At a science lab in space, Shion Uzuki is developing combat android KOS-MOS, an anti-Gnosis weapon for the Galaxy Federation. However, when the Woglinde is attacked by the Gnosis, KOS-MOS activates herself, though she is unable to save the entire fleet.
Forcing to flee with the help of a band of spacefaring adventurers and their ship, the Elsa, they find themselves in the midst of a major conspiracy.
Xenosaga the animation is another title I've been wanting for quite a while, ever since I saw the animations in the game from beginning to end. Xenosaga: Der wille zur macht, a rather well known sci-fi RPG on the Playstation 2, has been jokingly referred to as more of a movie than a game thanks to its lengthy cutscenes rendered lovingly in 3D. You would think that if you were to make the anime follow the game this close storywise, which this series does -- almost to the letter, there would be little chance of ending up with an inferior product, right?
And I had such high hopes for this one too.
Firstly, the art of Xenosaga is just plain unsightly. KOS-MOS in particular comes off rather badly in the art style chosen, and since she's one of the main characters, this is no small deal. (Oddly enough, Shion looks quite fine with this style.) What's worse, the animation, when centered on the characters, ranges from passable to downright cheap. This is especially notable in the character interaction scenes, where I assume the animation studio thought they could get away with lowering the animation standard. That might be a sound idea, but this is overdone to a ridiculous degree in Xenosaga. In a sense, I would have preferred them to have gone with the 3D style they had in the game, though that would probably make the anime itself redundant. They DID use 3D in the larger space battle scenes, though, which does actually look quite good. There's not a lot of this throughout the show's rather short runtime, but they do at least give the appearance of knowing their space battles, at least.
Aurally, the anime isn't all that bad, though the music -- and especially the ending theme -- sounds like a cheapified knockoff of the game's aural feed. In fact, the thick Engrish accent from the vocals in said ending theme had me wondering whether they were not taking this seriously, more so in light of the excellent themes of the game. If Xenosaga has one saving grace, then that would be that the acting is generally quite good, with the exception of KOS-MOS' Japanese VA, who nearly shouts all her lines with a rather grating, monotonous voice. I know she's a robot and all, but still.....
Xenosaga's main failing -- when going by the anime -- is its condensation of the story from the game. The game had a rich story, wrapped in politics, intrigues and large scale space warfare, which served to set the frame where our heroes visualized their stories. The anime just lacks the embellishments of the game, which eventually removed much of the drive behind the various characters' motives. It's as if the anime assumes you've already played the game and knows all that's going on, based on the dialogues between the protagonists and antagonists in the show, which sounds more like summaries. Even as one who've seen most of what the game has to offer storywise, I had problems picking up on what they were trying to do with the anime. I suspect the people who haven't played the game at all is going to be far less forgiving about it, which will actually serve as a repellent from giving the game a go.
I'm fully aware that I'm being awfully harsh here. The thing is, like I mentioned, I had high expectations from this anime. In itself, it's not a total catastrophe, and people who've never played or even heard of the game might wonder why I'm being such a grouch about this. The anime itself is average, and heaven knows I've been lenient towards average animation titles before for being, if nothing else, entertaining to watch. Characters ARE actually developed some, and there are some growth and personal confrontations to be had along with the minor amounts of political tomfooleries in there. Sadly, it's the gamers that have either seen or actually played Xenosaga: Der wille zur macht who are going to walk away disappointed with the anime. It's basically a raspberry blown in the direction of the main target audience.
(Decidedly average. People who are familiar with any of the games might want to deduct another star or two, depending on how much detail from the game that they expected to be included here) — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: There's a lot of redshirt deaths here, either from exploding vessels or bodies being absorbed by the gnosis, thus turning to space dust (or something.) Blood and gore is actually in very short supply here.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Xenosaga © 2005 Happy Net Pictures/Namuko Corporation/Toei Animation/Xenosaga Production Committee/TV Asashi
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