Fortune Quest Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, March 10, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001
What do you get when you have a knight who doesn't fight, a thief who doesn't steal, and a navigator who can't use a map? A fantasy series that took me four days and several attempts to get through the first five episodes.
I only listened to the Japanese audio on this one. The audio was clear, but a little flat sounding. I'm not exactly sure, but I'm willing to bet that the entire show was mono. No dropouts or clarity problems, so it gets the B-.
This is another five-episode collection pushed onto a DVD-5. While there wasn't anything wrong with the show, it just looked flat and lifeless. This was probably true for the source material as well. Again, like the audio, merely average.
The cover art is quite nice. Typically Anime Works is good at getting access to the artwork used on the Japanese releases, but this time, they're using their own design, and it looks better than the R2 DVD. I really like this cover. So why the "C"? Simple. The text on the back cover completely misrepresents the show. "Powerful sorcery, subtle stealth and elven wizardry" are nowhere to be found in this show. If I had actually expected to watch a "perilous journey to Mount Terrason", I'd be really disappointed - even more disappointed than I was with no expectations.
After nice menus for Knight Hunters and Gokudo, I was at first let down by the silent, static menus of Fortune Quest. Even though there is no music or animation, the images that on the menus are very nice. However, the chapter selection screen is poorly designed. The chapters for an individual episode are laid out like locations on a traveller's map. It's a nice look, but it took me a good five minutes to figure out how to switch episodes! Pushing left and right cycles through the in-episode chapter stops. Pushing up and down also cycles through the "Main Menu" selection. To advance chapters, you have to highlight "Main Menu" and then push left (previous episode) or right (next episode.) When you get to the next episode, the selection is reset to the first chapter stop of that episode, so you'll have to reselect "Main Menu" to move to another episode. To get to episode four from episode one, for instance, you have to push up ("Main Menu" is below the chapters, but you push up to get there?), right, up, right, up, right. I guarantee you'll mess up at least once trying to punch that in. This is bad, counterintuitive menu design.
There are no extras on this disc except for some trailers. Considering that we're getting five episodes here, I'd give the trailers a solid C and let it go, but these are the ugliest trailers I've ever seen. I've seen VCDs that are more properly encoded than these rejects from the Lego Universe. Every episode has blocky artifacts that would make me afraid to buy any of these titles. I'm not saying that they should have sacrificed bits from the show to give a little extra oomph to the trailers, but there were other options avaialable, such as leaving some or all of them off the disc, or upgrading to a DVD-9, a step that might have helped make the show look a little better as well. These trailers may not the worst looking thing I've ever seen on a DVD, but they definitely belong in the Hall of Shame.
(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)
I don't get Fortune Quest.
I wanted to, but the show never connected with me on any level. It wasn't as irresponsibly bad or incompetent as Knight Hunters, but it lacked even the basic entertainment value of that show. Fortune Quest is not exactly bad. It's actually competently directed and the plot goes in interesting directions. But many times during the show, I found myself asking why I was still watching.
Basically, Fortune Quest is about a band of young adventurers. I guess that's it. They do some stuff, and hang out, and then do some more stuff.
The first thing that occurred to me when I started watching the show was that the party was already formed. We are spared the traditional party-forming episodes of fantasy anime series, where whole episodes are dedicated to nothing more than adding a new character to the party. The Fortune Quest TV series is based on a manga and follows a short OVA series which has yet to be released in the US. The TV series is a good jumping-on point for new viewers, though. All of the characters are re-introduced, and any relevant background information is presented clearly.
The story starts with our young heroes back at home after a round of adventuring. The party consists of poet Pastel, who doubles as our narrator. Ostensibly, she's the navigator of the group, though her map skills are questionable. The gang keeps her around because she's cute, cheerful, and the money she makes selling stories of adventure is their main source of income. Knight Clay and thief Trapp are the brains and brawn of the operation. There's a young elvish wizard, Rumi, and a white dragon named Shiro that looks more like a puppy. Two other party members are currently away taking care of personal business.
The first disc in the series covers a complete story arc, which includes the discovery of a mysterious artifact, the abduction of a party member, a journey to discover the secrets of Shiro's heritage, and a battle against a powerful monster. If all that sounds exciting, I'm sorry to say that it really isn't. The entire first episode, for instance, takes place at the homes of Trapp and Clay, and is spent mostly introducing their families. When Trapp gets kidnapped, the gang is worried, but they know that he isn't in any real danger. The perilous trip to Mount Terrason isn't so perilous after all. Along the way, there are convenient "shacks" (which are more like luxurious chalets) in which to spend the night, and the ascent up Mount Terrason is facilitated by a long flight of stairs to the summit. Driving to New Orleans on the Interstate is more treacherous. It is exactly this lack of danger and urgency that undermines Fortune Quest. Their adventure seems more like a Boy Scout camping trip than a real quest. During the course of the adventure, Trapp doesn't ever steal anything, Clay rarely gets into a fight, and everyone seems reluctant to let Pastel hold the map. Mostly-annoying Rumi is the only useful member of the party, casting a single spell and playing her tambourine.
Most of the humor derives from anachronisms (TV shopping, cybernetic carrier pigeons) and references to role-playing video games (Clay's grandfather chides him for his low skill level.) Unfortunately, these jokes don't work. I suspect that in the OAV series, the humor was more intense, aimed at an older audience familiar with Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Perhaps this version of the show is skewed to a younger viewer, or perhaps the writers simply ran out of good jokes. Whatever the reason, the few running gags in Fortune Quest fall flat. The best joke in the series is the conceit that selling stories about adventures is more profitable than adventuring itself. This was true in the middle ages, it was true in the Wild West, and it's true here as well. Sometimes the telling is better than the story.
Fortune Quest does have a few good points. For the most part, the characters are appealing, if a bit generic. All of them have genuine affection for one another, even when they profess exactly the opposite. Clay and Trapp are both intimidated by their famous grandfathers, but secretly idolize them. The grandfathers get to return to the glory of their youth one more time, in what is arguably the best part of the show. The scene where they discuss the girl they used to love was priceless. The party has become a kind of close-knit family, and they are sincere about their feelings for each other. In fact, there isn't a trace of irony to be found in Fortune Quest. This sincerity is perhaps the show's greatest asset. Instead of a dysfunctional group of mismatched wiseacres, we get a nice group of well-adjusted young people, who trust each other implicitly and talk openly about their feelings. It may not make for good drama, but I wouldn't worry about letting young children watch.
In all, we're left with a cute, harmless show, which isn't quite cute enough to be entertaining and too harmless to be exciting. Fortune Quest is probably best suited for the kiddies, but I expect that even they will be a little bored with it.
Panasonic Panablack TV, Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)
Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: C
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: D
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fortune Quest