Final Fantasy Unlimited – HugHugs for All!

Episode 5 – Cid: The Adventure of the Underground Waterway

Episode 5 begins by repeating the last few minutes of Episode 4, just like Ep 2 did with Ep 1. After that, it segues to Lisa as she underlines what should already be obvious: that she thinks Kaze and Makenshi are the “Gun Dragon” and “Sword Dragon” that appeared in Japan during the prologue. And yes, those plain descriptors – “Gun Dragon” and “Sword Dragon” – are their official names! She decides that all she has to fight for these days are the two kids, what with her being cut off from the real world and all. On this important and yet blandly-presented note, we cut to opening credits.

After the introduction and recap, we see the Comodeen evacuating the base, since Makenshi was so disinterested in them that he left them largely intact. In fact, it seems like a lot of things are exactly how we left them before the attack, taking away considerably from the dramatic tension. Cid is still trying to get Lisa and the kids to the train, now using some underground waterways, but it’s tricky because Wonderland is constantly changing shape when they’re not looking.

Cid takes the party to the waterways to introduce them to his boat, Catherine. He explains that it uses a power source called “Elenium” found naturally in the water, saying it makes the Catherine lighter and more powerful than “soil-powered ships.” This series sure is skirting around the need to explain what “soil” is supposed to be, and I think I’d respect the subtlety a little more if the word “soil” weren’t so goofy. The series doesn’t seem to realize how fragile my credibility is on this issue. I need an explanation for a dirt-powered gun and dirt-powered ship, I can’t settle with decently-paced hints like I normally would, or I’m going to keep laughing at them both! Unfortunately, it just wants to flit around the idea in a way that would normally work for worldbuilding if the goofy name hadn’t made things so fragile!

Knave arrives, implying that Cid will be sailing the party out to the train, as he wants to ride it. Knave then presents the party with food supplies, only for PochePocket to eat most of it. This is played as a joke, but hell, if PoshePocket has to eat this much, why not now, right? It’s hard to draw the line between hunger and gluttony when you’re dealing with a living handbag. The party, now including Cid, heads out into the waterways, Crux following on their tail.

Back at the Earl’s fortress, Oscha is finishing a report to the Earl, announcing that Kaze is probably dead, yup definitely, no reason to go and actually check or anything. About the only person who cares about the survivors among the Comodeen (you know, Makenshi’s actual mission) is Fungus, who has finally regrown, and promises to take them out. Of course, you can’t trust Fungus to be very good at these things. Within a single scene, he’s arrived atop of a monstrous amoeba-snake and attacks the party instead of the Comodeen. Also, the amoeba-snake’s name is… uh… “Viking.” I think? It’s another instance of dialogue being hard to parse because it’s not what you expect?

Fungus is comically incompetent, but still pretty dangerous for the main party, so the chase is on (after an unintentionally hilarious sequence of the party shouting about their plans to escape while Fungus just sort of stares at them). Elsewhere in the caves, Kaze is half-drowned but alive, wondering why the Magun crapped out on him in the previous episode. This means that Ai, Yu and Lisa will have to survive without him for the first time in the series! Thankfully, they won’t have to rely on themselves, because now they can rely on Cid! I guess if Kaze’s not around, someone else will do it, but god forbid it be the actual central cast! Cid slows Fungus down with an electrified Elenium net, but the Viking spits acid on it and melts it through.

Cid is eventually able to buy some time by jumping off a waterfall and deploying some glider wings, though Fungus very nearly catches them even then and they’re only saved by the chocobo. But even this only buys them seconds of time as Viking somehow catches up to them automatically. He hits the Catherine with an acid blast and causes a crash, just as the chocobo begins to shout that the subway train has arrived.

Seems like a fairly decent time for Kaze to save the day, doesn’t it? That’s what Kyle and I were thinking, but no! The show was about to do something unusual and interesting for once, as Cid is so angry about his poor ship that he deploys his ATTACK BACKPACK, complete with two magnetized hammers and an eye-mounted laser. Using his tools together, Cid is able to flatten Fungus and hurry to the subway. Unfortunately, poor Cid is so upset by his damaged ship that he refuses to leave it even to see the subway, and he’s left behind.

Unfortunately for the party, this plot can’t proceed without an appearance from St. Kaze, so Fungus revives, attacks again, and Kaze appears just in time to fire off the Magun and virtually nothing else. This show wouldn’t understand tension if it had been raised in a bungee factory. The party even races off while this is happening, which is also pretty funny, given how much damage Kaze tends to deal. Fungus points out that they’ll all be killed if Kaze fires off the Magun on the subway’s spiral staircase, but Kaze doesn’t seem to be listening.

