Five years after the death of the Emperor of Marmo in the War of Heroes, Parn is now the Free Knight of Lodoss, he and his old allies now famous through the land. However, the Emperor's right-hand man, Ashram, seeks the scepter of domination to re-unify Lodoss under his former leader's banner. Meanwhile, beyond his attempts at conquest lies a more sinister force beginning to set the stage for the resurrection of the goddess of death and destruction...
No, it's not a sequel, but rather a retelling of the events that follow episode eight of the original OVA. Actually, the Lodoss OVA are a somewhat streamlined telling of the novels they were based on. This longer, more drawn-out 27-episode television series hews closer to its source material, but in doing so causes for inconsistencies between the two programs. This has caused a lot of confusion for many viewers, although the booklet contained with the series (and the DVD-ROM bonus extras) do help to explain them. There have been a lot of mixed reactions to Record of Lodoss War:
Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, with many who dismissed it as a cheap, inferior spin-off of the (arguably superior) OVA. Once you get accustomed to its oddities, however, this series isn't as inferior as it has been made out to be. In fact, it can be best appreciated as an interesting, if more sluggishly paced, "alternate route" for the final five episodes.
That said, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight starts out less than promisingly. The first eight episodes (the weakest of the show) concentrate on the struggle with the ruthless (and yet strangely not so evil) Black Knight Ashram for the Scepter of Domination which initially comprised episodes 9-10 of the OVA. While it's nice to see Parn, Deedlit, Slayn, and King Kashue again, their roles are actually less significant this time around. The only characters to receive any development are two supporting characters from the original, the headstrong mercenary Shiris and her quietly reserved (but easily enraged) Berserker partner, Orson. (In what may be an example of one of the many inconsistencies in the show, both characters are reintroduced to Parn and company as if they never crossed paths in episode 8 of the OVA.) There are several new characters, too, including a prissy mage apprentice, an easily deceived priest, a mischevious elfish grass-runner sprite named Maar, but all three are hardly memorable. The slow pace of the episodes are what really work against them, however; there's less action and more talky moments; even the climactic showdown at Fire Dragon Mountain between Ashram and the vicious red dragon Shooting Star is longer and more drawn out than one might expect. There is a surprisingly heartfelt sacrifice in episode 7, but the overall arc doesn't have the same energy or roller-coaster action of its predecessor.
It is only at episode 9 and onward that Chronicles finally comes to life. The story jumps ten years after the Fire Dragon Mountain events, where the focus shifts to the evil wizard Wagnard's desire to awaken the Goddess of Destruction, Kardis. Again, Parn and company's roles are reduced to supporting ones, and consequently, come across as the least interesting in the show. The hero here is Spark, a blue-haired knight wanna-be who, at the surface, comes initially across as a more pale incarnation of Parn, but his troop of companions do provide the kind of banter and chemistry one would expect for any fantasy adventure. The smart-aleck mercenary Garrack is a well-realized character, as is his sassy half-elf partner, Leaf, who steals every scene she's in with glee. Just as interesting are the loyal thief Ryna and the dwarfish priest Greevus. This ragtag team of misfits are joined by a mysterious girl named Little Neese (daughter of Slayn and Leylia), who turns out to be one of the key ingredients Wagnard needs to revive Kardis. During all this, Ashram returns in a last attempt to unite Lodoss (to fulfill his late master, Emperor Beld's dream) while the shifty Grey Witch, Karla, also lurks in the shadows. It is the chemistry between Spark's comrades and the more lively pace that really bring much needed energy to this major story, which, many would argue, is just a recycling of the last story thread from the OVA, but this telling is more complex, introducing some twists that are alternatingly surprising and insightful. And even though the grand finale is less exciting than the OVA, it still wraps up the show on a pleasing note. (Although Wagnard's drawn-out rituals and Little Neese's continuous screams of pain get tiresome after a while.)
Probably the only jarring thing about Chronicles of the Heroic Knight are the short three-minute Welcome to Lodoss Island segments at the end of each episode. These are super-deformed versions of the characters in goofy, cartoonish sequences, each of which clock in at around 2-3 minutes each. These wildly bizarre skits (which parody the world of Lodoss) will either amuse or drive you batty; I personally choose to give them a pass because they just don't click with me, but chances are your mileage may vary. (Interestingly, it's worth checking out these interludes with the English version to see how the Japanese puns--which make up a majority of the dialogue in these skits--are adapted into English, namely "I'm King Kashue, and this is my CASHEW! I'm really quite a nut!" as opposed to the more literal "I'm King Kashue, isn't my KATCHU (armor) nice)?"
