An epically epic tale begins to get told, but we only get part of the story.
What They Say:
Ryner is not your typical soldier. Cursed with a mysterious, deadly power – the Alpha Stigma – he has been called a monster his entire life. His beautiful partner, Ferris, is a lethal warrior with wits as sharp as her blade. Together they search for the Hero Relics, mystical artifacts that give their owners devastating supernatural abilities, to help their king give hope to a country plagued by political corruption. When they cross arms with a pair of dangerous hunters who wield several of the ancient armaments, Ferris faces Ryner in his most volatile state. As enemies wait in the shadows and blood is spilled amidst a constant threat of mutiny, for these heroes, one move could spark a war.
The Review: (The audio, video and extras sections are based only on viewing the Blu-ray discs included in the set).
Audio: For this viewing, I listened to the 48 kHz 2.2-3.0 Mbps (the rate varied during playback) 5.1 Dolby TrueHD English track. The sound is crisp and clear for the most part without any notable dropouts or distortions. While the sound was well balanced in general, there was not too much action that I noticed from the rear speakers all that often, which is not a technical fault since most of the action tends to be center stage.
Video: Originally airing in 2010, the show is presented in its original aspect ration of 16:9 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The colors are bright and rich. Bitrates are all over the map, generally ranging from the mid-20s to low 30s Mbps, but the image doesn’t seem to suffer from it at any point, with the 24 episodes (and one recap installment) split across four discs (Disc 1: 1-9, 2: 10-13, 3: 14-20 including recap Episode 15.5, 4: 21-24). The image is in general clean, clear and sharp.
The set comes in a thin slipcase (O-card) which fits over the Blu-ray keepcase, a multi-disc case that uses 4 double-disc swing trays attached by snap hinges to hold the eight discs, four Blu-rays and four DVDs. The cover artwork on the slipcase matches that of the keepcase artwork insert, the front piece showing a collage of the major characters from the series, the rear focusing on the main male leads, Ryner and Sion, accompanied by small screen shots from the show. The interior artwork insert is reversible, with an alternate image of the three main characters, Ryner, Sion, and Ferris, on one side, and a list of episode titles on the other, along with a handy little chart showing which episodes are on which disc.
The menu main screen features various clips from the series, with a strip along the bottom with the various menu options. Load times are quick for submenus and they do their job well enough.
The extras are spread across three of the discs. Disc 1 has episode commentaries with the staff and cast from FUNimation for episodes 3 and 9. Disc two contains the textless OP and ED for the first opening and ending themes as well as a selection of trailers. Disc 4 has episode commentaries for episodes 21 and 24 along with the textless versions of the second OP and ED themes for the series, as well as a selection of trailers. For those interested in aspects of localization and dubbing as done by FUNimation, the commentaries should be somewhat informative and entertaining.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the series of light novels by Takaya Kagami, The Legend of the Legendary Heroes (Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu) tells a sprawling tale involving warring kingdoms in a high-fantasy setting with a very large cast of characters. The first episode, however, is slightly misleading as it presents us with a pair of relic hunters, the lazy and shiftless Ryner Lute, who would like nothing better than to take naps all the time, and the beautiful swordswoman Ferris Eris, whose comely looks belie her deadly skills. With a good deal of slapstick comedy and witty banter between the two, they search neighboring lands for “hero relics,” forgotten items of immense power that date back to an earlier age when demons walked the lands of Menoris, the continent which contains their home country of Roland, a kingdom in the south. Roland is ruled by the hero king Sion Astal, a wise and benevolent ruler.
From this Louie the Rune Soldier start, one would think that this show would continue in a similar vein but that is not the case. With the second episode we are suddenly thrust into a flashback where we learn about Ryner’s past, where he and Sion were students at a brutal military academy run by Roland, which used to be a much more dreadful case before Sion’s rise to power. This long flashback is much more representative of the series as we see the full range of brutal realpolitik, treachery and warfare that seems to permeate the lands of Menoris. Sion, however, wants to change the world and seeks Ryner’s help to do that, though Ryner would much rather sleep.
After a successful revolution, Sion, who apparently comes from royal blood (though illegitimate in birth), takes control of Roland and tries to turn it into the peaceful place he claimed he would, but larger events will not allow him to do so. Ryner’s mission to find hero relics, accompanied by Ferris, who comes from a house of famed sword wielders who have also protected the kings of Roland for ages, is part of the larger plan to bring peace by acquiring powerful items that would make war ill-advised for Roland’s enemies. However, those same enemies, especially the far-northern nation of Gastark, are also searching for hero relics in order to dominate the continent.
Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the fact that Ryner Lute is not a normal human being, but the bearer of a special and terrible power, the Alpha Stigma. Manifesting as a pair of glowing magical sigils in his eyes, it allows him to decode and learn any magic just by seeing it used, but can also drive its bearers mad, resulting in their self-destruction. There are other types of “cursed eyes” as well, which the show slowly brings in during the latter half.
Epic all of this is, but if there is a drawback to this tale, it’s that it may have too much packed into it. A dense and complex tale of warring kingdoms, political in-fighting, and palace intrigue can be quite entertaining, interspersed with the occasional large scale battle and unleashing of terribly destructive magic. A good number of the characters are fleshed out to a certain degree, but not always enough to give us more than a shallow idea of what drives them. Even the leads are not immune to this, as Sion’s motivations at times are hard to fathom and the situation only gets worse towards the end when it’s partially revealed that he hasn’t quite exactly been himself since the beginning of the story. Other characters are painted with simply too broad a brush, such as Tiir, who bears cursed eyes similar to Ryner’s, but whose behavior yo-yos from emotionless cannibal to loving older foster brother with only the most superficial rhyme and reason to it (he treats normal humans as prey while he dotes on those who bear cursed eyes).
The show can be quite entertaining and does have a relatively decent balance of comedy to offset some of the heaviness of the drama, providing some relief from how utterly bleak this world is. The larger shifts in the affairs of the characters are fairly well mapped out, though the show in the very end will be something of a disappointment, as the light novel series was ongoing at the time of the anime’s completion, so the series reaches only a stopping point, not a conclusion to the even grander scale conflict that is set up in the closing episodes. It was also odd how one of the last episodes, Episode 23 “The Last Day,” plays as a slapstick comedy centered around celebrating Sion’s birthday (Sion himself, of course, hates the whole idea of celebrating his birthday and tries to run away). The tone change from the penultimate to the ultimate episodes in the series could understandably give some viewers mood whiplash.
While it might be more or less frustrating in some ways, the adaptation might have benefited from choosing an earlier stopping point than the one they ultimately chose. As it stands, the grand battle that is likely to take place between Gastark and Roland, set before us in the closing montage that ends the final episode, is a major event that we would like to see, but the anime does the equivalent of leading us up to the store windows to peer through the glass, but then locking the shop door when we would like to enter and see for ourselves. Considering the length of time that has intervened at this point, a sequel is probably not in the cards, though at least another cour of episode is likely needed to wrap up the grand plot elements that were built up in the final four episodes of the series. Of course, series such as this one serve as advertisements for the original source media as much as anything else, but it’s no less frustrating knowing this and understanding why things are as they are.
On its own, standing apart from the original light novels (which I have not read), Legend of the Legendary Heroes is an entertaining high-fantasy show with decent production values (the character designs are fairly distinct between characters and the animation quality, produced by ZEXCS, is of a fairly good standard) and fairly good writing, presenting us with characters who manage to drawn in the audience’s interest and sympathy. One interesting aspect to those characters is that it can be hard to tell who is a good guy and who is a bad guy in this show. For example, Lucile Eris, Ferris’ older brother, killed their parents in order to become head of their house. While that sounds horrible, at the time their father was about to rape Ferris since he was disappointed in her abilities as a martial artist and wanted to see if he could produce a better successor for the family’s weapons skills. There’s not much “good” to choose between these two. Even a character as seemingly good as Sion becomes infected with darkness when it is later revealed that he has made a proverbial deal with a demon in order to have the power to make his dream of a peaceful world come true. In contrast, the king of Gastark, Riphal, the seemingly evil and ruthless aggressor from the north is shown to be concerned with the lives of his subordinates and solicitous of the common people of the lands he conquers, even if he is utterly ruthless and ready to kill thousands during those conquests. There really isn’t much light at all apparent on the continent of Menoris, but there is a hell of a lot of dark.
The first episode might mislead you into thinking that this is a light-hearted comedy set in a fantasy land, but that mistaken impression is soon erased by the very dark and heavy, deeply-layered intrigue and drama that follows. Legend of the Legendary Heroes is an epic tale of warring kingdoms and powerful warriors wielding ancient weapons of mass destruction. In all of this, Ryner Lute, who is himself a weapon of mass destruction, just wants to take a nap, but life won’t grant him his wish. Kingdoms rise and fall, war spreads its misery everywhere, but wanting to know how Ryner and Ferris will survive it all is enough to make one want to see the journey to its stopping point (not the end, since that is not presented here).
Features: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, Clean Opening Animations, Clean Closing Animations, trailers.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 20th, 2013
Running Time: 625 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.