Record of Lodoss War
Many people ask my opinions on what to watch outside of my reviews, and invariably somebody who enjoys role-playing games and fantasy asks for advice. I always reply that they should simply see the original OVA series of Record Of Lodoss Wars. I don't recommend much else. That's not to say that other good fantasy shows don't exist, only that Lodoss Wars stands so far above the others that there's no comparison.
The first episode introduces us to the history of Lodoss itself, including the mythological system and the state of affairs. We then head into the storyline in media res, and we meet our group of adventurers as they battle. The second episode backtracks and gives us the story from the beginning. Parn is a brash young man who wants to become a knight and restore his family's name. He meets Deedlit, a free-spirited but deadly elf with whom he develops a love/hate relationship. They team with Slayn, a magic user, Ghim, a dwarf, and Etoh, a priest, to help stop the evil Beld and witch Karla from destroying the kingdom set up by King Fahn and his head knight, Kashue. During the first eight episodes, we become engaged in the group's epic struggle to protect the accursed island of Lodoss from itself. During the final five, we live through the aftermath as new threats emerge and the leads finally deal with their feelings for each other.
Lodoss Wars is based on a series of novels, and eventually a television series (reviewed elsewhere) came along to attempt to retell the story a bit closer to the plot in the books. However, Record Of Lodoss Wars stands alone extremely well, even when it slips from the path the novels travel. Because the history of Lodoss is so detailed and fascinating, it creates a world worth watching. It's rare to find a show that conveys a truly epic feel. Lodoss works because it gets personal with the characters at the same time. Because no character is completely safe, we have a greater stake in what happens to them. It's the intimacy combined with the epic that makes this a show I've watched countless times.
The animation itself is a unique treatise in how to work a limited budget. Lodoss does resort to a lot of pans and minimal movement shots at times, but the artwork never suffers...it appears that the creators decided to use the money when it really mattered, animating action sequences well and allowing less movement when dialogue was key. Thus, Lodoss cannot be said to be well animated, per se, but it does look good despite it. Soundtrack lovers have a lot to be thankful for--the opening theme is beautifully haunting, and the incidental music works extremely well throughout. This again is one of those anime worth tracking down the BGM disc for.
A review cannot give a really proper perspective on this show without giving away its secrets, so I'll just mention my experiences with it. Back in college (too many years ago to admit now), there were plenty of guys in my dorm who had absolutely no interest in anime as a concept. However, whenever somebody would pull out a copy of Lodoss Wars, inevitably people would start popping out of the woodwork to watch it. Although some of these guys were role-playing fans, others just liked Tolkeinesque tales, and still more appreciated good storytelling. It appealed to a wide range of people--and once a showing was done, sooner or later more folks would turn up who heard about it.
Although my reaction to the television series is mixed at best, the original Lodoss Wars OVAs contain essential anime moments. Well worth a few nights of your time.
Record of Lodoss War OVAs -- violence -- A