Star Ocean EX
Claude C. Kenni is the son of Captain Kenni and, as is the norm, is shadowed by his far more famous father, with high expectations in everything. One day, the ship that Kenni's father pilots lands on a planet, where his father entrusts him with his phase gun. A portal on the planet causes Claude to be transported to the planet of Expel, where he meets Rena Lanford, who believes Claude to be the "Legendary Warrior" after Claude defeats a monster using the phase gun his father gave him, which Rena sees as the sword of light used in the legends. After saving Rena (again) from a mayor's son, Claude hears about an evil object called the "Sorcery Globe" and, with Rena, sets out to destroy the globe; something we don't see because of the animated part of the series ending on a dime.
Star Ocean EX has one huge problem right off the bat. In the game, you could choose from two viewpoints: Claude's and Rena's. While a good story (and probably a much more dramatic affair) could be constructed if Rena had been the center of the anime story, the makers choose Claude, which ruins most of the potential for a romantic, dramatic affair.
And make no mistake about it, Claude easily proves how unfit he is for the screen by using the same two special attacks, both marred by some of the crappiest animation ever seen in anime. I've got to ask: How does having three pictures and shaking them around constitute "animation". The sad part is that none of the other characters (save MAYBE for Dias, but he's so infrequent I can't tell) have this problem and they don't eat up most of the screentime.
Which is sad because boy are they some interesting characters. Claude, as I had pointed out, is a fairly bad main character primarily because he isn't well developed and, as opposed to...ummm...everyone whose name is not "Claude", is rather boring when he starts getting the inordinate screentime. It doesn't help that the acting behind him is also mailed-in, making him almost unbearable. Rena, the person who should have been the main, is given the usual task of being by Claude's side and, apparently because she's read how much development was put into Claude, she's quite happy to go somewhere else, maybe by Dias Flac's side, who is arguably much better than Claude in terms of development, animation, and acting and comes with the infamous "don't mess with me" personality. Celine Jules and Ashton Anchors, the other two tagalongs with Claude and Rena, are quite easily the life of the party, mainly for their comedic purposes, as Celine keeps frying the same three thieves in continued funny ways while Ashton entertains us with his obsession of barrels. Ashton is also funny in that when he has two dragons attach themselves to his back, which makes for diverse comedy. Quite easily, Ashton and Celine are two of the funniest characters in here, as well as Precis Neumann, hyperactive tech girl extraordinaire. Precis, despite being just another game character, has more development into her story involving her friend, who's sick (crap, does EVERYONE have better plots and backstories than Claude?) Also on the list are Bowman Jean (who works as a pharmicist, but soon shows a reckless side), Ernest Raviede (a ruin specialist who has a relationship with Opera Vectra), Opera Vectra (giant gun wielder who has a relationship with Ernest), Leon Geeste (who has a fairly big plot role involving the weapon with the power to destroy the Sorcery Globe) and finally the three thieves, who eventually make peace with the party and help out in the end. On the antagonist side we have...ummm...monsters and the Sorcery Globe. The person who watches over the globe is named Gabriel, a puzzler mainly because Gabriel in the game was renamed "Indalecio" when the game was brought over to America. But now we have the second problem: Cyril, Berle, Shigeo, Marsilio, Nicolus, Decus, Vesper, Ruprecht, and Jibril are all mysteriously missing. They had the leader of the Ten Wisemen, but wouldn't it have made sense to include the rest of the group?
As I have brought up time and time again, this anime missed tons of ways to make the show more epic (make Rena's story the main story, add the Wisemen) and this gets proved definitively with the cheesy story that unfolds for Claude. Among the plotlines are...well, first he gets teleported, then he saves Rena and had a sword entrusted to him, then we get into ruins after ruins, then look for a Demon Bird who later risks its life to give Claude a feather (...), a swordmaker steals a rival swordmakers sword and marks it as his own for a tournament nearby and, in the worst of deus ex machina, we watch as Claude's sword gets revealed as the sword made by the rival swordmaker's brother and is better in every way (damn, is this plot cheesy). It all comes together later on El Continent (wouldn't that be El Continente?) when all the characters join forces and fight off an invasion of monsters in, arguably, the best group of episodes in the series.
The music? Forget it. It's not very memorable at all and, if it was, I must not have liked it, because I kept skipping the intro and ending (the ending, sadly, features most "shake animation"). Finally, I wish to touch upon the art and animation between fights, which is actually pretty colorful and vibrant, unless you're in any one of the some 10 ruins presented in the anime, which are usually either violet, brown, or dark (eh?). It doesn't make sense when the fight scenes, which usually require great effort to animate well, if the worst of the animation while the typical walking scenes are among the best of the animation. While I'm here, I might as well mention that the voices, unless it's Claude's (what's with his lack of development in anything?) are actually kind of good (it's not perfection, but it's better than a good bit of the usual fare I watch).
Overall, the characters save this anime to a great deal, and the action scenes in the end episodes are fairly well done, but not enough to make this anime anything above normal, Saturday afternoon cartoons.
MAN do the characters other than Claude and the ending episodes save this one. — Jake L Godek
Recommended Audience: Some violence (mostly of the swords-and-sorcery type, and very stylized), no nudity or sexual innuendo that we noticed. Fine for older children and above.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Star Ocean EX © 2001 Azuma Mayumi / Studio Deen / TV Tokyo / Enix
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