Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 18 to 27

August 8, 2004 on 8:44 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 18 to 27

It’s interesting that Chronicles of the Heroic Knight flowed so well, from situation to situation without a hiccup. Nothing was too protracted at first to make things contracted towards the end, so there was a nice balance all around. And room enough for some super deformed adventures on the way.

Of these episodes, there’s one off model that goes for some more comedy than usual, and looks incredibly weird in places. It makes up for itself with its ending, but it felt out of place.
The important parts here were Spark’s sense of duty to Neese. It was implied that there was a love between the two of them, and while that may be true of Neese, it’s better to think that Spark cared very deeply for her welfare. Names are very important in this series, and the two brought each other back from the brink with them more than once; Neese said that she wanted to be of help as well, and she was. Although she was sometimes quiet, she was less than submissive.
Ashram came back again and did his noble thing, showing that he wasn’t really evil. It’s worth noting that right here, the continuity for Legend of Crystania is established – making that whole OVA spin off make sense. However, it was made before this series. What was once mostly accessible to people familiar with the books is now completely available to everyone. In the end Ashram was probably the most moral and natural leader of all of the characters. He left on a very good note, but knowing his fate he’s really better off where he was.
Pirotess unfortunately didn’t get to do much, but one can’t really complain.
The Grey Witch Karla material was good, particularly Leylia’s confrontation with her, although one wonders just what happened to Woodchuck.

Welcome to Lodoss Island! also exploded with even Wagnard, potential King of the Dead, playing his part in a cookie competition. Kashue made a cameo for a brief pun, but it just wasn’t like the old days. Still, fun was had all around.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight was full of charisma, and easily the best Lodoss animated property. It could probably have benefitted from more swords and less religion, but as it was, it was enjoyable.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 10 to 17

August 4, 2004 on 6:41 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 10 to 17

Now that ten years have passed, things are significantly different in Lodoss.

The quest for the Soul Crystal Ball has begun, and with it a new party of heroes has formed. The dearth of Parn, Deedlit and Kashue hits at first, but one soon becomes comfortable with the entirely new cast of characters.

The most interesting of these new characters is without doubt Ryna, the pink haired thief. In the OP and all of the promo materials her hair is pure white, which is either a stern warning of things to come or a conscious change when it was realised that pink is much more attractive.
In fantasy lands, thieves have honour, and so too does Ryna – in addition to sex appeal! Which means that she winks at men a lot. Her motivation is revenge, which is always a good pursuit, and her relationship with mercenary Garrack is nothing short of intriguing.
It’s also something unfamiliar to see a Dwarfish Priest. Perhaps they exist, but they’re more of an underground mining species in my mind. But at least he worships a cool god – Myrii, god of war!

Fortunately, Parn and Deedlit are not gone altogether and come back when the series would have flagged had they not. Parn has risen notably in the world, leading a free army of people who fight for what they (apparently meaning Parn) feel is right. The questions of tyranny raised in these scenes around Alania are quite interesting, particularly because of the source of the speculation.
The most questionable aspect of the entire series is that Parn and Deedlit have been travelling together for sixteen years and have still not thought of romance further than holding hands for support.

Where this ‘ten years after’ approach suffers the most initially is the Welcome to Lodoss Island! segment, which change from topical skits to an ongoing narrative. Spark and Neese are the heroes (along with Dragon-kun), delivering cookies to Mama Dragon while preventing “The Dark Elf with a sweet tooth” from stealing them. It’s funny, but not as spontaneous. Again, the situation improves with the return of Parn and Deed, then becomes truly hilarious with the inclusion of Ashram of all characters, who can pun with the best of them. Memorably, he promises to conquer Lodoss with his “delectable sweets”. I can only hope to see his plan come to fruition.

On the production side, it’s disappointing that all of the Dark Elves are identical. Sakamoto Maaya makes a welcome appearance as Half Elf Leaf and it shames me to say it, but Hayami Sho’s way of saying “Pirotess” is incredibly sexy.

Lodoss is big on story, and is branching off further and further, but it’s not overly complicated. Well worth it, so far.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 6 to 9

August 1, 2004 on 1:52 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 6 to 9

Emotions and lava abound in this set of episodes, which end up jumping ahead ten years: a time where everyone is either much older or deader.

Orson gets many good scenes here, and the tragedy of his existence is played up. The ambiguous feelings of Shiris about him emphasise this greatly. Their last scenes (at least for now) in episode eight were very harsh and touching. Who is to blame for what? Hayama Nobuyuki’s performance as Orson was impressive, keeping himself in check until the very few times he was allowed to show a burst of emotion. That’s all over now.
The other important scenes were those between Kashue and Ashram, kings of their respective countries. Ashram’s party had no allegiances to each other, so it was ironic that the only person who really supported him was actually from Kashue’s kingdom. Kashue defends his own honour, which poses the great heroic question: is breaking the rules of warfare dishonourable if it puts an end to the battles? These questions are important to the running of countries and diplomacy.
Ending this arc where they did was a wise decision but it raises another, not philosophical, question: will there be Pirotess?

