Orphen Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001



What They Say
As the search for the dragon Azalie continues, Orphen and his friends travel to a mysterious island in a sea of lost ships. While there, they discover a magical ring that holds the key to release the legendary dragon. Unfortunately, a rat gets in the way - and we're not talking the devious troll, Volcan!
Speaking of Volcan, as he and his cohort Dortin find a giant Golem, it appears they finally have a weapon capable of facing Orphen and his allies. However, the devilish duo aren't the only enemies Orphen has in the City of Canals. Orphen's old friend Stephanie has accidentally unleashed an evil Doll that lives for one purpose and one purpose alone . . . to destroy Orphen!


The Review!
The third volume of Orphen brings to life a character I'd love to see get her own series. Azalie stole this show away from Orphen quite well. And she was the primary focus of two of the episodes on this final three episode disc (as the remaining three discs will have five episodes each).

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. There's little to write home about with the audio tracks here, as it's pretty much a typical TV series. So that means the majority of dialogue is through the center channel with only a few scant moments where there's some faked directionality across the soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear though and there weren't any noticeable dropouts or other distortions.

Video:
The transfer for this volume is about matched with the second, which means that there's little cross coloration throughout these episodes, line noise in general is at a minimum and the grain is still here but also reduced from what we saw in the first batch of episodes. The show continues to have a fairly murky and almost dirty feel to it with mostly drab colors. The few really good action sequences here show off some very nice animation however.

Packaging:
The great looking covers continue with this volume, showing off most of the main cast of good guys here with Orphen dead center. The back cover provides a couple of small animation shots and some nice stylistic text and artwork mixing. There's a good summary of the show and listing of the features. On the down side, the episode listings list just the episode titles and with no volume numbering to be found, it's almost impossible to tell which volume this is. Bad. The insert provides another shot of the cover while the reverse side gives chapter stops for all three episodes.

Menus:
The menu system is set up much like the first two volumes with a small portion of animation playing as the menu builds and then the menu is free to manipulate. It's not a terribly long load, but once that's done the access times between the menus is pretty solid. The menus are laid out nicely with episodes selectable from the main menu and everything else easy to get to. The design style is very much in the style of the show itself with the runes as the cursor and overall it looks quite good.

Extras:
The extras here are about the same as the second volume. The only real difference is we get a different set of production sketches that are relevant to these episodes. The textless opening and endings are carried over from the previous two volumes, which I certainly don't mind as I enjoy watching them while waiting for others to get ready for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this disc we get two really excellent episodes and one filler episode. Bah to the filler, but woo hoo to the great content episodes.

The first two episodes deal with Orphen and his past. With his tracking down of Bloody August, he's decided that he's going to bind her so he can make things right. To do this, he needs a particular piece of magical equipment that he and Azalie had discovered six years earlier on their first assignment together.

So that means one good thing, lots of flashback to his younger years. We get introduced to Orphen as a four year old as he arrived at the Tower of Fangs with the nine year old Azalie. She'd taken to him like an older sister as both are orphans and she became very protective of him, yet didn't coddle him throughout their relationship. We see how Azalie turns out to be one of the most powerful sorceress that the magicians there have ever seen. She's also quite confident and sure of what she's doing, so she gets taken to task for that as well.

At the age of 19, she sets out with Orphen to discover some Heavenly Being artifacts. This is Orphen's first real assignment with her, so he's nervous but wanting to prove himself to someone he's come to love more than just as someone whose felt like a sister. His feelings definitely run deeper. When exploring the ruins, they discover the sword of Bartlanders as well as a bracelet that amplifies magic. It's this bracelet that Azalie finds to be the most intriguing and instead of bringing it back to the Tower, she hides it deeper within the ruins as a safeguard against the future. She's planning on contingencies for when things go bad, something that Orphen picks up and carries through with as he gets old.

It's the sword though that's going to cause the most problems. We get to witness the drastic change that occurs that takes the beautiful Azalie and transforms her into the deadly and frightening Bloody August. We also get to see the politics of the Tower come into play as they deal with what Azalie's unleashed and how Orphen's journey starts. These are big episodes that go a long way in explaining a lot of stuff and there's a lot of small details to be seen here.

Much like the first two discs, I can't get enough of this show. The action is solid, the characters have a great synergy and the general flow is fun and engaging. I'm enjoying this show a lot and can't wait for the five episode discs to start so I can get more at once. Definitely recommended for the fantasy fan looking for something a bit lighter.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Production Sketches

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Orphen