Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2000
What They Say
Enter a world where dark knights battle beneath skies lit by dragon’s flame. Travel to a land where evil magicians make pacts with forgotten entities in exchange for forbidden powers. Return to the accursed island, Lodoss.
Five years past, six adventurers defeated a conquering army and saved Lodoss in a bloody battle that has since been called The War Of Heroes. But now, a familiar evil has returned. Old heroes must heed the call to defend their homeland once more, and new heroes are forged as the battle for Lodoss begins anew.
Episode l: The Free Knight…A New Legend Begins
Episode 2: Dragon…The Guardian Of The Lost History
Episode 3: King…The Long Sought Hero
Episode 4: Pirates…The Ship Of Dark Ambitions
Episode 5: Demon Sword…The Power To Crush Sols
Episode 6: Heart…Tears Reborn
The Black Knight has vowed to unite Lodoss under his tyrannical rule. To this end, he has invaded the volcanic lair of a demon dragon with the intent to capture the legendary Scepter of Domination.
Episode 7: Death…A Gentle Heart Bequeathed
Episode 8: the Scepter Of Domination…The Dream Of A United Lodoss
Episode 9: The Young Knight…Tested Strength
Episode 10: recovery…A Mission Assigned
Episode 11: Light…A Girl Guided By The Gods
Episode12: Sallying Forth…Pursuing A Dark Shadow
Episode 13: Nightmare…The Creeping Dark Power
Can Spark and his comrades rescue Neese from her tragic destiny? The dark sorcerer Wagnard seeks to sacrifice her life to resurrect a slumbering goddess. With her power, he will obliterate the world…and ascend to his reign as the Lord of the Dead!
Episode 14: Doorway…The Truth Proclaimed
Episode 15: An Old Enemy…Reunion With The Black Knight
Episode 16: The Holy City…Pursuing A Clue
Episode 17: Decision…An Option Compelled
Episode 18: Mission…The Path One Follows
Episode 19: Reunion…In A Distant War-Torn Land
Episode 20: counterattack…The Stolen Last Hope
Even as the last demon is slain, the exhausted warriors gather to face the Grey Witch, who has shaped the fate of Lodoss since the beginning of history!
The mad goddess stirs within Neese, threatening to consume her immortal soul. With a desperate heart, Spark faces the unholy presence in defiance…and is offered an impossible choice: to save the girl he has grown to love…or to sacrifice her life to save Lodoss.
Episode 21: A Vow…A Step Towards The Future
Episode 22: Liberation…A Path Opened
Episode 23 Landing…The Terrifying Dark Island
Episode 24: The Witch…The One Who Maintains The Balance Of power
When the original Record of Lodoss War OVA series was being produced, it was one of the hottest shows that made its way stateside at the time. Central Park Media pulled off a bit of a coup in snaring that early and Lodoss, whether you love it or hate it, has been one of the very few true serious fantasy anime shows to be released here.
The history of Lodoss itself is rather interesting. At the time of the OVA's, the novels that were being written (which were based off of the RPG gaming session) weren't complete and were pretty extensive in their scope. It simply couldn't all be fit in a 13 episode OVA series. The animators took a few liberties, changed things around and released what they had.
With the TV series, they've gone back to more true origins of the book. The show begins five years after the death of the dwarf Ghimli, who was seen in the OVA's. So in one sense, you do need to see the OVA's to get the groundwork that was laid down there. The TV series begins where the second half of the OVA series changed things, after the War of Heroes.
Suffice to say, this has caused endless confusion among viewers. With the TV show starting off in an unexpected place, major characters still alive when they were originally killed in the OVA's and other "changes", many were immediately turned off.
The 2.0 stereo soundtrack on both the Japanese and English sides sound pretty solid. We listened to the Japanese for our primary review and did not notice any distortion or dropouts throughout it. The music comes across quite wonderfully, especially the opening and ending songs. Dialogue is clear throughout and the ambient effects are used fairly well for the minimal amount of directionality that's required of it.
