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Final Fantasy: Complete Collection
When my sons were a bit younger and caught up in the frenzy of various passing fads, I used to half-jokingly state that phenomena like "Pokemon" and "Yu-Gi-Oh" were Japan's revenge for World War Two. I mean, what better havoc could be wreaked than inventing a multi-media onslaught consisting of television shows, feature films, video games, and, most importantly, card games featuring literally hundreds of characters where each and every character must be purchased separately? Talk about the dissemination of capitalism! Of course, I slightly exaggerate (but not by much, as any parent faced with hysterical screams of "Exodia, I must have all the parts of Exodia!" will attest). That same far eastern penchant for total world domination may also be at play for a franchise probably aimed at those a bit older, Final Fantasy, which (so far, anyway) may not have a multi-charactered card game to its credit but has already conquered the worlds of video games and, as this oft-rereleased in various compilations five DVD set proves, anime television series (the feature film efforts, while technically ambitious, have had a spotty box office record). The problem is, total world domination must be aided by the willing subjugation of the consumer masses to the imperious will of the manufacturer/creators, and in this instance, a lot of the "Final Fantasy" RPG video game crowd is going to find this hit-and-miss television outing a gigantic yawn.
Final Fantasy Unlimited opens promisingly enough, with a huge inter-dimensional pillar opening a vortex from which two space dinosaur-like creatures emerge to battle. The pillar opens a portal to a magical place known as Wonderland (where's Lewis Carroll when you need him?). Twelve years later, two children, Yu and Ai, convinced that their missing parents are trapped in that alternate universe, take the Wonderland Subway (where's the White Rabbit when you need him?) launching an epic quest to find Mom and Dad and a supposed happy ending.
Unfortunately that old saying "getting there is half the fun" rarely applies to these proceedings which, while fitfully entertaining, are often as not so confusing as to make the journey more wonder and less land, so to speak. Though we get the occasional character from the RPGs (notably Shiva) as well as more traditional characters like the huge bird-like chocobo, Ai and Yu's adventures are routinely built around some new place they've never been to before, so there is little if any continuity between episodes. There are a couple of more compelling supporting characters, notably Lisa, a woman they bump into on the subway who's on her own quest, and Kaze who operates a magical "Magun" (maybe a cross between a Magus and a gun, but I'm just guessing) that summons various creatures to aid the children.
Visually the series isn't horrible, but isn't spectacular either. The primitive CGI looks sort of silly by today's standards, and a lot of the cel animation has the pasted together, low-budget look that reminded me of an anime version of the old Hanna Barbera cartoons that used to dot the television landscape in the 1960s. I've probably been spoiled by my recent viewing of Noir, a much more compelling anime series with an incredible soundtrack, but the sound design of Final Fantasy Unlimited also is fairly lackluster with by-the-numbers underscore intercut with routine sound effects and that always hyperbolic voice work that is a given in most animes.
To be fair, this particular rivulet of the Final Fantasy stream is most likely aimed at younger children (hence its young heroes), who may be less critical of its shortcomings than a more "sophisticated" viewer. The fact that the series makes little sense at times, especially when seen in its 25 episode totality, may not deter younger kids from enjoying it now and again, an episode at a time. Older anime fans will probably want to revert to one of the more involving video game versions.
The original broadcast full frame 1.33:1 image is reproduced here with great color and saturation, if at times sharpness to such a degree as to provoke occasional artifacts. The cel aspects of the show are fairly basic and standard, and the CGI, while passable, just isn't up to today's mind-blowing standards.
Both the English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 (with English subtitles available) soundtracks sport excellent separation and fidelity. For such a fantasy based anime, I was surprised there wasn't more going on channel-wise in the 5.1 mix, but it's certainly more than adequate.
Nada, zilch, bupkis.
The Final Fantasy franchise has proven its popularity in a number of formats and genres, but Final Fantasy Unlimited is one of the weakest entries in the venerable series. Anime and/or FF completists may want to at least rent this to see if it sparks any interest, others would probably do just as well to skip it.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet