Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight Anime Review
Roodosu-tou Senki - Eiyuu Kishi Den
War Chronicle of Lodoss Island - Legend of Heroic Knight
US Release By
27 25-minute episodes
1998-04-01 - 1998-09-30
Five years after the events in the OAV series, the veterans of the so called "war of heroes" have gone their separate ways, and Lodoss has seen a brief period of peace and stability. But the peace is short lived; Ashram the dark knight of Marmo, thought to be dead, is alive and once again seeking the Scepter of Domination with the renewed intention of conquering all of Lodoss. The Dragon Shooting Star is devastating the Kingdom of Flame and king Kashue has been hard pressed to stop the destruction. The time has come for old friends to reunite and join new allies to once again fight for the destiny of the accursed island...
I'll get right to the point. This is easily one of the finest animated series ever made. No other fantasy anime right now even compares to it. As good as the OAVs were, this is even better. This has a higher budget and it really shows. And best of all it maintains nearly all of the original voice actors from the OAV. It seems like they truly put the maximum effort into making this the absolute best and the result is impressive.
To start things off the animation is outstanding. What really stands out in ROLWCHK is the environments. From busy taverns and Lavish castles to haunted forests and barren deserts, the environments are very well detailed and help bring the fascinating world of Lodoss to life. The character animation is excellent as well. The dragons are still the high point of ROLW. They look even better than the OAV, a point which almost has to be seen to be believed. Also much has been done to improve the battle scenes. There is no more excessive use of recycled battle footage and the battles rely much less on still shots. As with the OAV series the emphasis is more on smaller group battles and one on one duels then it is on large army battles. But when there is a battle you can rest assured that going to be fairly well detailed.
I like to say that behind every good fantasy show is a good soundtrack and ROLWCHK is strong evidence of that. The opening theme, "Sea of Miracles" is just breathtaking. It's one of the best, most emotional opening songs I've ever heard for any movie or TV series. In all 27 episodes I never once skipped or fast forwarded through it, and I often found myself singing along even though I can't understand the words. The rest of the music for ROLWCHK is excellent as well and greatly contributes to the atmosphere of every situation. The dubbing was fairly good as well. About the only nitpick I have about that is Spark's annoying voice and constant wailing about his duty to protect Neece. But that was not a major setback and can easily be overlooked.
Now we get to the characters. All of the surviving characters (and a few supposedly dead ones) have returned and are manned by their original voice actors. But do to the time that has past since the OAV series. Some of the characters are very different then before. The best example is Parn. No longer is he the sniveling raw knight in training from the OAVs. He is now one of the most famous knights in all Lodoss. He plays this role superbly and does it without displaying invincible or untouchable skill like some other famous swordsmen (Guts, Griffen, Kenshin). Deedlit is also still with him to fill his romance and magic needs. Like Parn she is much improved from the OAVs and has a pretty vast arsenal of spells and some very impressive control over the spirits. The romance between both of them is already well established so the series does not dwell too much on that, but does not neglect it either.
Mercenary pals Shiris and Orson are back as well. For all of us who thought that Orson did not get enough attention in the OAV, the series easily makes up for it. Orson quickly becomes one of most interesting and important characters in ROLWWCHK, as we learn the secret of his tragic past and how he becomes a Berserker as well as his endless struggle to overcome his condition. ROLWCHK does not do this in a hokey or cheesy way; on the contrary it's actually one of the most fascinating parts of the story. Unfortunately Shiris is not that much better then she was before. It kept looking like she would develop into a fairly good and interesting character as well but she just never got much better. She isn't terrible nor does she take away from the whole series, but still it was a minor disappointment. Slain and Leylia have settled down and produced a resourceful young daughter named Neece who eventually comes into play as a major character later on. Etoh has married Fiona to become king of Valice. He has a fairly minor role through most of the series, but is not too neglected gets some decent air time.
