Final Fantasy: Unlimited-Phase 1 (2001)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Voice Actors Jessie Schwartz & Shawn Sides
Alternative Version-Clean Opening And Closing Animation
Gallery-Production Sketches
Gallery-Production Backgrounds
Gallery-Preliminary FF:U Illustrations
DVD Credits
Trailer-Angelic Layer, King Of Bandit Jing
Trailer-Martian Successor Nadesico, Chance Pop Session
Booklet
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 91:48 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (45:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Maedo Mahira
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kikuko Inoue
Claire Hamilton
Haruko Momoi
Jessie Schwartz
Yuka Imai
Evan Slack
Kyouko Hikami
Shawn Sides
Nobutoshi Kanna
J Hudson Brownlee
Akiko Yajima
Elena Carrillo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Shiro Hamaguchi
Akifumi Tada
Nobuo Uematsu


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode prophecy

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I find it amusing that there is a game, called Final Fantasy, which is up to release number 12 (and I gather that there were two releases called 11, at least). Seems like the creators need to look up the word "Final"... The game series sort-of inspired a movie: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which was an awe-inspiring piece of digital animation, and proof that things are getting very close to being able to produce digital animation that looks exactly like real-life.

    I've not played the games, but they are very popular. So it's not too surprising that they spun off an anime series. I came to the series with high expectations, especially considering that I was very impressed by the movie. Ah, well, disappointment is part of the fabric of life, no?

    The anime series is not related to the movie in any way, shape, or form, other than having "Final Fantasy" as the first two words of the title. The animation style of the series appears to have been chosen to be pretty much as different as possible from the movie. The movie is as close to a realistic appearance as it can possibly be. The series is not. Backgrounds are (mostly) quite detailed, and beautifully painted, but the foreground characters are drawn quite simply, with absolutely no shading at all — they are coloured quite flat. Every so often, however, there is a segment of 3D animation (the train, the Magun sequence,...). My guess is that these sequences were quite expensive, which is why the whole series is not animated that way, but I'm not convinced that this is a good mix. The 3D sequences are very pretty, but feel out-of-place.

    The show opens with the appearance of a dark pillar in the sea off modern-day Japan. Two dragon-like creatures appear from the pillar, fight, and annihilate one another. This is observed by Mary and Joe Hayakawa, two scientists who feel compelled to investigate, despite the fact that Mary is pregnant. After the credits, it's twelve years later, and we pick up with Ai (pronounced "I") and Yu (pronounced "You" — hmm...) Hayakawa, twins, presumably about 11 or 12 years old, who are looking for their parents, who returned from Wonderland to write a book but then vanished, presumably in Wonderland again. Ai and Yu set off looking for their parents, and stumble upon the route into Wonderland by way of a magic subway train. As they board the train they are joined by a young woman who identifies herself as Lisa, but uses the name Pacifist on a communicator (in the credits she's called Lisa Pacifist). The train takes off in a flurry of gorgeous 3D graphics, and takes them to a place with a huge staircase. After they climb the staircase they find themselves in an odd place — presumably Wonderland. This is nothing like Alice's Wonderland, however. They've been there only a few minutes when they are attacked by a giant mushroom monster, and rescued (after a fashion) by a man who has forgotten his own name (he's Kaze), who fires the spectacular Magun that is frozen to his right arm. He loads the Magun with three kinds of soil, and the combination he chooses determines the creature he summons (in this case, Phoenix).

    So that's the basic setup — the twins are looking for their parents, Lisa is looking for someone she won't specify, Kaze is busy shooting at big monsters, and oh, there's a bunch of bad guys looking to get in the way. The first bunch of bad guys are called the Four Lords of Gaudium, under the command of the petulant child ruler Earl Tyrant. Got all that? There's an added complication, but I'll let you discover that for yourself.

    The "next episode" previews are provided by Fabula, who seems to be some kind of fortune teller (but I guess we'll learn more about her, too).

    The episodes on this first disc are:

1 WONDERLAND
Journey into the Darkness
Ai and Yuu succeed in catching the train to Wonderland, with Lisa joining them.
2 MAGUN
Man of the Black Wind
The forces against them stand revealed (somewhat)
3 FRUIT
The Town of the Sweet Scent
They visit another world, and Ai's backpack is stolen, but Fabula helps her
4 MAKENSHI
The White Etude
They miss the train, but meet a group dedicated to resisting the Earl and his minions

    It looks like they'll be moving from world to world every few episodes on their quest. Their little band expands: a chocobo (looking like a dodo, but sized like an emu) joins them, and someone else in episode 4.

