Created from the aftermath of the last great battle of the gods, Lodoss and its kingdoms have been plagued by war for thousands of years. As a quiet peace and unity finally become foreseeable over the land, an unknown evil begins to stir. An ancient witch has awakened, bent on preserving the island of Lodoss by creating political unbalance throughout the many kingdoms and keeping any one from maintaining central control. Only a mixed-race party of six young champions, led by the young warrior Parn, stand between this new threat and Lodoss' descent back into the darkness of war and destruction.
Of all the Anime series that I have viewed, Record of Lodoss War holds a special place in my heart. If you happen to be fond of fantasy adventure videogames as I am (or great literature such as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings), then this 13-episode video series is a very clever hybrid of these two great works of art. It's got everything fans could ask for--dragons, elves, dark gods, unlikely yet compelling heroes, villains you'll either hate (or love, depending on who you side with), action, suspense, romance, a small dose of humor, and an engaging feel to keep on watching
by the time each episode ends.
This is a direct-to-video animation series produced back in 1990, which unfolds over thirteen half-hour episodes. Adapted from the fantasy novels of the same name by Japanese author Ryo Mizuno, Lodoss is a classic good-vs-evil story, exploring the chronicles of six adventurers: these include Parn, a young, inexperienced warrior eager to (literally) jump at any chance to clear his father's tarnished name; Deedlit, a spunky, mystical high elf who tries (with varying degrees of success) to prove her love to Parn; Etoh, a loyal, good-natured cleric; Slayn, a gentle wise mage; Ghim, a gruff and tough dwarf; and Woodchuck, a wanted criminal who nonetheless provides loyalty (and occasional chagrin) to his pals.
The story is hardly original, and the plot tends to "jumps around" from one event to the next (for instance, the first episode starts off in the "middle" of the heroes' quest; chronologically, it'd be best to see eps 2-5, 1, and then 6-13)--yet the overall show is so engrossing that this fault (in addition to a few others I'll come to in a moment) becomes irrelevant.
It's the characters which make Record Of Lodoss War so much fun, and much of the best scenes belong to Parn and Deedlit; especially in a royal banquet episode where she forces Parn to dance with her (one of my favorite sequences from the show). As is typical of a elf-dwarf rivalry, Ghim and Deed bicker about each other's differences yet maintain a somewhat begrudging level of self-respect. It's Parn, however, whose plight stays with you long after the show approaches its climax. Eager to discover whether his father died in disgrace or not, he finds a father figure in Kashue. (This gets on Deedlit's nerves; she continually competes with the king for Parn's attention--a running gag that plays out unfortunately for only a couple of episodes.) In the latter episodes, we meet two new characters who don't get much screen time but are no less fully realized. Shiris, the hotheaded young mercenary who vies with Deedlit for Parn's affections is strongly depicted, as is her partner (and secret love), Orson, the moody Berserker, who becomes an angry, uncontrollable monster at the sight of Shiris in trouble.
Even the bad guys are richly developed. Ashram, as mentioned, isn't driven so much by malice as he is by what he believes is right; in fact, he becomes the most three-dimensional of the villains for that reason alone. For support, he has a Dark Elf accomplice named Pirotess (the opposite of Deedlit) who'll do anything to prove her loyalty to him... including sacrificing herself. Karla, incidentally, is no ordinary villainess. Her primary goal is to bring to Lodoss the balance she feels has been so greatly disturbed... yet her psychologically unbalanced persona leads her to cause far worse chaos with deadly consequences. She is shifty, cunning, manipulative -- an almost deadly combination. Wagnard, on the other hand, is just plain evil -- every bit the equivalent of Kefka from Final Fantasy III who cackles fiendishly as he puts his dark plans into action. When we first meet him, he appears to be a nondescript character, but when he becomes possessed by Kardis, he becomes frighteningly villainous. (Every scene he's in sends shivers down my spines.)
Its the strength of the characters and their chemistry as well as the compelling (if jumpy) plot that make Lodoss as a whole that one can overlook its occasional shortcomings, notably the animation, which, although gorgeously drawn, uses a low cel count resulting with some stiff movements. Taking into account that this is an older show, however, this doesn't really detract all that much (although there are some later episodes where some of the same footage is reused, for cost cutting purposes).
