Final Fantasy: Unlimited
Type:TV Series (25 Episodes)
Genre: Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction
Version: Region 1 DVD
Reviewed: 1/21/06


When one picks up a title with the words “Final Fantasy” expectations arise in their mind: a decent story, flashy and well-thought out design, and a chance to bastardize source for male pairings. That tongue-in-cheek last suggestion is about as amusing and about as well received as the lukewarm series Final Fantasy: Unlimited, whose creators trie ever so hard to create a standalone within the Final Fantasy universe, but fell flat.

Two twelve-year-old twins, Yu and Ai, travel the combined parallel worlds known collectively as Wonderland as they seek out their long-lost parents. Along the way they meet new characters, explore new dimensions, and fight bizarre foes. Meanwhile, the evil Earl Tyrant has brainwashed the twins’ parents to work for him in an elaborate scheme to become more powerful. His plan is to simply consume every world within Wonderland until he is the most powerful entity in the universe.

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Look at the cute manifestation of Chaos!

Along the way, a few key characters join up with Yu and Ai: Lisa, a girl with a fake smile and the ability to use “kigen arts” which allow her to earth; Kaze, the enigmatic wielder of the powerful Magun; Chobi, a curious chocobo, and later a slew of others including a girl werewolf and a mechanic named Cid. Each of these characters are interesting in their own way, and have their own come-to-realize plot that really does nothing for the story save move it forward like shadow puppets on potato sackcloth.

To be fair, several characters have their moments. While Yu and Ai feel like little more than a point of view for the story to focus on and an element to bring the cast together, Lisa’s arts and compassion do bring moments of emotion to an otherwise stale experience, and Chobi brings a few mild chuckles. However, there’s just no denying that the majority of fans of this series are devout worshippers of Kaze and his Magun. When silence in a tense situation is broken with Kaze’s eyes opening and the words “It moves…” you know something is about to get killed in bullet-named fashion.

Honestly, the best part of this series is surviving an otherwise bland and formulated plot to be jarred by those two words, because what happens next is set in stone: Kaze will shout “Soil is my power!” in an intimidating fashion. 3D cinematics of the Magun take place, where the gun evolves slightly and the heart within it begins beating rapidly. It will finish evolving and in a bad-ass, know-it-all fashion Kaze will warn simply “The Magun has thawed.” The villain or creature that is about to meet a fitting end will have some dialogue or otherwise intimidating action, which is quickly followed by a point of the finger and the infamous words “The soil triad to be used against you has been decided!” The bullets will then be chosen, each with it’s own color and dramatic prose; for example, “The Strength of Steel, Burnt Sienna!” An attack is named, with a command that it be summoned, followed by the name of the summon that will execute it; for example “Scorch! I summon you, Ifrit!” The gun is fired, three color strands collide in mid-flight, and out comes a pretty summon that (usually) saves the day.

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Kaze is the wielder of the Magun. Don’t ask.

If there were a DVD that had all of these summons on one disk, this series would be concise and forgivable. However, there is a lot of what feels like filler the other twenty-odd minutes of each episode, as the viewer has to pretend to give a damn about the origins of Lisa or whether the werewolf girl will ever win the heart of Kaze. The villians are equally uninspiring.

The series as a whole is very episodic. There’s generally a new area or world to explore, bizarre new creatures to meet, a challenge that must be overcome, and in most cases, a chance for the Magun to be fired. Occasionally, the protagonists get help from an outside source like the ever-watching Fabula, but this does less to help the series move forward and feels more like Deus ex Machina at its worst-implemented. Some of the first worlds that are visited are enigmatic (but not mind boggling) and often are shown with such little vision that the viewer has no reason to question them in his or her mind. Later worlds, however, have almost no thought placed into them save one noticeable obstacle or one uninspired twist. The artwork itself looks a few steps above generic, but when drawn components meet three-dimensional backdrops the characters quickly look dated and out of place, like cutouts superimposed onto a video game screen.

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Pheonix looks like a pocket monster. Why?

The most disappointing part of this series strangely is not its slow pace, but rather the less-than-engaging story and boring worlds in which the episodes take place. Apparently, this show had planned to have 52 episodes in Japan, but was cut short by mediocre reviews and ratings. The ending of this series shows a very forced conclusion. The pacing of the series goes from slow and laid back to rushed to the point of being jarring, as the point of view jumps from scene to scene. The ending itself does little to answer lingering questions or even bring any closure; blink and the ending’s over.

Overall, Final Fantasy: Unlimited is a series that cannot stand up on its own or as part of the Final Fantasy franchise. The series’ shining moments are few and exceedingly far between, and as a whole, the series is very forgettable. Final Fantasy: Unlimited may make a decent rental for children who enjoy anime or the most dullard of fans, but the rest would do better reading shoddily written fan fiction.

-Tim Olsen