© 1998 Ryo Mizuno, Group SNE, Masato Natsumoto, Rei Hyakuyashiki / "Record of Lodoss War" Project / TV Tokyo
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight
The Record of Lodoss War OAV series has become one of the quintessential fantasy anime series supported by a wealth of fans around the globe. Given that I hold the original series in high regard and am a bit of a fantasy buff to boot, I was nearly ecstatic when CPM announced they were releasing this series.
There is one important thing to keep in mind for anyone watching this series. This TV series was written to be closer in story to the original Lodoss novel. The first thirteen episodes are actually a retelling of the events in the final seven episodes of the OAV series. This can be somewhat confusing for those who have seen the OAV series and are wondering why characters like Orson and Shiris are being reintroduced. The DVD set includes a brief explanation of this in the enclosed booklet, and also a full timeline of Lodoss events to keep one from being too confused.
This TV series is made up of two story arcs. The first arc beings with the arrival of Shiris and Orson, two mercenaries acting as tax collector's for a corrupt duke. They take on a small village, but find defeat at the hands of Parn, Deelit, Slayn, and a young sorcerer named Cecil. Realizing that working for the sleazy duke is no real line of work, the impertious Shiris decides to tag along with Parn and company. Grim tidings are on the horizon, however, for a powerful knight named Ashram is seeking one of the greatest and most powerful treasures in the land: the Scepter of Domination. Parn and his allies are tasked with the mission of stopping Ashram before he can unite Lodoss under his rule. No easy task, especially given Ashram's powerful cadre of allies.
The second arc takes place about a decade or so later. We meet a young knight-in-training, Spark, who was only a child in the first story line. Spark is desperate in his quest become a knight, despite his repeated failings. Fate intervenes and Spark is given a chance to prove himself when a war between the nation of Marmo and the rest of Lodoss breaks out. An evil sorcerer named Wagnard has plans to resurrect the ancient and destructive goddess, Kardis, but he needs two items to complete this task. The first item, the Soul Crystal, is stolen by dark elves, and Spark is assigned to recover it by the orders of King Kashue. A party of warriors is formed to accompany him as he travels across Lodoss to recover the Soul Crystal and stop Wagnard's evil scheme.
I must admit I enjoyed the first half of the series quite a bit more than the second. Having loved the OAV series, watching Parn, Deedlit, and Slayn back in action was very enjoyable. The first story arc also seemed to place more emphasis on developing Ashram and his villainous cohorts. The second story arc, featuring Spark, tended to drag during the middle episodes with very little emphasis placed on Wagnard, Karla, and the remaining antagonists. As such, the conflict didn't quite develop as much as it could have, which resulted in less tension than in the first arc.
Almost all of the characters from the OAV series show up, and several have quite a bit more depth to them. This is quite evident with Shiris and Orson, who become major characters in the first half of the series with a lot of time spent exploring their background and Orson's beserker curse. Karla, the Gray Witch, also has a significant amount of her background explained, which does shed some light on her motivations in the OAV series. Unfortunately, she isn't shown very much in this series and I, for one, would've liked to see much more of her. Many new characters are introduced, primarily in the second arc. New faces include Spark, the previously mentioned knight-in-training; Leaf, a half-elf; Little Neese, daughter of Leylia and Slayn; Garrick, a rough 'n tumble mercenary; Ryna, a beautiful thief; Greevus, a stocky dwarf; and finally, Ald-Nova, a priest dedicated to protecting Little Neese.
To break up the tension the series sometimes generates, humorous shorts entitled "Welcome to Lodoss Island" are featured at the end of each episode. Various characters from the series are reprised as super-deformed versions engaged in oft silly situations. A good sense of humor is required to get the most out of these brief, but entertaining escapades, and I found them to be a pleasant distraction.
Production qualities, like the OAV series, tend to suffer in the visual department. Given that Lodoss was made for TV, the artwork is fairly standard and the animation is minimal. The aural component, however, goes a far way to make up for any visual shortcomings with some beautiful music, highlighted by an absolutely great opening song, "Sea of Miracles", composed by Yoko Kanno. The dubbing, however, is another story. While the dubbing in the OAV series wasn't the greatest, this series is a few notches lower on the quality meter. Of all the companies to release anime domestically in North America, Central Park Media seems to be the one that just can't seem to improve their dubs over time.
Overall, Record of Lodoss: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is a solid follow-up to the original Record of Lodoss War OAV series. It doesn't quite live up to the standard set by its predecessor, but fans of the Lodoss saga should still find a lot to enjoy.
The Verdict: * * * 1/2 (above average)
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