The character development and overall entertainment value of Chronicles provides for a pleasant enough way to pass the time for fantasy fans, which isn't to say that it is the most aesthetically or aurally pleasing show to watch. On the contrary. The Lodoss OVAs had some beautifully detailed, if sometimes limited, animation, but Chronicles' production values are another matter. Aside from a breathtaking opening sequence (underscored by a beautiful theme song composed by Yoko Kanno), the animation fluctuates throughout the series, with some episodes looking downright painful on the eyes. There are several episodes which do get a boost in overall quality, artwork wise, particularly the last ones, but all in all, the artistry is not one of Chronicles' strongest points.
The audio portions fare signifigantly better, thanks in large part to the epic musical score contributed by Kaoru Wada. Fully orchestrated, with soaring, epic marches one moment and pounding, percussive action cues the next, this soundtrack arguably carries the whole show from start to finish. As mentioned, the opening theme is remarkable and impeccably delivered by Ma-aya Sakamoto, although the ending theme is a bit on the kitschy side. The sound effects are also very good.
As far as the voice acting goes, the dub of Lodoss has received a mixture of praise and disgust from many fans, but I happen to be one of its biggest fans. The Chronicles dub, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. It does have its assets: Crispin Freeman does a surprisingly fantastic job as Spark (making this potentially monodimensional character more interesting than he is) and Angora Deb is similarly good as Leaf. (I might argue that both make this dub worth watching.) It also reprises much of the cast from the OVA dub; even though their acting standards are lower than that of the OVA (Parn's more mature-sounding voice in particular takes several episodes to find his stride), it's still nice to have continuity. Working against them, however, are the uneven performances by the lesser supporting characters -- several of which border into intolerable territory (Ashram's minions, Governor Rabido, and Prince Reona, in particular, are dreadful), and vocal inconsistencies (some characters receive new voice actors either temporarily -- Lisa Ortiz's Deedlit is annoyingly replaced for at least two episodes by a far duller A.J. Parks -- or permanently -- Garrack's Michael Gerard drops out after five episodes, Crispin Freeman plays him for the remainder of the show). That, in addition to the sometimes awkward-sounding dialogue and hit-and-miss synchronization, rank the overall dub a notch below its superior predecessor. It's by no means the worst around, however, and patient dub fans may find it to have some merit.
In all fairness, the Japanese voice acting isn't all that stellar either. The entire Japanese voice cast from the OVA are replaced; while some voices are less grating than their English equivalents, others are actually sub-par in comparison to some of the better voices on the dub, particularly the seiyuu playing Deedlit, who is nowhere nearly as good as Yumi Tohma or Lisa Ortiz. There are also some parts of the Japanese language track which come across as cheesy, particularly the scenes involving the talking dragons (these scenes come across as very laughable in the English version, and the Japanese track sounds every bit as fake in this part). The common attitude I hear from dub detractors is that the Japanese language track is preferable, regardless of whether it has any weaknesses of its own, but in the case of Chronicles, I have to say that both audio tracks tie in quality. They have their strong points and are, at best, tolerable, but not particularly flawless.
All in all, Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight isn't without its drawbacks and doesn't always live up to its predecessor, but it's still a fine series that holds its own ground decently. For every weak point, there is always an asset to counter it, making this one moderately enjoyable fantasy Anime series.
Having watched the original Record of Lodoss War, I went into this title with a little bit of apprehension. Sequels have a notorious reputation for being sub par in comparison to their predecessors. Luckily, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight breaks that stereotype in a fairly big and entertaining way.
For some reason, I could not get into the original Lodoss, try as I may. However, Chronicles had me hooked from episode one, despite the fact that the first batch of episodes are basically a rehashed version of the OVA storyline. Fair warning though; don’t get used to seeing Parn and Deedlit in every episode. After the
introduction, it’s as if the original Lodoss story never happened. A new cast, and a large one at that, is introduced with new enemies and new motives. While it was great to see that the producers took the time to make sure that no one was just another nameless warrior, keeping track of a cast this size proved to be a daunting task. The story to go along with this new group was equally complex, but very intriguing and captivating. That is, until the end of the episode, when super-deformed versions of the characters make a parody of the story just displayed. It was funny at first, but then became just plain annoying and took away from the real storyline.
Probably the brightest star of this series is, arguably, the music. Yoko Kanno, already famous for her work in such titles as Ghost in the Shell: Stand alone Complex and Vision of Escaflowne, whips up a fantastic orchestral score to fit every scene on the screen, making this series pleasing on the ears. The opening and ending themes, Kiseki no Umi and Hikari no Suashi, are a joy to listen to every time they play and are definitely two of my favorite anime themes. The animation sequences to go along with them were stunning. It’s a bit of a shame that the series couldn’t have the same luster in its animation. By no means am I saying that the animation is bad. I was just a little disappointed at the dip from the opening and ending sequences to the series.
If you liked the original Lodoss, then by all mean, pick up Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. It’s just about everything that the OVA was and better. Just skip the last three minutes of each episode and enjoy the ending theme instead.
