Movie: For those of you who enjoy video games and anime, you'll likely be aware of how many attempts have been made to successfully make a game from an anime series and vice versa. That said, you'll also know how often such attempts fail, miserably, since they are often rushed or fail to capture the essence of what made the original material enjoyable in the first place. All too often, they are just slick attempts to cash in on a franchise and it shows, in spades, making most of us skeptical at shelling out our hard-earned cash. The latest attempt at a cross over, Final Fantasy Unlimited 5, is the fifth in a short-lived series being released domestically by ADV Films.
The show draws from the wealth of material surrounding the Final Fantasy games that have been popular for years and years but also invents a number of new characters and scenarios so as to keep from forcing the audience from having to know what went on in those long, and often difficult, games. In short, the series is almost homage to the games rather than an actual spin off. The show is set in the near future where a cataclysmic battle took place between two large monsters that came from a beacon of light. The area was devastated and the beings disappeared but a ghost train appears at regular intervals to transport people to another world, Wonderland, which is a series of interconnected cities floating in an ethereal place. Each city has its own properties regarding the laws of physics and its own set of characters, some of which are friendly while others are quite hostile. The show centered on a trio of young adventurers who were trying to search for people they cared about (two of them for their parents), as detailed below in my episode breakdowns:
Episode Seventeen: Frog: The Smallest Great Adventure:
While still searching for a way out of the water cube puzzle, Cid is transformed into a frog without the power of speech. His companions seem puzzled that he's missing and only he can save the day by figuring out a solution to the mess he's in. The submarine is sinking and once stuck on the bottom of the puzzle, will remain trapped. As his own friends hunt him down (as either a pet, pest or tasty snack), Cid must change back and in time to pilot the submarine to safety.
Episode Eighteen: Madoushi: The Battle Of Kiri And Kumo:
Chaos is unleashed when a long dead being, Kiri, is revived by Oscha with a mission of death, he ends up fighting his brother, Kumo to see who has the greater skill. Each can bring forth a Summon of tremendous power and even Kaze is powerless against him when his Summon is dispatched without effort.
Episode Nineteen: Ai: Meeting With Clear:
The kids end up in another section of the puzzle and Ai is now missing in action. She comes across a being named Clear that seems to possess great power and a deadly secret. As the episode progressed, it became apparent that he was integral to Earl Tyrant's plans to resurrect Omega, the destroyer of the Universe. Clear, being a being one of the good guys, despite his potential for destruction, fights those who would use him for evil purposes.
I can still safely give this one a rating of Rent It although it looked like the production was rushed in several ways. There appears to be only one more volume left in the series and I think it was mapped out for a much longer run so the corner cutting that took place became especially evident here. Fans of the video game may like it more than I did but most of the time, the 12+ rating given it by ADV seemed a little on the high end (it looked geared to kids younger than that).
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The look of the show was quite unique in how it mixed more traditional styles of anime with modernistic CGI effects. I wasn't too keen on the limited drawn anime style of the characters (they often looked like low budget quickies) but after a few episodes, it grew on me a bit more than I thought it would. In any case, the picture always looked good and no problems were evident.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of 5.1 Dolby Digital surround English or 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese with optional English subtitles. The English track was superior in terms of the ambiance, special effects and music while the voice acting was somewhat better on the Japanese track. Both were clear and crisp within the limitations of their source material.
Extras: The best extra was the audio commentary track on episode seventeen with voice actors Evan Slack (Yu) and Samantha Inoue Harte (Chobi). I think the commentary was okay with each of the performers telling a bit about themselves and the show. I'd have preferred more commentary about the show though since the comments were almost completely interview style, which might've made for a better extra apart from the commentary. There were a number of sketches and illustrations presented on the DVD as well as the usual trailers, paper insert, and a double-sided DVD cover.
Final Thoughts: This is a series that I strongly suggest you watch in order since it builds upon itself as the series continues. Like Volume 4, it had some merit but the appeal was limited and the themes kind of simplistic, unlike much of the other releases being put out by ADV these days. Maybe the last DVD will contain a lengthy interview reel like some other releases have had but getting only three episodes made this one kind of pricey for what it had to offer.
Look for DVDTalk's Best Of Anime for other choices that may appeal to you!