Final Fantasy: Unlimited — Phase 2 Review
As we return to Final Fantasy: Unlimited Ai, Yu and Lisa are recovering from the battering they took following the recent battle they were caught in the midst of. Kaze met his nemesis the White Cloud Makenshi in the final moments of Volume 1 and the fight which commenced brought chaos to the secret hideout of the Comodeen, bringing the walls down around them and apparently leaving Kaze for dead. In spite of this the children and Lisa are still full of spirit in their attempts to locate Ai and Yu's missing parents, continuing their journey with the aid of Cid, an expert with machines they met in the Comodeen's now defunct base. While Knave directs the rebel group to their new hideout in an effort to avoid a secondary attack from the Earl of Wonderland our heroes intercept the dimensional subway train by traversing the underwater caverns in Cid's pride and joy, Catherine.
From here they continue onward, with their party consisting of Ai, Yu, Lisa, Chobi (their recently named Chocobo) and Poshepocket, before meeting Lou Lupus who joins their party in episode seven. Kaze returns to the fray early in episode five quashing any minor doubts that such a major character would be killed at such an early stage. Still refusing to join the team he continues on his own search, often crossing paths with our heroes just in time to face the Earl’s four Lords of Gaudium, whom he repeatedly enlists to remove the threat the travelling heroes pose.
The story itself, that of the children's search for their parents continues on with no major revelations, nor do we learn a great deal beyond what is already known of the world they are travelling through. These four episodes instead concentrate on keeping the action flowing, with major foes making a return with all new attacks up their sleeves to keep the proceedings fresh. What is most satisfying however are the character developments, with the mysterious aura surrounding Lisa and Kaze slowly beginning to unravel as a result of the battles they face and the new people encountered.
Although he disappears after the first episode of this volume, Cid has been setup to feature more prominently further down the line. With a great passion for his work, affectionately naming all of his inventions after women his faith in them makes for some great entertainment in the opening episode as he puts Catherine - a water transport device - to the test before unleashing the might of his backpack on one of the Earl's henchmen for damaging the craft’s paintwork. After his departure from the main group the children discover his trademark on the dimensional subway train, suggesting his links within Wonderland stretch far and wide, and his skill with machinery is much greater than previously thought as the train combines machinery with a living spirit.
The development of Lisa's character over the storylines featured proves to be one of the most interesting, showing a more direct link to the children than previously suspected with episode six bringing her true powers in the Kigen Arts to the fore. With Ai and Yu placed in direct trouble and no sign of Kaze to help she flashes back to her training bringing us up to speed on the methods of the art, while also allowing her to remember the principals of something she is unwillingly to succumb to and defeating enemies far greater than she previously thought possible. In essence the art uses the natural energy of the world, and the spirits which flow throughout, something which Lisa frequently identifies Kaze’s Magun as using and not being a far cry from the Mana life-force oft cited in the videogame series.
Kaze's powers and true intentions are still unknown, having been told he should never have been 'revived' by Makenshi in episode four his apparent death in the same episode was another red herring that bears much fruit to the possibility he has the ability to regenerate. His selfish words and action in the same episode which showed a dire lack of respect for humanity continues through his lack of recognition for the children and Lisa, with whom he appears to share a bond that even he is unaware of, but one that she has not given up on.
Lou Lupus is introduced in episode seven and looks to be a new addition to the main group. Despite looking human her cutesy appearance covers a wolf like beast that dwells within and can be called upon in battle to unleash a heavenly light. Her affections for Kaze result in the familiar sparkling eye syndrome oft seen in anime for younger audiences, but it raises a smile and also leads to further echoes hinting at future developments that will reveal her to be linked to Kaze’s true identity.
The introduction of Omega, an enemy of great power and one that is not under the control of the Earl allows for the most visually stunning battle of the episodes present, but also shows a side of the Earl we have yet to enjoy, that of him being markedly shaken by the presence of such a power. That he wants to capture and use Omega doesn't bode well for our heroes however, but that's something for another volume...
Episode 05: Cid - The Adventure of the Underground Waterway
Following the devastating battle between Kaze and Makenshi in the Comodeen's underground base the rebels decide they must relocate now the Earl knows of their location while our heroes must push on and intercept the subway train at its next stop. Cid offers his services, showcasing his underground waterway transport device, Catherine, which takes them on the adventure referred to in the title. Along the way they encounter Fungus, returning from his defeat in episode two for yet more punishment he is by far the most comedic of the Earl's henchmen with his gruff dated methods that see him frequently outsmarted and humiliated.
