Final Fantasy V: Legend of the Crystals – You are not prepared

lotc-2016-01-26-22h52m26s215This OVA is about a preteen girl with a Crystal shoved up her ass.

At this point you should already know whether or not you want to read this journal through to the end. There is nothing I can add that will fix, improve on, or even justify the above summary. For all of you who intend to leave: I respect you. Perhaps even more than I respect myself at the moment. For the rest of us: I’ve maaaaade popcorn!

Before we go any further, though, this is the first time on the blog that I think I should put up a Content Warning.  Beyond the preteen girl with a Crystal shoved up her ass, and the camera that continues to linger on her, which definitely counts in its own right, we also have to account for unrelated nudity and gore, namely a lot of blood, child death and (highlight to read) an exposed human brain.  We good?  Great.

As I said at the end of the FFV journal (but with a few extra details), Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals was a four-episode OVA released by Square and Madhouse Studios in 1994. Probably driven by the startling success of Final Fantasy VII, it was released as a direct-to-video tape in North America in 1997 by Urban Vision. Urban Vision probably should have checked what they were releasing before they did it.

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LotC is set 200 years after the events of FFV. As you can imagine, the original cast has passed on, leaving “Planet R” in new hands. Besides “Planet R,” the localization’s opening text crawl treats us to the game’s year: “Kari-Yuga 1000 God Year.” Gesundheit. The text crawl briefly summarizes the events of FFV (completely skipping over the parts about an evil tree and a second planet), simply contextualizing the Crystals that we will presumably be hearing a Legend about.

This begins “Wind Chapter,” the first of the four episodes in the OVA. We briefly see an old man overlooking a ruin in a thunderstorm, before cutting to present-day Tycoon, which looks… technologically similar to past-day Tycoon, if vaguely Arabian? Isn’t it great how Fantasy is a stagnant void from which no progress or imagination can escape?

Okay, that’s a little facetious of me: modern technology is scattered randomly about the world of LotC, like outboard motors, motorcycles and of course, airships. But there’s also old style architecture and transportation as well? Basically, whatever the animators wanted at any given second happens.

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Queen Lenna and Blue Mage.

The present-day Queen Lenna asks her court’s Blue Mage to fill her in on why they’re having storms lately (presumably this is a descendant of the original, but if the animators want to draw in a Fountain of Youth, it wouldn’t surprise me). Queen Lenna here is voiced by none other than Barbara Goodson, the voice of Rita Repulsa on Power Rangers! Goodson’s been in anime dubs for ages, including the infamous Robotech. She also played the voice of Takashi in Akira, and is still going strong in the present day, with credits in Naruto and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Compelled by power of the Queen’s terrifying dome-hair, the Blue Mage ignores the fact that he will be addressed as though “Blue Mage” were his name for the entire OVA, and says he doesn’t know. Blue Mage goes uncredited (get used to that), but standing behind the other two characters is one our leads, who won’t speak until later. He has small glasses and some impressive nose hair (that’s no mustache!). This is Valkus (screenshot later down the page), and once he does speak, he will be voiced by John DeMita, who went on to do minor work for Square Enix in The Spirits Within, FFX-2, XII, and XIII-2. He’s also got a surprising number of credits alongside Barbara Goodson, including Castle in the Sky, Naruto, and so on.

In the distance, one of the planet’s two moons (wait, FFV’s planet has two moons?) drops something to the ground that explodes in a flash of light.

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Hassam and Linaly.

Far away, we’re reunited with the old man from earlier, as he’s having a fight with his granddaughter in the door to their house. The old gentleman is Hassam (though we’ll just be calling him “grandpa”), voiced by John Hostetter, yet another Castle in the Sky veteran (he was also doing minor voices on the Spawn TV series with John DeMita, and he also went on to work with DeMita in Princess Mononoke!). The poor bastard was also in Leonard Part 6, and I’m already sorry for bringing it up.