    Apparently this series was cut in half (from 52 episodes to 25 or 26) because it was poorly received. It doesn't seem too bad so far, but I want to see another disc of episodes before I pass judgment.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which means there is no need for 16x9 enhancement. That is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture demonstrates variable sharpness, with the 3D graphics being sparklingly clear, the 2D foreground graphics generally quite clear (a bit fuzzy in long shots (perhaps simulating distance), while the painted backgrounds are a bit soft, but that may well be attributable to the painting. Film grain is never a problem, and there is no sign of low-level noise.

    Colour is well-rendered, what there is of it. There are some vivid colours, but all the foreground (2D) animation is coloured using solid colours — there's no trace of shading, so it looks very flat (that's one thing I don't like about it). There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no film artefacts. You always hope so, in a series this recent.

    There is some very mild aliasing visible, but you really have to be looking for it. There is no visible moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are the two subtitles in English that we are accustomed to from Madman. The first is full subtitles, while the second only subtitles songs. I watched the full English subtitles; they seem to correlate quite well with the English dub (they don't match perfectly because they are a literal translation of the Japanese), and they seem well-timed. They are the customary yellow, and are easy to read.

    The disc is single-sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change comes at 45:33 — in between the second and third episode, so it's essentially invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, the standard offering for anime. I listened to both soundtracks in full. The English is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps. The Japanese is Dolby Digital 2.0 not surround encoded at 192kbps. The audio commentary on episode 1 is a third audio track in English Dolby Digital 2.0 not surround-encoded at 192kbps.

    The English dialogue is clear and understandable. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear enough.

    The score is provided by Shiro Hamaguchi and Akifumi Tada — it's quite decent stuff. The theme music comes from Nabuo Uematsu — I dislike the closing theme, finding it somewhat raucous and frenetic, but the opening theme is fine. Apparently they used a full orchestra to record the music, and it sounds good.

    The surrounds are used rather well in some scenes, and this 5.1 mix is a nice effort. The subwoofer gets a chance to support some real rumblings and crashes..

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated with music. It's easy enough to use.

Clean Opening (1:31)

    The usual — the opening without credits. No subtitles for the song, unfortunately.

Clean Closing (1:30)

    Again, the usual — the closing without the credits. No subtitles for the song, unfortunately.

Production Sketches (3:31)

    This is a montage with gentle music. We get to see sketches of Kaze, the Magun in operation, Ai, and the Apathetics.

Production Backgrounds (3:27)

    We get to see both sketches and finished form for Modern Tokyo, and the Pillar of Darkness.

Preliminary FF:U Illustrations

    There's an introduction, followed by a montage that runs 4:30.

Audio Commentary: English language voice actresses

    This commentary is really an interview, run by ADR director Charlie Campbell. This one features voice actresses Jessica Schwartz (Ai), and Shawn Sides (Lisa). It plays over episode 1.

ADV Previews (6:01)

    Four trailers that play one after another:

DVD Credits

    A bit of a surprise, in that these are the US credits, rather than the usual Madman ones.

Booklet

    It's not much of a booklet: a folded piece of paper with 4 pages, but it does provide some background information.

Reversible Cover Slick

    The inside offers a much simpler version of the cover, with just the logo on the front (no other text) and the episode names on the back. Rather nice.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released towards the end of 2003, but is essentially the same as this disc: same cover art, same episodes, same extras. By all reports, the R1 video transfer is quite good, too, so there's little to choose between the two.

    This first disc is available in both regions either separately or in a collector's box (which will hold all seven volumes when you've bought them). The box contains a coupon for a T-shirt in your choice of size — again, in both regions. This is one case where the choice really is completely up to you, because the two versions seem to be identical.

Summary

    A new anime series that may (or may not) turn out to be really interesting, presented rather well on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent, offering a fine transfer of awesome 3D graphics and so-so 2D animation.

    The audio quality is very good.

    There are plenty of extras, considerably more than the average anime series.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, April 05, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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