Xenosaga Episode I Special: The Animation Part 1

Oh yeah, I was going to talk about Xenosaga fanart!

Ah, that’s some nice fanart. I mean, it’s usually chaos that has the angel motif, but points for…

Wait, what? It’s an animation?

Oh no! It’s THE animation!

Xenosaga the Animation was probably a good idea at the time. Xenosaga Episode 1 is huge and sprawling and, honestly, kind of insane. It also only gets more exclusive as the franchise goes. I’m sure there’s some poor fool out there that bought Xenosaga Episode 2 thinking they’d be able to pick up and play and understand the plot without experiencing the previous, 30-hour game, and I’m sure that hypothetical customer deeply regrets that purchase. A “short” four hour primer on the plot probably could have helped anyone that was willing to jump into the series at a later entry point.

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, Xenosaga The Animation is kind of lousy.

XTA isn’t really all that bad, it’s just kind of… unfocused. It fails at being a worthy briefing of the Xenosaga series proper, because it plays fast and loose with a number of “important” characters, so joining Xenosaga Episode 2 after only having watched XTA would be jarring. It also moves at a breakneck speed, so I’d be surprised if a new viewer could even, say, catch chaos’s name (left alone the finer points of his spelling issues) on an initial viewing. XTA is also bad for anyone that’s already a fan of the series, because, for a series so dedicated to its own mythology, the canon here is crazy dubious at points, so I feel like anyone really into the series would spend half of any given episode ranting like Jeff Albertson. The other half of the script is lifted exactly from Xenosaga Episode 1 proper (complete with weirdo lines like Junior’s “I got a real name, but let’s just leave it at that for now. Good to meet ya.” That no human being would ever just let pass), so the series is entirely superfluous if you already saw the original material.

So, basically, Xenosaga The Animation exists for the exclusive purpose of overzealous LP’ers. Thanks, universe!

First airing on January 5, 2005 in Japan, this series dropped about six months after the release of Xenosaga Episode 2 (in Japan). Presumably as a result of that, a few “retcons” from Episode 2 made their way into the plot. They’re really nothing substantial, and seem to be there to hook into the expected Xenosaga The Animation Season 2 that never came. Note that we didn’t get the English version of this series until 2007, a year after the release of Xenosaga Episode 3, which would coincidentally be a year after anyone ever cared about Xenosaga.

Note that the English dub cast is entirely different from the games, presumably because it was handled by different studios in different geographical regions. You won’t have to hear it here, but I assure you it is exactly as jarring for me as you would expect.

Additionally, I’m not usually one to disparage voice acting (consider that XS1 has like ten hours of spoken dialogue [maybe more?], only the greatest professionals [in any job] could be “on” for that entire time), but there’s a lot of… terrible in this dub. At least one character pronounces Rubedo (Roo-be-do) as Rub-ed-o. Also, everything is a lot less resigned and much more… shout-y. IT’S THE GNOSIS!!!

Episode 1: Awakening

First thing’s first, we start in the encephalon virtual KOS-MOS testing area like the original series, but, in an effort to “hide” KOS-MOS, she’s wearing a gigantic mech suit (but still flipping around like a maniac). I… guess it’s supposed to simulate how the helmet “hid” KOS-MOS from the player during the opening of XS… but what was the point of that, again? I mean, it’s not like she isn’t plastered all over the opening, box, promotional materials…

After the encephalon dive (which ends just fine, and without any issues), Shion’s odyssey across the ship is pretty much the same, except the Realian check-in is saved for later. She still gets to be spooked by little red headed ghost girls, though.

Of all the things to get cut, Cross Face Strickland is still here. He still does exactly nothing. I bet he’s sleeping with the director.

Cherenkov still has his clandestine meeting with Margulis. This will be funny later.

Shion reports to the captain, goes back to her room to rest, and THEN decides to hit the Realian Lab because she can’t sleep. This creates the inconsequential change that, when the gnosis attack, she’s at the lab, and not just waking up.

Incidentally, this anime appears to have been born of that time when everyone was… kinda chunky? Like, I don’t know the word for it. Everyone had really broad shoulders. Anytime I see this animation style, I get nostalgic for old Sci-Fi Channel Saturday Mornings.

So, in addition to the whole auxiliary Realian cast from the game, X:TA introduces a lone 100-Series Realian on the Woglinde. I actually like this, because, unlike the game, it really affirms that MOMO isn’t the only Realian in the universe with emotions and “human” impulses. Most of the Realians in Xenosaga Episode 1 come off as, basically, Star Trek’s data.