His granddaughter is a young preteen girl named Linaly, our chief protagonist. She’s voiced by Sherry Lynn, who would go on to work with Square Enix in FFX and X-2 in multiple roles (Shelinda, Fayth, Shiva, Tidus’ Mother), and she also played Lulu in the Star Ocean 1 remake and minor roles in FFXIII and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. I almost wish I were writing a Kingdom Hearts entry here, though, as her Disney credits list is even longer, going back from DuckTales the Movie to the present day, in what seems like the majority of the films they made in that period! She was awarded “Highest Grossing Female in the Movies” in 2010, so even if you don’t think you’ve heard her… you probably have. She’s also a regular on Ghost in the Shell, meaning she has a connection with Barbara Goodman, and (guess what), she’s another Princess Monoke vet! But where, you ask, is Kevin Bacon?

We learn that Gramps is trying to take a journey after the “vision” he had in the intro, and Linaly is trying to stop him from taking such a dangerous trip. He says he has to go, because he’s a descendant of “Batts,” who defeated “Exodus” (or rather, “Exodeeze”) two hundred years prior. Now bearing in mind: LotC was (unbelievably) released in English before FFV itself, which means it had to make certain localization decisions on its own!  All considered, these aren’t the worst translations I could imagine for Bartz and Exdeath’s names. Remember, Bartz’s actual Japanese name (and initially localized name) was “Butz,” and “Exodus” seems like a more accurate transliteration of the Japanese name than “Exdeath.” That said, I’m going to stick with the originals in this journal. Gramps says that as a descendant of Bartz, he’s obligated to protect the Wind Crystal, which is presumably why he’s chosen to live so drastically far away from the thing. Given his age, however, he’s forced to take Linaly along for the ride.

lotc-2016-01-26-22h55m16s023But that’s enough seriousness, let’s meet the comic relief. And also our warrior-hero and male lead! And I’m afraid to say they are the same person. This is Prettz, the kid on the cover (despite only being second lead at best) and Linaly’s friend. He’s voiced by Matt K. Miller who, you guessed it: Castle in the Sky, Princess Monoke, Ghost in the Shell, and also Tenchi Muyo. I haven’t been mentioning Tenchi Muyo but various versions of it appear in nearly all these actor’s CVs. Methinks you could figure out this OVA’s casting agent by just looking at the talent. Miller also voiced the character of Clasko in FFX and X-2, and hell, he was a two-time monster-of-the-day in the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers with Goodson! Prettz has an odd sort of comic relief about him. He’s like a weak, often off-model prototype for Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Most of this humour seems to have been added in the dub, and it’s as bad as often as it is passable.

Prettz asks where the two of them are going, but it seems Gramps is adamant they hide their true purpose. After a brief appearance of a sea serpent that could be seen as a reference to Syldra, we head out of town, only to learn Prettz has followed the duo on a motorcycle. They manage to lose him through his own incompetence, and Gramps explains that that’s exactly why Prettz can’t follow them: he’s a boisterous, noisy klutz and is bound to screw things up.

lotc-2016-01-26-22h55m42s629Just then, the duo are attacked by a giant insect monster, which is probably supposed to be FFV’s Antlion. I think. This is a problem with Legend of the Crystals. Remember when I said it was a sequel to FFV? Well… you sort of have to squint. I understand the troubles in making an adaptation, but this shouldn’t have been one of them. The game is a combat game against lots of monsters: they’re the focus of the experience! If the thing is only going to be on-screen for a few seconds and you have virtually no connections to the original product, why not make it a little clearer?

Linaly calls on the spirits to cast a Summoning spell, only to Summon… an withered, unflavoured chicken wing. What on earth is this? I haven’t seen something that looked so much like a chicken wing since that bit of Voldemort’s soul at the end of the DH2 film, but at least that had… uh… sauce. When the mantis monster attacks second later, it’s a rare moment of genuine comedic timing. These two are screwed.

lotc-2016-01-26-22h56m08s508Apparently this pained-looking flesh thing is supposed to be a chocobo! I’m not really sure how they screwed this one up. Chocobos had a pretty standardized appearance by 1994. They had appeared in FFII, III, IV, FFA and (a cameo in) Mystic Quest. FFVI was just a month from release, and most importantly, Chocobos were also in FFV, and they have always looked the same. It’s not just the lack of feathers, the head and beak shape are all wrong too. It’s as though someone at Madhouse was shown a Chocobo, and told someone else how to draw it, who told someone else how to draw it, and so on and so on, until finally an artist at the end of the line received a used Kleenex with the word “ostrich” written on it in blood.

