BROS BEFORE FOES
After reviewing Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, I find myself craving more ways to experience the world Square Enix has built for Final Fantasy XV ahead of its release. But what else is there? Wait. There’s an ANIME?! There we go!
Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, as the title suggests, was created specifically to fill in the backstories for the game’s party members. A close-knit band of best buddies, Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus set out on a road trip to see Noctis married to Princess Lunafreya… and then the events of Kingsglaive happened.
This anime picks up immediately thereafter, with Noctis’s crew learning of those terrible events and continuing their journey nonetheless. Oddly, they don’t seem that bothered by the news at first glance… but that’s not the focus of this series. No, each episode spends little time in the present and instead flashes back to key moments in the lives of these men.
For the most part, each chapter focuses primarily on a single party member. The first gives us some insight into Noctis’s past brush with death, the second reveals Prompto’s surprising childhood transformation, and so on. This format works incredibly well, and ensures every character gets their time to shine.
The series also looks quite eye-catching in spite of its emphasis on story. Colors are strikingly vibrant, animations are smooth rather than choppy like some cheaply made anime, and even its use of computer generated elements blends nicely with the 2D surroundings. There isn’t much action to speak of, but the infrequent battles are appropriately fast, frantic, and energetic. One especially nice touch is the sparkly effect used whenever Noctis and his crew summon their weapons out of thin air.
However, Brotherhood’s best aspect is the writing. When Final Fantasy XV’s main characters were first revealed, these guys reeked of overblown, groan-inducing “bro” culture. This anime series combats that nicely, injecting some palpable sincerity into the bond between them. Subtle touches like Prompto’s love of animals, Gladiolus’s relationship with his sister, Ignis’s burden of grooming the future King, and Noctis’s kindness all lend some very real credibility to these fictional characters. The intent of this series is to flesh out the history of this party where the game supposedly won’t, and it accomplishes that extremely well. Better yet, by viewing Noctis through the eyes of his closest allies we also learn more about him — and that’s a crucial point, considering he’s the protagonist of the upcoming game.
It isn’t perfect, though. Episode one ends on a tremendous cliffhanger as Noctis is forced to face a literal demon from his past… and the whole encounter is promptly skipped, only vaguely referenced in the second chapter. The fifth and final episode finally brings us back to this moment, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring until that point. Some of the important character moments also feel slightly rushed, particularly the ease with which one character warmed up to another after proclaiming their hatred. The lack of an English voice track, at least as an option, also feels like a glaring cut corner… mostly ‘cause I’m one of those weirdos who prefers dubbed anime. Yeah, I said it!
By the time we reach episode five, it’s pretty clear how successful the writing was at endearing us to these guys. When at last Noctis gets to face his greatest fear, and does so with help from the friends he made since that initial encounter, it’s a wholly satisfying end to an all-around great prequel. However, those who haven’t yet watched Kingsglaive won’t be getting all of the pieces to the puzzle — though I suspect you could still follow the plot well enough regardless. Even so, Brotherhood truly shines as the middle chapter of a three-part story.
THE VERDICT: 8.0 OUT OF 10
I haven’t been much of an anime fan since my late teens, but Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV is one of those rare exceptions. It’s unfortunate that the mysterious sixth episode, said to focus on Lunafreya, is exclusive to the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Final Fantasy XV… but these five episodes are thoroughly entertaining on their own. It certainly ranks higher than some of Square Enix’s previous anime projects would have. Oh, and it’s also free to watch online. Yay!
Note: The fifth episode was streamed live on Twitch, and will be uploaded to the official Final Fantasy XV Youtube channel at 11pm EST on September 17th.