Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Final Fantasy Unlimited

Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     January 01, 2004
Release Date: December 09, 2003


Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #2
© ADV Films


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!
After a confusing and chaotic first volume, the series seems to move into its groove a bit and keeps the focus on the main characters as they continue to travel along the subway to new destinations.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series features a rather good stereo mix that has a number of well done moments of directionality across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout it and we had no issues with dropouts or distortion during regular playback. The English track is done in a 5.1 remix which from what we heard was done more for vocal separation than anything else.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001 and with the production values of Gonzo behind it, this is a sterling looking transfer. Colors are lush and fantastically vivid at times, particularly during many of the various CG sequences. A number of areas have various instances of fog or pollen floating throughout the air but there isn’t even a hint of break-up during it. Aliasing appears to be minimal if at all noticeable while there doesn’t appear to be any cross coloration at all.

Packaging:
The cover for this volume gives a look at the three adults in the series, with the light and dark natures of Kaze and Makenshi serving as the background while Lisa in her red and brighter fleshtones is the central figure. There’s no volume naming or numbering on the front cover but it does have the logo three times, whereas the spine is simple and lists just the series name and the “phase” volume numbering. The back cover is a heavy red piece with a couple of paragraphs worth of summary along the top. The lower half provides a strip with shots from the show and a list of the discs features while the bottom half focuses more on production information and some more artwork. The reverse cover has a an image of Yu and Ai holding each other while looking outward; the back cover lists the episode numbers and titles set against a white and blue image of the subway in action. The insert has four panels worth of character artwork and background information ranging from the good guys to the bad guys.

Menu:
The menu is heavy on the blue with a rotating background of imagery while the FFU logo swirls in the middle to the music. Providing a bit of a light tone though is various colored Chocobo’s from the end sequence that run across the screen at times. All of this is set to a rather somber and eerie piece of instrumental music from the show. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast.

Extras:
With the extras for this release, there’s a good mix but dub fans make out better. The opening and closing sequences are presented in their textless form, which does let you check out the animation much better. There’s a series of production sketches done in a video gallery but there’s also a full color one labeled as a Style Guide – and part one at that, where more is shown of the full end designs. For dub fans, episode eight on this release has a third audio track where Edwin Neal and Larissa Wolcott talk about the show and their various experiences as voice actors.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume through us for a loop in trying to get a handle on it, this set of four episodes seems to settle down a bit in its storytelling style. There’s nothing as strangely told as the first episode of the series was, though there’s hints back to it at times. Looking back at these four episodes a few hours after watching them, I still have a hard time really placing my thoughts on it. This series seems to be unlike most other ones I’ve seen Maeda direct and one that doesn’t have the feel of his others as well.

The series picks up where it left off, with Lisa and the two kids getting ready to head out of the Comodeen compound as it’s been compromised after the attack. Cid’s decided that he has to go check out the subway so he’s going to take them with him. With his latest creation now finished, the “Catherine”, they’ve got transportation that will take them down the ever shifting waterways of Wonderland to where the subway is going to leave from. Of course, they’re not going to get out of there easily since Fungus is still trying to salvage his reputation and he launches a new attack on them with his water style dragon.

In a theme that’s getting stronger as it goes along, not everyone makes it to the subway, which means the group gets back to the core trio plus a Chocobo. Always a Chocobo. With each episode, the group ends up in a new place where they invariably come across Kaze, aka the Black Wind, who then ends up saving the day with (an admittedly very shiny) his Magun after pulling out the appropriate shells for it. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of interesting things going on throughout the episodes, but there’s a certain formula that’s being followed at the moment.

Like the first set of episodes, each of the places in Wonderland that they stop is intriguing on its own. One world is seemingly nothing but desert but has hot columns of fire breaking through from the ground and up into the sky. Another has what seem to be cracks in the sky/ceiling where tons of sand continually pour down in columns, but the sand is actually the Soil that makes up the shells for the Magun. Each area is definitely unique in its own way and could probably carry an entire series unto itself.

The characters are slowly getting some definition as well, but it’s coming in very small doses. Lisa’s background is explored in tiny bits where she’s taught about sensing the spiritual nature of everything around her while Kaze seems to be getting some very meager doses of his memory back but they only provide more questions than anything else. Yu and Ai have almost nothing to really go with here, since there’s not a lot to their pasts since they’re so young nor do they have all that much to grow since that age isn’t really where character growth strongly happens. They’re key to the series since they’re the ones who started it all by trying to find their parents, but they are the least likely to be truly different by the end of the show.

One of the continually appealing parts of the show is the designs; while some of the animation does move into the childish area at times, I find myself really enjoying the shiny CG moments such as the Magun or even the opening sequence effects. Some of the bad pieces do show up though, such as when the fire columns shoot up, there’s some noticeable “8-bit” moments along the edges of the flames that just don’t look good at all. The meshing of the two mediums wouldn’t look good like this in a number of other shows, but with the strangeness of Wonderland, they manage to make a good chunk of it work – but not all.

In Summary:
Just as I went into the volume with an unsure feeling about the series, I hit the end of it the same way. It doesn’t feel as chaotic or jumbled as when I finished the first volume and had conflicting thoughts about it for a few hours, but it’s not really shaken me with its style either. There are elements that I like, but a lot of the show I just can’t pin down yet.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Voice actor/actress commentary,Production sketches,FF:U Style Guide (Part 1),Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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