Based on the first Wizardry game "The Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord", a group of characters enter a dungeon to confront the ultimate wizard to prevent him from reaching an unstoppable power. On their way they meet up with a few new friends who have their own battles to settle, but their paths lay together.
Wizardry was an old series of RPGs. The first one was released in 1981 as a simple dungeon crawler created by students. From there it exploded and kept going for two decades with the last game, Wizardry 8, coming out in '01. Unless you want to count all the spin-offs, which have kept going with an online MMO being the most recent. Its servers shut down after a year or two though. About halfway into the franchise's life cycle there was an OVA. It was brought to us by TMS Entertainment. You may remember them from Kyougoku Natsuhiko: Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari, Glass no Kamen
& Magic Knight Rayearth. So, how did they handle this classic RPG franchise? I'm guessing based on my track record of them that it was kind of middling. After all, the best series I've looked at was the slice of life drama, Glass no Kamen while the more fantasy-based ones have been rather mediocre or just all right. But maybe this one is better, or worse, than the works I've seen from them before. Let's take a look.
The narrative is simple enough. There's a dungeon with ten floors. Adventurers travel through the floors, save for the tenth, and they gather treasures. The tenth is avoided because that's where the big bad lurks and no group of adventurers wants to risk dealing with him. He hates adventurers getting on his lawn. Our protagonists are a party of three, not that kind, made up of Shin, Alex & Hawkwind. They're going to search for some treasures when they encounter the elderly Joeza and his apprentice Albert. The two of them are planning to take on the big bad Werdna and they need help.
To be fair, that is basically the plot of the first Wizardry game. You create your party, go through the dungeon to try and reach the tenth floor and beat the big bad. Nice of them to leave that intact for the fans. That being said, there are some problems with the execution. The big one is consistency. Initially, our intrepid threesome, not that kind, decline to help Joeza and Albert because it's not worth the risk. This is followed by them almost immediately changing their minds for paper-thin reasons. Why even have them decline under those circumstances? There's also a fight scene where their enemy uses a sword beam and its impact varies for no apparent reason. One person gets their arm cleaved off. Then it hits a couple other people and they just get knocked back. Now, in a game you could call this the result of a poor saving throw but in an OVA that's supposed to have a cohesive narrative, it just makes no sense. The series also suffers from being largely mindless action. It pretty much dumps its exposition at the start and then moves into a bunch of fight sequences. I know you aren't going to manage much in less than an hour of running time, but you couldn't have cut down on the action to strengthen the story a bit? Maybe do a better job with the main trio changing their minds?
The characters are pretty much a generic fantasy group. Now, in the game you make your own characters. So, it's not like they had any really well developed characters to work with. The problem is, again, the lack of consistency. It takes the characters from being kind of flat archetypes and downgrades them into kind of flat archetypes with confused motivations. It doesn't help that Shiela, our token lady for the series, suffers from a great personal tragedy by having it barely impact her. Huzzah for character reactions, or lack thereof, that remove any potential impact that the events of this series could have had.
For an early 90s anime, the artwork is pretty average. It doesn't look good by the standards of the time, nor does it hold up particularly well, but I can't say it looks bad. There are some awkward moments. Alex gets bitten by a zombie and poisoned but his metal boot shows absolutely no sign of damage and you have to wonder how he's actually injured in that situation. Did the zombie's mouth phase through his armour and get his flesh while leaving the armour intact? I don't recall the zombies in Wizardry having the powers of Kitty Pryde but maybe I'm just forgetting about that.
The acting in this is passable. The cast is pretty solid featuring the same actors who voiced Zoisite (Sailor Moon), Alex Louis Armstrong (Fullmetal Alchemist), Will A. Zeppeli (JoJo), Netero (Hunter x Hunter), Piccolo (Dragonball) & Chief Nakamura (Ghost in the Shell.) Unfortunately, the fact that they're voicing wholly bland characters prevents them from really showing their abilities. They still do just fine, though. The music is all right. Not good, but decent enough.
Honestly, none of the characters have strong enough dynamics to have romantic tension. Ho-yay or otherwise.
I will give Wizardry credit for making a genuine effort to capture the narrative of the first game in the franchise. Unfortunately, they couldn't be bothered to develop the characters well and the general problems with consistency hurt the series. It winds up being, while not bad, a below average fantasy work. My final rating is going to be a 4/10. If you're a huge fan of Wizardry or you just want a quick, action heavy fantasy story, consider giving it a try. Otherwise, I don't recommend it. Next week will be Kemono Friends.
Don't let the rating put you off this one. Its not as pretty or grand as many other sword and sorcery animes of the period but it is a very solid and enjoyable watch nonetheless. Definitely worth its hour long runtime.
The story is very generic but also very faithful to the dungeon crawler game it is based on. Many similar ova adaptations of rpg games ditched this aspect to break free of video/table top game constraints. But by staying faithful, the spells and character classes benefit from a added depth and charm. Similarly, the pacing follows a rpg style encounter, party member, exploration routine. This
works well for a hour long action ova and I can't see anyone messing something simple like this up. My only complaint is that the supposed big bad is stopped before he ever comes out, despite the considerable build up leading to his return to this realm. Many old ovas suffer from the flaw of a rushed or confused ending but at the very least, this one's ending is neither particularly rushed nor unsatisfying in any way.
Character is the strong suit of this anime. In a short 60 minute run, what an action anime should deliver isn't deep character development but rather, appealing character designs and personalities and the chemistry between the characters as they face dangers together. Wizardry delivers in all three aspects. You get the standard magic swordsmen, healers, apprentice spellcaster and elf against the standard zombies, vampires and demon stuff. And then theres also more original stuff such as the badass ninja character (called Hawkwind no less!) and a demonic harlequin. Easily the best part of this anime is how all the characters overcome their initial differences and cover each others backs to defeat monsters stronger than the sum of their individual abilities.
