Those hamburgers look delicious.
Hoping to drum up interest for their upcoming RPG Final Fantasy XV, developer Square Enix has partnered with animation studio A-1 Pictures (Sword Art Online, Your Lie in April) to create Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, a five part episodic anime (six if you get a special Collector’s Edition) that explains how protagonist Noctis came to be friends with his three traveling companions. The first episode, called Before the Storm, premiered this week (you can view it below). After watching it, I can honestly say this anime is off to a promising start.
Before the Storm opens on a surprisingly violent note. Seeing a flashback of Noctis as a little boy lying in a pool of his own blood and about to be iced by a monster is disturbing stuff, especially since we haven’t seen much blood in Final Fantasy XV thus far. Rattled though I was, I appreciated the way this unnerving opening grabbed my attention. From there, the episode morphs into a 2D preview of all the activities you can do in the game, which works well for the most part
There are great (see: gorgeous) shots of Noctis and his buddies driving cross-country in a sleek convertible, eating hamburgers at a retro-style diner, bonding around a campfire, and fighting imperial soldiers. A-1 brought the goods with the well-executed battle sequence, which includes an exciting panorama of Noctis cutting down enemies with his sword and nimbly dodging enemy attacks. There’s also some beautiful art direction that enhances the more easygoing moments, like a stunning view of a cityscape at dusk and scenic shots of lush hills that line the countryside. If nothing else, Brotherhood is very pretty.
I also like how A-1 injected some humor into the episode, which nicely balances out the drama and offers a glimpse of each character’s personality. Watching sulky Noctis pick lettuce off his hamburger and dump it on Ignis’ plate was pretty funny. So too was Ignis and Gladiolus’ disagreement of how to handle Noctis’ oddball eating habits. And I groaned good-naturedly when hyper-active Prompto spilled ketchup all over the table. (Oh, Prompto.) Brotherhood’s central theme is friendship, and you can see how close the cast is by the way they playfully interact with each other.
On the other hand, the script itself is pretty sparse. There’s some brief story exposition peppered into the 12 minute runtime, but it’s delivered with the speed of a gatling gun, and I worry those not already familiar with the source material may feel a bit confused. The episode also skips over a couple of small but important details; viewers unfamiliar with the game and upcoming movie King’s Glaive might not realize that the man who saves Noctis in the opening sequence is actually his father. Happily, these are minor issues that don’t take away from the fluid battle sequence and lovely visuals, which A-1 Pictures delivers in spades.