Anime and games are intimately tied together in Japan: popular games tend to get anime adaptations and popular anime tend to get game adaptations. Thus, over the years there have been a myriad of game-inspired anime—some good, others borderline unwatchable.
I saw my first game-inspired anime right at the dawn of my anime watching career. It was at about the same time I got into JRPGs—which is to say the mid 90s. So as I lovingly played through every Final Fantasy I could get my hands on, I couldn't help but think, "man, I wish these were anime, too."
Then I found out there was a Final Fantasy anime—a four-part OVA called Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals—and, more importantly, my local Blockbuster had it. Other than that, though, I remember very little about watching it—except that I hadn't ever watched it again after the first viewing 15 years back.
This was probably for the best, because frankly, Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals is a total mess.
Rather than a retelling or a completely original story, Legend of the Crystals is a pseudo-sequel set 200 years after the events of Final Fantasy V. The basic plot revolves around a new group of heroes fighting against a new bad guy who is set on using the four crystals—and Cid's brain—to turn himself into a god. That's not to say that old characters don't return at all, however. Side character Mid returns as a ghost and the main cast of FFV has cameos in the occasional flashbacks.
The original plot is generally standard Final Fantasy fair: The party sets off to find the crystals and along the way meets a variety of characters from different walks of life that then join the quest to save the world. Unfortunately, these characters only fall into two categories: boring or annoying.
But probably the worst aspects of the plot are the implications it has for the characters of Final Fantasy V. Cid died shortly after the end of FFV and almost immediately his brain was stolen for clearly evil purposes. And somehow, the heroes of FFV—who had just finished saving the world, mind you—were too incompetent to chase down a random guy with a sword who had stolen one of their friend's brains and murdered a child (Mid).
Though set in the world of Final Fantasy V, Legend of the Crystals does little to reflect this fact. While places and names are the same, they appear drastically different visually. The wind shrine is now flying and the cities we see don't even share the same basic architecture seen in the game. Chocobos are featherless pink blobs and motorcycles, guns, and smiley-faced bombs are now all commonplace. In nearly every way, it lacks the aesthetic feel of Final Fantasy V.
When I think of Final Fantasy, juvenile sexual humor is probably the last thing that comes to mind—which makes it baffling why it is so prominent in Legend of the Crystals. Linaly, Bartz's teenage descendant, can't go five minutes without giving us a panty shot. After the first episode, it gets even worse as her butt occasionally glows giving the camera even more excuses for panty shots.
Rouge, the thief character, dresses in nothing but skimpy bondage gear and uses a whip. At one point, she strips a main character naked and uses a tickle torture machine on him—of course, this is only revealed after implying he is being raped. Oh, and the alarm in her hideout is a giant naked woman statue with bells for breasts.
Simply put, the fan service isn't sexy and the humor isn't funny. So what is the point?
But for me, the oddest thing about Legend of the Crystals was the soundtrack. It's not that the music is bad—though it largely is—it's that the music is largely absent. Vast swaths of the anime are unscored, leaving nothing but sound effects—even in several of the danger-filled climaxes. The result was that I felt completely disconnected from the action. The importance of music in film is something you don't really notice till it's gone.
Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals is a lackluster first attempt at bringing Final Fantasy to the world of anime. While the animation itself looks fine—given the time in which it was made—
nothing else about it really holds up. The world doesn't look or feel like Final Fantasy V, the characters are lackluster, the humor and fan service are insulting, and the lack of music makes it hard to get invested in what you are watching. If you are a diehard Final Fantasy V fan or need to devour absolutely everything with the Final Fantasy moniker, feel free to watch. But for everyone else, this is an anime adaptation that is better left forgotten.
Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals was released on VHS in the United States on November 24, 1998.