Star Ocean EX Vol. 1: The Inception
Fans of the Playstation game Star Ocean: The Second Story, this anime is for you! However, if you're a fan, then you've probably already seen Star Ocean EX in fansubbed format, as it was broadcasted in 2001.
I found the voice acting to be a little odd, as I'm so used to hearing the admittedly horrible voice acting in the original video game. However, as I watched, they grew on me and I was able to accept easily the voice as that of the character. Even the English dub is good in this respect.
The story is almost identical to that of the video game source material, to the point that the script of the anime matches that of the game at times. Only naturally, some details needed to be changed, as characters lack the interaction of the player on the other side of the screen to motivate them to travel to the next town and whatnot. The story has also been simplified: dungeon crawls are reduced down to a thirty-second big boss fight. I found EX's Claude to be a lot less decisive than when I play him. Guess that I'm a hardcore RPG "whack them all!" gamer.
So what is the plot of Star Ocean: The Second Story, and thus Star Ocean EX as well? Ensign Claude C. Kenni is the son of Commodore Ronixis J. Kenni, a hero known throughout the galaxy. While serving on his father's spaceship, Claude goes to the planet of Mirokinia to investigate a mysterious power source that has been causing problems for the locals. The exploration team finds the ruins of an advanced civilization at the site of the power flux. Claude goes off on his own, ignoring the orders of his father, and accidentally activates some sort of teleportation device. He awakens to find himself in a forest, his communicator buzzing with nothing but static. Claude hears the cries of a blue-haired, elven-eared girl and using his laser gun, he defeats a monster, thus saving her life. She introduces herself as Rena Lanford, and welcomes the Legendary Warrior to the planet of Expel. Apparently, a strange meteor called the Sorcery Globe hit Expel a few months ago, and the world has been rocked with natural disasters and monsters since then. There's a myth that says that the Legendary Warrior will come from another planet, wielding a sword of light, and he will save the world in a time of great need... Claude tries to convince Rena that his presence is nothing but a coincidence, but she's adamant. Galactic travelers just don't drop out of the sky every day.
Claude and Rena end up undertaking an adventure to learn about the Sorcery Globe. In the anime, it's made much clearer that Claude is only doing this because he thinks there's a connection between this planet-altering "meteor" and the ruined facility on Mirokinia, thus he might be able to find another teleportation device at the Sorcery Globe to take him back to Mirokinia and his father's spaceship. Along the way, Heraldic Magic user Celine joins them, as she searches for treasure and then for a translator to work on an ancient book that she discovers along the way. I liked how Star Ocean EX explained Heraldic Magic and Kuhazan, the anime equivalent of the game's special attacks. Master swordsman Dias makes an appearance in the final episode on this DVD, but sadly, Ashton doesn't show up until the next volume.
The animation is not top quality by a long shot, but it does have its charms. Cels have a coloring book look to them, and movement is jerky at times. Shortcuts are taken in panning in, out and across stills. It reminded me a lot of the game's anime stills and instruction booklet artwork. It is rather obvious that Star Ocean EX was made for the fans, as it seems to dwell in invoking feelings of gaming nostalgia.
The opening and ending songs and sequences were not very impressive, and I ended up skipping them after forcefully watching them each once. However, character theme music from Star Ocean: The Second Story cropped up from time to time during the episodes, and it was nice hearing those songs again.
As you can no doubt guess, Star Ocean EX is really for those who are already fans or at least familiar with the game. It's just an anime version; nothing more or less. I wouldn't go as far as to say that knowledge of Star Ocean: The Second Story is required, but it does add a lot of value. Like the game, the story is solid and has some good comedic moments, as well as love entanglements. In one of the best lines that I've heard in a while, Celine yells as she falls face-first down a tunnel, "My boobs are grinding down!"
Extras include character profiles, the Japanese opening with text, a clean opening, Geneon previews and DVD credits. Not the greatest of bonus material, but with five episodes, I'm more than happy with the trade-off.
I would definitely recommend Star Ocean EX for fans of the Star Ocean series and for fans of Slayers, as the comedy and pacing reminds me of that series. I'm giving this a 3.5, as familiarity with Star Ocean: The Second Story does add a lot and as I said, the graphics are average, but retrospective of the Playstation game. If you're looking for a good video game anime, look no further!