Anyway, Shion bonds with #100, and gives her a Bunnie keychain. This (and “#100”) will be important later. And Virgil… is still a dick.

And gnosis. Note that throughout XTA, all gnosis are “basic” gnosis you first encounter during the Woglinde event. No unicorns, no happy Goggle Bob.

Albedo is already skulking around off screen. Yeah, I guess it’s a good idea to introduce your villain early.

So here’s what I would say is the biggest change for XTA: Allen is actually moderately competent. Seriously. The whole gnosis thing kicks off, Shion is missing, and Allen sends the rest of the staff away to escape pods, but stays behind himself to heroically locate “The Chief”. And, yes, the mood of the scene is that Allen is the only man for the job. We’re all doomed.

And KOS-MOS starts to awaken, and Allen, instead of literally quivering like in the game, is kind of cocksure that the “restraints” on KOS-MOS will hold. They don’t, and then he’s afraid, but the very idea of a confident Allen… chills.

KOS-MOS awakens in the same weird mech shell she was wearing in the virtual world.

And she’s out! End of episode!

Episode 2: Imminent Defeat

KOS-MOS is awake, does the Shion locator thing, and blasts through a wall to get there. This is implied in the game, but here we get a more active showcase on KOS-MOS as opposed to “gonna die” Shion.

So at the very end of the last episode, Shion was knocked unconscious by falling debris, and was just barely saved by Realian #100. That thread is resumed here with Albedo swinging into the chaos to ruin everyone’s day.

This Albedo kinda looks like he can take a punch.

Shion is unconscious, and Albedo takes #100 for himself. He also makes the first reference to #100 being a “fake”.

Shion is then rescued by another Realian (who missed Albedo’s exit), and is left to assume that #100 died (and was vaporized by rocks?), and wasn’t abducted by an albino pedophile.

So far, our heroine has been saved by two separate Realians, and now we have the “Virgil accidently shoots at Shion” scene… but there isn’t the coda of Shion brushing the guns aside and yelling at the twit.

This shot about sums it up. Complete with Shion not ever directly battling (and her completely missing arm thingy), Shion the Animation is practically a deer in the headlights for her entire introduction. Oh my God, Allen and Shion switched personalities…

Shion is rescued in the good ol’ fashioned KOS-MOS way.

KOS-MOS always wins.

Ya know, she’s just off-model enough for me to know something’s wrong, but not enough for me to say exactly how. She’s too white?

So, like the game, the “party” becomes KOS-MOS, Shion, Allen, and Virgil. Unlike the game, Virgil never gets that horrible (for everyone involved) “kamikaze Realian” scene, so, while we’ve established Virgil is a dick to Realians, he’s not a homicidal dick this time.

Speaking of fartknockers, Cherenkov makes it to the Zohar like in the game… and then is randomly killed by a gnosis. That’s it for Cherenkov! Shion and Allen don’t even make it to the Zohar room in time to watch him die; he’s just a bloody smear by then.

So, instead of Cherenkov, Virgil survives and makes it out with the heroes. Again, Virgil survives, and KOS-MOS doesn’t “accidently” kill anybody. Shion still has a minor freak-out by the time they hit the escape ship, though, even though KOS-MOS was a perfect lady.

I guess it was a trying day.

And Allen has his flashback about Shion being upset early, because Allen is a big manly man and has to acknowledge the grief of this poor, emotional woman he’s protecting (seriously, that seems to be the tone of this scene).

So the Woglinde is done inside of forty minutes, and now it’s time for the real ship.

Same basic deal with KOS-MOS floating into the ship like a corpse, and the episode ends with the “threat” of KOS-MOS destroying the Elsa. In the game, it’s like a “cute” scene that lasts a minute, here they’re hanging a cliffhanger on whether or not KOS-MOS will destroy the ship because she’s bored.

Episode 3: Chance Encounter

Going to start this one with Wilhelm and Red Testament having their same cryptic nonsense conversation about KOS-MOS. Testaments, in XTA, look kind of… sad. Aw, it’s okay, bird guy, things are going to get better.

Wilhelm’s position at Vector is kept secret until his conversation with Helmer in XS1, here, it’s literally written on his carpet. Subtle.

Number of changes with this episode. First of all, KOS-MOS distinctly goes out and grabs Shion/Allen/Virgil’s escape pod, and we completely skip that mother vs. daughter scene of Shion “convincing” KOS-MOS to bring them aboard through attempted suicide.

