Final Fantasy Unlimited – Raise Your Hand if You Thought It Was Spelled “Cactaur”

Chapter 20 – Yu: The Secret of Gaudium

It’s a few days later, and Ai is still mooning over Clear. This is also upsetting for Yu, especially because neither Ai nor Kaze will give him any details about what happened in the previous episode! Yu isn’t talking long before Cid flies in, riding Clear’s glove, which can fly just like the name “flying water” implies. Ai is angry at him stealing the glove away while she was staring into space, and takes it back. But enough reminiscing about Episode 19: Fungo gives a warning and the ocean puzzle shifts to start today’s activities.

Much to everyone’s dismay, the Jane ends up in a new cube in mid-air and is now plunging through the clouds. After clearing one particular cloudbank, the party stumbles onto none other than… Gaudium! Yeah, Gaudium is here, inside the Ocean Puzzle! It doesn’t really makes sense to me that Gaudium could have been inside the puzzle before now, and there were never any hints that that was the case, so it makes me wonder if the production team moved it here after they got word they were going to be cancelled, just to rush things along?

The gross heart satellites start firing on the Jane even as it falls, but the party lucks out when they crash on top of one of the upper satellites and the others can’t hit them from there. Also lucky they weren’t crushed to bits by the fall! Miles remarks that they won’t be able to leave, and merely talking to Cid has her blushing and awkward after their kiss a few episodes ago, but Cid doesn’t notice. Knave does, and the look on his face is lovely.

At this point, Knave decides that the Comodeen should take a pot-shot at Gaudium! Note that the party doesn’t know that this is Gaudium, but I imagine they figure it’s responsible for the satellites shooting at them. Then again… the CGI used in this sequence is dubious, suggesting that the Jane is firing from somewhere away from the satellites and not from on top of them. Their missile even ends up hitting the force field, which should be impossible considering it’s not between them and Gaudium! Either there are multiple force fields and the show never makes this clear, or something screwy happened to the script (remember: CGI has to be ordered early in the production process)! To add to the confusion, Pist later suggests he tried to drop them onto Gaudium itself, but that the Earl is somehow messing with the party? Did he… move the fortress to catch them on the satellite, I guess?

In any event, the Comodeen stop firing, but Kaze notices mist seeping out of the fortress, suggesting Makenshi is inside.

After a cut, Chobi begins running around the ship, squawking, and Yu translates that Chobi “smells dead peppers and can’t take it anymore.” Don’t take that to mean he can’t stand to be near them, by the way: he apparently wants to eat the spicy things that he literally can’t stomach, and so flies out the window, taking Yu with them. Thankfully, Chobi’s flying form is fast enough to avoid the satellites, but Yu ends up dropped in the halls of the castle as Chobi goes after the peppers in some other part of the fortress. Given Tyrant’s gourmand persona, it’s not out of the question that he might have some, so I’m willing to accept this as an excuse.

After walking through the empty halls for a stretch, Yu turns to discover Earl Tyrant, stalking him with a lollypop in hand. Yu doesn’t realize who he’s talking to, but the music makes it clear that he’s deep in the mess, chatting with the end boss and all. Tyrant laughs about Yu being friends with Chobi, since “birds are food, everyone knows that.” He tells Yu that the strong people in Wonderland are the ones that crush the weak (like Chobi), but when Yu disagrees with him, the Earl doesn’t get angry like you’d expect from the character. Instead, he laughs, says he likes Yu, and even offers him a lick of his lollypop. Yu refuses. The Earl then says something especially unusual: “How strange. When I’m around you, my tummy feels full, and it puts me in a happy mood.” Just to repeat, especially if I haven’t been clear: the show has been hinting that the Earl is some sort of avatar of Chaos, and everything he eats is just a metaphor for Chaos consuming vast human suffering and even whole universes. This is an incredibly unnerving thing for him to say!

Earl Tyrant asks Yu what he’s doing in Wonderland, and Yu tells, only for the Earl to recognize the name “Hayakawa.” In fact: “They’re standing right over there.” The Earl shows Yu the next room, and sure enough, there are his mother and father, laughing with one another. The show cuts to commercial.

Back on the Jane, Cid is using one of his toys to interface with the satellite in hopes of tacking control of it. Ai notes that the last time Cid tried to work with a living thing (Chobi, in Cid’s debut episode), he just electrocuted them, but who knows?