No fantasy adventure would be complete without a stirring soundtrack, and Record of Lodoss War delivers this in style. The musical score by Mitsuo Hagita is mostly symphonic, although it is (obviously) generated by electronics. Yet the compositions were so rich and lovely that they eventually grew on me over the course of the show. Equally lovely are the opening and ending theme songs, "Adesso e Fortuna -Now & Fortune-" and "Fantasia of the Wind", both of which are excellently sung in Japanese by Sherry. As a nice bonus, these songs were even translated for the English version; the woman who sings the dubbed songs, Lisa DeSimone, sings with an equally splendid voice.
One aspect of Lodoss often criticized is the English dub, produced by New York-based Central Park Media in 1996, a time when most dubs had a low reputation. I've read all kinds of mixed opinions about this English track; some say its fake and/or mediocre while other claims its unbearable, but here's a better review from one of its several (albeit outspoken on the net at least) enthusiastic fans (that's me). No, it's not perfect, and some lines do come off as a bit awkward, but a lot of the voice-overs are really good. In particular, Billy Regan (Parn), Lisa Ortiz (Deedlit), Al Muscari (Slayn), Jacques Le Can (Woodchuck), Simone Grant (Karla & Leylia), John Knox (Ashram), Jayce Reeves (Wagnard), and Alexander J. Rose (Wort and the Narrator), are among my favorites. Plus, the dialog is close to the subtitled script and packed with some memorable one-liners (Parn: "Quick, Deed, what's this dragon's weak spot?" Deedlit: "I'm not a dragon expert! How should I know?!") and great chemistry between the actors. I especially loved the interactions between Parn and Deedlit, the banter between Ghim and Deed, and a lot of other things. Which is why it saddens me that some would find all of this "inferior" to the Japanese language track. I listened to parts of the Japanese language track, too, and while I did find it to be of top-quality, I find that the dub still holds its own position decently. Of course, it may be in danger of being overshadowed by some of the better dub productions of today, but for a dub made in 1996, its a rather decent, if unspectacular listen. I'm still fond of it, as a matter of fact, even after hearing some better ones.
Record of Lodoss War has received its share of detractors over recent years, probably due to its cheap production values and/or inconsistent plotting. However, it is important to remember that these "shortcomings" is mainly because it's an older Anime series. While Lodoss may show its age in places, its infectious appeal and complexity rings true even after other shows of its ilk, and like most classics, it can stand against the test of time.
Knights, clerics, elves, dwarves and dragons occupy some of our biggest inner-nerd imaginations. Some of my fondest memories were playing old school dungeon-crawler video games on the PC, and interacting with this type of fantasy lore. Lord of the Rings, Willow and the Chronicles of Narnia all come to mind when reminiscing of some of my favorite fictional fantasies, and there’s plenty of anime out there that scratch the itch. Legendary anime studio Madhouse attempted to tackle Record of Lodoss War in the early 90’s, a time when fantasy novels and movies were undoubtedly on the rise. It has a palpable Dungeons and Dragons feel,
and is nostalgic of those all-nighters with friends, chugging our Mountain Dews and munching on Doritos while rolling the 20-sided die one more time. Unfortunately Lodoss is plagued with a sense of “generic” that’ll have you thirsting for more depth… which’ll sadly never come. Coupled with some of the most inconsistent English voice acting I’ve ever heard, it’ll be an anime you’ll probably forget soon after watching it.
My biggest complaint about Lodoss is that it wasn’t given the proper amount of episodes to expand its story properly. It has such an engrossing atmosphere and massive worldbuilding potential that is squandered terribly due to a lack of time investment. What we’re left with is a marginalized “good vs. evil” approach, thinning the cast of characters to generic protagonists and antagonists. A series with this much imagination needs the proper nurturing to ensure success, and 26 episodes would’ve given it more of a fighting chance. On top of that, they decided to drop the viewers into the middle of what is chronologically after the 5th episode… only leading to the confusion. I don’t know if different mediums of media were trying this reverse storytelling at the time, but it was entirely unnecessary and only confused the hell out of me, and I’m assuming a lot of other people.
