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Final Fantasy - Unlimited (Phase 7)

ADV Films // Unrated // July 6, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted October 30, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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. One of the best such cross over series is Gungrave, a show that combines plenty of action with well planned out plot points but this review is about the other end of the cross over spectrum, concerning itself with the final volume of a weaker series, Final Fantasy Unlimited 7,the seventh in a 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), and the third looking for something she lost in her past. Without too many spoilers, here's a look at the DVD:

The episodes started off with Teros: In Search Of Flying Water, an episode that not only reunites the crew with some old buddies but clearly delineates the focal point of what is going to happen. Having met Earl Tyrant in the previous volume, his goals and ambition had yet to reveal their true nature but the cast was propelled towards its destiny by their meeting. This was the last of the episodes that played by the original formula and as such actually did a decent job of putting the cast where they needed to be, firmly in the gun sights of their enemy, Earl Tyrant.

The next two episodes, Chaos: The Earl Unveiled and Kaze: The Glory Of Life, were both intertwined enough that separating them in a discussion makes little sense. Tyrant (the dub voice actor for Tyrant and Kaze were on the bonus audio commentary) and his main henchman, Makenshi, tore through the crew like they didn't exist and Kaze's Magun had been neutralized by Pist's latest invention. Tyrant tells all in that evil villain sort of way that shows how little of a threat he considers the cast and even his own minions find out he was more dangerous than originally perceived. With all the cards laid out on the table, is there anything anyone can do to stop Earl from destroying all that is or will be as Chaos runs rampant?

I actually thought the conclusion of the series, primarily the last two episodes, was pretty good considering how much filler had been on display previously. I'm going to be a pal and rate this as a Rent It although it looked like the production was rushed as much as the last volume and the threads tied up in a clunky manner. 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). I'm of the impression that if someone were to watch the entire series in one sitting, they'd see more than I did (at least just before going insane and going on a postal killing spree) but the nature of the show has not lent itself to anyone wanting to do that. Rent It if you must but the concepts were poorly executed more often than not, and on a wholesale basis at 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 twenty two with voice actors J. Hudson Brownlee (Kaze) and Elena Carrillo (Earl Tyrant) as guided by director Charlie Campbell. I think the commentary was good with each of the performers telling a bit about themselves and the show. This was not the best commentary of the series so far but enjoyable nonetheless. There were a number of sketches and illustrations presented on the DVD as well as the usual trailers to shows like Kino's Journey, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Saiyuki, Angelic Layer, Azumanga Daioh, and Gravion, 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 6, 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. I had hoped for more extensive extras in this final volume, perhaps a lengthy set of interviews or something else deemed special but it became apparent that ADV was cutting their losses so nothing great was added in to add value to the DVD. Perhaps a future boxed set will be released at a much lower price point, one that will help take the sting out of the show since it really had far too many flaws to cost as much as it did.

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime article!

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