When translating something from the written medium to film or animation there can be certain aspects of the story that may be lost in translation. However it is sometimes wise to sacrifice certain things, and to that I will explain further, but first, normally I do not write a review to the series I have watched unless what I watched was so bad that it was worthy of a cautionary summation to future viewers. Now mind you I did not find anything that bad or appalling in this series, but I felt that the viewer ratings didn't reflect the true quality of the series.
I will begin this by saying that the author wrote this story well out of their normal comfort zone. It is hard to take and tell a tale that is not in relation to your heritage, for instance it is hard for a storyteller who lives in the West, to write a story about things that relate solely to the East, and visa verse. This author however did a very splendid job in doing just that.
But, the story itself is very linear and predicable. Now while this can be a good thing in this case it is not. Since the story itself is so visible it cannot and will not be able to draw the viewer into the storyline. To complicate matters even more, the unnecessary amount of characters actually bogs the storyline down further.
Characters were so numerous that any depth that could have been given wasn't due to the amount of them. The screenwriter chose to add characters in that really were not needed other than to provide a plot vehicle or romantic interest. Less is more, and in that allows for better character development and a chance for the viewer to connect with the characters. Unfortunately this story did not allow for that, and should have sacrificed some characters. For future screenplay writers, not all stories need romance, nor do they need characters who's sole responsibility is to help provide plot line.
Production values were better for this series than the first. The characters were diverse in features to allow a pleasant indulgence in them. For the most part the clothing designs were true to a European style fairy tale, but there were a few Asian influences in them as well. I'm sure that however was the artists trademark and quite acceptable even nice to see.
One of the problems however in production values were the action, or fight scenes. These were very far and few between with most of them being nothing more than SFX and quick color flashes and stills. I would venture to guess that the budget was shoestring and some sacrifices had to be made, I personally just wish they would have made them in the character department and not the action department.
So overall with a huge cast of characters, poor production values in animation, this series has, in my opinion, a higher rating that it deserves. Storyline was weak, art values were high along with sound and styling, this series should actually rate closer to 6.5 than the 7.6 it currently holds. Which again is what triggered this review.
This series would be good for a viewer who is wanting a simple plot and storyline with good art but poor production values.
Kind of like this one better over the Lodoss War OVA series, biggest reason being the greater amount of character depth and development. The OVA series just breezed by with its plot developments, leaving little time to develop its characters. Here though, many of the characters get fleshing out over their motives and some even grow over the course of the series. Even baddie Ashram gets focus to show that he has honorable reasons for fighting alongside the enemy faction. There are still some characters that were underdeveloped, such as Parn and Deedlit. But the character depth here is of great improvement from the OVA
As for the show's plot, it is your standard fantasy adventure series with the first eight episodes having a different take to the Scepter of Domination storyline from the OVAs and having another adventure years later with the knight Spark. I hear this TV anime is supposed to be a more faithful adaptation of its fantasy novel source material, but I don't know enough about the novels to know of how faithful it is. Regardless, the anime goes through the motions of having the audience know of its world, the gods worshiped and the creatures that inhabit it. To a great extent, the series follows the standard plot setups of a fantasy RPG game with our male hero of a knight (Parn for first eight episodes, Spark for rest of series) having a party of differing classes (mage, dwarf, mercenary, thief, etc...) accompany him in a journey to combat the plot of an evil baddie (Wagnard). The greater character depth here gives many of the characters more dimension than what their "class" archetype would give, though the fantasy setup occasionally milks cliches in its plot developments that cause the series to drag at points or suffer in quality. This is especially noticeable in the final several episodes of the series that milk enough cliches that you could find used in the final level of an RPG game's storyline. In addition, the series also comes with an SD omake mini-episode at the end of each episode to the show which is quite silly in tone compared to the main series and your mileage will vary on how well you enjoy them (winded up skipping them after a few episodes).
Visually, Lodoss War TV appears to use a more traditional character design style here compared to the OVAs, meaning most characters in the show have the "big eyed" and attractive look you can find used in many popular anime titles. The designs are nicely drawn and have a good amount of visual detail to them. Same treatment is given to scenery which have a diverse number of environments drawn thanks to the different locales that the parties of warriors travel through and fight in. The animation for the TV anime isn't much different from the OVA, meaning you can expect frequent use of still shots, speed stripes and other animation shortcuts during heated battle scenes.
The music to the series is perhaps the high point of Lodoss War TV for me. Insert music mostly consisted of orchestral music pieces that give the series an epic feel and Yoko Kanno's composition of the title's opener song, "Kiseki no Umi" sung by Maaya Sakamoto, make it among one of the better openers I've listened to from an anime.
Overall while still having its issues from its typical fantasy-adventure mold, Lodoss War TV is still an improvement from the OVA series thanks to its greater character depth and focus on exploring the world of Lodoss. If you have interest in medieval/ fantasy-style adventure titles, this is a decent series worth having a look at.