By: Zero Omega
Record of Lodoss War is a fantasy anime inspired by a series of fantasy novels by Ryo Mizuno, which in turn were also based on creative works he created for a role playing system named Sword World RPG. The entire Record of Lodoss War franchise and system behind it is inspired by the classic role playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
This blu-ray/DVD combo boxset from Funimation includes both the OVA series and TV series, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight. The OVA series covers the first volume of the novel and then loosely goes over portions of volumes three and four, whereas the TV series is a more direct adaptation of volumes three to seven. The OVA series spans 13 episodes and ran from June 1990 to November 1991. Alternatively, the TV series runs 27 episodes, debuted April 1, 1998 and wrapped up on September 30, 1998. Record of Lodoss War has been touted as a quintessential fantasy series that is required viewing for any fantasy fan. Does that hold up? Let’s find out as we dive into both the OVA and TV series.
Review: OVA Series
The OVA for Record of Lodoss War follows a group of adventurers: Parn (knight), Deedlit (high elf), Etoh (cleric/priest), Ghim (dwarf), Slayn (wizard), Woodchuck (thief) as they work together along with various other kingdoms across the land of Lodoss to stop evil and dark forces from ravaging the land.
Within the first ten minutes you can take three things away: 1. This is absolutely inspired by Dungeons & Dragon, in fact the first thing I said to myself about the series five minutes into it was, “This is a D&D campaign. This is literally a campaign.” 2. The art is very highly Western stylized, if I didn’t know any better I would think that I’d be watching an early 90s American cartoon. 3. Oh my god this is an anime that is definitely from the 90s, it has nearly every 90s anime charm (or horror).
The very beginning of the OVA has the group placed into of a dwarven hall fighting off gargoyles, and not much later a large green dragon that they awaken. The battle causes the cavern to collapse and the group escapes. They were lucky to roll such high dexterity checks.
Later on we learn about the accursed island of Lodoss and its inhabitants. The core of the story revolves around two main story points: Stopping the Grey Witch Karla, and then stopping dark wizard, Wagnard, from resurrecting the goddess of destruction, Kardis and putting ruin to Lodoss. All the meanwhile the group interacts with kings from different lands, battles dragons, and engages in nearly every RPG trope and adventure you can think of. The story is quite the enjoyable romp through the world of Lodoss and I found myself very quickly wanting to know more. It does a great job in engaging the viewer in what is going on and is filled with classic fantasy drama and adventure that would make any aficionado go wild with excitement.
Where it does suffer in story is how short it is, to accommodate the 13 episodes some short cuts are taken to get the story wrapped up. These shortcuts could have you attempting to recall what happened from previous episodes or wanting to see some further character development. For example, the romance between Parn and Deedlit does seem a little convenient and forced because we don’t get to hugely explore it. However these small downfalls don’t hugely take away from the overall enjoyment of the 13 episode tale.
The art in the OVA series is absolutely gorgeous, MADHOUSE studio did an amazing job in bringing this story to life. The art style itself is dramatically different than what you world normally expect out of early 90s anime, and this is not a bad thing. It was actually quite a treat to see such a Western inspired style and it makes it easy on the eyes for those who may not be anime fan. That being said, there are times where the animation can be a bit jerky or lazy, this isn’t a common problem but it can be jarring when you see it for the first time. It won’t take away from your overall enjoyment of the series, but until you get used to it it will be a bit distracting. This is a 90s series though, so you need to go into it with those kinds of expectations.
Speaking of… The voice acting in this is going to take you for a ride when you first start watching. 90s anime dubbing wasn’t the greatest and this was definitely done during the “dark ages” of English dubbing. It isn’t an awful English dub, but it will take a while to get used to. That being said, for an older English dub, it’s actually does a pretty decent job. I didn’t watch the series in its original Japanese language so I can’t speak too much there. The opening and ending themes leave a lot to be desired in my opinion, I found myself skipping both whenever it came time for them.
Overall though, Record of Lodoss War the OVA series was an incredibly fun experience. It is worth the watch in every sense. I will caution if you have a difficult time watching classic anime, the series is great and has aged decently for how old it is, but if you have hesitations for older series then you will have to mentally prep yourself.
Review: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight primarily takes place roughly ten years after the event of the OVA. We follow some of the original crew (Parn, Deedlit, and Slayn) for about half the series and recap some of the OVA, however there are some changes that take place. A character who originally lives through the OVA dies, the result of a battle is altered. We then hit our time skip and get introduced to Spark, a young zealous swordsman who desires to be a knight.
He is put in command of a group of mercenaries: Garrack, Leaf, Greevus, and Aldonova. From then on we follow Spark’s story to pursue dark elves who stole the Soul Crystal Ball, one of the three items that can be used by Wagnard to resurrect Kardis.
Story wise, the TV series didn’t hold up as strong as the OVA, however a longer episode count did allow it to fill in some gaps that the OVA would otherwise have to leave in, and it allowed for further character development.
The issue with Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is that it just feels so much slower than the OVA. It was not as enjoyable as the story told in the OVA and was rough to get through. It’s not terrible though, and by the end as we get closer to our end game (and get reintroduced to Parn) it picks up. Overall though, it’s just weaker than its sister story. While the OVA felt like a full on unique and fun D&D campaign that I was watching play out, the TV series felt nearly like every other generic fantasy anime.
Speaking to that point, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight definitely felt more like a Japanese anime than the OVA counter part. The art style was no more unique than anything else done at the time, in fact both the animation and art seemed poorer in quality, which is ironic given that OVAs are typically given the smaller budget and are known for being lower quality. It may be easier on the eyes if you enjoy a more “anime style” look, but it felt a lot more uninspired.
Where I do give it credit is that the voice acting is overall better, which is to be expected with eight years of knowledge and experience. Some of the cast from the OVA is recast in the TV series, but have changed up their voice for what the characters need to be. Most noticeably is Parn, who sounds a lot more mature than when he was in the OVA, credit to Bill Timoney for recognizing the character change and adapting. Also, Lisa Ortiz as Deedlit (she’s also Lina in Slayers) is amazing.
Overall Chronicles of the Heroic Knight is still worth watching, it’s interesting to see the changes from the OVA and the story that plays out. However if you have to watch one and leave the other for a later time, see the OVA first. Your choice will be rewarded with an amazing series.
The box set from Funimation contains the OVA on Blu-ray and DVD, however the TV series is only on DVD. The OVA looks absolutely gorgeous on Blu-ray, and while I do wish the TV series was also on Blu-ray, it does look pretty good on DVD. Unfortunately there isn’t much for special features, text less opening and close is nothing special at this point in physical releases. For a combo series I was hoping that the box design would be a little more inspired, but it’s your standard paper sleeve carrying two cases. It’s a nice collection piece and I would encourage picking it up if you are a fan of the series, or you want to get into it, but don’t expect anything Earth shattering or special about the physical release.
Is Record of Lodoss War the quintessential fantasy anime? I would argue that the OVA definitely is. The TV series doesn’t hold up as well to the OVA, but overall the series as a whole is a wonderful fantasy anime that is well worth the watch. It has the charm and seriousness of a classic fantasy series and is something that I would recommend even to those who don’t normally follow anime. Some story issues aside, the biggest hurdle with Record of Lodoss War is that it’s definitely an old series. As I mentioned earlier, if you have a rough time with classic anime, you will need to prepare yourself. That being said, give it a watch, get your hands on it, I don’t think there will be any real regrets. You can pick up the Record of the Lodoss War OVA Blu-ray/DVD + Chronicles of the Heroic Knight from Funimation at their online store.