This is a real toss-up here. Throughout the entire series, there's a fair amount of grain in the backgrounds that really bring attention to artifacting problems, most notably in the blue sky backgrounds and some of the darker flesh toned characters. A lot of the animation comes across looking quite good and very solid, but the areas that don't tend to appear frequently enough to really distract me. Even several of the lighter blue sky areas brought out more artifacting than I'm used to seeing. Giving the disc a spin in the old Apex, it was somewhat less noticeable, but it's one of those situations of once you know where to look for it, you're going to see it regardless. This transfer isn't anywhere near a total loss though, so don't take that impression. Colors look quite good with only a few hints of over saturation (such as the flowing red ribbons during the ending sequence, which you can see bleeding onto the white skin).
When the first sellsheets came out for Lodoss TV's release on VHS, I was giddy with how great the packaging looked with it's stylized artwork for the covers and the layout of it all. I even sent in a request to make sure the same style was used for the eventual DVD release. While there's only four discs as opposed to many more VHS tapes, the end result is the same. This is a nice looking package. The back of each disc lists the episode number and episode title along with a sometimes very brief summary of the episodes. The first disc lists all the extras both on the disc itself and on the PC DVD-ROM side. The first disc also includes a small booklet (obviously designed for the VHS release going by its size) that goes into a wide variety of details about the shows origins, continuity and the world the characters inhabit.
One thing that will get missed by most fans is something on the back of the individual discs it tells you that there's more information on the reverse side. And indeed there is. Full cast listings and chapter information. Of course, my personal preference is for a combined end-credits translation for both English and Japanese cast, but this is something CPM hasn't caught up on yet like most of the other studios.
The menus are also a definite step up from other releases with more music an animation used here. When first started, the screen pans across the characters that grace all the covers and ends with one of them and brings up the selections. The really nice part is that upon returning to the main menu, you don't go through the whole panning sequence again but right to the end portion. As with all other CPM discs, menu access times are very fast and simply laid out. I don't think we've ever really had any serious issues with the performance of their menus.
From the looks of it, the first disc is the one that gets all the extras, and most of those are on the DVD-ROM side. On the video side, we get a few pictures of conceptual character artwork, a very brief cast page listing and a bit talking about the booklet that's included. We haven't checked the DVD-ROM side yet, but it includes character sketches, reviews, Japanese packaging, complete Lodoss information guide, the (dub) script, artwork and bits on the comics.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I knew it would happen. As soon as I started up the show, I got completely enveloped by it much like the OVA series captivated me. With the show strongly opening with a beautifully animated opening sequence, wonderful music by Yokko Kano and the ever addictive Maaya Sakamoto vocals, the hook was in and it was in deep.
The show begins with the indication that it takes place five years after the death of the dwarf Ghimli. The Marmo survivor from the War of Heroes, Ashram, has continued to seek out the Governor's Treasure that will assure him victory in conquering and uniting the land of Lodoss, the Scepter of Domination. Ashram has apparently been working slowly and cautiously since the War to find the Scepter and has begun his campaign to find which of the ancient Dragons, who are under a spell to guard all the Governor's Treasures, actually has it.
Things have changed all across Lodoss as well. Some towns have broken off from their existing kingdoms, refuges are swarming to Flaim, causing problems there. As it has always been throughout the history of Lodoss, there is no clear super power kingdom.
The adventure aspect of the show kicks off with the introduction of Shiris and Orson, two mercenaries sent to the town of Zaxon to retrieve unpaid taxes. Zaxon however is protected by a couple of sorcerers who happen to be friends with those who came out as the true heroes of the War of Heroes. Shiris and Orson end up fighting them pretty fast and it becomes revealed that Orson is actually partially possessed by a berserker spirit.
From there, things begin to build with the revelation of what Ashram is planning. This brings Parn to regroup many of the old band from the War together again to hunt Ashram down, which means a visit to his idol, King Kashue of Flaim. Kashue of course, has plans of his own to mingle with Parn's...
