Final Fantasy: Unlimited — Phase 4 Review
Oscha's good deed in the final episode of Volume 3 had a suspicious air to it, leading Fungus, the maligned member of the Lords of Gaudium to a revived patch of his home world in Wonderland so he could regain his former powers and status. With Makenshi working to release Kaze from the underground prison Fungus placed him in it is Oscha's ever watchful puppet Crux who lays the final elements of the Earl’s plot to sacrifice Fungus for the greater good. His pitiful character's demise actually warrants some emotional response from the viewer, for he seemed the least cruel of the Gaudium members, while the plot hatched leads to a great many interesting storyline elements to be developed.
The oft referenced Chaos which the Earl is using to devour worlds is some form of beast that has been 'levelling up' over the course of the proceedings, while the Earl's primary goal appears to be that of consuming all the outsider worlds into Wonderland, where he will rule over everyone as a God. A wonderful contradiction is spoken when they state they will bring new world order through Chaos. Not only was Fungus' home world a victim of the nightmarish plot but the window into Kaze's background opens further, with his frequent flashbacks now being identified as the moment when his own world was taken by Chaos. In a confrontation with Makenshi we also discover that unlike the present, where Kaze must await for his Magun to 'move' in order to use its incredible powers, he once had the ability to brandish it at will.
Through Episode 14 we also get our first look at Chaos as the Earl and his Lords of Gaudium gaze upon their weapon. Discovering what exactly it feeds upon this episode unfolds to become one that reveals plenty of new information with the lost travellers we have been following running into the Comodeen for a second time, learning of their progress in the rebels plan to overthrow the Earl. Once again succumbing to the need to appease the younger audience this episode also reaffirms the story thus far, with many clips heavy sequences recapping the adventures and relationships encountered and developed. The directors even throw in a song over one of the sequences before practically replaying the first meeting with the Comodeen and placing Ai in her third costume of the series and giving Lisa and Knave another moment by the crackling fire.
Immediately after joining the Comodeen the level of enjoyment rises considerably, with additional characters for the central figures to play off there is a greater sense of variety and plenty of opportunity for comedy to arise as they traverse the underwater depths of Wonderland. Cid's passion for his machines verges on the perverse and he is not at all opposed to pulling his own chain, admitting his genius on a frequent basis and boring the socks off Ai while thrilling Yu with his excited technical descriptions. Lisa reaffirms her level of commitment toward the children by untapping her potential in the Kigen Arts further in the final episode of the volume as they go up against a series of impossible riddles, in what proves to be quite an emotional exchange as she finally reveals the truth behind her false smile that Ai has been on to since they first met.
The summon spells we see used in every episode by Kaze during his many battles are often impressive, using a mixture of CGI and Cel animation, but it is Episode 13 and the calling of Meteor that really deserves some applause. As one of the most powerful magic’s seen in the Final Fantasy videogame series Meteor has a reputation to live up to, and here the design team have done it the utmost of justice with a sequence that brings the very heavens down to the earth in a fiery blaze that makes for one of the most visually impressive action sequences of the series thus far.
Episode 13: Meteor - Abominable Memory
A plot between the Earl and his Lords of Gaudium is unhatched as we learn Fungus' joy in the remnants of his home world will be short lived. With the upper-hand in his battle against Kaze it is the other Lords of Gaudium who are his undoing, regaining the power for Kaze to win and in doing so please their master Chaos.
Episode 14: Omega - Reunion and Departure
Following another conflict with Omega the subway train is left in ruin and Ai, Yu, Lisa and Chobi find themselves lucky to be alive, stranded in the icy cold northern regions of Wonderland. For the first time Kaze never showed up when they needed him, but as luck would have it the heroes resting place is right above the Comodeen's new base. Here they meet up up with Knave and Cid, learn of their plans to bring the final battle to the Earl via Cid's new airship and embark upon a mission with them to obtain an element required before the battle can commence.
Episode 15: Jane - The Moving Ocean Puzzle
On board Cid's underwater explorer - Jane - our heroes and the Comodeen have joined forces in search of an element known as Flying Water. Along the way they learn more about the mechanical workings of the submarine from an enthused Cid before walking into the trap laid by Pist, an ocean puzzle which works like a rubix cube with obstacles at every turn. Inside the puzzle they encounter Kaze, just floating in the water, so he is recovered and nearly suffers mouth-to-mouth courtesy of Knave before joining the team once more.
Episode 16: Kigen Summon - Behind the Smile
Having been trapped in the Ocean Puzzle our heroes and the Comodeen must face the first stage of the challenge. Answering a series of riddles they fall ever closer to the pits of darkness within Chaos that lurk beneath the realm of Wonderland. Lisa is their final hope and only by revealing what is behind her smile can she hope to succeed.
Featuring the best front cover artwork for the series thus far, the sleek image of Makenshi in the foreground to Lisa’s true smile in the background is blended well through a delicate white gradient. In comparison the reversible side uses an overly vibrant green as its primary colour with Cid and his Wonderland Watch taking pride of place on the front and rear covers.
The high quality colour inserts continue with further character and summon spell biographies.
Picture and Sound
Once again we have a very striking Full Frame transfer which does the show’s hazy appearance justice without succumbing to compression woes. Colours are bold and beautiful or deep and depressing according to the original animation, with Meteor’s strike being a wonderful example of the series reliance on special effects which use both ends of the scale.
In terms of audio I continue to opt for the original Japanese 2.0 mix which provides a good balance between dialogue, effects and the original score and can be surprisingly powerful when the scene calls for that extra something. Sampling the English 5.1 mix shows that ADV have continued to enhance the series action set pieces and musical accompaniment via the extended soundstage with dialogue kept nice and clear through the centre channel.
Optional English subtitles are present using the same easy to read yellow font ADV use on their Region 1 discs, with the American spelling carried over and causing this viewer no real concern.
First up are the obligatory Clean Opening and Closing animations which remain the same as prior volumes, despite Episode 15 and 16 featuring a new Closing Animation/Song so I presume we'll see that on the subsequent volume’s bonus section. The excellent video-based Production Sketches returns with a more varied selection of characters this time though its main focus is Cid and his inventions. Key Animation Backgrounds also makes an appearance and features both sketch and painted background art from the episodes on this volume. Both run for around three-minutes each and are set to the score which I have become quite attached too, though it would be nice if some variety in the compositions chosen was shown as so far, the same pieces are used on each volume.
The voice actor commentary for this volume takes place over episode 14 and sees Brian Jepson (Oscha) and Jessica Smolins (Herba) sit down to offer their experiences at ADV and tell us a little about themselves. Again this is an entertaining listen thanks to the strong personalities present; with the two here possibly the most interesting as voice-acting is not their sole money-earner. For anyone who tends to ignore the English dub and would prefer a commentary track that examines the show instead then once again you’re out of luck, but at the very least this and all the other commentaries so far have managed to draw some interest from this ‘original language’ kind-of-guy.
The hints of a darker plotline found at the end of Volume 4 have come to fruition with the villains of the story growing in power and becoming more of a threat to the stories protagonists. Even the presence of a recap episode doesn’t hurt the pace built up by the flood of new characters introduced when the Comodeen reappear, adding much needed spark to the proceedings with a genuine emergence of energy that when combined with the new challenge posed by Pist’s game makes for compelling viewing.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:26:28