Reviewby Ken Hargon, Mar 24th 2004
Final Fantasy: Unlimited
DVD 2: Phase 2
Ai and Yu continue their treacherous and magical journey across the mysterious realm of Wonderland, searching high and low for their missing parents. Lisa Pacifist, master of the Kigen Arts, keeps the bad guys at bay while Ai and Yu scour the landscape. In this chapter, the twins come across Cid, a genius inventor who can fix anything Wonderland has to offer.
Final Fantasy: Unlimited is one hell of a practical joke. Bearing almost no resemblance to the wildly popular games on which it claims to be based, FFU comes across as a fairly crass bait 'n switch designed to steal money from unwitting hardcore video game fans. ADV may as well put a little card in the DVD case that reads “Hah! Fooled ya!”, just to drive the whole thing home. If you purchase this DVD expecting it to have anything whatsoever to do with the Final Fantasy game franchise, prepare yourself for disappointment.
That having been said, if the show didn't have the name ‘Final Fantasy’ on it, it probably wouldn't be as hated as it is. Without the pretense of being connected to the game franchise and taken entirely on its own, non-game-related merits, the series is your average fish-out-of-water fantasy series. There isn't anything terribly inspired or original; the premise is stolen straight from shows like Escaflowne or, to a lesser extent, Strange Dawn. This second volume basically cements that no, this show really doesn't have anything to do with any of the games, and yes, they will continue down this storyline. Cloud Strife isn't going to show up. There's a Cid character, and he's an inventor, and there are Chocobos, but that's it. Ai and Yu are basically blank-slate little kids, and their friends are typical adventure heroes, including Kaze, the memory-deficient badass with a heart of gold. They're pursued by dumb-looking, bumbling villains. Yawn.
The real problem with this show isn't that it promises something everyone wants but doesn't deliver (namely an anime series based on a video game franchise everyone loves), but that it can't even compete with other anime series in terms of quality. The design of the show is so bizarre and unappealing as to be repellant. The character designs look as though they've been stolen wholesale from Strange Dawn, the much-maligned show about little potato people waging war. People mostly hated that show, too, so why did Gonzo see fit to copy the show's designs? There are characters in here that look like they've been ripped from the Sunday Comics section rather than from the pen of a talented Japanese character designer. Even if they were animated fluidly, you couldn't tell; Studio Ghibli could have animated these characters and people would have complained about the poor quality.
The question is, why? Gonzo and Square Enix had a license to print money on their hands. Had they adapted any one of the game series' eleven viable installments, they would have had a smash hit show. Instead, they serve up this dull, silly and juvenile show that doesn't seem to be trying to appeal to anyone. The plot is too complicated for children but too dull and routine for adults; these second four episodes don't do anything to change that aside from introducing a handful of new characters (including one or two that boast above-par character design, but they're the exception to the rule in this case) and environments.
The dub is serviceable but nothing spectacular. Some of the voices come across as downright corny; I'm not certain Final Fantasy: Unlimited was intended as a children's series, but the voices certainly make it sound that way. The villains in particular are of the howling B-movie Sailor Moon quality, which is both amusing and embarrassing at the same time. The twins, Ai and Yu, were cast with what seem like seasoned and talented child actors; they have the most believable and interesting voices in the entire show.
Basically, ADV would have scored more points with this if they'd stuffed each DVD case with crepe-paper snakes that popped out when you opened them up. The show winds up being a similar experience: a whole load of incredible promise backed up by an empty, routine and clichéd experience. Final Fantasy fans will walk away in disgust, shaking their heads at what might have been had Square and Gonzo not jumped the rails and decided that they didn't want to make money. A series of poor choices, questionable art direction and numbingly mediocre execution, Final Fantasy: Unlimited could have set a good example for video game anime. Unfortunately, it winds up being a horrible warning.
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : D+
Story : D+
Animation : B
Art : F
Music : B
+ Might be fun for kids and people who like everything they see.
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