Then, we have Ziggy. Ziggy is apparently already on the ship, and Ziggy volunteers to “take care of” KOS-MOS and her boarding party.

KOS-MOS vs. Ziggy fight! Ziggy starts with a cowardly sneak attack…

And then loses almost immediately. KOS-MOS is ready for the killing blow…

But MOMO jumps in to shield Ziggy.

KOS-MOS doesn’t give a damn, so Shion jumps in too to shield the duo. KOS-MOS stops for Shion. Oh man, would I love to see the version of Xenosaga where KOS-MOS murders an adorable little moppet like 45 minutes in.

Ziggy is concerned over MOMO and her apparently suicidal protectiveness.

D’aww, isn’t she just adorable?

Meanwhile, Albedo and Margulis meet up.

Margulis is annoyed that Albedo didn’t secure the Zohar.

Albedo doesn’t give the tiniest fuck.

Just gonna chill here with my giant robot.

Oh, and he’s menacing #100… who turns out to have been wearing a wig and is actually #99. We’ll get into it later.

Allen winds up being the friendliest new member of the Elsa family. Allen is well liked. WHAT IS HAPPENING!?

Oh yeah, chaos has been on the bridge this entire time, so no teleporting. Also, there isn’t a malevolent stowaway, so he never gets to show off that cool trick where he vaporizes a gnosis. The only thing chaos really gets to do is react to Shion’s last name… we’ll get into that later, too.

Tony is still Tony.

Yeah! Show off your monster balls, Allen! You’re the reason all the ladies swoon!

chaos at least gets to be a little mysterious by spouting nonsense at a sleeping KOS-MOS.

I guess since MOMO is already here, she gets to help with the meals. Aw, she has her own little step stool and everything.

Super Advanced Technology… is peeling potatoes.

Virgil winds up fitting in with the Elsa bridge crew well, too. XS1 saved the wrong guy!

Dinner is limited to these guys. Somewhere in here, we learn that Ziggy rescued MOMO, and it is literally the Elsa’s job to ferry ZigMO back to Second Miltia. So, no, Ziggy’s boarding wasn’t an accident in this universe.

Shion and MOMO have no problem getting along.

Oh no, we picked up a tail!

Bum bum buuuuum, U-TIC and Pellegri (who never leaves the command room in XS1) are in pursuit!

Episode 4: Jaws of Death

Now that Ziggy and MOMO have been established, we get a little flashback to Ziggy being conscripted into this mission.

No, I don’t want to hear about your weird marriage. This is even weirder because Dr. Mrs. Mizrahi never shows up again.

Entire dungeon is reduced to, maybe, two minutes.

Yes yes, you can call me Ziggy, moving on.

This whole daring escape from a dude with a fiery sword is reduced to, like, six frames.

This could have been a whole episode! It looks exciting!

And, yes, it’s the Elsa that picks up and “rescues” ZigMO. Guess they were just idling out front during the operation.

So now Pellegri is out in her own battle cruiser and chasing down the Elsa.

Virgil is so much more useful than Cherenkov. While Cherenkov… completely disappeared during the U-TIC invasion, Virgil hops in the Elsa’s gunner rig (?) and fights back.

U-TIC masks kinda have duckbills? Blathering blatherskite!

Speeding right along, Junior’s Durandal comes to the rescue of the Elsa.

I suppose this will save us that silly Junior introductory dungeon.

Against all odds, Mary’s voice acting/accent is even worse in this version. I think she remembers she’s supposed to be “southern” about half way through her dialogue.

You’re turning violet, Shelly. And, incidentally, the Durandal chases off U-TIC.

With MOMO already on the ship, Tony’s piloting is praised without any qualifiers. At this point in the series (a third of the way in!), if you asked me who I thought was a main character in the game, I’d guess Tony over Shion.

Below deck, KOS-MOS inexplicably…

Punches the wall?

Oh, so she’s deliberately screwing up the Elsa so they encounter the gnosis fleet.

KOS-MOS admits to her “treachery”. Allen is not pleased.

Shion is just passively disappointed.

The Elsa is NOT swallowed by a Cathedral Ship, and the plot skips along to “Elsa & the Durandal vs. the gnosis”. Nothing of value was lost.

Junior attempts to be a big hero, but it’s not working out.

So KOS-MOS, who started this whole mess five minutes ago, hops on the elevator up and out.

XTA really emphasizes the whole “blue eyes” thing. There’s a bunch of shots that may as well be screaming, “LOOK AT THIS!” … And episode break as we’re all wondering what that crazy android is up to.

