Jouji NakataJunko NodaKenji NojimaMasaya Takatsuka
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight
Medium: TV, series
Year: 1998
Director: Hitoyuki Matsui
Original creator: Ryo Mizuno
Writer: Katsumi Hasegawa, Masashi Kubota, Yasutomo Yamada
Actor: Chie Ishibashi, Kenji Nojima, Sho Hayami, Chikao Ohtsuka, Jouji Nakata, Junko Noda, Kazuhiko Kishino, Maaya Sakamoto, Masaya Takatsuka, Mitsuru Miyamoto, Nobutoshi Hayashi, Rei Igarashi, Shiho Niiyama, Tamotsu Nishiwaki
Keywords: Forcelia, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 27 episodes
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 6 December 2014
I'm not a fan. I can see that it's quite well done and I prefer it to the OVAs, thanks to Parn no longer being Scrappy Doo. Nonetheless it's still basically boring, with likeable characters knocking around in a fairly empty sword-and-sorcery plot.
Firstly, is it a remake of the OVAs or a sequel? Arguably, it's both. The OVAs did the first book fairly faithfully (episodes 1-8), then did a loose adaptation of everything else published to that date in their remaining five episodes. That's up to book four, I believe, although the OVA's ending is original. This TV series, on the other hand, is a more faithful adaptation of books 3-7 and you'd have to fudge some important details to pretend that it's a continuation of the OVAs, even though it's still the same world with the same characters in it.
Let's go through those characters.
PARN - is no longer a bull-headed cretin, but instead is a famous hero and a legend in his own lifetime. His brain's started working! He's capable of having intelligent discussions, instead of charging blindly at the nearest supervillain! Amazing. He's also ditched all of his most one-dimensional friends, now travelling with just one regular companion (Deed). Good. The losers are still out there (sigh), but they've been pushed upstairs, so for instance Etoh's become King of Valis.
ORSON + SHIRIS - still doing their "berserker and best friend" schtick. Orson gets given responsibility and the job of party leader, which he thinks is a crazy decision given what he's like when he sees red. Orson's great, actually. I like his intelligence and his self-punishing emotional issues. Mercenaries tend to be better characters in this series than the purer-than-pure knights and heroes.
KING KASHUE - still badass.
Those are the main characters of the first arc, after which we jump to the next generation. Spark goes from being a small boy in episodes 1-8 to a hero and knight-in-training from episode 9 onwards. That's quite cool, actually. I enjoyed seeing the children growing up and picking up the heroic mantle from their elders, although the previous generation are still involved in the adventures too. Well, apart from the dead ones.
The youngsters' party is led by Spark, who's a heroic knight (oh dear) but fortunately manages to be more likable and human than Parn ever managed. I quite liked his conflict between his conscience and his knightly duties, while he gets close to Little Neese (a sweet little girl cursed with a horrendous destiny) and teased for this by the rest of the party. Other party members include a busty thief, a personality-free magic-user, a pointless bard and two mercenaries (Garrack and Leaf), who are jovially abrasive and the show's most lively and entertaining characters.
That's a decent cast. I was fond of and/or entertained by quite a few of them. Garrack is a laugh. Neese's fate would wring empathy from a stone. When the show chooses to do character-based material, we get good episodes.
Unfortunately it's just fantasy adventure stuff. Countries go to war. Villains plan to resurrect dark goddesses and turn Lodoss into a land of the dead. We're told that fighters are the backbone of every party and that the best leader for your country, as respected by everyone, is your strongest swordsman. Uh-huh. Magic-users are supposedly useless without a fighter alongside them. Sorry, Merlin and Gandalf. (That's more plausible in a D&D context, though, which is how this franchise got started.) At one point, a wizard even regrets not training as a swordsman. A thief talks about "betraying the code of the thieves". Finn's reaction: piss off. Most importantly, what they're fighting against doesn't feel personal, except with Neese. There's some interesting material about the duties of kings and knights, but at the end of the day it's all too big and remote. Our heroes have to travel across the country, book passage on ships, etc. just to get within a hundred miles of the villain.
I didn't care. Individual episodes could be funny, dramatic, psychologically interesting or whatever... but I never felt drawn to watch the next episode. Well, perhaps to some extent when the focus was on Orson. He's cool.
That's just the Part Ones, though. Every episode has a Part Two, which is a super-deformed mini-episode that only lasts a few minutes and is supposed to be funny. No, that can't be right. They're so unfunny that maybe their only goal is to be silly? The main show has far more laughs, even though its heroic knights have all had a sense of humour bypass. The mini-episodes develop from bad puns into a childish parody show in which Parn and Neese are trying to stop a Dark Elf from stealing some cookies.
Trivial observation: episode five has a budget failure due to too many fight scenes, not to mention some head-scratchers in the dragon fight. Parn and his horse get blasted by dragon fire and are unharmed. Eh? Also character who dies dramatically in episode 26 is alive again without explanation in episode 27.
This show has some interesting ideas. It would seem that the fate of the world rests on whether a certain character is a virgin or not, which suggests that Spark and Neese might have overlooked a simple way to foil Wagnard. (Neese looks underage, though.) There are wrinkles in the relationships between gods and the mortal world, which is reasonable in a universe where priests are spellcasters. Most of the kings in Lodoss are good rulers, even the evil ones, but the latter appear to be motivated by some odd and unexamined assumptions about whether Lodoss needs to be united or divided. There are things to think about here. I like that. I also like the cast, especially since we've got rid of Idiot Parn.
These are good ingredients, but for me the finished product's forgettable even while you're watching it. It's less than the sum of its parts.