Final Fantasy Unlimited – Ciel, Shiel, Liel, Riel, Meal, The-L…

Chapter 10 – Mansion: The Memory of Sagiso

Today’s very special episode of Final Fantasy Unlimited is here to remind the audience that you, as a writer, don’t need to do anything genuinely meaningful or impactful to provide character development. You know, probably. The writers of FFU are betting on it, anyways.

Episode 10 begins with the party arriving in a strange, empty town at nighttime. The town appears to resemble a modern-day Japanese city with historical or historically decorated buildings amid the modern ones, but when Yu examines the gate at one particular building, he makes an unusual discovery: the whole town is actually made of solid, unmovable stone. It’s not a city, but rather a life-sized statue of a city. Definitely one of my favourite Wonderland peculiarities.

As they are exploring the town, Yu suddenly sees two distant silhouettes, and he and Ai recognize them as their parents, namely by their backpacks. Ai childishly shouts that no one else would be wearing their parents’ backpacks. Yeah, I think you can see how this is going to end. Unfortunately, the silhouettes are heading into an Arabian-looking castle, also a stone replica, on the hill overlooking town. Oh hey, what do you know? Ten episodes in and we finally get a dungeon!

While most of the buildings in town have been solid stone, the castle (presumably the “Mansion” of the title) actually has an interior. Inside, they find numerous strange sights: gargantuan candles; strange doors shaped like people; and a ceiling of live roses that drip water onto a piano, playing a single note over and over. The show’s designers must have been having a great time with this one.

Finally, we come to something that exists to serve the plot rather than just the atmosphere, but it won’t be in any way you expect. The party comes across a forest of yellow trees inside the building. Hanging from the trees are a number of long peppers, each bigger than a human being. Chobi reacts to these with uncontrolled enthusiasm and soon chokes one down whole, before breathing the usual cartoon fire from his mouth and running off, dragging Ai with him. Yu gives chase, leaving Lisa behind, shouting that they should stick together.

But as soon as the kids are gone, Lisa realizes she’s not actually alone: a small, teal-coloured child is weeping in the forest, and also mumbling every single one of his lines into incomprehensibility. Not to be outdone, Lisa mumbles that this boy is not human, but adds that he feels familiar. I mean, I think that’s what she says.

Elsewhere in the Mansion, we discover that Yu has been separated from Ai and Chobi, and has somehow found his way into a room with a canal, not to forget archways with creepy eyes above them. While shouting for Ai, he once again spots the two silhouettes with the backpacks from earlier, crossing a bridge over the canal.

Returning to Lisa, she is now leading the teal boy by the hand. As I strain my ears to make out either of them, we learn that the boy’s name is “Sagi” and that he found himself in the Mansion rather suddenly. Because this is episode 10 and the credits weren’t updated until episode 13, Sagi’s voice actor is not credited in the English release. Sagi says that he was “left behind once before,” and is worried he might be abandoned again (i.e. by Lisa), but Lisa, the perennial babysitter, promises to bring him along with her and the others. During this scene, we learn that Sagi is perpetually bright-coloured, looking incredibly out of place among FFU’s dingy art-style, and I swear there are times when I pause the video, go to write a few notes, and then glance at the video out of the corner of my eye, and mistake him for a bad Photoshop.

We cut back to the twins, but they aren’t doing much. First Yu encounters a field of sunflowers that… lick him, and then Ai discovers a pod covered with eyes, which attacks her with a swarm of butterflies. Good for weirdness points, I suppose, and we will be seeing that pod again, but it feels like we wasted time all the same. We continue with Lisa and Sagi, as they come across another eye-pod, which opens to reveal what I can only describe as a giant pea with a face that comes bounding after the pair. Lisa is able to deflect this with her Kigen Arts, which is the second successful combat our three leads have had in the past ten episodes! No, no I’m sorry to announce that this is not the start of a paradigm shift.

For basically no reason, when Lisa turns back to Sagi, she finds him sulking despite the fact that they’re safe now, saying that Lisa is going to “Leave [him] all alone again.” Lisa takes a moment to register the word “again,” but after she does, the show cuts to its commercial break eyecatch.

After another cut to Ai (she falls down a pit trap despite her best efforts), we once again return to Lisa, her incomprehensible dialogue, and her incomprehensible dialogue partner. Lisa finally asks Sagi if they’ve met before, and he says yes, but doesn’t explain where, instead repeating that she’s going to leave him again. And then, just as the scene is trying to get emotional, the giant pea returns, along with another pea coming from the opposite direction. Lisa and Sagi are cartoonishly crushed between them.