Episode 5: Heteromorphic

Episode 5 doesn’t want to blow its load immediately, so we start with Junior hopping into his AGWS and attempting to handle this on his own.

KOS-MOS has other ideas, and, with guest director Georgia O’Keeffe, prepares her tummy laser.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuzz.

Gotta say, I do appreciate that XTA puts much more of an emphasis on the X-Buster’s destructive capability by making its blast last longer than the length of a gif.

And suckin’ em all back in.

Shion is concerned about this… and Allen is kinda like, “Well, whaddya gonna do?”

On the way back to the Durandal, Junior speaks to the Elsa crew… and takes particular notice of MOMO.

This wouldn’t be nearly as creepy if this didn’t seem to imply that Albedo and Junior have the same fetish.

It wouldn’t be Xenosaga if there wasn’t a moment taken to emphasize just how huge this ship happens to be.

Only getting creepier!

Seriously, the one thing XTA gets absolutely right is having Realians other than MOMO act like “humans”. The 100s treating MOMO as a celebrity is great.

The introduction Junior gives Shion in XS1 is reserved for MOMO here. That’s cool, this series isn’t even pretending Shion is a star anymore.

Let’s try to improve that: Shion gets to dress down Allen for the whole “mutant prejudice” thing. This is the first Allen-like move seen in XTA.

It also goes over about as well.

Oh, and we get a flashback to Shion yelling at her sad, sad boss about keeping KOS-MOS forever.

This might be the first time that animated Shion shows a backbone, give or take saving ZigMO’s lives.

Let’s meet the Zohars!

And some gnosis!

Betty: still disturbing.

While Allen is pontificating on the meaning of sodium, Shion is told that everyone touched by a gnosis will transform into a gnosis. While this is eventually (eventually!) “solved” in XS proper, in XTA it is never mentioned or even alluded to ever again. I pity the six people that watched this series without playing the game.

Minor change, but MOMO and Shion walk out on this conversation together, presumably to save having to find each other later.

Yep, Shion and MOMO and KOS-MOS bonding.

And Junior and Shelly are apparently remotely spying? What the hell, guys!

Is this supposed to be endearing voyeurism?

KOS-MOS is just bored.

Episode 6: Anchorage

Welcome to the Kukai Foundation!

I know everyone here is a space veteran, but if I saw a perfectly perpendicular horizon, I’m pretty sure I’d barf instantly.

Here comes the welcoming committee.

Everything seems to move faster in The Animation, so Shion’s sudden “Oh, I’m being so rude,” seems even more out of place during this scene.

“I want you to know, my brother has a poster of you on his wall, and it’s creepy.”

Junior’s tiny little portrait of a random grassy field inexplicably makes it into the series.

So long and thanks for all the guns (which Junior hasn’t had a chance to use in this series).

Helmer looks bored, too.

Beach Episode is actually just as “restrained” as it is in the game proper. Here’s the cast in swimsuits. Happy, audience? Moving on.

We get the same Kevin flashback as during XS1, but here, thanks to XTA breakneck speed, it’s the first old Kevin is actually speaking on camera. He still comes off as a saint.

Allen is somehow coming off as masculine… even when wearing that same ridiculous swimsuit. Cats and dogs living together.

And this still ends with everyone discussing Junior’s genetics and then Junior calling down the wrath of Zeus to scare Shion.

Think this whole bit is exactly the same as the game, too, just without Dr. Strangelove updating everyone on the status of the Zohar.

Guess we’ve got to tour the Kukai Foundation via cutscene now.

You can just see “Bakery SMILE” in there, and, whoops, guess nobody wanted to shell out for the Pac-Man license to make that sign the same as the game.

One other thing XTA does well is emphasize the whole “Kukai Foundation is made of mutants” thing that the game almost ignores entirely. Here’s a cameo from King and a dude that is 90% bot walking alongside him.

Also, Ziggy seems to imply that these are “his people”, which, coupled with the fact that he’s working so closely with the Elsa, implies that Ziggy isn’t a free agent, but a Kukai employee like chaos. There is absolutely nothing like that in the original.

And I guess the implication is that chaos is a mutant of some kind, too? Not that this version of chaos has done anything that needs explaining.

Aw, Junior bought MOMO a doll.

Ugh, stop reminding us of Bunnie’s pseudo-face.

No matter the universe, Allen winds up at the Iron Man bar, drunk off his ass.

The Elsa crew (and Virgil!) are bonding while Allen gets drunk alone.

Virgil is an absolute psychopath in XS1, but here he’s a great drinking buddy.

