Final Fantasy: Unlimited
Twelve years ago, a mysterious pillar of darkness erupted off the coast of Japan. Giant dragon-like beasts emerged from the darkness, first wiping out the naval force investigating the disturbance, then each other, in a spectacular magical battle caught on videotape by a Japanese couple on the mainland.
In the present day, their twin children live in a largely deserted metropolis where the subway has only one destination: "The Inner World". Following in their parents' footsteps, they encounter strange creatures, powerful magic-users, and, of course, chocobos. But where have their parents gone ... and what are the motivations behind the joining of the worlds?
In the last decade, Final Fantasy has established itself as the marquee title in the role-playing genre, and nearly everyone who has touched a video game system has played at least one incarnation of this game. However, a good game series doesn't necessarily translate into instant success in other fields, as Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals proved to our eternal dismay. Of course, this was followed up by the 3D computer-generated film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, whose animation has been praised by many, but whose plot hasn't quite proved as worthy of acclaim.
So where does Unlimited fit into all this? Well, as the franchise's first full-length television series, it's not a bad start. The FMV mastery of the Final Fantasy games has translated quite well into the 3D CG animation field, and this is in effect from the first minute of this show. Spell and mechanical effects (much of which seem the same, when it all comes down to it) are beautifully rendered and wondrous to behold.
Unfortunately, the traditional 2D cel animation of the characters is nowhere as impressive - while competent, it really reflects on this title's intentions as more of a children's show than a show for older Final Fantasy fans. The style is firmly entrenched in Saturday morning, but at least it's better than Legend of the Crystals. More rabid Final Fantasy fans may have to resist the urge to mail-bomb the animators, especially when the animation goes from adequate to really bad in certain spots.
While the premise is interesting, it's evident from the beginning that this is Final Fantasy for the Digimon crowd - rather than dwelling on the mystery of magic and action involving powerful beasts, the audience gets to watch the children get into various chocobo shenanigans usually involving the yanking of Ai's pigtails. Adult characters seem to be either glorified babysitters, ciphers, or weird, creepy villains. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but fans of the more recent Final Fantasy titles will probably be disappointed. And the action sequences could've used a lot more polish. I really don't think any reasonable creature would just sit there while so-and-so takes fifteen minutes to summon Phoenix or Typhoon ... would you?
Not to mention the questionable choice of opponents - after you've shown the audience super-cool dragons and magical trains, you can't tease them with the Stay-Puff Mushroom Man. Come on already! At least the spell effects look cool.
Still, Unlimited has an interesting story peppered with amusing in-jokes, like having the famous victory played after the end of a battle, and numerous references to the earlier Final Fantasy games. The characters are likable and cute, and the music gets a passing grade. Bonus points for the adorable (if obviously no-budget) end sequence, especially if you're a chocobo fan.
While I reserve the right to raise my opinion of this show if and when the plot starts kicking in, our first look at this title gives us the feeling that perhaps the creators and animators weren't as Unlimited as they thought. Simplistic 2D animation and a kiddified plot may drive off newer Final Fantasy fans who are more used to Tidus and Yuna (or even Zidane and Garnet) than Palom and Porom. But as a synthesis of classic Final Fantasy and modern monster-show visuals, it's worth a further look.
Fine for Saturday morning, and light-years beyond its video predecessor. Not quite up to The Spirits Within, though, except for having a more involved plot. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Some of the battles and spell effects might freak out small children, but this should be fine for older children and above. FF fans would enjoy some of the references, but their little siblings are more likely to enjoy the actual show.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (8/25)
Final Fantasy: Unlimited © 2001 Square / TV Tokyo / Dentsu / FF:U Production Committee
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