You follow Parn (yep, sounds like porn) and his stereotypical group of fellow travelers (a cleric, wizard, elf, dwarf and thief) as they seek to prevent the destruction of the planet by baddies that want to control the universe. Sound intriguing? Well, I can assure you that this is the Dynasty Warriors button masher of plots. Considering the source material is actually written to emulate a D&D experience, the dungeon master must’ve been rather disappointing. The main character transforms from useless fodder to going toe for toe with the most powerful foe on Lodoss (which has definitely never happened in an anime before), all in the course of like 5 episodes. There's a loose backstory referencing his father and restoring his family’s honor, but it’s unconvincing at best. Generic quotes like “I'll get you!” and “you're no match for me!” resonate from his vocabulary on occasion, and you sense there isn't much there are on his intellectual level. Parn’s childhood friend Etoh, the with perhaps the worst English voice actor of all time, accompanies him as a sworn companion.
Deedlit, a high elf and Parn’s hinted love interest, is a princess that randomly decides to join the adventure. Given the fact that she’s actually of royalty, she naturally drops everything to answer the underlying question of what is happening to her people. And honestly, the rest of the main pack is irrelevant. A gaggle of genericized fantasy tropes, which doesn’t create the best selling point. The most interesting character in the entire series is Ashram, a knight who seeks the highest power, but has some serious self-identification and reflecting to do in the process. He’s initially perceived as a villain, but can actually draw some empathy and understanding as the series elapses.
In addition to being a relatively generic series, Lodoss is littered with bits of randomness along the way. Although the “potential” romantic relationship between Parn and Deedlit never actually develops, there are plenty of awkward exchanges or long stares that force the viewer into thinking there’s something there. I’m just not buying it, there’s almost no chemistry between the two. Not to mention the interest fellow traveler Shiris (the girl with the berserker friend) has in Parn…. something that's awkwardly left by the wayside. There's also the evil witch Carla, with perhaps the most unassuming name in anime villainy existence, and another dark elf that sporadically falls for Ashram along the way. The more I get frustrated with the lack of finesse in writing, the more I realize what the anime was modeled after: a D&D quest. Speaking from experience, the element of randomness doesn’t even scratch the surface of the ridiculous stuff me and my friends used to come up with when we played. So…. I guess there’s that.
Sometimes I don’t consider it fair to criticize animation from the 90’s or earlier, because it’s merely a sign of the times. In Lodoss’ case, the art style isn’t necessarily my cup of tea but it’s consistent with the art out at the time in terms of quality. From what I remember reading, the studio actually utilized a sizable budget in order to get exactly what they were looking for in terms of emulating various fantasy elements and characters. Some of the fight scenes are actually quite fluid as well, something that earlier anime had issues with. No choppiness or quality drop during the heavier action sequences, something I can really appreciate. Especially when you consider the issues modern day anime have with frame drops and inconsistent animation, likely without any legitimate excuse.
Did I mention how bad the voice acting is? Central Park Media, a NYC based company took the reigns dubbing Lodoss. It was clear they had no idea what they were doing. Some acting is decent, but others are absolutely atrocious. It’s almost as though when the producers signed off on it they were doing more of a “screw it”, knowing they’d be out of a job anyway. If you’re a fan of dubs due to convenience, I strongly suggest you watch the Japanese version or avoid it altogether. It’s THAT bad. Performances like this employs hopefulness for my future seiyuu career… I digress.
The rest of the music is slightly unfitting, but about what I expect from an early 90’s series. Anime was largely in a learning period, starkly evident by the slow female ballads present in their OPs. For a show so focused on action and fantasy elements, the OP just...doesn’t work. As a standalone track it’s quite present, reminiscent of “Fly Me to the Moon” from NGE, but not an anime fit. The background tracks depict the genre much better. They’re full of orchestral life, and build crescendos left and right.
As much as I disliked certain aspects of Lodoss, I enjoyed it overall. However, one must understand that most of my enjoyment comes from a mix of nostalgia and relatability. I was a HUGE nerd in my high school days, so Lodoss speaks to me in some ways other anime cannot. On the other hand, it’s leaps and bounds from being “good” by any normal definition. Perhaps I would’ve enjoyed it more if I had watched the Japanese dub vice the English, but a generic plot, short run time and forced romance all work to cripple Lodoss, dooming it from the start. I would recommend this series to fans of other fantasy anime or earlier shows, or those just looking for something different. As always, thanks for reading!
Overall though this was a good OVA. However, the Story is very scattered and doesn't have proper closure. The completest in me tells me I have to at least see the TV series that follows. I haven't had any luck finding it, however. This anime has a special place in my heart due to the nostalgia factor. I only hope that the TV series that follows this up somehow gives better closure. And one minor gripe, I think all of us understood the backstory of Lodoss by the 3rd episode so it really wasn't nessesary to retell it prior to every episode.
