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Xenosaga Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Based on the hit videogame series and a complete waste of time.

What They Say:
4,000 years after abandoning the Earth, the fate of humanity now hangs on the actions of a tiny few! Under attack by a merciless enemy from another dimension, the crew of the spaceship Woglinde must fight not only to save their own lives, but also to keep a mysterious monolith with unknown powers out of the claws of mankind’s most fearsome enemy. The monolith is called the Zohar, and the evil Gnosis will stop at nothing to get it.

Enter KOS-MOS, a robotic weapon as dangerous and misunderstood as she is beautiful. Designed to protect humankind, she may be its last hope… or the instrument of its downfall.

The Review:
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 5.1 surround. As is customary, the Japanese track is only available in 2.0. The mix is solid, with good directionality in the sound effects, both left/right and front/back. Dialogue stays on the center channel, and there is no dropout among any of the channels or tracks.

From a technical standpoint, this is a good release. There were no transfer flaws that I noted at any point. However, the actual animation for this series is pretty horrendous. I’m pretty accepting of bad animation, but it’s obvious that they made this series on as little budget as possible. The character designs are decent, but there was little imagination in the shading or coloring, and the movement is very choppy. It’s somewhat of a running joke how many anime have long scenes of characters standing in one place and just talking (if not just thinking), but that’s seems to be the case for the many scenes in Xenosaga. Sometimes, if you are lucky, the background moves around them. This series just screams quick cash-in attempt. So it should be noted that the grade for this section is a happy medium between the good work Funimation did with the crappy stuff they were given.

This is a S.A.V.E. release, so the packaging is minimal (which is fine by me). The series comes on two, six-episode discs which are housed in a single amaray case, with a center insert for one of the discs. I do have to wonder why they don’t go with a double-sided amaray case for these releases, but that’s a minor issue. The front cover has a close-up of KOS-MOS looking off into the distance while the wind blows her hair. The back has small pictures of KOS-MOS and Shion along with the series summary, some screen shots, and the technical details. There’s nothing special in the design here, but it is fine for what it is.

The menu is pretty bare bones as well. In the center of the screen is a Zohar Emulator, with the episodes laid out in a circle around it. Selections for language and extras are beneath. Again, there’s nothing special, but it is functional.

The only extras on this release are clean versions of the opening and closing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Xenosaga was a popular RPG trilogy on the Playstation 2, and this anime series tells the story of the first game (with some differences). I have never personally played the games, but I have heard for a long time how good they are, so I was interested to see how it worked when translated to anime. Unfortunately, that answer is “not well.”

In the distant future, humanity is spread out throughout the galaxy. Earth is a distant memory, and people live both on other planets and in artificial space colonies. While the colonies have some rights to self-government, the Galaxy Federation is the central force that both keeps the galaxy safe and dictates general policy. The only real fear in the galaxy is an attack by an alien force known as Gnosis. The Gnosis have wraith-like abilities in that they can be insubstantial like a ghost and can kill at a single touch. The only real recourse in a Gnosis attack is to run.

Shion Uzuki is a robotics expert who is researching a way to stop the Gnosis. Her ultimate project is KOS-MOS: an android armed with countless abilities as well as the capacity to learn. While KOS-MOS has had numerous tests, she has never been tried in real battle until the starship Shion is travelling on comes under Gnosis attack. KOS-MOS awakens herself and goes to work.

While the ship is destroyed, Shion is able to get away with KOS-MOS and a couple other crew members. They are able to take haven on a small smuggler’s ship, the Elsa, where they meet up with Ziggy and MOMO. MOMO is the prototype for the series 100 Raelians (artificial humans), and Ziggy has rescued her from the grasp of the organization U-TIC, who are now in hot pursuit. With the Gnosis after Shion and KOS-MOS, and U-Tic after MOMO and Ziggy, everybody soon finds themselves running from one catastrophe to the next. And behind it all is a singular puppet pulling the strings; the important thing is to find that puppet and neutralize it before civilization is threatened.

As I mentioned above, I came into this series fresh, having never played the video games. However, since this series tells the story of the first of the games (fairly faithfully, from what I am to understand), I don’t really feel like I am missing anything. Any context I need is here in the anime. So I feel pretty confident in saying that even if I had the experience of the games to back me up, this series would be disappointing at best. At worst? It is just plain bad. I suppose if I had played and enjoyed the games, maybe I’d not be so harsh with it, as this certainly feels like a cheap attempt at cashing in on the games’ popularity. Aside from awful animation (noted above), the story is clichéd and overly melodramatic.

I think a large part of the problem with Xenosaga is that from the get-go, we’re thrown into the action, and it’s very confusing as to what we’re supposed to be witnessing. What are Raelians? What are Gnosis? Where the hell are we? There’s no setup here. I’m kind of reminded of Divergence Eve from that stand point, but at least Divergence Eve then stops and shows us how we’ve gotten to this point. Xenosaga never does that. We’re thrown right into the middle of a war and are never given a true account as to how we’re supposed to feel about things.

And that’s the way it remains for the rest of the series. We get encounter after encounter after encounter, and we’re left to pick up the pieces, which actually brings up another issue with this series: the pacing. It’s high-spot after high-spot after high-spot, and there’s no real letdown between them. That’s fine when you reach a climax, but over the course of an entire series the effect it lessened. I said before that the story was clichéd and overly melodramatic: that’s at least partially due to the fact that the story never slows down long enough to fill in the blanks for us.

The problem, I think, is that the first game probably has a lot more in it than they should have attempted to tell in twelve episodes. They’ve apparently taken some side arcs from the game out here, but still too much is happening in the main arc for the amount of time they were given to tell it. What they needed to do was scale back on some ideas so that the main ones could develop properly.

In Summary:
To say I was disappointed in Xenosaga would be an understatement. I’ve never played the games, but I’ve heard great things. This anime was the complete opposite of great. I suppose if you’ve played the games, and understand everything that this series skims over, then I suppose it is possible you might find it enjoyable. But even then, I think I’d find it hard to consider this good. Not recommended.

Clean Opening & Closing Animations. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.

Content Grade: D-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Readers’ Rating: [rating]

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 13th, 2011
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 282 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 fullscreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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