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Case Number 05329: Small Claims Court

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Final Fantasy: Unlimited: Phase 3

ADV Films // 2003 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // October 7th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Dave Ryan wants his own chocobo. But only one of the flying ones.

The Charge

Ai and Yu Hayakawa are a set of fraternal twins searching for their missing parents. They travel through an alternate universe called "Wonderland," accompanied by a buxom young woman named Lisa Pacifist, her sentient clutchpurse, a pet chocobo (think ostrich) named Chobi, and (occasionally) a dark and mysterious guy named Kaze, who's got a dirt fetish of some sort. Actually, he has a special weapon, called a magun, that can summon otherworldly entities to do his martial bidding if he mixes the right soil cylinders together, and recites some bad poetry.

As Phase 3 commences, the gang is accompanied by Lu (short for Lupin), a young weregirl.

The Case

This is the third of the Final Fantasy: Unlimited releases from ADV Films, containing episodes 9-12 of the show (spoilers ahead…be warned!):

• Episode 9: "Oscar—The Endless Project"
The gang discovers a factory where faceless workers assemble, then disassemble, little widgets. The evil puppet/bat thing/servant of Earl Tyrant, Oscar, who is on the hunt for Omega pieces, upsets their little world by removing the "disassemble" portion of their day. A giant robot is constructed, and (as always) Kaze fires dirt at him. Lu decides to split and follow Kaze, on whom she apparently has a big crush.

• Episode 10: "Mansion—The Memory of Sagiso"
The gang thinks they see Ai and Yu's parents heading into a giant castle/mansion, and follow them in. It's full of plants and stuff, and another of Earl's minions, the Poison Ivy-like Herba. Lisa encounters a doe-eyed little boy who begs her not to leave him "again." Confused, she nevertheless tells him she won't leave him. Herba tries to kill everyone; Kaze shows up and fires dirt.

• Episode 11: "Ciel—The Departure of Chocobo"
The gang pops up in a grassland world, whereupon they meet Chocoimo, sister of Chocobaba, and her herd of chocobo. Like her sister, she won't give a straight answer about anything—including whether she's actually the sassy old maid featured on those funny Hallmark cards. Chobi makes some new friends, and decides he wants to stay. After the gang leaves, Omega attacks the ghost train. Guess who shows up and fires dirt at it? Chobi also helps, in an all-new form!

• Episode 12: "Fungus—Eternal Life"
Earl's minions have done a good job getting Omega shards for him, except for poor incompetent Fungus. But all that's about to change. Oscar informs Fungus that a piece of his (Fungus's) homeworld has made it into Wonderland—and whenever Fungus is in his world, he's indestructible! Kaze and the gang show up, and several rounds of dirt are fired, but Fungus is too strong. How will the gang escape? Tune in next time!

First and foremost—the creators of Final Fantasy: Unlimited really need to lay off the brown acid. It's bad stuff, man. Okay, admittedly this anime series is based largely on the surrealism of Alice in Wonderland—but man…

On the other hand, I had a much more positive response to this series than the preceding judges did. But that doesn't mean I had a positive response to it. I am familiar with Square's Final Fantasy series of role-playing games for the Playstation 2, considered to be among the finest ever made in the genre. Final Fantasy games are immense, richly detailed, and always have intricate, complex plotlines that take hours to unfold.

Unfortunately, the compelling storytelling so prominent in the videogames is utterly absent here, in this anime series derived from them. It's nice to see the recurring elements from the game series pop up in the anime—things like the chocobos, classic "aeons" from the games like Ixion and Bahamut, the Omega Weapon, excessively complex projectile weapons, and so on—but they come off as just tacked-on elements designed to appeal to fans of the series.

It was no problem picking this series up without seeing the first eight episodes, because there's almost no story arc to speak of here. The kids are looking for their parents; Wonderland is a weird place; Earl Tyrant wants to rebuild Omega. That's about it. Hardly compelling, and barely fleshed out in any event. This, more than anything else, is what's most disappointing about Final Fantasy: Unlimited. It fails to live up to Square's normally outstanding storytelling abilities.

In general, it is a pretty show to look at, at least. The various bizarre environments are interesting and unique. The backgrounds are better-drawn than the foreground animation, though. That's somewhat disappointing. The animation, a blend of traditional cel shading and computer-generated images, is inconsistent. Sometimes it's quite impressive, but for every stunning image there's an equally routine and visually dull image somewhere along the line.

Square's video games have always had outstanding pseudo-orchestral scores, and this anime series continues that tradition. The music is fantastic, containing many nods to the games' music as well as all-new themes and pieces.

I'm just as impressed with ADV's job packaging this series as my colleagues were. The reversible cover is a nice touch, the booklet is informative, and it's just plain pretty. The "commentary" track, however, isn't so much a commentary as it is an interview with two of the voice actors played over one of the episodes. It's sort of interesting, but ultimately unrelated to this particular anime series.

Final Fantasy: Unlimited is, ultimately, a bit of surrealistic eye candy. It's harmless enough, but never really grabs the viewer's attention, and never makes us want to learn what happens to these characters. The world has come to expect a lot from Square, and unfortunately this series just doesn't live up to those standards.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genre:
• Anime

Distinguishing Marks

• Reversible Cover
• Phase 3 Booklet
• Voice Actor Commentary (Episode 12)
• Production Sketches
• Key Animation Backgrounds
• Trailers/Previews

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Review of Phase 1
• Review of Phase 2








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