The art is average for its time. This includes both animation and the quality of the frames and drawings. The designs themselves are also very generic; but being based off classic dungeon crawler aesthetics, the anime somewhat gets away with this. Last thing of note is the darker colour palettes. Not as bright and vibrant as many other fantasy animes though you can argue that dungeons are supposed to be dark.
Sound is standard synth soundtrack, the sort of unmemorable stuff that a vast majority of anime of this period had.
If Wizardry has a flaw, its the fact that it isn't spectacular. There are fantasies out there with better art, characters, music and/or story but what Wizardry does have, it delivers with perfection. A solid hour long watch for any fans of retro rpgs, D&D tabletop style games and sword and sorcery fantasy.
Ever play a role playing game with dungeons? like l.o.t.r.o. or elder scrolls? This movie takes that experience and puts it into a if that were real this is how it could be played out. That idea alone of taking a lot of people's fantasy for the r.p.g. area make me happy and others too i would imagine. Sure, one could fight a monster or two or hundreds but this setup was a rarity/unique. Granted how people knew how this dungeon worked without informing the viewer was a little sloppy for an intro. Then again, the main cast was
not 'rookies' in their words. All that aside, the flow went well straight to the nice ending.
p.s. word of advice... depending how you see the movie via an English subtitle pay attention to what spells are cast/effects. Descriptions tend not to matter in general but this is an exception.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that there was, for some reason, an anime based on one of the first ever computer role-playing games. Now that wouldn't be all that unusual if the game in question was made in Japan, but Wizardry is an American property originally developed by two college students. I never thought the series would be popular enough in Japan of all places to receive an anime adaptation of any sort, but after looking into it a little bit it seems that even to this day there are still some spin-offs released in Japan.
But enough about the game, we're on MyAnimeList and
I should talk about the anime not a game that my grandpa would've played.
Where to even begin? There is not much to say about Wizardry. As far as anime go it's quite innocent and doesn't having anything that would make someone frustrated or angry or any other undesirable emotion. It just sort-of is.
The anime starts off presenting some of our party members mid-battle showing us exactly how skilled or cheap they are since they seem to be one-shotting all the monsters in the area. They're probably grinding low-level monsters for exp. The plot to the anime honestly matters very little, all you need to know for the purposes of this review is that there's some evil bad guy living at the bottom of a dungeon and that our group of heroes originally comprised of Alex the guy with a sword, Hawkwind the god damn ninja and Shin the other guy with a sword go into the dungeon to maybe defeat the bad guy. They don't know, they're not quite sure yet.
Along the way they meet the mage Joeza who for all intents and purposes serves as a heal-bot, Albert who I don't know why he even exists, and Shiela the female mage who exists to make this less of a sausage party. These chance encounters with new friends prompt our intrepid trio to actually go after the bad guy for real, because I guess they don't have anything better to do today.
From that rather long-winded description you can probably puzzle together most of what happens in the anime without having seen it so I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say that the story doesn't leave any sort of impact after it's gone, even though it so desperately wants to, having not one but two named characters die. Wizardry only has 50 minutes to cram in a bunch of fight scenes, a romance subplot and a few dramatic character deaths along with the main story and the lack of time for developing any of the characters or plot really shows.
Mind you, with the set of characters and plot that we do get I don't know if a longer running time would've made much of a difference, but I think it would've at least helped in not making the more sad scenes fall flat on their face.
The anime is really like a dive through a dungeon in one of your grandfather's old computer games. You have a party of characters and you fight monsters, simple. Since we've established that the characters might as well be faceless ragdolls and that the story is as basic as they get all we really have left are the fights. So how are they? Not very good. The art in the fights, and just in general, is pretty good, mind you. And that is definitely the only thing even remotely praiseworthy about Wizardry, is that most of the time the art is at least above average (maybe except during the scene with the guy who has abs that look like they were drawn on with a permanent marker). The good art is not helped, however, by the downright boring fight coreography. Most fights end in one or two hits and those that don't are usually solved by random magic pulled straight out of the writers' asses and the game manual. The spell effects are nothing to write home about most of the time the spells just looks like some coloured mist that envelops the target. There are some that have decently satisfying effects but there's only like a couple of those and they're still used poorly in fights.
Since I was somewhat praising the anime just now I'll throw it a bone and say that the ending song was pretty good. It's the only song that I noticed all throught the anime and that's just because it was front and center during the ending sequence. For all I know the rest of the anime could be devoid of any music.
Now, to take that praise back in some way because I don't feel the anime deserves being praised so much otherwise you might think it's actually good I'll go into the overall look and feel of the anime. So, overall the anime looks pretty drab having dark colours and backgrounds with our main party being the only slight splotches of colour, though their colours are also muted. Wizardry is just not pleasant to look at, and while you could say that they're in a monster infested dungeon and that it's supposed to be dark that still doesn't make it any less drab. They could've used a torch's light to give the place a warmer feel on occasion or used colours other than musty blue and grave dirt brown. You can give the viewer the feeling they're in a dungeon without boring their eyes to tears.
Well, that's pretty much all I have to say about Wizardry. It's a weird little OVA that I found worth watching just because of how odd its heritage was. You may not feel the same way however, so if you're looking for some good old fantasy anime to watch then I suggest you look elsewhere. Wizardry is certainly old but it is far from anything I would call good, the best praise I could give it is 'harmless.' So if you're in the market for some anime that simply suck up 50 minutes of your time without giving you anything worthwhile then go for it, otherwise stay away.