Like I said earlier, sometimes this show can be so bad that the spectacle of the Magun is the only thing is has going for it on some episodes. This episode was actually okay, but it seems I still have a place in my stomach for the ultra-sugary sweet candy filling that are the Magun’s empty calories. Bring it on!

The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
The sleep that engulfs death: Steel Gray.
Bubbling and boiling blood: Heat Crimson.
And finally, the light that penetrates darkness: Lightning Yellow.

Hrm… I’m gonna say… Alexander or Ramuh.

Howl! I summon you! Ixion!

Ah! Close, and an understandable mistake for me to make, since Ixion only debuts in FFX! Note the cross-promotion, since FFX had just launched. Kaze summons the FFX lightning unicorn, and sure enough he blows up the whole place, including the Catherine. Fungus only escapes because he’s basically unkillable, and Kaze because of his plot shield. The party however has made it to the train, and the episode ends moments later, with the usual abruptness.

Episode 6 – Kigen Arts: The Saviour of Souls

“Kingdom Hearts: The Saviour of Souls,” eh? Well that does sound like a valid subtitle for KH3, so how about we wait a minute.

Episode 6 of FUF begins with the party arriving at another station of the subway, recapping the plot. Also, Yu names the chocobo “Chobi,” which is a relief for me, because I’ve been typing “Chobi” by accident for the past five episodes.

After the credits, the party arrives in a desert full of flaming geysers. Just as the party is about to heroically turn and run back to the subway, the entrance vanishes behind them, forcing them to stick around and start walking. Lisa gives a motivational speech, which prompts Ai to remark, “It seems like you want to find [my parents] even more than Yu or I do.” Insightful kid. This line feels even nicer when you realize it’s the only island of narrative progress in a sea of three and a half minutes of recaps (four and a half with opening credits): we had the pre-credits recap, Fabula’s post-credits recap, and after the subway entrance vanished, the party started chatting about previous episodes, too!

Since the plot is way too boring over here, the camera cuts to the Earl, who is furious that Kaze is still alive and the new fact that Makenshi has vanished. Herba volunteers to go out and track down Kaze instead, bizarrely threatening Oscha with something called “HugHug.” I don’t know what that means, but at least something is finally happening.

Returning to the party, there’s an odd little scene about whether or not they should give Chobi water, after which Chobi runs off to an oasis nearby, because okay, why not. Like I said earlier, at least stuff is happening. Lisa admits she was deliberately depriving Chobi of water in hopes of tricking him into finding water on his own, even though this water might not even exist! Wow, I didn’t think I’d be able to say “we’re the heroes,” in the middle of a TV show but… we’re the heroes!

Meanwhile, Herba arrives in her ship, admiring some of her plant creatures, including some plants that might be Cactaurs, and also a scandalous pair of double flowers that look like a couple embracing. Could that be the mysterious HugHug?

As we take in the surroundings, Herba gets a visit from Crux, who points her towards the party hanging out in the oasis below. Feeling petty, but too busy to stop, Herba drops one of those crystal monster eggs on the scene, which somehow evaporates the water and hatches into a giant tree with crystal-shaped fruit. This fruit in turn crashes to the ground and is revealed to be voracious, insect-like fruit monsters, which prompts a hilarious delivery from Lisa/Shawn Sides where she says, “I think it’s time to run.” Ah, if only this show had had better voice direction, to get these good lines out more often!

The party is only so far away when Lisa stops and turns, and it’s time for the title of the episode to kick in. She uses her Kigen Arts abilities to destroy some of the fruit monsters, causing them to literally blow to pieces. Geeze, a little gory for this show, wasn’t it? Good for Lisa, at least!

Unfortunately, more fruit monsters arrive to take the dead ones’ places. Ai and Yu run off a cliff into more water just to escape, and this prompts Lisa to enter a flashback about her training in the Kigen Arts. The flashback shows her being trained by her mother, who sadly isn’t credited in this episode, but the character does appear in a later flashback that is properly credited to Lyn Pierce. You see: FFU’s original, English end credits are identical across the first twelve episodes and don’t credit guest voices. The higher-quality credits we get starting in episode thirteen thankfully do credit guests, and that’s how I learned Pierce’s name. This problem is… going to come up again, and next time, there isn’t going to be a later appearance to help salvage things. In any event, Pierce has only a few credits to her name, though she has a few properties in common with voice actors we’ll be seeing later, namely Wedding Peach and Jing: King of Bandits. Young Lisa is presumably voiced by Shawn Sides, although… in that later episode I mentioned, Young Lisa does sound a lot like Jessica Schwartz’s Ai?