Chocobo is desummoned with a flick of the monster’s wrist, but the duo are saved by Prettz, who apparently caries a giant sword with him at all times. Prettz beheads the monster with a lot of noise and bravado, so it’s legitimately hilarious when Linaly just looks unimpressed and says “Hi Prettz.” But you’ve got to wonder: what on earth has happened between these two in the past that she’s gone from running for her life to unimpressed in a split second?

Because Grandpa is injured, the kids take him to a nearby town – which, by the way, is where Gramps should have been living as a guardian of the Crystal if he’s so damn insistent on not living in the temple itself, and not two towns away. As Grandpa can’t go on his own, he asks Linaly to carry on without him, and orders Prettz to leave. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll work just fine.

lotc-2016-01-26-22h56m41s161Meanwhile, in… outer space? A robot (with a synthesized nonsense voice) announces that they’re approaching Walse and are sending 36 000 “Gynodes” to attack. We see a giant battleship, but sadly don’t get watch the resulting battle.

Back with our leads, Linaly is on foot and trying to ignore Prettz and his tandem motorcycle, in keeping with her grandfather’s orders, but he continues to follow. Lucky he did too, as an airship suddenly emerges from the fens behind them. This is a funny looking vehicle. It looks like a hunk of coral (not unlike a Corsola), and it did just emerge from gummy swamp water without much trouble. At first sight I figured it was one of the Crystal’s protectors – some kind of ancient battleship? – but Prettz announces that this is an airship full of pirates, so the whole “rise out of the water like Swamp Thing” tactic must be a typical pirate modus operandi?

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Rouge and her two primary henchwomen.

Three pirates emerge on a platform on top of the ship like Team Rocket in black leather bikinis (so… like Team Rocket on a Friday night?). The leader of the pirates is Rouge, voiced by K. T. Vogt, who bears some of “the usual” credits for this cast: Princess Mononoke and appearances in several editions of Tenchi Muyo. While she doesn’t voice act any longer, Wikipedia tells me (unsourced) that she does or did act for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The other pirates are visually indistinguishable, though they have two voice actresses between them. While I can’t find a credit for one of the henchwomen, the second is Barbara Goodson again.

Black leather bikinis and face-obscuring gimp/cat masks aside (though I’m sure putting that aside will be difficult), this is getting a little predictable in the character department, if you think about it. Check it out: Prettz fills the Bartz role of being the headstrong character associated with a mode of transportation. Rouge fills Faris’ role as a pirate. Valkus, not that we know him yet, is the big strong guy with grey hair like Galuf. Only Linaly seems to fill a role that’s all her own, and I’m afraid to say that may be because there’s already a Lenna hanging around.

lotc-2016-01-26-22h57m41s116Rouge tells Prettz to hand over his bike and supplies, her henchwoman saying that times are tough and they’re willing to pray on anyone. In the localization, Prettz calls Rouge “Barbarella,” a surprisingly dated reference even for 1998, and jets off. The pirates open fire with heavy cannons, which… suggests that they’re not all that interested in getting the bike after all? Prettz escapes them into a tight canyon, but rather than escape, he finds a ramp and jumps over their airship, dropping a strange item into the ship after them. This is what I can only assume is a monster: a sort of spiky oyster (in fact, since we’re making Pokemon comparisons: not unlike a Cloyster) that grins and explodes after it opens. This is something of a signature attack for Prettz, and it’s never really explained. I suppose I would have preferred something in keeping with an FFV job (though I suppose you could see this as a Beastmaster), but I don’t mind characters doing their own thing so long as it’s consistent – plus, I can vaguely imagine how this attack would work as a mechanic in a hypothetical LotC game, and I think that adds to its credibility.

Having taken a rest in a forest, Linaly explains her real mission to Prettz, and how they’re going to find the Wind Crystal. (He’s been following along under the assumption that she and her grandpa were “looking for herbs” the whole time.) Prettz then mutters… something. Like a lot of early anime localizations, Urban Vision is in a damned rush to get everyone’s lines out to match the lip sync, so I often have to repeat scenes time and time again to catch what words they’re trying to machine-gun across to the audience. Replaying the scene three times, I learn to my disappointment that Prettz is not paying attention to Linaly and is instead saying that Linaly is “pretty.” This OVA is starting to make me a little angry.

lotc-2016-01-26-22h59m04s630Heading off into the forest, Linaly takes off her taijitu (yin yang) drop earring and holds it up as a pendant, asking the spirit of the forest to guide her to the temple. She doesn’t explain herself at any earlier point in the scene – not to the audience and not to Prettz – so her actions just come off as happening for no particular reason at all, just in response to the script? The spirit obliges with a nudge of the earring, and Linaly and Prettz head on their way.