It's very good looking
for an older piece, however it's not so old as to forgive some of the shortcuts and mistakes that are noticable.
I love good sound. This doesn't really diliver however. IMHO there's no excuse for 2.0 now that dvd has been on the market so long. other wise it's got repetative music that you'll never forget. But that doens't make it good. Sigh...
All of the characters have some sort of charisma to them. Parn and Deedlit are still one of the most recognized anime couples of all time. I just wish there was more down to earth characters like Woodchuck.
I really do like this anime alot. It's more nostalgia than anything but I do like it. I recommend this Anime to fans of Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons or other swords and sorcery stories.
Fanboy opinions and nostalgia aside you should...
See reviews and more at my site BRANS!: http://bumrapanimeneverseen.blogspot.com/
Going into this anime, I didn't have very high expectations, but it was part of one of my favorite genres. Also, this is one of the anime where I had some of the hardest time actually deciding on how to rate it. Then, I realized that it is probably going to be just above average. And it did just that.
It revolves around the wannabe swordsman named Parn and his fellow adventurers who are trying to avert further warfare and save Lodoss from the oncoming evil. This is a setup for a good anime, and I liked it. However, there were many plotholes that could
be dug into this anime, and for good reasons, and not necessarily bad ones. This story was meant to be more of a story about a hero who triumphed against all odds, and trust me, the odds were stacking against him WAY more than I anticipated, but he prevailed in the end, and got the girl. Also, it felt like it was VERY rushed too, so there is that. So basically, it wasn't horrible, but it definitely was what I expected, and did have some twists and turns I did not expect, but overall, it did its job. (5/10)
Oh, I dreaded actually getting to this part, because it is a 90's anime, and I know I shouldn't bash a 90's anime for not looking very good, but sadly, the animation was bad, and that is even when you consider the times it was in. There was a whole lot of reused shots and reused still images. Also, some of the flames didn't look like flames, some of the blood didn't look like blood, and even some of the lip movements didn't even happen when a character was speaking, despite them not being too far away. It just looked like a big mess. Sure, I did enjoy seeing how some of the characters looked and how they moved, but oh my word, I sometimes had to pause the anime, when a particularly badly animated scene or movement occurred. (3/10)
Now, the anime surprised me a little by adding in music that wasn't exactly fitting the tone all the time, nor was it varied, but it was consistent and knew what it was trying to say, even if it didn't always say it. It had a couple of REALLY good songs, or selections of songs, and some of the sound effects weren't that bad either. However, there were a couple songs that were mediocre at best. The voice acting was pretty good, but it just wasn't as great as it could have been, both dubbed and subbed included. It was just above average, but it didn't pull through all the time. (6/10)
Well, what can I say, there were some I really liked and some I really disliked. Parn, for example, has some of the best luck I have seen of a fantasy anime protagonist, like seriously. He didn't even know how to fight with a sword until almost halfway through the third episode, and by the time the anime ended, he apparently was good enough to handle one of the main villains, who could easily kill him in the first few episodes. and even though this is the character section, another problem I had was the lack of time notifications about whats going on. I really didn't like that part, especially when it came to the development of characters. Also, the love story between Deedlit and Parn felt SO forced that I could become one of the most confused people on the planet after seeing it, and yet it was still so interesting, because you know it is part of the story. Also, everyone else just felt more like someone who was just there to fulfill a necessary spot, of both the different classes and races like humans, elves and dwarves. I don't know. They were all very likeable, but at the same time, there was not much time to explore into many of their stories. (5/10)
However, this was the highest rated part of the series, and it is the shortest. I REALLY enjoyed watching this anime, despite all of these mediocre findings of mine. What can I say? I love fantasy, and this anime fulfills the role nicely, even though it has a lot of flaws in it. To me, its like seeing Lord of the Rings. Sure, there are a number of plotholes in it that I can think off the top of my head, but it definitely was very enjoyable to watch, and after watching this anime, I want to explore more of the lore in this universe, because it is so fascinating, and yet there was so little that was put forth out there.
Overall, I really enjoyed this anime, despite its flaws. It may need a lot of work in different areas, but I do recommend you watch it, even if it might not be that great.
Do you have an older game console sitting in the cupboard, basement or attic? Perhaps it's time to dust it off, plug it in and start enjoying it once again. We're about to discover some fascinating retro games based on anime franchises we've grown to love over the years.