Orphen Season 1 and 2 Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Rose
Review Date: Monday, August 23, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A lazy sorcerer, his new apprentice, a selfish girl and a dragon that looks like a dog maybe all that stand between some ambitious people and/or the end of the world. 
 
It might be time to start packing.
 
What They Say:
He was the star student at the Tower of Fang, the most prestigious (if somewhat treacherous) university of magic in the land! Unfortunately, when you're tracking down a deadly dragon known as the Bloody August, even a master's degree in spelling is just so much help! Given that his old alma mater will do almost anything to get him back and that there are plenty of other rogues, monsters and general cut-throats out for his blood, this may explain why Orphen's willing to take any help he can get; even if it's from such unlikely sources as diminutive trolls, air-headed heiresses, and junior magicians whose training is, to be polite, rather incomplete. On the other hand, it could just be that he's crazy! 
 
There's black magic, dark sorcery and trolls with attitude galore as, at long last, both complete Orphen series Sorcerous Stabber Orphen and Sorcerous Stabber Orphen: Revenge are combined in a single epic complete collection
 
The Review!
Audio
For the purposes of this review the original Japanese audio track was used. The Japanese track is a 2.0 track that mostly uses the center speaker for the dialogue. There were a few instances of dropout during the first disc but after that the rest of the discs played without dropouts or distortions. Spot checking of the English track during those moments failed to produce the effect there so they seem to be limited to the original track. 
 
Video:
The video quality doesn’t hold up as well. Having been produced in 1999 the series is in 4:3 format and shows its age a bit. While the colors are vibrant and the blacks free of problems the screen has numerous moments where the screen jumps-sometimes quite often in a short span of time. There are also the usual pops and scratches that accompany most cell TV programs. There is also a considerable level of noise that can be noticed and stands out from the grain. A few moments of color bleed and aliasing can be found as well. Outside the noise nothing that is too uncommon in many anime discs but this series does present a unique problem. Starting with episode 11 and lasting the entire first season the subtitle encodes are faulty. At times there will either be a line across the screen just above them or the bottom of other words-presumably from the lines just before or after-can be seen just above them. Even better the PS3 cannot process these errors and when they are on screen the entire screen turns a reddish shade of purple. Anyone wanting to see this series subbed would do well to think about looking for an older release as these flaws are terribly distracting to completely not playable depending on your player.
 
Packaging:
The packaging for this series is in two 4 disc Stackpaks with a slipcover to contain hem. The front of the slip cover features the emblem for the Tower of Fangs as well as the series title over it. The sides each have a different image of Orphen casting magic. The back has a close up of Orphen holding the Sword of Baltanders in front of his face with a really good look at the design of the sword. There is an insert over it given the specs of the story as well as the box copy and six stills from the series as well. The first StackPak has an image of Orphen in the center biting his glove as if adjusting it with a bright and smiling Cleao in front of him and a profile view of Majic behind him. The back lists the episodes and has a side view of Orphen. The second season set has Cleao talking to Lycoris while she is leaning on top of a perturbed looking Orphen’s head. The back has a pointing Cleao with Leki holding on to her head. Both sets and the slip cover have a black and grey marble look for the boarder that really adds to the imagery.
 
Menus:
The menus are all basic affairs with the title on the screen as well as the various selections. They are all colorful and marble patterned and have music from the series playing in the background. Choosing between options is fast and when selected the menu responds at a decent rate.
 
Extras:
Clean Open/Close, Production Sketches, Japanese TV Spots, Cape Day & Other Silliness, Second Clean Open/Close, Interview with the Japanese Cast & Staff, Outtakes, Second Season Clean Open/Close, more Outtakes, Second Clean Open/Close, Outtakes and finally even more Outtakes.
The extras on this set seem like an oasis in the desert of the releases that have been coming out lately as this set seems to all but throw the kitchen sink at the viewer.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Orphen introduces the viewer to a world that has many similarities to a medieval setting in our own but also a good number of differences-Sorcery, canned food and the presence of ruins of a previous great civilization know as Heavenly beings among then. In this world there exists an organization of sorcerers know as the Tower of Fangs who both train future sorcerers but also look to research and keep the ruins of the Heavenly beings under tight wrap as no small number of them contain artifacts of great power-mostly of the destructive kind. Like many powerful organizations they greatly value their reputation and quickly eschew those who make great mistakes that may tarnish their reputation.
 
