What They Say:
A war between bordering lands Roland and Estabul has begun. At the King of Roland’s command, Ryner Lute, a bearer of a cursed, extremely lethal power called the Alpha Stigma, and his beautiful comrade Ferris set out on a search for the Heroic Relics – artifacts that contain enormous supernatural powers and can be devastating if placed in the wrong hands. War tactics, bloody magical battles, and political intrigue ensue!
The release of this television series contains two language options with the Japanese track having a 2.0 mix while the English one gets a boost with a 5.1 mix. For the purpose of this review the Japanese track was selected and it is a solid representation of stereo tracks as it splits the dialogue and other sounds nicely in such a way as to give a decent illusion of depth and overall the track has a very nice balance to it. The track also works well to provide directionality as it also covers the low sounding effects, the more quiet ones as well as the higher pitched ones in a way that provides a nice balance. This is good as the series is one where the track has a lot of space to cover between some of the quiet contemplative moments and the extreme frenetic ones that occur which could easily have been an issue.
Also of note for those who make use of the subtitles is that there are a good number of times where the subtitles can clash with the titles used for locations which can create the appearance of a bit of a mess on the screen to decipher until the location sign goes away.
Originally airing in the middle of the Japanese television season in 2010, the series is presented here in 1:78.1 widescreen ratio and is complete with an anamorphic encode. The series largely makes a good though not stunning use of its visuals as it doesn’t shy away from having a good number of action scenes that compliment the more subdued politically focused ones. Over all the series uses the visuals as fairly strong points though the transfer to DVD doesn’t always exemplify it. Present in the visuals are both grain and some fairly obvious CG images which would be from the production company end but also added is some banding, blocking, aliasing, a fine level of noise, a bit of ghosting, some feedback noise in certain colors/scenes, bit of color bleed with some stronger reds. To top it off the series often looks a bit washed out but whether this is from the authoring of the DVD or the original intent I don’t know.
This review is of the DVDs only but the packaging was covered in Chris Beveridge’s review of the Blu Ray portion of the releases’ review.
The discs themselves use a simple but effective image of the Alpha Stigma image that plays prominently in the series (a typical/generic five point star with some invented writing in each point and surrounding it) in a metallic looking ink. The series title is written in a rather fancy font in yellow under the disc hub and there is a small rectangle at the bottom whose disc number is the only thing that differs from disc to disc.
The menus are static affairs that use images of different characters from the series with the Main menu using characters images against a burgundy reddish background while the title is present in the foreground. To complement this, the Alpha Stigma image is present in the background and the rectangle and disc number over the characters on the right side as the options are present to the left. The sub menus all use screen grabs from the series around the top half of the screen while a gold-yellow boarder separates them from the burgundy background that the options are placed over and each of the screens uses various instrumental tracks for their background music. The options present are listed in a semi tan-ish yellow that turns bright yellow when highlighted and the menus themselves are quick to respond to changes and implement selections while the currently selected option is signified by the option appearing in a bright standoff color.
The set comes complete with a somewhat standard set of clean open and closing for the first set used in the series (ep 13 on the release had a new pair but the extra for that is bumped to the second set ) and additionally FUNimation also created a pair of commentary tracks for the English dub fans.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Legend of the Legendary Heroes anime series is based off a light novel series written by Takaya Kagami that was started in 2002 and which has become somewhat of a powerhouse franchise having spun off some sequel novel series, manga, drama CDs, games and the anime series reviewed here. The story follows the path of the kingdom of Roland at a precipitous point in its history as a number of special characters have assembled around a similar desire for the kingdom to thrive while the enemies from without mount their own goals for the future and those within try to maintain their power as they have always known it.
To display the events as they are occurring (other than a flash back) the series uses some jumps in narrative that will at times feature the seeming lead Ryner Lute and his swordswoman companion Ferris Eris who have been dispatched to recover some ancient and powerful artifacts known as Relics of Heroes which are hoped to be able to insure the countries peace. Dispatching them on the quest is the countries new king, Sion Astal, who has achieved the throne with more than a little support from those who wish to see the ideal kingdom he looks to create come about and who watch him carefully in case he slips which will then necessitate his being replaced.
The story begins with an introduction to the past of the world the characters inhabit. Lore has it that once long ago powerful creatures roamed the land, creatures which had immense powers and that could destroyed the land and thus they were greatly feared and known by all sorts of dark names. Luckily an antibody to this plague appeared in the form of warriors who had the powers to defeat these creatures. In the immense numbers of years since these times events have fallen into legend and while the truth has likely been buried, there are those who wish to claim items that those legends have left behind as they are believed to contain great power.