Young Lisa is trying to balance two pails of water while balancing on tall poles over a lake or whatnot, but we only see this for a moment before Lisa, so wrapped up in her flashback, is ambushed by Herba. Thankfully, the twins are still in hiding. Meanwhile, Kaze emerges dripping from the oasis, because why not. You know how this show is structured by now.

Returning to Herba, we see her threaten Lisa with the HugHug again, a name that’s getting less and less threatening with every repetition. The kids watch this from a distance and decide to put their faith in PoshePocket, because what other options do they have? PoshePocket doesn’t seem to know what they want from it, and it begins to cough up all variety of weird objects until it ultimately startles Chobi with its upchuck, and Chobi reveals the kids’ location to Herba. Great job, animal buddies.

Lisa’s flashback continues, and we see Lisa’s mother tell her about how to read the spirit of nature, and this apparently reminds Lisa in the present that she has the ability to blow up lilypads and do flips through the air. You know, I’m okay with Lisa having some reticence about her powers (erm, excusing the fact that the writers have stranded the main cast in unreliability and uselessness), but did she really just forget how to do those things, like I joked? Not… “wasn’t able to channel them until she was in the right state of mind,” but literally forgot? Oh dear.

Unfortunately, Herba has the party surrounded, so it’s time for a third flashback. This flashback convinces Lisa to channel the Kigen Arts to do something with the water, but in what may be the show’s first legitimate dramatic turn in five and a half episodes, something goes drastically wrong and she sets the water of the oasis aflame instead! She flashes back to the bucket incident, which also ended in (simpler) failure, and her mother talks about the “spirit flow” in nature being different in every individual location, and that if a kigen arts user misreads the flow… Let’s just say that there are a few times where FFU’s potential shines through, and I wish they were more frequent.

Herba flies off, the fruit monsters seemingly destroyed, and Lisa tries to figure out what went wrong. In yet another surprising bit of genuine setup, we’re reminded of how Cid said the water in Wonderland was rich in “Elenium” and that it was used for propulsion, so that must have been what caught fire! Wow, what a remarkable little bit of written competence we’re having here. I’m actually engaged!

At this point, the magic in the water goes further awry and somehow drops the party into the deep oasis. Most of the party is able to get out on their own, but Ai has taken in too much water and needs to be resuscitated. While Lisa is doing this, the fruit monsters return, but Lisa diligently keeps working on CPR even as she’s surrounded.

Thankfully, this is when Kaze chooses to arrive, but when he tries to rely on the Magun, it doesn’t respond, leading the monsters to turn on him. This… well let’s just say that it leads to the hilarious line: “Kaze was just eaten!” This episode is great.

Lisa then reaches inside of herself to use her Kigen Arts to revive Ai rather than CPR. The spirits are favourable and Ai revives, but the party is still surrounded by monsters. By the way, the monsters are, uh… breathing loudly… and in a distinctive pattern? I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me they were actually saying Japanese words in an extremely drawn-out fashion, or something like that? Lisa reacts to this, saying that the only way to save the kids would be to sacrifice herself by turning herself into Kigen energy.

Thankfully, Kaze is still alive in a plant monster’s stomach, because we can’t rely on ourselves, now can we! This leads to yet another funny bit where Kaze gives his usual speech inside a monster’s belly, as seen and heard from the outside.

The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
Grinding and devouring rocks: Sharp Gray.
The soil that drinks thirst: Water Blue.
And finally, that which can even feed on empty space: Crusher White.
Roar! I summon you! Bismark!

Oh dear. The whale. That poor monster.

Bismark summons a huge pillar of water that destroys the monsters and debilitates Herba’s dandelion ship, destroying the oasis in the process. After a little conversation, the party starts feeling an earthquake, after which Lisa says “Maybe the ground is loosening up?” at which point the ground abruptly pops open in a giant pit, dropping the party into the earth with perfect comedic timing.

This was a good episode. I’m going to miss this episode.

Prev: Final Fantasy Unlimited – Meet the Chaff– urm… I mean… the Cast
Next: Final Fantasy Unlimited – Where’s Our Were?

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