I thoroughly enjoyed the opening arc episodes (1-8 or so) and becoming reacquainted with the characters, even the "rewrites" done for Shiris and Orson. I never cared much for either of them in the OVA series, but I'm already really liking both of them, especially in the character design department. Some minor tweaks look to be done to each of the other previously known characters as well, though this is more in line with adjusting for the five year difference and likely the variety of adventures between then and now.
Probably the best improvement is in the character of Parn. Throughout most of the OVA, he was unsure of himself, rash and generally not that good of a fighter. Here, he's presented as more confident, stronger, more skilled and with a real promise of a powerful and guiding future. This was the one character who really needed to be changed from the original and I'm really glad with how he's turned out.
Once the opening arc completes everything from the first half of the OVA's, things take a leap forward of about ten years and the "Lodoss: Next Generation" cast moves into place. The headliner for this arc, which runs to the completion of the series, is the young man met earlier in the first arc, Spark.
Let me say it right up front; if it wasn't for the absurdly goofy name, I'd really like the character. I mean, I don't hate him or anything, and he's pretty well done and not completely wussy like Parn was early on, but c'mon, Spark? It's one of those names that just doesn't fit in with the general feel of the storyline and other characters. Spark is however a pretty decent character and manages to hold up well after being passed the mantle of lead character for the series when the second arc begins.
Amazingly as well, as his entourage builds around him, I found myself liking this new group much better than the original set. Comparisons are obvious, but the energy and style to them are different and the interactions are fun to watch. This cast is also helped out by having a few more episodes to flesh each of them out a bit more than the original cast.
The second really nice thing is the continued interaction of several of the original cast in their older form. Parn really comes across the best here with his better character design. Deedlit of course looks the same. The growing stature of each of the original party is interesting to see how they ended up in different positions of power, with Parn leading a Free Army, Slayn and Leylia married with a daughter, Shiris now a queen and seeing Etoh in his kingly manner was wonderful. My only regret is that we didn't get to see the life and fate of Woodchuck.
The second arc focuses on a much more dire threat to Lodoss. With the Emperor Beld's and Ashram's plans essentially destroyed, the remaining power in Marmo is now Wagnard, the dark wizard. He sets into motion a plan to acquire the two keys, treasures of great power, that will open a doorway to reviving the dark goddess known as Kardis. This of course will spell doom for the entire realm of Lodoss.
There's a lot of machinations going on behind the scenes with politics and armies moving across the island as the various forces of good fight against Marmo and the allies. At the same time, Spark and his group seek one of the treasures that was stolen. It's along this journey that they realize that one of their companions, the daughter of Slayn and Leylia, is the doorway that would be opened to let Kardis return to the world.
Neese, the doorway, is quite a good character and a lot of fun to watch. The interactions between her and Spark is reminiscent of the old style romance as well as the ribbing by a few of the other characters. Each of the characters grow, some more than others, and all are pretty well thought out. Some naturally get the short end of the stick, such as the half elf, while others get a bit more screen time like the thief and the priest. In the end, it's a well rounded cast.
The animation is pretty decent throughout, compared to some of the scathing posts I'd read about it prior to its release. It's not as massively fluid as the opening sequence or some other shows that are out there, but it's not the lowest cel count show I've seen. The overall set design is well done and everything is a solid look fantasy setting.
One of the parts we did find amusing is the "2nd" half of each episode, the Welcome to Lodoss Island 2 minute segments that feature super-deformed versions of various characters engaging in different activities. The opening set that have Parn and Ashram trading Japanese language puns is hilarious while we really enjoyed the second set features Spark and Neese taking cookies to a dragon while being pursued by a dark elf. Hilarious stuff that won't go over well with everyone.
Record of Lodoss War TV series has the feel of a more classic anime show with practically no filler episodes throughout. The show is very well paced, the characters experience growth and the timeline of the show is advanced. The characters are definitely not the same as they are at the start and the ride is great. Highly recommended.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Conceptual Artwork,Cast Listing
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Record of Lodoss War