They drive off on the… surprisingly flat forest floor, and arrive at the “Valley of the Dragon,” a desert valley where the Temple of the Wind is housed. The Wind Crystal is kicking up dust devils in almost every direction, so the going isn’t exactly easy. We cut back to grandpa, still bedridden, where he is praying to another taijitu stone. Linaly seems to hear this prayer in her mind via her earring, and she decodes it too mean that they should trust the wind somehow to get to the temple, namely that she needs to allow herself to be carried away by the dust devil. This causes the dust devils to clear out, saving Prettz’s life in the process.

lotc-2016-01-26-23h02m07s306The way to the temple is through some tight canyons, arguably consistent with the mountain-locked Island Shrine where the Wind Crystal was housed at the end of FFV, so good on that. The Shrine is not how we left it. The Wind Crystal has raised it three or four storeys into the air, not to forget the sandstorm. Prettz runs off to no doubt do something completely bone-headed while Linaly once again gets a telepathic message from her grandfather. I understand grandpa Hassam filling this sort of role for in the plot (he no doubt knew how to get through the protection all along, being the Crystal’s designated protector), but I’ve got to say: if Linaly’s only role in this plot is to solve oblique, vaguely spiritual riddles, but only through the guidance of someone else? I’m gonna get pretty bored pretty fast.

lotc-2016-01-26-23h02m47s847The Wind Crystal reveals five tiles on the ground to Linaly, marked with what she says are characters for North, South, East, West, and… something. They don’t appear to be the Japanese characters for the compass directions (two of them don’t look like any Japanese characters I’ve ever seen), but they could easily be Japanese characters for something else or even a made-up language. If someone wants to fill me in these characters, I’d appreciate. For whatever reason, Linaly chooses to play hop-scotch with the tiles (don’t ask me, she’s the hero here) and it causes the tiles to rise up to the entrance.

Meanwhile, we catch up on Prettz’s plan and… it’s even worse than I imagined. He’s tracked down Rouge and is holding her airship hostage with a suicide bomb. You could not release this OVA today. He orders the airship into the canyon, though for some reason they aren’t able to stop and crash into the temple in the process, which makes a real mess of the airship on top of the damage caused by squeezing through the canyon.

Prettz leaves, and just then, one of the cat gimps tells Rouge that they’re picking up another airship, announcing that it’s a Tycoon gunboat, the “Iron Wing.” Prettz is lucky, because Rouge might have otherwise killed him the minute he turned his back. She then orders her ship into the clouds, which… means… she didn’t have to drive through the canyon to begin with, and could have flown over the top? Why did they damage their own ship? Just to inconvenience Prettz?

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Valkus, his nose hair, and his second-in-command, Gush.

The creators clearly couldn’t keep their facts straight, because moments later, the Iron Wing lands outside the canyon as though it couldn’t fly over either! The Iron Wing is commanded by Valkus, who speaks for the first time and wonders where the dust devils have gone, reasoning that bandits are trying to strip the temple of treasure. He stations the Iron Wing outside the canyon to catch the bandits, apparently confident that they, too, cannot actually fly over the ledge.

Inside the temple, we once again see this OVA’s tendency to do things without explaining them, as Linaly and Prettz are now slipping down a slope? It seems the temple includes a sort of non-euclidean void room with the Crystal held in another floating island, and the only bridge is a series of disjointed, half-collapsed pillars. Linaly takes a leap of faith, she only ends up clinging to one of the pillars at a slant. As Prettz puts it: “I don’t see how this improves our situation much.” Okay, if I have to give this OVA anything, it’s got a few good one-liners.  Once again, grandpa rescues them by telling Linaly to trust the Crystal, and without any real action from Linaly this time, the pillars simply right themselves on their own. These deus ex puzzle solutions are just so enthralling, aren’t they?