At this point, we get one more cutaway to Yu, only to see him get kidnapped by a third eyeball pod. We follow as he is spat out onto a Lisa Frank-styled Spirograph alongside Ai and Lisa, with no sign of Sagi. Now, since basically all these cutaways to Ai and Yu have been pointless, it would have been fairly easy to credit all of these attacks to some Wonderland weirdness, but it’s here where we discover that the one truly responsible for these plant-related shenanigans is Herba. I’ll admit, I didn’t guess it, and I am ashamed. She introduces them to her HugHug, which indeed turned out to be the creature I spotted on her ship in Episode 6… sort of. We do see the pink flower with a face, but there is no sign of the similar-looking purple flower that it was embracing back in Episode 6. You know… the hug-hugging that presumably give it its name?

Just then, one of the eyeball pods in the room begins to glow, and Herba excitedly asks the pod if it found a piece of Omega, not that it can talk or anything. Herba identifies the pod as a “Walnut” (the localization can’t make up its mind about whether or not there’s just one, singular Walnut or multiple, plural Walnut”s” – there are clearly multiple bulbs, but maybe they have a common root?), but is disappointed to learn that the Walnut hasn’t found Omega, only a bunch of random, living furniture objects that it vomits onto the floor. Herba discards these finds, complaining about how Walnut is completely unreliable. She blames Oscha for its behaviour, saying he created Walnut, which I suppose explains the hideous eyes.

At this point, Sagi appears as though he were always on scene, though even Lisa notices that this is irregular somehow. He once again starts talking about Lisa abandoning her, and Herba shouts about how annoying he is, which is… well, absolutely true. The creators have really been trying to rub in his sense of abandonment into limited amount of air time they had before they had to move on to the next stage of the plot, and they didn’t exactly do it with subtlety. Sure, I feel for him, but his few complaints are repeated over and over and over!

Herba is about to order HugHug to attack the party when Chobi comes to the rescue… and Herba deflects him as well. Great job team, it’s good to know we’re up to our usual standard. Herba then oddly announces that the party can’t escape, because the entire Mansion isn’t built of stone, but of Walnut, saying: “there’s nothing harder to crack!” Yes, perhaps that is true (silly as the phrase “there’s nothing harder than walnut” sounds to an English ear), but… there’s also a door? The show did loosely imply that Herba might have sealed the door earlier, but if that was the intent, it was very poorly done and I wouldn’t have acknowledged it if there were any other way to make sense of Herba’s statement. This is a bit like an Evil Grocery Store Manager boasting about how his building is made of steel and concrete, as you simply walk out the sliding glass entrance.

Yu starts shouting about his parents, but Herba reveals that, naturally, they were just some form of cactus-people wearing the twins’ parents’ backpacks. No one in the audience is surprised. Yu recovers rather quickly, demanding to know where to know where she found the backpacks, but she refuses to answer, instead ordering her army of cactus people and her HugHug (now displaying a set of leech-like teeth) to finish off the party.

Just then, Walnut begins to glow, and before it even opens, Kyle and I had agreed that this was probably the best set up of Kaze’s many arbitrary, last-minute entrances.

Yes, Walnut has unintentionally collected the hero instead of a piece of Omega! Kaze opens fire on the plant monsters, killing many of the cactus creatures and also HugHug. From here, it’s already time for the Magun to thaw, despite there being around eight minutes left in the episode. Hrm…

The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
The fury that levels everything to the ground: Storm Blue.

Herba immediately leaves the scene.

The essence that erases all colour: Ash Gray.
And finally, the spirit that drops into infinite darkness: Silent Black.
Emerge! I summon you! Atomos!

Oh shit, I didn’t know Atomos was a Summon when I first watched this.

Atomos appears in the sky as an eye with a great vortex inside its lid, and it begins to absorb everything inside the Mansion, gradually including the Mansion itself. The party is barely able to hold on to a solid surface, and Lisa – who was holding Sagi earlier in the scene – is now the only thing keeping him from being swallowed by Atomos. You’re a great guy, Kaze, thanks for everything.

Naturally… because it’s a wonder that anyone on this show can get out of bed in the morning without getting mauled to death by an owlbear… Lisa drops Sagi, though he manages to catch hold of a ledge on his own. He strangely asks her to promise that she’ll “take me with you everywhere you go.” When she does so, he doesn’t extend his hand like she expected, but instead tells her that she should “get the chocobo a big dead pepper to eat.” Lisa instructs PoshePocket to do this, as it turns out that “dead peppers” are the big peppers we saw at the start of the episode. This is confusing, not least of all because they weren’t named earlier in the episode (Ed. I later learned that they’re an element from FFIX). It’s kind of hard to explain exactly what’s making it even more confusing than that, but I’ll give it a shot. Consider this English nitpick: if you were to say, “dead *short pause* pepper,” it sounds like you’re talking about a kind of pepper. But if you say, “Dead *medium pause* pepper,” that’s a pepper that’s died! As you can guess, Sagi says the latter. Frankly, the easy answer would have been to call them “super peppers” or “Gysahl peppers” or something else without a double meaning!

