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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV

Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV.

A few weeks ago, we watched the other Final Fantasy XV anime offering, the Kingsglaive film -- a considerably more high-effort project than this one for a few reasons, and one that clearly had a lot more passion put into it. Like as not, while Kingsglaive felt like a genuine part of the franchise, Brotherhood is very obviously a marketing pitch. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, though.

A series of five ten minute episodes, Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV follows, through flashbacks, three defining moments in Noctis' relationships with his retainers, Prompto, Gladiolus, and Ignis, while also telling the story of his re-encounter with Marilith, the daemon who gravely injured him in his youth. 

In the first episode, Noctis and his retainers deal with a band of imperial soldiers and encounter Marilith once more; in the second episode, a flashback tells the story of Prompto's attempts to lose weight; while the third episode tells the story of Noctis' encounter with Gladio's sister; and the fourth episode tells the story of a falling out between Noctis and Ignis. The final episode concludes the story began in the first episode, as Noctis faces Marilith with a view to defeating her, and has flashbacks to his first encounter with her.

Okay, we'll start with the technical rundown, which is pretty important when discussing a Square-Enix production, since they prize themselves on beauty (arguably placing it before anything else). A-1 Pictures is the studio animating this, which is always a little bit of a cause for concern, since A-1 Pictures productions tend to be low effort with very little thought put into them, and superficially pretty without having much of a mind towards things like shot composition, cinematography, and so on, so forth.

Noctis and one of his many disposable weapons.

Well, they're -- slightly better here? Slightly. I'd still say this falls squarely into the 'superficially pretty but without a lot of thought put into it' category, but you can tell that A-1 Pictures has put a little bit more effort than they usually do into giving it interesting shot composition, and into making the animation colourful and engaging to look at. It's not brilliant, but it stands somewhat above A-1 Pictures' usual fare, at the very least.

The music is all lovely, but then, I'm ninety-nine percent sure it all comes from the game (as opposed to Kingsglaive, which had its own soundtrack with a few game songs dropped in here and there). There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but it does mean that nobody's winning any points for effort.

The voice-acting is fine, and about at the level that you'd expect a cast of relatively veteran voice actors to be. There's not much else that's really worth saying about it: It's good. Definitely functional.

Gladio, put on a shirt, you're making Noctis look out of shape.

As far as the episodes themselves go, they're not, in all honesty, that interesting. They're short character development moments, but since we don't know any of these characters, and don't have a good grasp on their characters beyond the archetypes they embody, it completely lacks any impact. Why do I care if Prompto was overweight and spent years getting his svelte figure? Why do I care if Ignis is trying to recreate a dessert Noctis tried in his youth? Why does any of this mean anything to me, when I don't know and aren't attached to these characters?

The series kind of starts off on the assumption that the audience will already be invested in these characters, but how can we be when we've only seen them in demos and trailers? So it ultimately all falls flat, and it doesn't help that the stories themselves aren't all that interesting. For the most part, they are devoid of conflict, absent of anything that would hook an audience, with only the last two episodes really having anything resembling any kind of conflict-driven plot.

D'aww, Prompto.

It's a shame, somewhat, because the result is something that has the seeds of something good, and isn't exactly terrible to watch, but just comes off as the bland oatmeal of anime -- not offensively bad, but just unremarkable.

Apparently, however, it's gotten a positive reaction in terms of views, which is potentially a positive sign for the future, as between it and Kingsglaive we may well see Square-Enix trying their hand at anime a little more in the future. I feel like that potentially could be a sector they're a little more comfortable in than video games, so honestly, I don't see much of a downside to that.

As it is, Final Fantasy XV is still due to come out this December, and trailers and demos make it look like a pretty good game, and if you're dying for a fix in the meantime, Final Fantasy XIV is still going strong and is due to have an expansion pack pretty soon. We also have Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, a HD remaster of one of the franchise's most interesting games, coming out pretty soon as well, so there's a lot to look forward to.

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