Orphen II Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, January 19, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004

What They Say
Two's company, three'sia crowd...but what's four?

Now that theitotally dependable Lycoris has joined theigang, you would think that Orphen would get into less trouble. But trouble seemsito find him.

Betweenia power-hungry sorcerer, two bumbling superheroes,ia trio of bank robbers andia whole army of monsters, Orphen andihis friends are lucky justito make it through another day alive.

The Review!
Orphen moves along in another set of standalone tales to get the familiarity level up with the cast as well as the mysterious enemy causing more problems for Orphen himself.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This continues to be a straightforward stereo mix where 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.

Originally airing in 1999, the transfer for this second season of Orphen looks about on par with the first season but a touch better. There’s a significant drop in the number of dark and murky night scenes in this first volume which lets the softness that was prevalent during a lot of the first season out of the picture. Colors are much the same style with backgrounds being somewhat bland but solid while the foreground colors such as characters are much more vivid and varying. Cross coloration creeps into things in a few places and there’s some noticeable aliasing, but neither are showstoppers.

Continuing the look for this season, the cover here looks really good with a book like feel right down to the binding. The center of the front cover provides a rather good shot of Cleao running in front of Orphen with their hair all over the place and a generally happy look for both while the runt twins look only grimly from the background. The back cover has a strip of images from the show itself and a very brief summary of the opening episodes. While we get volume numbering on the cover and spine, the back cover only gets episode titles and no number listings. The production credits and extras are clearly listed, but some of the features in the technical box are a bit obscured with a reddish brown color used for some of the text since they tried to blend it to the book format. The insert provides a larger shot of the front cover color image with more detail visible while the reverse side cobbles together the layout of the back cover but drops most of the bottom half.

The main menu layout uses elements from the cover set against the book format, with two cards overlaying it. One card uses the artwork from the front cover and insert while the other provides direct episode access and the usual selections such as languages and extras, all of which plays to some of the opening song music. Access times are nice and fast, and since there isn’t much here on the top level, things load quickly without any transitional animations.

The extras are a bit slim but still enjoyable; the opening and closing sequences get their clean versions here, something we’ll see on all the remaining volumes as well. The other extra is about a minute and a half worth of dub outtakes, some in character and some with the actors just messing around with the show, providing some good simple comedy.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Orphen series pretty much continues on with little change in these four episodes as they try to get the audience familiar with the cast members again and what makes the group work, as well as working Lycoris into the dynamic as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but after the first season where we did get to know these characters so well, it may be a little more effort to go through these for long time fans.

There are some good tales within this volume though, and we’ve adjusted to some of the differences in the animation quality and character designs. The opening tale is a familiar one where a sorcerer who operates outside the bounds of various sorcerer groups has been playing with certain powers that he should not be. He’s gained a reputation among the locals that’s partially deserved, as his quest to find a way to heal his daughter from an incurable disease has led him down a dark path of magic related to immortality that requires him to use the lives of others. With Orphen and the group becoming involved, almost by accident, the situation changes fairly dramatically and with a bit of humor, particularly with Cleao leading the charge.

Two episodes on this disc are definitely in the lighter department. One of them has an accident with a fishing trip going wrong and Orphen ending up with a fishbone in his throat. Since he can’t talk, he can’t cast any magic spells. So with a wooden block in his mouth to help him not make it worse, the group heads to town to find the doctor. Said doctor is drunk out of his gourd and ignored by the group who then split up to find him, even though he’s underfoot. To make everything more complicated, there’s a giant blue sludge like monster creeping through the area. To make it even more complicated, Hartia and his apprentice sorcerer are in the same area and he’s taken to his new role as the New Black Tiger while she has her own costume and name as “White Club”. Hartia’s attempts to be a ruthless vigilante of some sort are just as comical as they were in the first season if not more so now that he has a partner. The two of them manage to play off of each other just right, especially with her continually losing respect for him with his fashion sense.

But the best one I enjoyed the most here has a simple problem as its root cause; Cleao and Lycoris have spent all of their money and Orphen’s as well. With nothing left after a huge shopping spree, Lycoris goes to earn some more through whatever job she can find. After failing at dozens of hard labor jobs, she gets one at a zoo where she has to take care of a forty foot chick that has something of an attitude problem. Combined with Lycoris’ clumsiness and general ineptitude and it’s a very humorous situation. To make it better, Cleao is determined to get Orphen a job to earn them some money, so before he knows he she’s got him and Majic doing nude modeling for a statue artisan’s guild. This is the kind of episode where numerous small but very silly things happen and it all goes by very fast.

While each of these do stand alone, there are continuous elements in each of them that give it some sort of continuity. A lot of that tends to be in the vein of Hartia and his assistant as they get their plans underway while some other elements tend to be the in and out nature of the runt twin brothers, who I still think are some of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a series. It’s rare any character or set of characters actually makes me not want to watch a show, but these two fit that bill far too perfectly. Since Orphen and his group have no set goal but to travel here and there and train along the way, there isn’t anything really pushing them along the way, so they float along and so does the series.

In Summary:
There aren’t many changes in the overall plot of this volume, though a change is starting to be introduced through that Public Order of Knighthood that Lycoris is trying to get Orphen to go to. But with this series being high on its episodic nature and trying to avoid much of an overall arc, I’m expecting the majority of the series to be like this disc.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Orphen II