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Ruin Explorers Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Ruin Explorerrs
Ruin Explorerrs
Like Dungeons & Dragons only with a lot more wackiness.

What They Say:
Ancient curses, enchanted artifacts and plain old fashioned dungeon diving: that’s what Fam and Ihrie do for a living – whenever these lovely young ladies can get someone to pay them for it, that is. As two highly trained magic users with slightly faulty spelling abilities (Fam can’t do anything destructive and Ihrie keeps turning into a mouse), they’re off on a quest for the “Ultimate Power.” All they have to do is find three artifacts: the Proof Of Royalty, the Sword of Sargus and the Mirror of Truth. So how hard can it be?

Unfortunately, Sorceress Rasha and her muscle-headed partner Migel are on the same quest, as are the mysterious Prince Lyle, the anything for a buck merchant Galuff with his dog Gil, and the sinister magician Rugudurol! And to make this epic odyssey even more odd and complex, it’s not really clear as to exactly which ones are the bad guys!

Contains OVA episodes 1-4.

The Review:
Audio:
Each episode contains two language tracks: English and Japanese in 2.0 Dolby Digital. English subtitles are also provided. Obviously there is no directionality or special audio tricks, but that’s also not necessary for this title.

Video:
Each episode is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio and the transfer is quite good. The show displays its age in bit in terms of the general anime style, but in terms of the actual quality it’s very good with no fading or any other issues.

Packaging:
The front cover features Irhie in the foreground, sitting comfortably with her knees drawn up to her chest and her sword nestled in the crook of her left arm. Fam sits in the background, lounging just behind Ihrie, and several columns—presumably from whatever ruin they just explored—rise in the background against a blue sky. The show’s title sits at the top and the Maiden Japan logo occupies the lower right-hand corner.

The show’s title dominates the spine. At the bottom sits the same picture of Fam and Ihrie from the cover and the Maiden Japan logo rests under that.

The back cover does a good job of indicating the show’s overall tone. Fam and Ihrie take up the majority of the center, striking fun, energetic poses. The show summary occupies the space directly above them and various screen shots pepper the right and left flanks. The show’s cast and technical specifications take up the bottom fourth of the back cover.

Overall it’s a good design that fits the show’s tone well.

Menu:
The menu is roughly divided in half with the left side of the screen featuring four of the main characters: Fam, Ihrie, Miguel, and Rasha. All four are striking suitably dramatic poses against a blue-white background. A thick brown line bisects the screen and the right side is designed to look like a faded parchment. The show’s title sits at the top and the four episodes are listed underneath. A red, splotchy dot rests next to the option being selected and the languages and special features links rest at the bottom. The show’s main title plays on a five-second loop, which gets old rather quickly, so I don’t recommend letting the menu sit for too long. That minor issue aside, it’s a nice, clean menu design that works well.

Extras:
Other than the standard clean opening and closing animations, the only other special feature is a commentary track on the second episode by actors Kelly Manison and Brett Weaver, who played Rasha and Miguel, respectively. The two have a great deal of fun watching the episode and reminiscing about the experiences, but the commentary is rather skimpy on actual content. It was more like listening in on two friends catch up, which is okay, but nothing terribly exciting.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fam and Ihrie are ruin explorers: they travel to ancient cities, deserted castles, and forgotten places in search of the “Ultimate Power” which will grant them any wish they desire. On their quest they meet four unforgettable characters: Rasha, a female treasure hunter and sorceress; Miguel, her partner and a skilled swordsman; Galuff, a cowardly, conniving merchant; and Lyle, the prince of a dead kingdom seeking revenge on the man that cost him everything: the magician Ruguduroll. To acquire the Ultimate Power, they need three objects: the Proof of Royalty, the Sword of Sargus, and the Mirror of Truth. At first they work against each other, but the threat of Ruguduroll (and Lyle’s charm and good looks) convinces them to band together for a greater purpose.

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy older anime. Ruin Explorers is only four episodes long, but what is here is nearly perfect. It’s a fun, silly adventure with likable characters and a plenty of action. Fam and Ihrie are great characters that play well off of each other, like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello. Ihrie is impatient and has a short fuse, while Fam is airheaded and naïve and much of the fun arises from the friction from their personalities clashing. Like most best friends, they love each other dearly, but sometimes can’t stand each other’s company. The other characters, Rasha, Miguel, and Galuff are nearly as memorable. Miguel’s constant boasting is hilarious, as is Rasha’s temper and sense of superiority. Galuff is charmingly sneaky—as odd as it may sound—and watching his schemes backfire is very satisfying. The only character that comes off as flat is Lyle, but given the company he’s keeping it’s easy to see why he slips by the wayside. Fam, Ihrie, Rasha, Miguel, and Galuff are typical over-the-top anime characters whose personalities eclipse everyone around them.

One of the more interesting aspects of this anime for me was how I didn’t mind the way the story tone changed. One of my major complaints with anime in general is how a show will start out as one thing (say, a wacky adventure) and by the middle turns into something else (a tear-jerking drama). While Ruin Explorers doesn’t go that far, there is a definite shift starting in the second episode with the introduction of Lyle and Ruguduroll that does change the dynamics of the series a little bit. The first episode was entirely wacky fun-time adventures with Fam and Ihrie, and I expected the rest of the episodes to follow the same pattern: Fam and Ihrie discover a new treasure that leads them to the Ultimate Power; Rasha and Miguel steal it (possibly with the help of Galuff); Fam and Ihrie retrieve the treasure through magic and bumbling and move on to the next treasure. That’s not how it turned out. Their goal shifted from finding the Ultimate Power for personal gain to finding the Ultimate Power to prevent Ruguduroll from taking over the world.

Ruguduroll actually turns out to be a sympathetic villain. His reasons for seeking power and the price he paid for it were actually noble and there is a fair amount of socio-political commentary brought in near the end because of this. Thankfully, though, the show managed to retain a goodly amount of humor and silliness along the way, Thanks to Rasha and Fam’s fighting over Lyle’s affections, to Miguel’s constant boasting, to Ihrie’s hair-trigger temper, there’s enough here to keep the light tone that I so enjoyed from the first episode.

It’s rare for me to complain about an anime being too short, but there’s a definite part of me that wishes there were more episodes. I really enjoyed the characters and the setting and would have been happy to stay with them for a while longer. However, I do wonder if one of the reasons why this show works so well for me is because it is so short. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, it doesn’t have any moments of filler, and it tells the story it has to tell in an appropriate amount of time. As much as I’d like to have further adventures with Fam and Ihrie, it may be that this is just the right amount.

In Summary:
Ruin Hunters Fam & Ihrie is a short, fun series with a solid story and adorable characters. While the show’s tone does shift after the first episode to include more drama, it retains just enough of the light, silly humor that I feel is its real strength. This is just a fun title and a nice reminder of just how great older anime is. At $19.98, there’s no reason that anime fans shouldn’t own this title. Highly recommended.

Features:
Commentary with Kelly Manison (Rasha) & Brett Weaver (Miguel)
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade:A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: July 2, 2013
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 100 minutes
Video Encoding:
Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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