Back in Gaudium, Yu calls out to his parents, but they don’t respond. The Earl explains that he’s somehow taken control of the Hayakawas to do research for him, saying it relates to his desire to rule Wonderland and the multiverse. He even claims that the Hayakawas said it would be “fun research,” leading Yu to conclude that his parents are working here willingly. His fears seem confirmed when his dad sees him, stalls, but then ignores him again, bowing hello to the Earl instead. At this point, Yu asks the Earl who he is, and Tyrant gets a laugh out of telling him. “What, are you afraid or something?” Luckily, Yu is rescued by an out-of-control, out-of-nowhere Chobi just a few seconds later.

Back on the Jane, Cid has succeeded in hacking the satellite. He uses it to destroy the other satellites, after which he flies the one under his control towards Gaudium. The party soon spots Makenshi on the fortress, and Kaze is disappointed to find the Magun hasn’t thawed (the viewer might realize that this is because only one twin is with him). Lisa tries to stop Kaze from using his shotgun, but when Makenshi removes his mask to use his mist, Kaze shoves her aside and opens fire through the Jane‘s windows. This at least keeps Makenshi from using the mist, long enough that Chobi and Yu are able to arrive on scene.

Now that both twins are nearby, the Magun thaws, but Makenshi moves first:

All things now rely on my beautiful song!
Now be off! Nocturne of the White Heat!

Funny how Makenshi keeps mixing things up with his poem, even though he only makes the same summon each time?

The Sword Dragon wraps about the satellite, and Knave orders Cid to fire. Cid protests, as Chobi hasn’t been able to get back on the ship, and he fears that firing a shot will prevent them. Kaze doesn’t give a rat’s ass and moves to Summon, but they’re both stopped when the Sword Dragon destroys the satellite, causing the party to plunge into a portal and out of this particular puzzle cube. Ah yes, safely back into the maze, where we will be underwater without a window!

We return to Gaudium, where the satellites are all gone but the force field apparently remains. The Earl and his Lords are singing Makenshi’s praises for defending the fortress single-handedly, as some surprisingly effective, sad music plays in the background. The Earl even offers Makenshi a lick of his lollypop, and while Makenshi doesn’t accept, he thanks him. It’s clear this is a big moment, though it’s not entirely clear why at first glance. To give us a hint about what’s really going on, we return to the Jane, where Cid realizes that Makenshi may have destroyed the satellite to rescue the Comodeen, not to hurt them, and to further damage Gaudium’s defences in the process. In fact, it’s possible for you to read the scene with the Earl as a hint that the bad guys know he’s up to something, too. It’s very hard to say! It’s the closest the show has come in a while to producing something that feels fuzzy because it’s subtle, instead of something that’s fuzzy because it’s incompetent.

The episode ends with Miles realizing they must have seen Gaudium, followed by Ai trying to talk to Yu. Unfortunately, Yu is in shock about their parents, and we end the episode with a zoom into his eye, where we see a reflection of Chaos, even though he never saw the Chaos room.

Chapter 21 – Cactus: The Wandering Ocean

I have to wonder exactly when the FFU production team learned they were going to be cancelled. While it’s important to recognize that episodes of a TV show aren’t necessarily produced in order, the fact that you have to air them in order does force your hand a little. With that in mind, I think it’s notable that Episode 21 still managed to be a total, filler waste of time, suggesting they didn’t know they were being cancelled even that late into the series? But perhaps I’m wrong on that assumption?

…Oh, shit, wait, that was supposed to be the episode’s concluding paragraph. Umm… crap, spoilers, spoilers!

So… Episode 21 isn’t going to be very good. I guess I can’t hide that now. In fact, as I sit here, I’m at what would have been the end of my writing session for the day, but I’m still typing, because I’m worried I’ll be so discouraged by this boring-ass episode that I won’t want to come back to FFU tomorrow! Maybe if I keep typing I’ll get to the end and then won’t have to worry about it? Wouldn’t that be great, ahaha? Hah?

Because we’ve been in the Ocean Puzzle for six episodes now (holy shit, it’s really been six episodes of this and we’re not even near over), Pist spends the first few minutes reminding us how the thing works. After the opening credits and Fabula’s recap, we learn the party is now in a desert cube, moving along some kind of sand-current with no control over their own movements. Yu is still upset about his parents, Kaze is still upset about Makenshi, and with everyone else upset about the desert, I suppose we’re lucky that Ai isn’t still moping over Clear! In fact, she’s trying to cheer her brother up with a chocolate bar (brand name “choco-boo”?), but when she asks PoshePocket to give her one, he spits out… a Cactuar.