Episode 06: Kigen Arts - The Saviour of Souls
Next stop for our adventurers is an uncompromising desert in which they find a fresh water oasis, much to their delight with water running low in the baking desert sun. This however proves to be the ground upon which Lisa will untap her true abilities in the Kigen Arts, taking on Herba, the second of the Earl's henchmen to have another go at destroying Kaze and throwing the children in for free. Still not travelling with our heroes Kaze is once again present when the situation becomes dire.
Episode 07: Subway - Enemy of the Dimensional Tunnel
Yu drags Kaze onto the subway making this the first time the Black Wind has joined our intrepid trio and their Chocobo from the start of a journey. On board the train he ignores them of course, but the contact with Yu also gives light to the first hint at his background. Lurking in the shadows the children spot a young girl, who we later discover is named Lou, but Lisa is sure she isn't human and later events prove this as she helps fight against Omega, a beast of unquestionable power that has destroyed many worlds including Lou's.
Episode 08: Soil - The Heart of the Magun
Having already met two of the four Lords of Gaudium, the Earl's head minions we are now introduced to Lord Pist, the third and smelliest Lord of Gaudium by Herba's reckoning. A data fighter, Pist has gathered enough intelligence on Kaze to be confident of defeating him, and sets out to do just that. Caught up in the battle are our travellers, now joined by Lou in the deserts which are packed with Soil, the very essence of the Magun. Lord Pist comes from the James Bond school of villains, over-explaining his actions which inevitably leads to his downfall
The clear armaray case features a reversible cover that offers slightly mixed quality artwork on both sides. The main cover features some particularly striking artwork on the front with dark renditions of three central figures showing Lisa caught in between the brooding faces of Kaze and Makenshi. On the reverse side we find an image of the children imposed upon a mesh of grabs from the series, which is fairly dull and only livened up by a wonderful choice of back cover artwork that sees the dimensional subway train in high gear. It’s certainly much better in comparison to the main side’s standard synopsis/specs back cover.
Inside the case you will find a four-page colour insert that details characters and summon elementals featured in the episodes on this volume. The menu system hasn’t changed much from Volume 1 and continues to be simple to use and keeps within the show’s spirit.
Picture and Sound
The original Full Screen presentation of this recent show produced in the digital realm continues to look good on DVD with zero print damage, plenty of fine detail, deep shades of black and a solid colour scheme throughout. The only negative aspects rise from some minor compression issues (the deep red background of the dimensional subway stops always shows up the pixels) and the NTSC>PAL nature of Anime releases in the UK. The extent to which this bothers you will vary, I myself only ever notice this when obtaining grabs for review purposes. On my CRT FF:U looks as good as any modern series should on DVD.
Audio quality is to an equally high standard, with the Japanese 2.0 mix making full use of the front soundstage with both dialogue and the fine operatic score coming through clear as a whistle. The alternative English 5.1 dub enhances the action set pieces and immerses you in the melodies of the original score to good effect, making this a good choice for those preferring to watch their Anime in English.
Optional English subtitles are to a very high standard, using an easy to read yellow font both literal translations of dialogue/signs and signs only tracks are available to compliment your audio choice (and are pre-selected of course).
The obligatory Clean Opening and Clean Closing animations are present, along with a video segment showing some wonderfully illustrated Production Sketches to the operatic score. We also have FF:U Style Guide (Part 1) which is another video segment set to the harmonic score and this time shows off the many monsters and summon elementals complete with colour codes and other useful animation notes.
The voice actor commentary for this volume takes place on the final episode and features Edwin Neal (Pist) and Larissa Wolcott (Lou). The menu system suggests they discuss the episode, when in fact all they do is answer a series of questions on how they got into the business and what they like most about it, followed by more personal questions such as 'favourite food' and 'favourite music'. They're imaginative people and always goofing about with various voices, but this remains something for the dub fans as you'll learn nothing about the show or its genesis over the twenty minute session.
This volume does not see much progression in terms of storyline, but it does develop the character connections with a little more humanity brought to Kaze though his unknown relationship to Lou, while Lisa’s bond with the children is established further when she realises her potential in the Kigen Arts to maintain their safety. Though clearly light in plot elements the show and its characters remain engaging and the battles are always entertaining, with the DVD presenting them well and offering some welcome extras too.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:27:32