Whoa, wait a tick, who’s that at the bar with Allen?

Oh my God, it’s Assistant Scott! Allen spilled a drink on Assistant Scott!

Set phasers to ship!

They have so much to talk about!

This scene is legitimately the funniest thing in XS1 or XTA (not that there’s a lot of competition). Basically, Allen is drunkenly complaining about Shion, and Assistant Scott is complaining about Professor, but both keep ending each other’s sentences with completely wrong gibberish about “understanding’. XTA Allen basically reverts to XS1 Allen, and it’s glorious.

Back to reality, it’s time to arrest the Kukai Foundation.

And the episode ends with the news that Kukai is going down.

Episode 7: Encephalon

Yes! This episode is off to a great start!

Oh, bullocks, it’s just a poster.

But we’ve got Professor on the stage, so that’s a good thing!

Assistant Scott also has a bit of a hangover.

Professor isn’t helping!

Professor describes his dream for a better, more Invincible Giant Robot future.

Assistant Scott is right there with him!

Back to everyone getting their boring asses arrested.

Yep, same ol’. Can we get back to the giant robot people, now?

Like in the game, the charges are a lie based on the Durandal attacking the Woglinde. Unlike in the game, Virgil is here, and he takes the whole thing personally, because his soldier buddies died fighting the gnosis, and now Space Government is ruining their sacrifice with these bogus charges. Nice development for the dead man walking.

Lapis is about 2% more imposing in this universe.

Helmer, Wilhelm, U-DO, etc.

This should seem familiar. Note that Virgil is there, but Ziggy still does the exact same scan, and concludes he’s the only one that can throw a punch. It’s a great scene, but you kinda blew it, XTA.

Allen, a God damn god among men, comes up with a plan to get data from KOS-MOS. Allen is our hero.

Gaignun is here to take a punch instead of unnamed soldier. Aren’t you glad you came by, Gaignun?

And chaos sticks to the sidelines as Ziggy and Virgil take out the remaining guards.

Pellegri, back at U-TIC, gets the word that she’s allowed to use an E.S. and assist in the retrieval of MOMO. This is new.

So Allen’s idea was to swing by Robot Academy and hang out with his old drinking buddy.

Go team!

So here’s the deal: we’re going to bop into KOS-MOS’s mainframe like in the game, but unlike in the game, we’re going to do it remotely, with Professor hacking into the UMN to grant the party access. Honestly, aside from my obvious bias of including the Professor, I like this idea, as it allows for more of a reason for this process to be “dangerous” and “go wrong”, as opposed to in XS1, where the process is literally exactly what you did at the start of the game, but it inexplicably goes haywire immediately.

Professor explains he’s a master hacker, because of course he is.

Shion is doubtful, because she and Allen swapped personalities in this universe.

But Allen assures the hysterical lady everything will be alright.

Professor is also reassuring, dammit!

Allen’s “I’ll be right here if anything happens” sounds a lot more… real in this version.

Shion and Allen’s bond reminds Virgil of Feb right about now. This is the first we see her, and, spoilers, she’s not going to be appearing to explain (“explain”) the plot in this version.

So, naturally, something goes wrong. Shion, Ziggy, MOMO, and Junior all conk out. The rest of the party stays up and alert, though.

chaos acts like it’s no big thing, and then asks if he can go make a phone call. Okay?

Meanwhile!

So everyone is in a weird desert area. Or something?

Professor explains that, basically, they’re in an approximation of a firewall, and they’re about to be attacked by random angry robots. But it’s like the Matrix, Neo, so use your imaginations!

I didn’t realize it until this episode, but there’s seriously no fighting in this anime. Like, the gnosis are a threat, but no one other than KOS-MOS has really busted out an actual “attack” this whole time. So, time to catch up, and we’ve got basically half an episode dedicated to showing off tech attacks from the game. Junior starts things off with Soul Rhapsody and Mystic Nocturne.

Ziggy does his best meteor kick.

And MOMO…

Magical girl all up this place!

Bunnie death laser summon!

And Shion… gets Queen’s Kiss. Damn weaponized fanservice.

I don’t want to be alive anymore.

But, after the firewall is busted, the team gets virtual separated, and you can guess what Nephilim has in store for everybody next update.

Next time on Xenosaga The Animation: A tall, cold glass of Jin.

2 Responses »

  1. Pingback: Xenosaga Episode II Special 1: Xenosaga I & II | Gogglebob.com

  2. Pingback: Xenosaga Episode III Part 13: Heaven or Hell, Let’s Gawk | Gogglebob.com

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