Then ten years pass. Characters introduced in the first couple of episodes have grown and are now able to become major characters. Spark and Little Neese seem to be at the fore here, with Parn looking much older and Deedlit looking a little wiser. It’s unclear where they’re going to go or what they’re going to do, but they have some sort of promise. Realising that these characters have been in the OP all along makes the whole thing a lot more exciting.

Finally, Welcome to Lodoss Island goes from strength to strength: Seeing Orson invested with childish emotions, asking Shiris for milk (“I didn’t think it would work”), and the continued caperings of Kashue and Parn are well worth it. It’s just a pity that the progression of ten years isn’t represented in these segments.

Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is much easier to become absorbed by with its compelling story and especially its music. These were very, very early DVDs, however, and they look it.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 1 to 5

July 27, 2004 on 6:50 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight – episodes 1 to 5

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is the 1997 sequel TV series to the popular 1990 OVA. It continues the story from the most interesting part of that original series and overwrites the rest. It works because it allows room for exposition without overcrowding or boring.

Five years after the freeing of Leylia, the original party of the Great War has separated. However, upon discovering that Ashram of the Marmo is out to gain the Sceptre of Domination, those of the party who did not die or become King in that time set out to claim it first.

The first step that shows this is a different take on Lodoss War is the reintroduction of Orson and Shiris. In the OVA, they were one note characters who appeared very briefly and didn’t get to say much. Here they take on a more important role, and Orson is very interesting for an emotionless character. Orson’s berserker curse is now manifested physically
At this point, the series belongs very much to Shiris and Orson, the mercenary siblings/potential lovers.
In fact, everything is much more interesting here because it doesn’t feel cluttered. There are so far only three simultaneous storylines that are all tied together. Suddenly, King Kashue feels like a deep, almost profound character. A mercenary king is no longer lost behind walls of leaden storytelling; It’s nice to see his philosophy that a king should not be expected to share the burdens of his countrymen, just that he should ease them.
The other interesting plot point is that Ashram has enlisted a priest for his party. It shows that he has some sense of balance. His quest is not so much evil as it is contrary to the wishes of the other major characters.

The highlight is Lodoss‘ second face: Welcome to Lodoss Island! Each episode ends with a two minute segment of super-deformed animation and puns which translate well enough into the subtitles. The changes of Slayn and Kashue made for this are completely hilarious. Slayn’s “Pupupu!” laugh is worth it alone, and King Kashue is loud and dresses in drag to provoke reaction from Orson in a competition to get him to laugh. Parn and Deedlit promote it as the “part that you’ve been waiting for”, and they’re not far wrong. Getting two programs in one, and such opposites, is some good value.

People generally complain about the animation of this TV series, but it’s fine by my non-exacting standards. It’s nowhere near as pretty as Yuuki Nobuteru’s OVA work, and Deedlit looks slightly too willowy sometimes, but in action there are few problems. In the first two episodes there is bizarre overuse of multiple angles at once, but the directors appear to have overcome that hurdle. The character’s noses in round table scenes, however, are occasionally too angular. It would be impossible to complain about Welcome to Lodoss Island! without seeming petty.
The OP and ED were composed by Kanno Yoko, and one of them was performed by the inestimable Sakamoto Maaya. The combination of music and vocals gives a really medieval feel to proceedings. Hayami Sho makes his character exchange seamlessly (going from Orson to Ashram between the TV and OVA), and Asakawa Yu gives one of her better performances as Shiris. There are some other good names coming up in the cast, but on the whole so far they’re unremarkable.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight takes a relaxed pace and allows its characters and situations to make sense. The fact that you’re essentially getting two worthwhile programs give it that little extra glow.

Record of Lodoss War – episodes 8 to 13

June 14, 2004 on 7:41 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War – episodes 8 to 13

Apparently these episodes are set several years after episode seven. Not that you’d notice. Well, I didn’t.
Ashram has taken over Marmo and apparently wants to launch an attack for domination of all the lands. But his high priest wants to claim power for himself! And then Karla sits around in the background wondering how she can scheme to make things go the way she sees fit.

Too much is implied in these episodes. The gap of some years gives the characters some leeway, but the relationship between Pirotess and Ashram is not really that powerful when it’s summarised in one word as it is here. Similarly, Deedlit and Parn aren’t so far developed as to be more than “just friends”.
The plot doesn’t really grow so much as it seems to just happen, which is sad. The characters are very rarely together, destroying the whole idea of a travelling party. There are two new characters introduced, Shiris and Orson, and they’re quite interesting. Their design is attractive and seems to fit in Mizuno’s Louie the Rune Soldier ideal. They’re kind of amoral, but devoted to each other, and the idea of the traditional “berserker” is also explored here. Because they’re entirely new characters, they are fresh as “age” has not wearied them – in this case the invisible gap.