In this world exists a young man who calls himself Orphen and who was a promising member of the Tower of Fangs before he left on a personal quest to help one of the people who made such a mistake believing he is the only one who cares enough to help her. As he finds a city where he believes he can make contact he falls under the gaze of a young woman (Cleao) who sees his profile and a year later still carries a torch for him. During the year from his first appearance before her he takes on a young apprentice Majic who lives in the town though his father who owns a local tavern suspects that Orphen may be stringing his son along to make money while doing nothing. Cleao finally returns home from boarding school to discover that a young man has been peeping on her sister for the past year and also peeps on her. As she storms out she encounters the young man she remembers and her illusions of him are shattered. It turns out however that Orphen is not peeping on either sister but keeping track of a sword in the family’s possession known as the Sword of Baltanders. Orphen has even placed two short comic relief characters in the house to also keep an eye on it while paying back a debt the older sibling owes Orphen.
 
As Orphen tries to defend himself from Cleao’s verbal assault and clumsy swinging of the sword which she grabbed on her way out the skies darken and the wind picks up unnaturally while black lightning streak from the sky. Orphen has Majic grab Cleao and take her back to the family’s manor as something dangerous is forthcoming. Majic recognizes the signs as a portent of the arrival of Bloody August-a giant monster that has appeared destroying cities over the last few years. As reality is ripped in front of Orphen a giant menacing dragon-Bloody August-emerges and towers over him. Rather than trying to fight it however he addresses it as Azalie and says he now has the Sword of Baltanders  as he tries to calm the creature saying he will figure out a way to save her but the sword can’t do it alone. As it looks like he is about to finish a capture spell on it a fireball interrupts him and allows Bloody August to escape. The fireball was thrown by Childman, one of the top sorcerers in the Tower of Fangs and also at 
one time Orphen’s mentor. As harsh words are cast by Orphen about Childman’s attempt to kill Bloody August rather than save her Childman’s cold demeanor only serve to further enflame Orphen. As he leaves he assigns his apprentice and Orphen’s former friend Hartia to watch over the manor as he has some suspicions that he doesn’t voice.
 
Hartia instead decides to challenge his old friend whose real name is Krylancelo the real danger of Bloody August is revealed. The creature posses the reasoning ability of a human and came to the conclusion that by kidnapping Cleao and her sister it could exchange them for the sword. Despite Hartia trying to stand in his way Orphen makes his way to the place where Bloody August is holding the two women. As Orphen is again trying to reason with it and contain it Childman again appears and looks to be standing in Orphen’s way. During the standoff Bloody August gets a hold of the sword and rather than curing it the creature further mutates. This causes Bloody August to leave and Childman and Hartia then return to come up with a new strategy. Orphen decides to set out to try to find more about the sword while being accompanied with his apprentice Majic who wants more training and the stowaway Cleao who is searching for some adventure.
 
The series then introduces the audience to more of the world and introduced are some of the more mystical wonders of the world including a village that worships the Deep Dragons. Deep Dragons are a race of incredibly powerful giant creatures that appear as wolves and the child of which appears to be a small blue pup that takes to Cleao and follows her which she names Leki. As the group travels they continue to cross paths with both Volcan and his sibling as well as danger as the layers of Orphen’s past and his relationship with Azalie and the path that lead them and Childman to the place where they currently reside are revealed. Along the way the group faces giant monsters, the arrival of a masked hero who also bears a relation to Orphen and his past and more stunning to Orphen that Childman may not be the heartless being Orphen imagines him as being. As the series progresses further machinations from the Tower of Fangs are reveled along with a new opponent as well a sliver of hope when it is discovered that not everyone’s goals are as they have been made out to be. The story takes a twist with a major act of treachery and a change in two major parts of the story that further deepens the tragedy underlying the events leading up to the creation of Bloody August and any possible resolution. Will Orphen be able to continue fighting when motivations are laid raw and the very one he was trying to save turns on him? Will he gain the strength to finally be able to properly wield the Sword of Baltanders? Even if he does, do some sins carry such a deep price that salvation may not even be possible?
 
