Xenosaga the Animation: Enter the Gnosis

Shion Uzuki and her KOS-MOS project for Vector Industries are in the testing phase when the Gnosis attack the ship, the Woglinde, to obtain the Zohar artifact replica. However, not everyone attacking the Woglinde is looking for the artifact. As Shion’s life is endangered by the Gnosis attack, KOS-MOS activates herself to save Shion as part of her hidden prime directives. KOS-MOS is now able to operate independently of Shion’s orders, and this worries Shion. Based on the PS2 game Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, Xenosaga the Animation: Enter the Gnosis adapts the original storyline found in the first game for veteran gamers and new viewers alike. 

DVD: Xenosaga the Animation: Enter the Gnosis
Release Date: 9/11/2007
Release Studio: ADV Films
ADR Production: Amusement Park Media

MSRP: $29.98
Audio: English 5.1 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English, Signs-Only
Episodes: 4
Runtime: 100mins
Extras: Clean Opening and Closing, ADV Previews

Notes: Review is based on a copy of the final product provided by ADV.

Episode one and two quickly introduces Shion, KOS-MOS, Allen, and the rest of the Vector team (*cough* red shirts *cough*) as Shion Uzuki tests KOS-MOS’s fighting abilities in a virtual world. Of course, Shion almost gets her virtual self crushed by a falling mecha during the battle, but KOS-MOS makes sure to save her. Allen scolds his project leader for endangering her virtual self and then reminds her that the captain is awaiting her KOS-MOS testing reports. On the bridge, Shion notices a 100-series Realian working who seems to look briefly in her direction. Shion makes note of this and finds herself in the Realian lab checking up on the observational and fighting unit Realians as she has trouble sleeping. Despite their human appearances, Realians are generally considered tools more than people. Quickly moving along, the Gnosis appear and attack the Woglinde. The Gnosis use a special shield that can control their ability to be solid, and this allows them to break the fleet of military ships the Woglinde are a part of. As the ship is invaded and a mixture of soldiers and scientists are massacred, Shion and the 100-series find themselves running for their lives from the Gnosis soldiers. As Shion and the 100-series evade the fighting, the ceiling above collapses. The 100-series manages to push Shion out of the way in time to avoid the debris.

KOS-MOS senses Shion in danger and activates herself, following a secret series of prime directives programmed into her. As KOS-MOS easily frees herself from the restraints and goes to save Shion, Allen watches in horror, fearing that KOS-MOS will start killing people again like the last time she managed to free herself. As the smoke clears, the 100-series gets up and checks on Shion while ignoring the large mecha that created the hole. Stepping off the mecha is Albedo, and he’s come for the Realian. The 100-series reluctantly agrees to go with Albedo if he’ll spare Shion’s life. Another Realian finds Shion collapsed on the ground and starts taking her to safety when the Gnosis attack again. Lt. Virgil comes across the two as the Gnosis attacks. The Realian tosses Shion to Lt. Virgil’s men in time to save her.

The third and fourth episodes continue the fast-paced storytelling as Shion, Allen, and Lt. Virgil are picked up by the Elsa, the ship KOS-MOS forced to assist the group. Captain Matthews isn’t thrilled with KOS-MOS’s threats, but helping is better than dying. The Elsa happened upon the scene, scouting for wreckage to sell, when KOS-MOS slammed into their ship. On board the Elsa, Shion and the other survivors find themselves being threated by the cyborg Ziggurat 8 (nicknamed Ziggy). KOS-MOS moves quickly to destroy the threat, but Shion and another 100-series, MOMO, place themselves in harms way to stop KOS-MOS’s attack program. Ziggy is protecting MOMO on the way to Second Militia. Coincidentally, Second Militia is where Shion, Allen, and KOS-MOS are going.

Shion gets to know MOMO and recognizes her as a 100-series Observational Realian, just like the one aboard the Woglinde. However, this little 100-series is special, because MOMO is the original prototype developed by Professor Mizrahi. Ziggy took the special mission given to him by MOMO’s mother, the Professor’s former wife and now high ranking official, to bring MOMO back to Second Militia for the information she may retain inside her. Just as things calm down in hyperspace, the U-TIC (MOMO’s former captors) attacks the Elsa in an attempt to recapture their former-prisoner.

Xenosaga the Animation packs a ton of information originally played out over ten hours or so into this small set of episodes. I can’t imagine a new viewer walking away from this series with a good feeling. There is simply too much information taken from the game, trimmed down, and occasionally changed during this repackaging. So is the series any good? Yes. Not in the traditional sense of a stand-alone series, but as a supplemental piece to the video games. Aside from the changes, like Lt. Virgil surviving and not Commander Cherenkov, there are plenty of details placed in the animated series that the hardcore fans will appreciate. It’s a great way to flesh out the story and characters, though I think it would have a better pace with 26 episodes; the measly 12 they give us go too fast and give too little. The character designs try to adapt the original 3D-rendered models to animation with moderate success. Some characters, like KOS-MOS, Albedo, and MOMO, look interesting. Other characters, like Shion Uzuki, could have used a little more tweaking in the pre-production stage.

The Japanese cast from the games reprise their characters for the TV series. The production is decent, but it’s obvious the vast range of emotions and information pushed into these episodes took its toll on the acting. Some scenes feel rushed compared to the more refined deliveries in the video game. Mariko Suzuki continues her fairly lifeless, no-nonsense portrayl of KOS-MOS without fail, and I have to say it’s a good thing. Ai Maeda’s Shion Uzuki has compassion and fear down pat, but there are times when she seems to be a tad lost while delivering lines in the early episodes. She knows the character very well, so I’m not too worried how things will be in the next volume. The English production from ADV’s Houston-based studio recasts the characters, not using the voice actors from the video game series. So if you were expecting the English voices you’re familiar with, you’ll have to stick to the games and limited edition movie cut of Episode I. The script by Bartholomee and direction by Chris Ayres can have its groan-worthy moments with the little changes in dialogue and cheesy caricatures for less-important characters, but the overall product and fairly solid main cast do help save the show from its occasional poor choices. Stephanie Wittels (Shion Uzuki) does a fairly good job filling the role of scientist and humanitarian as her small band of friends goes from one hell to another. I was rather impressed how quickly she grasped the character. Luci Christian is equally fitting as the emotionally dead KOS-MOS, though there are moments here and there that could have used some tweaking. And despite his little screen time so far, John Gremillion is shaping up just right for the maniacal Albedo. On the other hand, the Elsa crew is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s worth listening to the English dub during your second time watching the DVD.

Xenosaga the Animation: Enter the Gnosis is a welcome supplement to any hardcore Xenosaga fan’s collection. However, new viewers are warned to watch it with one of those hardcore Xenosaga friends or play the first game yourself if you want to have any chance of understanding and enjoying these four episodes. The series will leave you lost and annoyed as there is no way this show can stand independent of the games. The DVD’s video is clean and the subtitle tracks contain no errors. The DVD extras are clean opening and closing animations. Xenosaga the Animation: Enter the Gnosis provides an interesting look at the first game, adding  new background details to events seen during gameplay. As a survivor of Xenosaga Episode I, I enjoyed seeing some of the CG scenes and story recreated. Yet, the changes in the character designs from Episode I’s cutesy CG-look to the new anime designs are rather jarring at times, and lord knows even I was scratching my head trying to fill in some of the gaps from the original game released in the US in 2003. If it’s been awhile since you played, make sure to brush up on the first parts of the game before watching Enter the Gnosis.