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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