For some reason, Ai gets it in her head to capture the Cactuar, and it runs off and soon Chobi is trying to kill it. This is a weird episode already, and it’s clear we’re not going anywhere soon. We follow with gag after gag: the Cactuar is in Miles’ laundry (as Fungo eats soap), the Cactuar invades Knave’s shower just like our last gag episode, the Cactuar uses 1000 Needles to escape a trap, etc. Eventually, Ai chases him off the sub, swinging PochePocket like a bolas.

By the way, the Cactuar is voiced by Samantha Inoue-Harte, Crux and Chobi’s voice actress.

Lisa and Yu follow Ai, and Lisa senses something strange in the energy of the region. It seems the only living thing for miles are more Cactuars, which Ai finds in a nearby hole in the ground. Thankfully, Lisa manages to calm everyone down, and after the commercial break, we learn that Fungo can speak Cactuar. Since they now know what the little creatures are called, everyone in the cast makes up their own pronunciation of the word. Fungo says it correctly, “cac-twar,” while Ai says it the way I find most English speakers – including me – want to pronounce it: “cac-tawr.”

Fungo says that the Cactuar used to have a city here, but they lost it to “the wandering sea.” Knave is so moved by the Cactuar’s plight that he promises to defeat the wandering sea (he then tries to shake one of their hands), and Cid starts looking for the sea, rationalizing that it’s not just a nice thing to do, but is arguably the objective of the puzzle cube. The Cactuar have a plan, but it’s not going to be easy to do it: they want to dig a giant hole to trap the wandering sea, and… well… they’re one foot tall with no real hands. Cid decides to deploy some digging equipment (or at least, that’s what I think they are, it’s possible they’re water-related, given how he ends up using them), and the Cactuar try to help, which, uh… doesn’t go well.

Meanwhile, Lisa is sensing the wandering sea coming close, and identifies them as the souls of those lost at sea, now in the form of a giant, amalgam, water-ghost. Not long after, the creature appears, essentially an autonomous tidal wave in the middle of the desert! The Comodeen try to stop it with a bomb filled with “drying agents,” but the Comodeen are good for nothing, so you probably aren’t surprised when this fails to work. Lisa’s Kigen Arts are just as useless, as are Cid’s robots. I don’t know why this cast even tries any longer. Kaze, you do it.

The soil charge triad to use on you has been decided!
Strength to bite through rocks: Shark Grey.

Kaze, that is the opposite of what we’re “biting through” today.

Hydrate the drought: Water Blue.

Kaze, fuck, it’s got enough water!

And finally, jaws of the sky: Crusher White.

Look, I am not convinced he isn’t just going to summon another tidal wave in an incredibly poor misunderstanding of “fight fire with fire.” My money’s on Leviathan.

Roar! I summon you! Bismark!

Oh, it’s just you again. I didn’t recognize the combo thanks to the new translation. Well, this is equally ill-advised, yes?

Believe it or not, Bismark also fails (then again, all of Kaze’s repeat summons have failed to some degree). You know, I kind of like that Kaze has barely fired the Magun since entering the Ocean Puzzle, since it’s been good for variety, but what’s funny is that he is firing every once and a while… he just keeps failing! All Bismark manages to do is to turn the wandering sea into a wandering waterspout, somehow. But who should respond at this point but the Cactuar, who disrupt the spout with some sort of collective magic, and dissipate the wandering sea.

Unfortunately, it seems the Cactuar exhausted themselves and have all died in using this spell! The drama doesn’t last long, however, as they’re soon back on their feet and stabbing Knave again for fun. The Cactuar then get a Final Fantasy victory theme of their very own, including a military parade-style victory celebration? This episode is very strange. I have to wonder exactly when in production the team learned they were going to be cancelled. While it’s important to—oh, wait, been here already.

In a closing scene, Lisa comes to Kaze, and apologizes to him for what she said over a dozen episodes ago – that he was inhuman (in terms of behaviour) – since he went out of his way today to help the Cactuar. Kaze does not respond.

Yay, I made it!

Prev: Final Fantasy Unlimited – Clear as Mud
Next: Final Fantasy Unlimited – The Good Old Days

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