Record of Lodoss War is the sort of thing that you’d watch again after you realise that some years have passed between episodes. But not now, as the TV series is said to be set after the seventh episode. In that respect, forgetting the (clearly more forgettable) second half is useful as there are anachronisms that come from having been written eight years after.
I’m kind of thinking I’ve missed something; but it seems that the writers confused “a lot of things happening” with “epic scale”. It’s not the same.

Record of Lodoss War – episodes 1 to 7

June 13, 2004 on 5:15 pm | In Record of Lodoss War | Comments Off on Record of Lodoss War – episodes 1 to 7

Fantasy anime is something that seems a rarity; this is a pity as it’s so much easier to watch fantasy than it is to read from a genre that’s plagued by turns with prose too dry or flowery. 1990’s Record of Lodoss War is one of the holy grails of fantasy anime; it’s an undeniably romantic excursion.

Record of Lodoss War is an OVA series about a party of varying character types who are on a journey to save their accursed island of Lodoss from the forces of Marmo and the resurrection of the ancient gods of destruction. A woman called Karla, the Grey Witch, is manipulating the evil forces behind the scenes, to give the land what she calls “balance”. As it turns out, she doesn’t care about the “good” and “evil” forces at all.
It takes a while but Parn, the son of an heroic knight, decides that she must be stopped for the good of the land.

Every character is a member of a “class”: Knight, Elvish Mage, Sorceror, Dwarfish Warrior, Thief, Priest. This is understandable as this fantasy anime literally comes from Dungeons & Dragons. Lodoss was created as a world to have adventures in, and Mizuno Ryo took it upon himself to create that folklore and make novels of it. Then the anime was made and good times were had by all.
The characters therefore conform to conventions but are enjoyable to watch as characters because of this very fact instead of despite it. It is odd to see in the first episode the Grey Witch and Wort talking to one another; him for the party and her against. It’s like a sparring match between two Dungeon Masters who want the world to go different ways. But there are several “challenges” that the writers have added into the series that go against the grain of fantasy and make this anime all the more interesting.

The first step that Record of Lodoss War takes is that the first episode is an all action affair set sometime after the party has formed. It might seem inappropriate at first that this episode is titled “Prologue to the Legend”, but upon further thought it essentially mean “action before we have to explain the real story”, so everything is okay. Upon watching more it becomes clear that episode one actually takes place between episodes five and six. Fortunately the information that they ascertain at the end of the journey in episode one is revealed in episode six, because given an OVA’s release schedule it would have been unwise to do anything different.
The next is that Parn shows potential but in action he’s a pretty lousy swordsman who acts before thinking. Deedlit is at once the smartest and most naïve of all of the party members: a 160 year old elf, she sometimes acts like a wisened person who understands the horrors of war, and sometimes like someone a tenth her age.
There’s traditional Elf and Dwarf infighting here, as well. The nice thing was that Ghim (the suspiciously named Dwarf) said “Only a Human would allow their feelings get in the way of admiring another’s work!”. Mutual respect … the elder races truly are the smartest.
It’s also subversive in that quite a few of the actors are cast against type: notably Wakamoto Norio, who brought us such timeless characters as “Coach” of Gunbuster and Cowboy Bebop‘s Vicious, as the comical thief character Woodchuck. Yamaguchi Kappei, one of the biggest hotheads in early nineties anime (Ranma and Inu Yasha bore him as the title characters, among others), plays the timid priest/cleric/whatever. Both of these actors do good jobs with what they’ve got. Tohma Yumi is slightly disappointing as Deedlit, however.
The dialogue (or, at least, the subtitles) are a fairly good adaptation, with phrases that wouldn’t be used for an “American” translation. The only problem is the use of the phrase “God damn!” which never works when you’re in an alternate religious world.

The animation and design is simply beautiful. A 13 episode OVA produced in 1990, it has aged well. The characters, designed by both Nobuteru Yuuki and Izubuchi Yutaka, are simply beautiful. There’s a genuinely ancient feel about the scenery and it simply draws one in. Any scene wherein Deedlit gets to show her grace is a treat to watch.
Mizuno has created an interesting world; It’s not quite clear how old this mythology is – Karla has been alive 500 years – but Lodoss definitely has a fine history seemingly built on holy wars. In the end (of this lot, at least), we learn something very important: it doesn’t matter if there’s a war going on, peace won’t come until you kill the witch.

At once conventional and subversive, Record of Lodoss War is rare fantasy anime. Beautiful, enticing … and always giving the sense that something bigger is afoot.

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