Judge Dave Ryan is now thoroughly hooked on this anime series that's tangentially related to the SquareEnix videogame series.
Final Fantasy: Unlimited—now with 75% less dirt fighting!
Final Fantasy: Unlimited continues with the fifth of seven volumes of episodes. (Henceforth, each disc contains three, rather than four, episodes.) If you've followed the show this far, you know the drill: Ai and Yu Hayakawa, a pair of twins, are searching for their parents in the alternate reality of Wonderland; a place of mystery and surrealism. Along the way, they've accumulated a motley crew of companions: large-breasted Kigen magic user Lisa Pacifist, angry-but-silent dirt-gun-firing loner Kaze, Chobi the noble chocobo, teen inventor Cid, and the troops of the Comodeen. Opposing them, and seeking to destroy Wonderland as we know it, is the evil Earl Tyrant, a petulant child who seems to be the physical manifestation of a pervasive evil known as Chaos. Earl Tyrant is trying to reassemble an enormously powerful being called Omega, with which he could lay waste to all of reality.
(The usual disclaimer: this review will spoil plot elements from past episodes, so read at your own risk.)
Phase 5 picks up with our heroes still trapped inside Lord Piste's Moving Ocean Puzzle.
• Episode 17: "Frog—The Smallest Great
• Episode 18: "Madoushi—The Battle of Kiri and Kumo
• Episode 19: "Ai—Meeting with Clear"
It's really starting to look like the Final Fantasy: Unlimited series sandbagged the entire first half of its run. Ever since Episode 14, this has been a totally different show. The three episodes here in Phase 5 are far more interesting and well-written than anything previous. Yes, the "frog prince" and "battling brothers" concepts are tired and old, but even these old canards still bring a little life to the series after the disjointed and unconnected plots of earlier episodes. The light tone of the Frog episode is also a welcome break from the usual dead seriousness of the show. The story arc is clearly picking up steam and heading towards a conclusion that at this point seems unavoidable: Kaze and Kumo will have to join forces to defeat Chaos. And I really want to find out what happens. I didn't expect to have that desire at all after watching the Phase 3 disc.
Picture quality, sound quality, and the assortment of extras are again identical to previous sets. Sound is well-done; you can choose from a 5.1 surround dubbed English track or the original 2.0 Japanese stereo track. Video is solid and colorful, with no obvious flaws.
A commentary track with two of the voice actors is provided. As before, it's more of an interview with the actors than an informative track about the series or that particular episode. But this commentary is a little better than the rest, because the two actors are both fans of the video game series. This gives them a different perspective on the dubbing job than the other non-fan actors had, and it's an interesting counterpoint. The production sketches and key backgrounds are similar to previous offerings. As always, the included booklet and reversible cover are nice touches from ADV.
This series is really, really starting to pick up. It's still not the best anime series I've ever seen, but it's become downright entertaining. It's almost as if the entire writing staff was replaced midstream, as a matter of fact. (I didn't check the credits to see if that was the case, though.) Things didn't look good for this show after the first three discs—but now, it's actually worth recommending. Who would have guessed?
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