Remarkably, not only does PoshePocket produce a dead pepper on its first try, but Chobi is able to choke it down during the hurricane! Finally, Lisa collects Sagi and Chobi’s enhanced cartoon speed is able to race them out of Atomos’ reach as the castle and the town are torn to pieces.

When the party finally recovers, they find themselves in a desert, with no trace of the city or Mansion… or of Sagi. Lisa asks the kids if they know where he is, but they have no idea what she’s talking about: apparently only Lisa could see him the whole time. The evidence does match the reveal. Most of these clues are quite blunt, and I was starting to suspect as much on my own, but one clue is especially clever. If you pay close attention, when Herba appeared to be shouting at Sagi for whining, she later says, “I was talking to you!” in a context that implies she was actually yelling at Lisa for whining. Sorry for lying, I had to be misleading on the matter to preserve the mystery. Though, if Sagi wasn’t visible, it does make you wonder what the twins and Herba thought Lisa was shouting about this whole time.

Lisa is incredibly upset that she seems to have circumstantially abandoned Sagi just like she promised he wouldn’t, when she looks down and discovers a white flower growing in the desert. She realizes that this is a real-world flower: sagiso, the fringed orchid. She then tells the twins a story about how she used to care for a sagiso as a child but accidentally left it behind when they moved one day. Lisa is incredibly upset to think the sagiso followed her, and Ai relates that, “in the language of flowers,” sagiso is supposed to follow you “into your dreams,” ala here in Wonderland.

Naturally, we never see this flower again, rendering not only this entire episode moot, but leaving Lisa a liar when she said she wouldn’t leave Sagi behind again. I just don’t understand how a show that lost dozens of episodes after its budget collapsed still managed to keep this many filler episodes or near-filler episodes? Did they accidentally make them first or something?

Chapter 11 – Ciel: The Departure of Chocobo

Hey guys. H-hey. Hey guys. Do you know who desperately needs a character-building filler episode? The chicken. Let’s give one to the chicken. I’m a genius, pass the cocaine.

The party has returned to the subway, and after an extended 3D tour of the stairs that the creators must have ordered from their 3D animation studio only to realize they had no use for it. Once that’s done, the party arrives in an empty – but trim –field of grass. As they are standing around, a flock of multicoloured chocobo. “Herd” of chocobo? “Murder” of chocobo? I’m going with “murder.” A murder of chocobo arrives over the horizon.

Oh, wait, Ai just said “herd.” Fine, I guess we can go with “herd.”

It turns out the murder aren’t just walking towards the party: they’re stampeding, being chased by the mushroom monster from Ep 1 (in its original form). Lisa is able to toss the monster around with her Kigen Arts, just like in Ep 1, and wouldn’t you know it, using a lot of recycled animation from Ep 1 to boot. Given all the recycled stuff we’re seeing, it’s good to see that Lisa remembers that the mushroom transformed that time she tried to juggle its cousin, and expects it to do the same now. She warns the kids to start running, but before they can get away, Chobi runs in an ineffectively kicks the transformed monster. He is soon joined by the rest of the murder of chocobos, who live up to their name by tearing the monster to atomic dust. Savage. And can you believe it? Someone other than Kaze ended a fight today! Like, something actually significant, not just mopping up after Kaze or knocking a monster aside temporarily!

After the battle, a woman arrives on chocobo-back, looking a just a bit like Chocobaba from episode 2, enough so that Lisa has to ask if she is Chocobaba or not. The woman is actually Chocobaba’s sister, Chocoimo (Choke-oy-mo), who ends a lot of her sentences with the phrase “or something like that,” instead of calling everything “a rumour,” like her sister did. Like Chocobaba, Chocoimo is voiced by Lainie Fraiser.

Chocoimo likes what she sees of Chobi, and compares him to the legendary chocobo, Ciel, who was name-dropped in the title so you know this is important. She also identifies Yu’s special chocobo feather by a proper name, but between Fraiser’s muttering and the fact that this is a made-up word, I can’t pick out the word from the sentence! In fact, the only reason I know the word today is because I came across it when I was on an FFU fansite way, way after the fact: she’s supposed to be saying “pinion.” After Lisa nearly confirms that this episode won’t have anything to do with the overarching plot, Chocoimo begins to hint that Omega may be nearby, and we flash back to Episode 7 and repeat relevant info until Chocoimo brings up the legendary Ciel again, now pronouncing the name “She-el” instead of “See-el” like she had earlier. She will continue to swap between pronunciations throughout the episode. I hate this.