lotc-2016-01-26-23h06m52s287Outside, Valkus is getting an unfortunate report from an uncredited soldier, who tells him that all three other Crystals have been stolen. Specifically, he says the “Guardian Nations of Eastry, Walse and Karnak” have had their Crystals stolen. “Eastry” is the OVA’s pre-emptive localization of what Square would eventually localize as “Istory,” which makes sense. Naturally Istory would be guarding the Crystal of Water that ended up in Istory Falls at the end of FFV. The other connections are considerably more tenuous. Karnak is a huge distance away from the Pyramid of Moore, so surely the role of protecting the Crystal of Earth should have fallen to Surgate or… just a shot in the dark here… Moore? Meanwhile, Walse has been assigned the job of protecting the Crystal that ended up in an underwater trench, which just seems silly, but I guess someone has to do it.

I have a feeling that the writers may have just dredged up Walse and Karnak because they’d be more familiar to players who had only been through the early hours of FFV rather than the latter. Since no nation (other than Ronka) was ever defending the original Earth Crystal, there was no harm in sticking in a reference to Istory, and since Tycoon and Bal are about equidistant from the Island Shrine that houses the Crystal of Wind, it made sense to go with familiar Tycoon. Ultimately, I’m more impressed than I’m not. While not perfect, that was very well handled for a single line of dialogue.

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Ra Devil.

Meanwhile, we return to outer space where we learn for certain (it was heavily implied but wasn’t positive until now) that the weird “Gynoid” invaders are coming from the planet’s smaller, darker moon. There, we see a gigantic bio-mechanical figure, which seems to be piloted by an alien being. This is Ra Devil, not to be confused with Mega Man movie-game character Ra Moon, though someone should probably get 1990’s Japan on the line and tell them to stop naming alien robots after the sun god, just for the sake of variety. Ra Devil is voiced by Michale Sorich. Besides the usual connections for this cast (Castle in the Sky, Naruto, Ghost in the Shell) he was Rita Repulsa’s henchman Squatt on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, did minor voices for Square Enix in Dirge of Cerberus, FFXIII and XIII-2, and Type-0. Sorich was recently seen in Kill La Kill as Barazo and Bleach as Tessai Tsukabishi. Fire Emblem fans will know him as the hotheaded Vaike from FE: Awakening.

lotc-2016-01-26-23h08m08s898Back in the Wind Temple, Prettz and Linaly get a hold of the Wind Crystal, only to experience a terrifying vision of a giant soldier with a sword, an old man in a grave, and a young boy. The soldier stabs into the grave and comes out carrying a pulsing, dripping human brain as four ghosts look on. A close observer might realize these four ghosts are supposed to be the original four heroes of FFV (minus Krile), but the soldier is obscured and it’s hard to put a name to the old man and child.

You know, this OVA hasn’t been completely awful so far. A little weird, and an uncomfortable use of a plane hijacking, but not awful overall. I wonder what—oh, shit. I’m making a joke about how anything could go wrong. Now we’re screwed. Sorry folks, too late now, I take the blame!

After a scene in Tycoon where Blue Mage tells Queen Lenna that the rest of the world is screwed without their Crystals, Linaly is able to collect the Crystal of Wind. But while it’s happy to be held for a minute or two, it then takes on a life of its own and stabs itself into Linaly, absorbing into her body. She collapses and…

…*sigh*…

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…and her ass lights up.

And we stare at her glowing panties, and Prettz stares.

She’s like, twelve.

Prettz rushes Lianly out of the temple, hoping to take her to Blue Mage in the long term, not that Blue Mages are exactly known for their medical knowledge. Or rather, what he says is that they have to get to “Hakublue Mage,” which is a term used in the Japanese version, but only made it to English in this one instance. I can’t claim to even know what “Haku-blue” means?

lotc-2016-01-26-23h09m14s656And with that, the first episode ends, leaving us with more questions than it answered. Questions like… why did this happen? Why? I might even venture to ask: must we continue to watch? Must they? Must anyone? While we’re on the subject: why? All this and more will not be answered as the series goes on. All this… and more.

Prev: Final Fantasy V – I’m a Lumberjack and I’m Okay
Next: Final Fantasy V: Legend of the Crystals – The Boob Alarm

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