Just to be on the safe side, Appellate Judge David Ryan watched this in his PS2.
The power of soil compels you! The power of soil compels you!
Ai and Yu (but no dogs named "Boo") return in the fourth collection of Final Fantasy: Unlimited episodes (out of seven) from ADV Films. As before, the two kids journey through the alternate reality of Wonderland in a search for their lost parents, accompanied by the mandatory buxom babe (Lisa Pacifist) and the mandatory silent, mysterious hero (Kaze). Meanwhile, the evil Earl Tyrant and his minions the Lords of Gaudium seek to recreate a powerful entity known as Omega, with whom they can destroy a lot of stuff and "feed" the mysterious and powerful entity called Chaos. You know—typical stuff.
(As usual, spoilers for the earlier episodes of the series will abound in this mid-stream review. Be warned!)
When last we left our heroes, they faced a now-invincible supersized Fungus, after a portion of Fungus's world had been inserted into Wonderland…
• Episode 13: "Meteor—Abominable Memory"
• Episode 14: "Omega—Reunion and Departure"
• Episode 15: "Jane—The Moving Ocean Puzzle"
• Episode 16: "Kigen Dragon—Behind the Smile"
I was less than thrilled with Phase 3 of Final Fantasy: Unlimited, but the show finally seems to be starting to pick up a little here. It's still below the level of excellence I've come to expect from SquareEnix's Final Fantasy video games—but suddenly, thanks to Episode 14, it's starting to make a little sense to me. The episodes in Phase 4 link together in a way the earlier episodes did not, leading to a more satisfying viewing experience. It's still almost mind-numbingly complex and surreal, but at least it's got an internal consistency about it now.
You'll never be able to accuse this series of lacking creativity in its visuals. The animation combines traditional cel animation with computer-generated images, all of which is fairly well done. There's a nice variety of settings and backgrounds in the series, so things never get stale visually. As with all Square offerings, the background music is exceptionally well done, setting a proper tone for the action and providing audio references to the original Final Fantasy video games.
ADV continues to do a fine job with packaging and presenting this series; the reversible cover and included character booklet are small but pleasant touches. Picture and sound are identical with the previous offerings: you can choose between the original stereo Japanese mix, or a dubbed Dolby 5.1 Surround English track. The English voice actors are competent, with the exception of Ai, who's unbearably screechy.
The offered extras are also identical to previous "Phases." A commentary track with two of the voice actors is provided; it is really more of an audio interview with the actors that happens to be played over one of the episodes. If you're interested in the craft of voice acting, it's interesting stuff. If you want to hear information about the series, it's useless. There are also production sketches and backgrounds, and the usual assortment of trailers and previews for other ADV products.
I'm heartened by this Phase 4 collection. After Phase 3, I had the feeling that the show was drifting aimlessly from one story to the next without any goal or direction. But all of a sudden the show seems to have completely shaken off its lethargy, and is clearly pointed towards an ultimate showdown, the parameters of which are already taking shape.
I'll admit it—I'm a bit hooked now.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Commentary by Voice Actors (Episode 14)
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