Chobi’s watch begins to clang, and the party gathers to return to the Ghost Train. But it seems that Chobi just isn’t feeling it anymore: instead, he wants to stay with Chocoimo and the rest of the murder. Yu rationalizes that Chobi should go with his new friends, as they have no way to get back later on, thanks to the the inconsistent movements of the train and the (implied, but never strictly confirmed) shifting terrain of Wonderland, and the fact that this is a herd that moves around on their own, so they wouldn’t be here even if they could come back! Yikes, you can see his point! Chobi decides to stay with the murder, and everyone is very sad at this definitely, absolutely, positively permanent cast change that removes a major character in the middle of an episode, who also takes an important tool (the watch) that the characters need to survive with them. 100% authentic. Frankly, the only thing truly surprising about this plot is that the cast actually gets on the train and leaves, implying – however briefly – that the cast might actually have to work to reunite when Chobi inevitably changes his mind.

To the trio’s surprise, the train leaves its usual, extra-dimensional tunnel to appear in some sort of canyon, like a real-world subway coming overground for a stretch of time, which the cast assures us has never happened before. Soon, it comes to a stop, and a collection of flashing lights and tentacles signals the arrival of another fragment of Omega. Lisa concludes that the fragment must have outright ripped into the subspace tunnel to get at the Ghost Train! Also, somehow Crux is here. Now, granted, I don’t know how she follows them through the tunnel in the first place, but it seems a little too convenient!

Lisa tries to protect the kids by bailing from the train, just before this familiar icon of the show is seemingly destroyed in front of our eyes. Omega hits the trio and knocks them apart, causing Yu to land, unconscious, on a pillar of rock. Lisa and Ai look for a way to help him, and discover that in the usual matter of convenience, Kaze happens to be sitting around nearby, because why wouldn’t he be? But he doesn’t take so much as a step to help them, besides glancing at his Magun to see that it hasn’t “moved.” Thanks, dickweasel.

If Kaze doesn’t care, the responsibility will have to fall to someone else. After a look at Yu’s pinion feather, we cut to Chobi and the murder, which is taking a rest as Chocoimo admires a landmark she just found: “the legendary Ciel monolith!” As Chocoimo gripes about kids these days (bird kids), Chobi discovers a chocobo-shaped footprint on the monolith, and touching it causes him to be surrounded by magic. The next thing we know, we’re back with the party, as Yu’s body is rescued from an attack by Omega by a metal-winged figure.

Yes, Chobi has inherited the powers of Ciel, in the form of… uh… chocobo battle armour with power wings? Wow, I don’t know what to say! Suddenly the show is throwing terms at us: Chobi is “the great shield chocobo” and Yu calls him “the great seal.” Oh, wait, no, I think “shield” and “seal” were both alternate pronunciations of “Ciel.” That’s four different pronunciations of the same word, now. Someone go talk to the voice director.

Yu is disappointed to learn that all this razzmatazz only allows Chobi to fly, meaning they can’t do anything about Omega. Yes, that’s right: the first major power boost the party has gained since PoshePocket is the power to run away faster. Stick to your strengths, kids! Thankfully, we’ve reached our requisite level of development for the episode, so Kaze discovers the Magun is ready to fire. Yeah, sure, whatever. The party realizes this might be a big one, and escape on Chobi’s back.

The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
The solid earth that protects: Gaia Brown.
The hidden silence of passion: Deep Vermillion.
And finally, from the eternal vitality of life: Evergreen.

Hrm, that’s definitely earthy, but the Vermillion throws me for a bit of a whirl. Still, as Kingdom Hearts BBS showed, red is sometimes an “earth” colour for Square, so I’m-a stick with the earth theme and bet on—

Smash! I summon you! Titan!

A mechanical Titan is summoned, and it levels a huge rock to brace against Omega’s assault. Luckily for the kids, the Ghost Train reappears from out of a chasm Omega created with its attacks, because god forbid serious consequences. At least Chobi got something out of it., even if it’s basically an alternate toy design, for the licensing deals for this show that certainly failed. Titan’s rock and Omega collide in a huge explosion.

In a closing scene, Yu gets to make the joke I would have made by saying that Kaze surely survived the gargantuan explosion, because that sort of thing happens all the time! Still in the room, Square. The lamp is still in the room.

Prev: Final Fantasy Unlimited – It Goes On and On
Next: Final Fantasy Unlimited – The Only Significant Thing We Did All Day

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