This is the part of the story where Ryner is introduced, though he is a fairly unlikely hero on a number of levels. To begin with Ryner would rather nap all the time then deal with his quest- or anything else really- as he just wants a simple life for himself. Unfortunately for his desire, he is often in conflict which he despises but which he is almost uniquely suited for as he has a curse know as “Alpha Stigma” which gains the user immense abilities to learn magic used against them but which also comes with a terrible curse as the possessors of this ability have a nasty tendency to go berserk and destroy all around them. To help him in his quest- though also likely added to keep him moving and possibly also to serve as a check least he go berserk- is Ferris Eris, a beautiful swordswoman of immense skill though also possessing of a few quirks of her own.
As those two travel though events at home in Roland won’t sit still as the new king Sion is looking for ways to unite his country and to try to make sure it will be safe. Part of his motivation for this task comes from his past as he was the child of the previous king and a common woman which made him a target for his half-brothers as they intended to gain the throne themselves. During his youth he was forced into an academy along with other unwanted members of nobility’s children where they were to serve as fodder in the army as the king waged seeming perpetual wars. During this time Sion and Ryner met and a friendship was born of some similar goals as neither one wanted to see any more of their countrymen killed in senseless wars. When an assassination attempt by his relatives fails he is placed into a position where he is able to parley the resulting fame into gaining the throne.
The problem is that gaining the throne may be a cakewalk compared to implementing the changes he wants as the countries hierarchy has no intention of letting go their power to this king they have no respect for and they often actively work to undercut his effort. In order to deal with this Sion brings in members he believes he can trust to his inner circle but even that may not be enough as he may find his ideals tested as simply wishing change won’t accomplish anything and he may need to bring on an element to take care of the dirty work for him.
At the same time events outside the kingdom are starting to build as a small country on the far end of the continent looks to be gearing up for war- and astonishingly they are beating back and taking over parts of the largest countries whose armies should dwarf the smaller nations’ fighting force. As the drums of war beat grows louder secrets to the countries power will be revealed and Ryner will find his and Ferris task much more difficult as they have to face off against an enemy with similar intent and far more knowledge then them of their targets. Though even worse, the pair may have to face off against a creature that may have the power to threaten the land- Ryner himself.
When entering into the title I came with little knowledge of the series other than having thought its title was more than a little ostentatious and somewhat unwieldy and having heard some negative rumblings about the series from those who had watched it during its simulcast run. Luckily I didn’t listen too closely to such things as it would have been easy to transfer negative reports into a negative first impression, which would have definitely colored things more than a little as the series walks a fine line at times and the difference with some scenarios between working and flailing largely may depend on the goodwill with which one approaches the work.
Part of the delicate balancing act is the series approach to storytelling which is obviously going for a very grand and epic scale but the limitations of a 25 episode schedule show even early on. In an effort to get the viewer excited from the first episode the story opens up in (for lack of a better term) the present where Ryner is facing off with an antagonistic squad of soldiers (which is natural since Ryner and Ferris are trespassing in a foreign country) while Sion faces off with the dangers of the court when one of his inner circle members is killed.
The thing is that this start isn’t exactly a unique approach to storytelling in that it tries to show how there will be a good deal of action coming but some of the events without knowing the background lose impact. To try to fix this the next few episodes then explore the path of the two men who look like they are trying to change the country and the ties that bind them. Unfortunately it isn’t so much the past that creates some issues with the story as the return to the present and the attempt to split the narrative into two distinct parts with Sion dealing with political subterfuge while Ryner faces off with more obvious foes.
The two differently paced and stylized parts can clash though as the kingdom parts that center on Sion are largely more serious in tone while at times Ryner and Ferris operate almost like a comedy act as they go about their task. This discrepancy can cause some major disconnect when watching through a disc as the tone and central characters can swing wildly from one episode to another and the appearance can be raised that the series is either at war with itself for a theme or that the series doesn’t trust one element enough to let it build up, though admittedly given the relatively short series run that building up would come at the expense of another part of the story. This lack of focused building also shows in some of the characters as some feel less like they possess a life of their own and come across as kind of hollow at times or worse as someone whose role is much deeper in the source material and who must be touched on but it is less because they carry this story but because they are important to the novel’s world. Still, with a whole half of a season to go it is possible that some of the problems will be addressed and there is a decent foundation laid here with which to do so.
The first set of Legend of the Legendary Heroes steps forward with a fairly solid first half that introduces the world of magic that its characters will be dealing with, though the real danger for the heroes may lay less in a incanted fireball then a concealed dagger in the political halls the series also calls home. The series does have a bit of an odd gait in its motions at times as it tries to cover quite a lot of story and characters in a rather short span which leaves it with the possibility that it may all come to together in the second half or possibly collapse ,under the weight that a complex story but truncated space to play out may create. Still with the fun had by a pair of characters and the political intrigue angle even if it does collapse there is plenty here to make the ride at least enjoyable along the way.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Tracks
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 17th, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.