Star Ocean Ex: The Inception (Volume 1)

Turns out the legendary Sorcery Globe is just the neighbor kid’s soccer ball.

Somewhere in a distant galaxy, a giant starship exits hyperspace in the center of an asteroid field. On board is Claude C. Renni, son of the ship’s heroic, legendary captain. The asteroids are too much for the ship, and it crashes on a nearby planet. While exploring this new world with the surviving crew, Claude gets too close to an alien artifact and vanishes in a flash of light. Claude finds himself on yet another strange planet, where he immediately rescues a young girl named Rena from a giant bear-like creature. Claude eventually learns that this planet, Expel, has been overrun by vicious monsters ever since a mysterious object called the Sorcery Globe fell from the sky years ago, infesting the countryside with dark magic. Rena believes Claude is a great warrior, prophesied to rid the world of the Sorcery Globe. He embarks on a search for it, with Rena as his guide. Claude doesn’t believe this prophecy, but he hopes the Globe can somehow reunite him with his father.

Still with me? Good. What we have here is five episodes of sword-swinging, laser-blasting, monster-fighting action from Geneon, all based on a Square Enix Playstation game.

Determining why anime has become popular in recent years is a discussion too large for this review, but one big reason is the animation itself. The attention to detail, the fluid movements of the characters, and the larger-than-life action are all anime staples that appeal to fans. Unfortunately, Star Ocean EX lacks these visual qualities.

Many times during any given episode, all movement comes to a complete stop, and we’re treated to several seconds of a static image for a voiceover or dramatic pause. Sudden halts like this are typical in animation, but this series relies on it far too often. It’s distracting, and it smacks of a low budget. As lovers of everything from Bullwinkle to South Park know, clever writing and directing can overcome a limited animation budget, but that didn’t quite happen here.

The plot is your standard hero’s journey, where the young headband-wearing warrior finds himself in a strange world and then embarks on a quest to save it. This is the same kind of story we’ve seen in other TV series and movies, not to mention novels, comics, and yes, video games. Whether future episodes will add new twists remains to be seen. At this point it’s an amusing series with a lot of fight scenes, but there’s not much else here.

Visually, the full screen presentation is adequate, with bright colors and few flaws in the image. Too bad the animation itself is so limited. Probably the best part of the disc is the amazing Dolby Digital surround sound mix. The action scenes and the rocking theme song will give your speakers a decent workout. Dialogue is provided in both an English dub and the original Japanese with English subtitles. The difference between the two, in terms of plot and character, are minor, so fans can enjoy the audio either way. Extras are the usual textless opening, an alternate opening, four useless character profiles, and previews for three other Geneon releases.

The Verdict

For diehard fantasy/adventure buffs, it’s a rental. For everyone else, guilty.

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