Final Fantasy: Unlimited — Phase 3 Review
As we return to the Final Fantasy: Unlimited series the story continues with the pace set in the previous volume being strictly adhered to. Despite the occasional drive forward in developing plot elements the episodes here remain a 'location of the week' as they always begin with Ai, Yu, Lisa and Chobi arriving at their next destination and encountering some form of evil. Disappointment comes rather early as the initial hints following episode eight that Kaze and Lou would be joining the main party are dashed, with not only the obvious choice - Kaze - taking his leave but Lou also leaves the central group in chase of her dark knight.
Episode 11 threatens to reduce the group further but fortunately goes in an altogether more satisfying direction, enhancing the abilities of Chobi to make him a more solid presence on the battlefield. Unearthing the legend of Ciel, a legendary Chocobo, Yu's friend and protector can now call upon the power of his elders and fly for short periods of time. This adds some interesting elements to the stories progression with a call-back to Chocobaba in the very first volume, and also plays into a very common thread in the videogame series where some form of elite Chocobo was attainable. A wonderful dramatic centrepiece can also be found within this storyline, as Yu reluctantly leaves Chobi behind, knowing this is what the creature wants (to be with its own kind) and by setting this to a beautifully lit shot in silhouette it becomes one of the series emotional highs at this early stage. The decision to place this scene right after some great comedy moments shows a good sense for meeting the audiences needs, as the Chocobo's fascination with Ai's pigtails extends to the entire herd who literally throw her from beak to beak, pigtail by pigtail, building up the character integration to elicit the response necessary to make Chobi's comeback all the more exciting.
Some very common themes are present in the opening episode of this volume that will play well to audiences, but betray the show's age group leanings as it professes the message that you should accept who you are and be proud of that. Using Lou's werewolf transformation as the gauge for this storyline the message of family, acceptance and the innocence of children can be found in many of the story elements featured but are often capped with some gentle humour to cushion the melodramatic blow, such as Lou's affection toward Kaze which reaches bursting point and makes for some entertaining moments.
Episode 09: Oscar - The Endless Project
Following their recent showdown with Pist and the summon elemental that rose from Kaze's Magun Lisa is now convinced he and Makenshi have some connection to the Day of Conjunction - the day when the portal to Wonderland opened on earth. Their next destination on the dimensional subway leads to a confrontation with Oscha, recently kicked out of the Earl's airship along with the other Lords of Gaudium to locate Omega. After joining the main party for the very first time Kaze fights against Oscha with the aid of Lou, Lisa and Chobi, giving precedence to their parties fighting ability only for Kaze to leave at the end and effectively take Lou with him, as completely smitten by the Black Wind she leaves her new friends in search of Kaze to help him defeat the Earl.
Episode 10: Mansion - The Memory of Sagiso
Reduced to their original number the group of heroes in search of Ai and Yu's parents arrive at their next destination, a deserted village where a glimpse of two figures carrying backpacks similar to their parents causes the children to run frantically into a strange mansion. Built entirely from living plant life the viewer and Lisa knows better than the children do than to run around without caution, and it’s not before long that Herba makes an appearance threatening their lives. Lisa meets a young child named Sagiso who appears to know her, repeatedly asking "you won't leave me again?", and it is only once Kaze shows up to save the day that she makes the connection, opening another window into her past.
Episode 11: Ciel - The Departure of Chocobo
Arriving on the lush green fields in one of the more pleasant Wonderland locales they have come upon the group are dazzled by a herd of Chocobo flocking toward them. After dealing with the monster chasing them using her Kigen Arts, Lisa, Ai and Yu watch on as the herd put the beast to rest in a most brutal fashion. Chocoimo, Chocobaba's younger sister is with the herd and likens Chobi to the legendary Ciel, a great Chocobo from Wonderland myth. Deciding to move on to their next destination via the subway the heroes are once again set upon by Omega, this time in a far more devastating form. Coming to their aid is Kaze, who just has a habit of turning up when needed, and a newly transformed Chobi, infused with the spirit of Ciel.
Episode 12: Fungus - Eternal Life
As one of the four Lords of Gaudium, Fungus always falls short of the other members in the eyes of the Earl. In a suspicious move the puppet master Oscha leads him to an area of Wonderland that houses part of Fungus' home world, which he can use to increase his strength. This very same location also happens to be where the children and Lisa arrive next, and with Kaze also putting in an appearance a fierce battle ensues that sees the first real challenge for Kaze's Magun, as it is ineffective not once, but twice, and then we have a cliff-hanger...
The reversible artwork for Volume 3 maintains the high standards previously set, with the main side being my preference with its colourful orange hues depicting Kaze and Lisa in front of a burning sun. The reverse artwork uses another series of screens from the show tinted in the chosen colour scheme, with Lisa employing her Kigen Art skills on the front and Kaze’s more powerful summon adorning the back.
A four-page colour insert continues to provide character and summon details from the episodes within, complete with illustrations of those covered.
Picture and Sound
As with the previous volumes the video presentation continues to excel with strong colour reproduction and impressive detail levels throughout. Compression issues are rare with the dual-layer discs allowing plenty of breathing room for the encoding process.
Continuing to opt for the original Japanese 2.0 mix the stereo separation remains strong with clear dialogue, effects and strong usage of the original score. The English 5.1 alternative enhances the action while remaining faithful to the original tone, giving those who prefer the dub cast a little extra to enjoy.
Subtitles remain at the high standard set by previous volumes, with no obvious spelling or grammatical errors and separate streams covering the Japanese and English audio options and their respective translation needs.
The Clean Opening and Clean Closing animations are the same as those found on previous volumes, reappearing here for sake of completion. Production Sketches and Key Animation Backgrounds are video-based galleries that run a total of seven minutes, featuring some wonderful artwork in the former of key characters Yu and Lou, with the latter offering cel and sketch background artwork from the locations featured in this volume. This is all set to the beautiful score from Yoshitomi Yonetani and like the same features on previous volumes continues to offer some of the finest presentations of artwork on DVD, making these features I have returned to on more than one occasion over the course of the series so far.
A voice actor commentary with members of the dubbing team features Grant James (Fungus) and Lainie Frasier (Chocobaba/Chocoimi) appearing for just under nineteen minutes worth of episode twelve. Once again the focus of this track is the voice actors featured and their careers at ADV, which is disappointing for those looking for some discussion on the series even though it has to be said Grant James is the first of the actors to show some real appreciation for the show.
In spite of the disappointing reduction of group members this Final Fantasy adventure series follows Volume 3 offers a good variety of adventures for the family to enjoy with the final episode in particular hinting at the promise of something darker to come. The pace of the main story thread is still a little too slow but there is enough here to hold your interest including further character development for Lisa and Kaze, while Chobi’s rise to power is one of the finest moments for fans of the series so far.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:27:06