ADV Films // 2003 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // December 16th, 2004
Just in case you didn't pay attention during the last five discs -- or if you're merely a bit brain damaged -- Ai, Yu, Lisa Pacifist, the dirt fetishist Kaze, Cid and the Comodeen gang, and Chobi the Flying Chocobo are back for three more episodes of fun in Wonderland.
(As always, spoilers for the prior Phases follow. Read on at your own risk if you plan to watch the whole series...)
When last we left the crew of Final Fantasy: Unlimited, things were really starting to pick up. In fact, it seems as if the first 13 episodes don't really count anymore; the series really started in Episode 14. It's either that, or they finally figured out that the story arc is the most important part of a 25-episode anime series. Whatever it was that happened over there in Tokyo, the episodes on the Phase 4 and Phase 5 discs were progressively better in quality as the show went along.
Well, all good things must come to an end...
Phase 6 backtracks a bit, providing three okay episodes that just kind of meander along within the overall arc of the series. It feels like those time-killer X-Files episodes that used to be thrown in toward the end of the season because they couldn't overkill the alien/conspiracy stuff before the season-ending cliffhanger: okay, but decidedly unthrilling.
Your three episodes contained herein are:
* Episode 20: "Yu -- The Secret of Gaudium"
Disconcertingly, the Ocean Puzzle dumps Jane the Submarine right on the doorstep of Gaudium, Earl Tyrant's floating castle. To make matters worse, our hero Yu is swept away by Chobi (who's on a bit of a crack binge, apparently) and deposited within Gaudium. Whereupon he just happens to run into -- yep, you guessed it -- Earl Tyrant. Isn't this the sort of thing that should be saved for series-ending big finales? Oh, but we're not through here. Earl shows Yu a couple of his brainwashed henchpeople: Yu's missing parents! And then it all goes away, the power of soil is invoked, and so forth, and nothing gets solved at all. Sigh.
* Episode 21: "Cactus -- The Wandering Sea"
If you're going to make a Final Fantasy game, or any Final Fantasy product for that matter, you need three things: chocobo, cactuars, and moogles. Well, here's the cactuar episode. Adrift on a sea of sand, Ai's monster of a clutchpurse coughs up a funny little cactus creature. After a great deal of pursuit, and several needle-related injuries, the gang discovers that the Cactuar Nation is imperiled by a wandering sea -- called, ironically, The Wandering Sea -- that occasionally pops in to drown them all. And it's on its way back. Everyone pitches in to help the little cactuars save their desert home.
* Episode 21: "Moogle -- Long Lost Memories"
...And here's the moogle episode. Jane the Sub moves into an Ocean Puzzle square that looks for all the world like a placid Japanese village. Except for the big ol' pinnacle in the middle of town that looks like an organic radio tower. (Which is exactly what it is, mind you.) The tower emits radio waves that cause people to become permanently locked in their memories. The kids, who don't have as many memories as the adults (being younger), are among the few unaffected by the rays. They come across a moogle named Moogle, who claims to know Kaze. Can he help Kaze snap out of his memories, fix the Magun for him, and free everyone from their happy memories? And wasn't this a Kids in the Hall movie a few years back?
So that's what you get in this three-episode set. Here's what you don't get: any real mention of Omega or Chaos, any substantive action from the Lords of Gaudium (save for Pist, who's operating the Ocean Puzzle), or any advancement of the whole "Earl Tyrant wants to take over the world" plotline. That's why this set was a bit disappointing. After solidly building those storylines brick by brick in the last few episodes, the show quits and breaks for lunch.
I just don't understand the method and madness behind this show anymore. It's so across-the-board in its storytelling that it's profoundly frustrating in the end. It's really a shame, too -- the animation is very well done, and the seeds of a very solid, very interesting story are there. But every time I watch it, I wind up wishing it had been Cowboy Bebop. Well, there's one more Phase to go -- maybe it will pull out a miracle finish. We'll see.
Video and audio are identical to past offerings. You have your choice of a solid ADV-mixed 5.1 Dolby Surround dubbed English mix, or the original Japanese 2.0 stereo mix. Colors are vibrant and well-balanced, and picture quality is quite good. A collection of extras basically similar to past offerings' extras are included with this set, but they're a bit skimpier this time. The printed character booklet is a two-page booklet; with all the prior discs, it was a tri-fold booklet. The production gallery doesn't have many stills that are specific to these episodes. The "FF:U Style Guide" is really just a series of color reference charts for certain characters, used by the cel shaders to keep the animation consistent.
On the other hand, the commentary track with two of the voice actors is the best yet. This time, our guest commentators are Robert Newell, who voices Cid, and J. Hudson Brownlee, the voice of Moogle. They're pretty witty and entertaining in their commentary -- although as before, they don't really have anything to say about the show itself. They're only involved with the packaging and reformatting of the show for American audiences, not with the original production.
Six down, one to go, and this series is still kind of a mess. I really expected better from SquareEnix; this is their franchise property, after all. This disc was the kidney-punch, though. The show had just about sucked me in, but watching this meandering trio of episodes was like watching an alcoholic fall of the wagon -- but just a little bit. Not a full-on clean-the-bar-out bender; just a couple of inappropriate glasses of wine.
The cactuars are pretty cute, though. They should get their own show.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Ryan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary by Voice Actors (Episode 22)
* Production Gallery
* Final Fantasy: Unlimited Style Guide (Part 2)
* "Clean" Opening and Closing
* Reversible Cover
* Phase 5 Booklet
* Review -- Phase 1
* Review -- Phase 2
* Review -- Phase 3
* Review -- Phase 4
* Review -- Phase 5