up and go away from the formula and focus on a plot (Kaze/Makenshi, the kids' parents and the Omega) instead if the episodic nature so far, it's going to be hard to recommend to anyone bar hardcore Final Fantasy fans.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening/Ending,Production Sketches,Key Animation Backgrounds,VA Commentary on Episode 12 with Grant James (Fungus) and Lainie Frasier

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.



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