King Kashue still remains one of the most interesting and likable of the good guys with his sword skill, benevolent ruling and his dispensing wisdom to the younger main characters. But as we can see he is not flawless and has much conflict that he must resolve before he can truly be a great king. Ashram returns as one of the best villains in the history of anime, and to top things off he assembles a "party" of evil characters to aid his quest for the Scepter of Domination. This makes for some very interesting clashes between the good and evil parties as not everything is established as to who is good and evil. It also leads to some excellent fight scenes. Karla is also back to one again be the force of chaos between the warring factions. She has a new body of someone we don't know and has discarded Woodchuck completely. We don't even find out what happened to him, which is a little disappointing, but not that big of a deal.
After the 8th episode the time period jumps another 5 years forward and a young knight in training named Spark and his new cast of friends take over as the main heroes. This does not mean that Parn and his friends are neglected or unused, they just have to give up the driver's seat of the series to a new generation. This actually works out fairly well and contribute to the whole "epic saga" feel of the show. I can't say that I liked Spark very much though. He's basically just a carbon copy of Parn from his younger days. But still he's used fairly well and finds himself facing hard challenges and conflicts such as decisions about his duty as a knight and doing what he knows is the right thing. Plus his new cast of supporting characters is pretty good and includes some things we are not used to seeing, like a dwarven priest named Grevis who is just as good at healing people as he is at killing them. Overall the cast of villains and heroes remain good and likable to the very end.
And now we get to the plot, which is where ROLWCHK suffers from some flaws. First of all it uses way too many plot concepts from the OAV series. Most of them are just basic ripoffs of the previous major OAV ones, using different or the same characters. For people who have not seen the OAV this is not a problem because it allows them to get into this without past knowledge of events. This is definitely a sequel that can be enjoyed with no knowledge of the original. But for those of us who have seen it, it's not only troubling but very disappointing. But fortunately this is not even close to being bad enough to ruin or even seriously cripple the whole series. The concepts are unoriginal but are still fairly well used, and end up going in different directions then the original idea in the OAV. Also some of the characters occasionally act in rather irrational ways. I don't want to give away anything but let's just say that some actions mainly between Neece and her parents seem a bit questionable. Also there is a minor romance theme between Neece and Spark, which I found a little odd seeing as he is supposed to be around 20 and Neece is about 12. I guess you could say that nothing really happened between the two of them and his feeling were just there out his sense of duty to protect her and only seemed like a bit more. But at the same time most of Spark's friends seemed to think they had something going on and did not find anything odd about it, which was a little hard to swallow. Still at worst this was just a minor incoherency and did not seriously damage the story as a whole. Overall the story is still original and unpredictable, despite using the premises from before.
And above all else the action scenes stand out as being some of the best in all anime. If you are tired of watching untouchable good guys plow through armies of opponents with no trouble at all then this is what you have been waiting for. Rest assured that nearly every fight will push everyone in it to their physical and mental limit. The good guys get plenty of worthy opponents who often leave them beaten, battered, bruised, slashed, and sometimes just plain dominated. The sword skills are pretty impressive and the spells are just outstanding. This series has just about every type of fight you can think of and some you probably can't. There are plenty of amazing twists, surprises and unpredictable outcomes to make nearly every one of them very memorable.
All in all this is simply the best fantasy anime ever made. It's truly amazing in nearly every aspect. For all fans of fantasy anime this is a must have. Even if you are not a big fan of that category this still is highly recommended.
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Notes and Trivia
In between each episode there is a short skit called "Welcome to Lodoss Island" in which the characters are used in SD style to make a parody of the previous episode. You will either find these very annoying or funny. I found them to be hilarious but if you don't like them you can just skip ahead to the next episode, no harm done.
US DVD Review
The entire series is available in a 4 DVD boxed set. The all-region DVDs don't contain a whole lot of special features. Just your basic stuff you find on most anime DVDs. Character sketches, cast guide, previews and such. But it does come with a nice information guide that explains everything you might not understand. Don't read too heavily into it though because it gives away a lot of major events that happen late in the series.
Great fun for the whole family; 10-up.
Violence: 2 - A lot of death but not terribly graphic.
Nudity: 1 - Nothing notable.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Some minor romance.
Language: 1 - No major profanity.