Record of Lodoss War TV
The original video series Record Of Lodoss Wars is possibly one of the best animated fantasy series ever created. Based on a series of novels, the OVAs are just incredibly impressive, detailing a fantastic world and a party of adventurers who become intimately involved in its destiny. Its main characters, Parn and Deedlit, are instantly recognizable by most anime fans; it also crosses over into mainstream recognition amongst those who appreciate its role-playing game roots. All of this being said, Lodoss TV takes this original series and moves it in a new direction. Although it has some severe faults, those willing to get through the entire 27 episode series will likely find the journey worthwhile.
Lodoss TV splits into two parts. In the first segment, which comprises the first 8 episodes, we follow a new ending to the original OVA series. (The OVA series was completed before the novels were, and so an ending was created for it--a very good one, overall, but different from the novels that Lodoss TV emulates.) In this first section, we follow Parn and his party as they attempt to stop Ashram from stealing the legendary Scepter of Domination. In the second section, which takes the other 2/3rds of the show, we skip ahead ten years to a new batch of heroes who test their mettle against Wagnard, a sorcerer who has plans to resurrect Kardis, an ancient god of destruction who has the power to kill every living thing on Lodoss. Parn and the old favorites play a part in this segment, but much of it is devoted to our new heroes, led by knight-in-training Spark. Will the accursed island of Lodoss be set free from evil or be doomed to suffer its eternal darkness?
Before I go into anything else, I'm going to mention for purists that the TV show wreaks havoc with the timeline set out in the original series, as the producers tried to create a series more true to the novels. Shiris and Orson are reintroduced, essentially removing their activities in the OVA series completely. Also, certain characters do not meet the same fates as they did originally, which can make things even more confusing. However, I would recommend seeing the OVA series before plunging in, as there is also much assumed that the viewers knows from the original show. Once you get used to it, it's not a big deal.
I'm going to start with the things that bugged me about Lodoss TV, because they are truly serious and may kill any hope that any huge fan of the OVA series might have that this series is worthwhile. First off, unlike the OVAs, Parn and Deedlit are NOT the main characters. Oh, sure, they still get plenty of screen time overall, but neither one of them has any emotional depth in this series. Frankly, Deedlit fans will be outraged, as she not only has very little going on in the show but also has had a major personality shift; frankly, she's dull, showing none of the fire that made her one of the most revered females in all of anime. There is no further telling of their relationship--what you got in the OVAs is all you're going to get. After the first eight episodes, they disappear for over a good third of the proceedings. Frankly, this blown opportunity bummed me out so badly that I was sullen watching a good chunk of the show.
Second, the animation is incredibly inconsistent. Sure, the original OVA suffered from some issues when it came to animating battles, often using single frames to represent a huge fight, but the art itself was always excellent. Here, characters can look brilliantly drawn one minute, and the next minute their facial features are all screwy. After the forty second title sequence, which is brilliantly and gorgeously animated with an awesome song for its background, everything else is a real letdown.
Finally, the show emphasized story far over character development. Even though we spend a lot of time particularly with the new wanderers, there is very little to motivate us to really bond with these characters. Lots of things happen to them, but we see little in terms of growth. This is simply unacceptable in a show of this length. The worst part is that certain characters given the spotlight really aren't that important--the real heroes often remain an enigma when side characters get more background.
However, what saves the show is the last third, episodes 19-27, where Parn and company team up with Spark's crew to make a final effort to take down Wagnard. Up until that point, it was a chore to get through each episode; however, I finished the last eight episodes in essentially one sitting. Once things finally get going, it's a train heading full speed for the station; you just sit down and enjoy the clacking of the wheels. If you can make it this far through the series without giving up, you'll likely find the ending very entertaining. I was nearly ready just to review the series after episode 18, but that would have been a serious mistake, because the ending raised the show a full letter grade. In fact, the last episodes give more weight to those proceeding them, making the effort much more worthwhile.
When I was describing the show earlier today to a friend, I compared Lodoss TV to The Phantom Menace and Lodoss OVA to The Empire Strikes Back; when something is so great, later attempts to catch the same lightning just come off as weak. It doesn't mean that the TV show is bad, only that it misses many opportunities that made the original so entertaining. It doesn't mean that it's not worth watching; it simply means that those who expect brilliance will be utterly disappointed. If your expectations are reasonable, though, you'll find that Lodoss TV still beats most fantasy shows out there.
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight -- violence, profanity -- C+