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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Xenosaga The Animation: The Complete Collection
Xenosaga The Animation: The Complete Collection
FUNimation // Unrated // December 23, 2008
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted January 13, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:

FUNimation continues to work through its recently acquired backlog of titles from Geneon and ADV. While many of these shows have been released as individual volumes, completed series have been collected into thinpak boxed sets. Xenosaga: The Animation from ADV is the most recent such example with all 12 of its episodes presented on two DVDs (opposed to three individual ones as they were released on during ADV's run).

Xenosaga: The Animation is more or less a faithful animated adaptation of the original PlayStation 2 game. Rather than get into the history of the gaming franchise let's just assume that if you're checking out this review you're already at least somewhat familiar with the popular sci-fi RPG. If for whatever reason you're not familiar with the project don't worry, The Animation stands alone well enough to tell its story, though you'll get more out of it if you're "in the know".

Being a fan of the Xenosaga franchise I can attest to looking forward to this release. When ADV released the first volume back in September of 2007 I jumped at the chance to review it. Like many fans I had high expectations for it, but those feelings subsided as I watched the four episodes. Still, that was only a small part of the big picture so when the opportunity arose to check out the complete series I figured I'd see if the rest of the show improved upon things.

Right from the start it's important to note that Xenosaga: The Animation crams a ton of plot exposition into its twelve episodes. Considering the narrative for the first game in the franchise which this is based on, Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, was quite lengthy one would think that for an anime version to be successful and not feel rushed it would be a full season. Unfortunately due to budgets being what they are the twelve episodes here come up woefully short on runtime and because of that the series suffers. If you're well versed in Xenosaga lore then chances are very good you'll get caught up in everything easily enough and the anime will serve as a nice refresher even though some things are quite different here. With that being said, if you're unfamiliar with the story or if you haven't played the game since 2002 then you're in for one speedy confusing ride.

The show begins as a rift in space opens up in front of a fleet of ships which are transporting what little remains of the human race. Through the rift giant whale-like creatures appear and they start attacking post-haste. During the fray creatures known as Gnosis get up close and personal with the people on the ship, but humanity's weapons are apparently useless. These monsters exist just outside of our dimension and because of that conventional weapons can't touch them. Luckily for the fleet and the ship Woglinde a recently activated android possess the technology, training, and gumption to tackle the Gnosis threat.

KOS-MOS has just finished some training with one of her creators, Shion. When the Gnosis attack KOS-MOS gets her chance to show what she's made of and without external influences she activates herself and unleashes something known as the Hilbert Effect. Something about this ability phases the Gnosis into our dimension and makes their bodies susceptible to harm. Unfortunately it was too little too late as KOS-MOS's activation was mainly to save Shion and came about too late for the rest of the fleet.

We discover early on that the Gnosis attacked the fleet to steal something known as the Zohar Emulator, which is basically bad news for humanity. Queue up a bad guy named Albedo, a plot to eradicate humanity, some focus on non-humans known as Realians, and some question about the destiny of KOS-MOS and you have one headache inducing science fiction plot. The kicker is that the game had tons of time to slowly reveal the story it wanted to tell while the animation has less than five hours. To say that some things get lost in the shuffle would be an understatement and I'd venture to guess that the first five episodes out of twelve encapsulate the first fifteen hours of gameplay from Xenosaga. That's just an example and it stays that convoluted and hectic right up until the end.

Xenosaga: The Animation is an enticing effort that will undoubtedly serve diehard fans of the original game well enough. It's a solid representation of the plot and even though there was some restructuring and changes afoot, the show still retained enough of the original material to be recognized. Unfortunately the storyline is so compressed in these twelve episodes that it's almost not worth the effort. There's no explanation or time for anything as the anime takes you on a whirlwind ride from frantic start to confusing finish. The bottom line is don't bother with this series unless you really liked the game, and even then the best I could recommend would be a rental.

The DVD:

Video:

Xenosaga: The Animation originally aired during 2005 which put it ahead of Xenosaga III in timely fashion. The design of the anime matches the style of the first game quite well and though there are some differences here and there, fans will be able to recognize everything and everyone. I will say that stylistically the animation is rather rigid and it's minimal to say the least. Most characters just stand there and do not move unless they have to.

On the technical side of things the DVD received a decent transfer, but there are a few flaws here and there. The full frame picture showcases a lot of grain in some scenes, aliasing in others, and compression blocking in the darker areas. The transfer for FUNimation's release mirrors that of ADV's individual efforts back in the day. Considering the show takes place primarily in space you can expect to see a lot of artifacts floating around.

Audio:

The audio in Xenosaga: The Animation comes in the form of Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 language tracks. The dubbing quality for both is acceptable though I found neither to be very compelling since the dialogue feels flat at times. The Japanese 2.0 track held up well on the soundstage with the front channels catching all of the necessary effects. Things were better with regards to the English track which spruced things up in the action department with presence on all channels and superior bass. A sense of immersion isn't the English selection's strong suit though and most of the experience relies on heavy bass rather than finely implemented rear channel usage.

Extras:

Enjoy clean animations? Good! You're going to love the bonus features for Xenosaga: The Animation because there's nothing else aside from those.

Final Thoughts:

If you absolutely love Xenosaga then The Animation is an easy weekend rental. Unfortunately for the rest of us who aren't "diehard" fans, we're going to be lost somewhere along the way. I personally played through the original game when it was released and even I had a difficult time keeping up with the breakneck pacing of this show. It's simply too much, too fast. The total lack of character details and explanation regarding anything holds the series back as well. At the end of the day this is a blurred release that will only appease diehards who probably have KOS-MOS action figures by their TV. Even then I'd say it's only worth a rental at best.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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