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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Generation of Chaos III ~Toki no Fuuin~: Here's How We Roll Down South!

Released in April of 2003, Generation of Chaos III ~Toki no Fuuin/Seal of Time~ marked some changes (both present & future) in the IF Neverland series of Idea Factory games. It was the first to not take place on the traditional continent that all of the previous games had taken place on, instead taking place on the Old Continent to the South, it was the last game in the GOC series to feature a traditional RPG mode (from GOC IV on the focus would be on the simulation mode), & it was the last game in the series to get a prologue OVA, which came out in December. Luckily, it's the best of the GOC OVAs, mainly because it actually focuses on telling a story.

Funny how the logo uses "III", but the katakana uses "3", huh?

The Kingdom of Radia had been the ruler of the Old Continent for quite some time, but that would all change when the Kingdom of Zenon decided to go against them, promising things like "freedom" & "equality" (though, in reality, it was more of a military state). Though Radia originally was able to fight them off, Zenon eventually started getting the upper hand, even injuring Radia's king to the point of near-death in battle, and Radia has been forced onto the small Nordic Island. Prince Alfeld Falbrosse was visiting the grave of a friend who died in battle when a small group of assassins try to kill him, but Wells Middle, another of Alfeld's friends, helps save the prince. Together with Teefa, Wells' sister, Alfeld & Wells have to lead Radia after the king dies in bed... And the discovery of the resting place of a sealed power by Rare Burtoning, one of Radia's commanders, might be the starting point of the kingdom's comeback.

Whereas the previous two Generation of Chaos OVAs were nothing but blatant promotion for their respective games, GOC III goes one step further & actually focuses on telling an complete introduction story. The first episode (or "Session", as the OVA calls them) focuses on introducing the main characters as well as giving a scene to Onyx Oddnel, the Zenon commander who lead the failed assassination attempt, to help give an actual identity to each of these characters. Whereas the other GOC OVAs would simply stop at this episode, which ends with the king's death & Alfeld rallying the troops, GOC III has a second episode which introduces Rare and focuses on a raid on a Zenon-owned castle that Radia needs in order to start searching for the sealed power. This second episode alone gives the story much more meat to it than the barely-there introduction of the previous two stories, as it allows the characters to be shown in more than simply a case of "Hi, we're the main characters". The raid scene also gives some actual action & battle, which was sorely lacking in the previous two OVAs, not to mention some surprising amount of blood spurts (Odd, considering how the IF Neverland games are all about war & battle, right?). Strewn among these episodes, though more in the second, are little hints at a larger story, which works nicely as a way to remind people that the game will answer these questions.

While the OP & ED footage is in 4:3 full-screen, the episodes themselves
are done in letterbox. Don't know why that is...

The characters themselves are also much more interesting than the previous leads. Alfeld is a very smart individual, knowing his place as a benevolent prince (& later king) but also wanting to be a leader in battle, while Wells is more of an instinctual person, & the resulting chemistry between the two feels very natural; granted, Roze barely got any showing, but these two put Erile to shame. Teefa & Rare are more simple in their personalities, Tifa being the simple but caring mage & Rare being the battle-hardened female commander, but even they end up having more personality than the likes of Roji & Lifile. Onyx, & his lover Myuri, get the least amount of focus in this OVA, but Onyx makes his presence felt by the end, & Myuri helps bring about the cliffhanger that, appropriately, ends this OVA off with a sense of "Play the game to continue". This is still a prologue OVA, after all, but the fact that an actual story is told here still makes it more worthy of watching than GOC Prologue or GOC Next: Chikai no Pendant.

The animation itself is still limited in most moments (again, Idea Factory is a game company first), but overall it still exceeds that of the other OVAs. The backgrounds are still mostly CG, but the animation here just looks very nice, blending in well enough with the backgrounds (though there are still some moments where the CG distracts), and it's honestly kind of hard to tell if the animation itself is cel animated or if it's digital, or if the digital-ness just hides itself well, which is a much-needed improvement over GOC Next's obviously digital style. The music is also obviously taken from Tory Kobayashi's game soundtrack, but this time the music is much more fitting & simply better overall. People who played GOC IV on the PSP will also recognize the battle music being used during the raid scene. The opening & ending themes are both performed by Sae, who is simply an excellent singer & her songs just blend in with this world perfectly. The OP, "Wing", is a nice, upbeat song that really showcases Sae's singing ability, & the ED, "Discover", is a slower song that works well as an uplifting song of hope. Episode 1 also features an insert song, "Hechitashiho" by Sae, that's played during the short flashback that shows how Wells & Alfeld's friend died in battle, and it's different in style from the OP & ED by being a very slow & more somber piece, fitting for the scene it's used in.

The cast is also worth mentioning, as they all pull off solid performances. Alfeld is played by Daisuke Ono (Midorima in Kuroko's Basketball, Cancer Manigoldo in Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas), who plays the character perfectly by mixing together benevolence & leadership while also being more laid-back when needed. Teefa is played by Ai Shimizu (Suzuka in Nanoha, Mitsuki in Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere), who does a fine job as the inexperienced but helpful young mage. Rare is played by Yuka Shioyama (Kiwi in One Piece, Claire in Ar Tornelico), who likewise does a fine job as the experienced warrior. Onyx is played by Tetsu Inada (Todou in Zaizen Jotaro, Mr. 1 in One Piece), who at first sounds a little too old for the character, but the more you hear him the more he sounds just fine. The best performance, though, comes from Kenji Nojima (Jade/Jaeger in Kinnikuman Nisei/Ultimate Muscle, Michiru Shinba in SKET Dance), who plays Wells. Nojima simply puts in a ton of energy into Wells, whether he's being serious, laid-back, or even sad, and that makes Wells comes off as the best character in the entire OVA. It's easy to see why Wells is the only character from GOC III to be featured in a multi-company crossover title by Idea Factory (2006's Chaos Wars [released in North America in 2008]), and Nojima's energy-filled performance is one of the big reasons.

It's no contest: Generation of Chaos III ~Toki no Fuuin~ is the best of the Generation of Chaos OVAs, bar none. In fact, it could likely be the best anime production to come from Idea Factory, with it's memorable characters (Wells, especially), original setting (no other mainline IF Neverland game has since taken place in the Old Continent), & actual focus on telling a proper introduction story, rather than simply showcase some characters & hope it gets people interested in playing the games. Out of the original three GOC entires, GOC III is the one I wish we got the most, as it no doubt refined the gameplay styles the original two games featured to its best version before getting changed to how GOC IV & V played, and the story does seem like the most interesting one of them all. In fact, from what I could tell, GOC III is the most well-liked & received of the first three GOC games. This game (& Wells' appearance in Chaos Wars) wouldn't be the last time this entry would be seen, though. In September of 2007, Idea Factory released Generation of Chaos Desire for the PS2, which was a remake of both GOC & GOC Next, but with the gameplay style of GOC V. Two months later, the game was ported to the Xbox 360 under the title Apocalypse: Desire Next. Not only did this port receive an extra "Apocalypse" story, but a remake of GOC III, using this new style, was released as DLC for the game. In terms of OVAs, though, GOC III marks the end of this series in animated form, but this isn't the end of Idea Factory anime featuring "of Chaos" in the title...

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