With Orphen’s previous task accomplished he now has nothing motivating him but having a good time and being lazy. The second series picks up on this lack of a clear path by engaging in more humor and often a very monster of the week approach to episodes. Rather than have an obsessed and goal driven Orphen it chooses to focus on the groups day to day functions and their discovery of a plot that will wind up engulfing Orphen if he makes a misstep in the journey to discover who is trying to get him and why. The second season-titled Orphen’s Revenge-begins with the three humans and the Deep Dragon having joined back together to journey once more as they seek a good time and trouble seeks them. A few new gags are introduced in that Majic is now a character who has an uncanny ability to unconsciously sway women while Cleao keeps sleep walking into Orphen’s bed and using Leki to blow him up every morning. The season also introduces a new character in Lycoris Nielson who says she is looking to scout Orphen for the Royal Public Order of the Knighthood.
 
The second season starts with Orphen having terrible nightmares of a bizarre place and various people in his life. After he wakes up and receives his morning blasting from a half-asleep Cleo she pushes the group to go to a local hot springs town. This is complicated by the efforts of those who control the town to keep Orphen from bathing in any of the waters at any cost. As Orphan is battling the local thugs who are aided by Volcan and (a less than willing) Dortin and discovering the secret that they were trying to keep him from a brand new type of enemy suddenly attacks. In the process of defeating the new enemy Orphen also rescues Lycoris who follows Orphen attempting to get him to come with her for a meeting with her superiors at the Royal Public Order of the Knighthood. As the group travels they continue to run into more of the new type of monsters while also facing troubles with ghost possessions, former Tower of Fangs’ sorcerers seeking eternal life at any cost, fish bones in the throat as well as what might be the ultimate test of the groups cohesiveness-running out of money. Along the way old friends will return, a masked hero will be reborn and gain a partner in crime fighting and an old rival may have returned from the grave looking for revenge. Even more daunting might be the prospect of having to find part time jobs to continue to fund their journey.
 
With all this on their plate it may be impossible for the group to continue to advance-but if they do what will they learn about the strange red haired woman who appears in odd places playing a piano and seems to be following them, Orphen’s nightmares and the bizarre dreams that Lycoris has been having that suggest there maybe something deeper about her than appears on the surface. And what role does the Tower of Fangs play in the whole situation and could it possibly be that a long believed extinct race may not be as gone as advertised? And will Orphen and his friends have the power to seize a happy end for their new friend or will tragedy rule the day?
 
Orphen is an enjoyable sword and sorcery series that was fun to revisit after the better part of a decade. The characters are still fun and shine when the script gives them the opportunity to do so. It is fun watching the growth of the timid Majic, the selfish Cleo and the obsessed Orphen as the events play out. The first series holds together a bit better as Orphen having a goal seems to focus the characters in a way that the monster of the week stuff in the second season doesn’t quite do, which is a shame as there are some strong characters to be found there and a potential for them to have really shined seems to have been missed. Also the video is not the best to come out of the late 90’s but holds up fairly well. The biggest problem is the change in tenor from the first to second season as the second season seems to play up gags to a far greater extent than the first though neither shy from situational humor to keep the story from getting too dark.
 
In Summary:
Orphen and its sequel Orphen’s Revenge are a fun trip with some interesting characters put in to some fantastic situations. The mix of drama and humor may not be for everyone and the second season’s even greater use of gags while seeming to be lacking a cohesive plot maybe off putting to some but those who enjoy a series that can balance (normally fairly well) the split between heavy drama and comedy would do well to give this series a try. Note: PS3 users who want to watch the series subtitled need to go looking for one of the older editions of this title as this version has issues the PS3 cannot process.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Open/Close, Production Sketches, Japanese TV Spots, Cape Day & Other Silliness, Second Clean Open/Close, Interview with the Japanese Cast & Staff, Outtakes, Second Season Clean Open/Close, more Outtakes, Second Clean Open/Close

Review Equipment

Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD, PS3 set to upscale.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B_
Video Rating: C-/F
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A+
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 1175
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Orphen, Orphen II