Final Fantasy: Unlimited began airing towards the end of 2001. It was one of Gonzo’s early anime projects. Yes, the same studio behind Gantz, Solty Rei, Strike Witches & Gankutsuo. Gonzo is one of those studios that seems to have something really bad for every good series they put out. The Sunabouzu to balance out the Bakuretsu Tenshi, if you will. They’ve also had quite a few middling titles. Where does this one fit? Let’s take a look.
We open with a scene in our everyday world where two dragons are facing off as onlookers take bets and wonder when Godzilla is going to get involved. Or, maybe it’ll be Gamera. I hear he’s really neat and full of meat. We cut to much later when the existence of the other world has become old hat. Twins Ai & Yu are heading to a magical subway to journey to the Inner World in search of their parents who went there to do science. On the subway they encounter Lisa Pacifist, a young woman going to the Inner World for reasons of her own. Which may be related to them having really good tacos, but probably isn’t. We follow the travellers as they go through different, strange locales of the Inner World and encounter all kinds of trouble. Fortunately for them, a mysterious bloke with a magic gun always seems to be in the same areas to help them.
By far the biggest issue with this series is just that it’s under-developed. There are quite a few things that had the potential to be interesting. The revelation involving the soil that Kaze uses in his magic gun could have been interesting and led to some really compelling stuff in turn. The revelation about Ai & Yu had potential as well. But in both of these cases the revelations come at the very end and there’s really nothing to even strongly hint at them beforehand. So, they end up as pretty close to nothing. There’s also the evil death lord characters. It’s hinted throughout that one of them, Oscha, is plotting something. And there’s a lot of build up and then it all leads up to nothing. The series also suffers a bit from being overly repetitive. Yeah, the characters travel to a variety of strange locations but, ultimately, most of it culminates in some big bad attacking, Kaze’s magic gun moving, him shooting a summoned creature and the FF victory music playing. Incidentally, you know how a good magical girl series will start abridging its stock footage so that you aren’t watching the same thing in every bloody episode? Well, Unlimited takes the other route. They never abridge Kaze’s magic gun sequence and most episodes use it. I guess they were really happy with the animation. Or they didn’t want to bother writing a little extra content.
There are some parts to the series that are kind of dumb too. For example, there’s a point where our characters are in an advanced submarines and its weapons work by having a bunch of men blow into tubes like they’re trying to audition for pornographic yaoi. You can make a really advanced submarine but you can’t build a more effective firing mechanism? You really have to take the giant blowgun route? This version of Cid is an idiot. There’s also the whole magic gun thing. This thing doesn’t just require specific combinations to work, it requires super specific combinations. There are at least three different versions of white. With that many kinds of Soil, how exactly does Kaze know which ones work? A lot of trial and error? Considering the soil’s secret, that would be unfortunate. Did he look it up on the Internet? Does he have a strategy guide with all two hundred varieties of soil and exactly which summoning recipes each one is used for? Did he scour the bookshelves, chests and back alleys of the Inner World until he found all the secreted away books with summon recipes in them? Inquiring minds demand answers.
With that out of the way, I do have to say that most of its problems aren’t all that bad. And it is kind of interesting to watch them go through the strange locations. Some of the set ups they find themselves facing are quite intricate and it can be interesting to experience how they function. The series also has some pretty nice comedic moments here and there. It never quite reaches the point where it’s a slog to get through.
The characters in this can best be described as mediocre. With the main cast, you occasionally get glimpses that indicate that the writers are going for something better but they never take the time to really focus on any of the characters enough to elevate them above average. Take Kaze for example. For most of the series, he acts as a “mysterious” figure who seems to care more for his vendetta than for the people around him. We then start getting hints that he has some tragic past that drives him. Towards the end of the series, we learn basically what that tragedy was but it comes across more as a blanket justification for his behaviour as opposed to a new facet for the character. His attitude and behaviour remain completely stagnant.
The art is pretty mixed. On the negative side, the character designs look kind of lazy. There’s also some awkward CG in places. To top it all off, the stock footage stuff gets boring very quickly. On the positive side, the summoned creatures do look pretty interesting. There are also some visually surreal locations they go through that look good.
There are some superb actors in this. Takehito Koyasu, Imai Yuka, Canna Nobutoshi & Ishida Akira among them. We also get a surprisingly good performance from Inoue Kikuko who only gets to say variations of “kukururu” but manages to show a lot of emotion anyway. Her character has moments where she sounds shocked, uncertain, sad & frightened. All while speaking gibberish. None of them are giving their best performances ever here, but they’re all good. The music is very Final Fantasy. We’ve got some classics by Uematsu Nobuo. We’ve also got some from Hamaguchi Shiro (who also has a decorated background in FF music) & Tada Akifumi. The music is, by far, the strongest element in the series.
The closest thing we get to ho-yay in this series is Lisa blushing furiously when she finds out she’ll be sharing a room with Mireth, and Mireth winking at her when imparting that information. There might be payapaya happening on this submarine.
There are certainly things to like about Final Fantasy: Unlimited. The music and acting are both strong. The summons and diverse, strange worlds look good. The story keeps your interest with its strange set ups & locales. It manages to get some laughs. Unfortunately, it’s also a series that never reaches its full potential. The story has a lot that’s under-developed and under-utilised. The characters are just mediocre and the boring, uncut stock footage attack is a constant. I would still say the series is okay but it’s not good. My final rating is going to be a 6/10. Next week I’ll talk about Trinity Blood.