What They Say:
When an experiment goes horribly awry and transforms the Sorceress Azalie into a monstrous dragon, the sorcerers of the Tower of Fang callously decide to pretend that Azalie died in order to preserve the Tower’s reputation. And to make sure that the magic beans never get spilled, they also decide that Azalie needs to be destroyed. Disgusted by their cravenly actions, Azalie’s friend Krylancelo renounces his allegiance to the Tower, changes his name to Orphen and sets forth to save the damsel/dragon in distress. It won’t be easy: there’ll be minions with nefarious plans to defeat, and along the way Orphen will pick up an apprentice, a spoiled rich girl and a couple of trolls. But it wouldn’t be a heroic journey without a few bumps in the road, would it? The epic quest is on in Sorcerous Stabber Orphen!
The audio presentation for this release is nicely done as we get both the original Japanese and the previously created dub in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. This release does work well for what it is though as both the tracks are solid and generally problem-free when it comes to playback. The show has a good healthy mix between dialogue and action with each of them working well. Dialogue is generally center channel-based and the action has a full feel to it though there’s little in the way of depth or bass to it. The music is serviceable but generally not all that noteworthy outside of the opening and closing sequences but those come across even better here thanks to the lossless encoding. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from 1998 to 2000, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in standard definition using the MPEG-2 codec. The two seasons in the set are spread across two discs with each season getting its own disc. The JC Staff animated series has a good look about it when it comes to the designs and animation where it’s somewhat of a soft and earthy tone that brings out the fantasy feeling well. There’s a good bit of detail to be had in a lot of the scenes when they go all out and in the character designs. The backgrounds are pretty good looking as well as it runs through a variety of settings. Unfortunately, the show is one that has a lot of problems both in the source material and the encoding. There’s a lot of cross coloration throughout the set, though it’s at least not a constant. It is pretty regular though with all the detailed traditional artwork that the show has. That also brings in a fair bit of line noise at times as well.
The packaging for this release brings us a familiar but great image of our two leads together that’s a high-quality key visual piece with all of its detail as well as the color design. We get a few other characters peeking over in adorable ways that works well, too. With the familiar logo at the top in red, the whole thing is framed nicely with some minimal imagery that helps to tie it together. The back cover goes for a dark look with the framing spread around more and we get some decent shots from the show mixed in. The summary of the premise is easy to read with its larger white on black and the discs features are laid out through the middle so you know what you’re getting. The production credits are pretty full with two seasons to cover but it works well while still leaving enough space for the technical grid that covers the release clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is essentially the same across the two seasons here as we get an even split across it. The left side breaks down the episodes by number and title, of which there are almost two dozen for each, and it uses some good colors with the red and blue. The right side features some good key visual artwork that we’ve seen previously for DVD covers and it looks good here with bright colors and lots of details. Language navigation is easy with what’s offered but it’s worth remembering that with SDBD releases there are no pop-up menus during playback so everything has to be set at the top level. They look good but are kept simple in design as it has to deal with listing so many episodes.
The release has a fair bit of extras as seen in the original releases that are kept to the second season disc. The most fun for me still comes with the outtakes since the dub cast had fun with the show at times and we get several instances of them. The clean versions of the opening and closing sequences here, some production statuses and even a decent little interview with the Japanese staff.
Based on the light novel series by Yoshinobu Akita which ran for twenty volumes from 1994 to 2003, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen is a two-season series entitled with Begins and Revenge respectively that plays for the light and fun fantasy-style while having plenty of serious moments along the way as well. It’s a definite cousin to Slayers in how it feels and the way it acts but with more than enough differences in characters that it doesn’t feel like one rips off the other or even influences it all that much. They both work in the same vein and have fun characters and quirky situations that invariably turn darker and bigger as it goes on and there’s plenty of magic and abuse of comrades along the way.
Having not seen the show since ADV Films released it on DVD oh so many years ago, watching the two seasons together over the course of a few days was a lot of fun overall, even if it does show its weaknesses a bit more openly. The series is a fairly straightforward fantasy piece but one that does mix in a few different things along the way. There’s some mild technology that shows up a few times but even that feels quaint. Largely it has the European style fantasy setting with the villages and the general scenery but there are a few times where it also has a bit of an Old West feeling mixed in as well which feels a little odd. When it comes to the magic, there isn’t a ton of it because only a few people are truly capable and our lead character has a couple of go to moves that he uses pretty regularly and at least once an episode.
Where the show focuses heavily is on Orphen, a sorcerer who is roaming the world looking for a beast called Bloody August, a massive and dangerous creature that has been the goal of his for some six odd years now. Bloody August has a personal connection that comes out over the course of the first season where it’s the focus and that ties back to the Tower of Fangs, where the sorcerers all end up at one time or another as a community for education and sharing as well as power and status. Orphen’s cause is quite personal but there are threads within the Tower that’s brought into it as well, from his friend to his instructors and even an older sister figure that plays heavily into it as time goes on. Orphen’s a solid adventurer type, confident but not cocky and with a good heart to him when he lets it show. He’s simply interested in his larger goal overall of finding Bloody August.
What he does at the start of the series is to bring in a few other people with him, initially already traveling with a young man named Majic who signed on to be an apprentice and then with a young woman in the town named Cleao that he gets involved with due to Bloody August. Both of them bring different things to the table, Majic with the earnestness of an apprentice and Cleao as a young woman who brings some spunk to the show and pushes back against Orphen when he gets a bit unreasonable. While each of them have their quirks, they do avoid being over the top or excessively goofy. That’s all saved for the pairing of Dortin and Volcan, two diminutive brothers who are unfortunately indebted to Orphen and are doing their best to get out of it no matter the trouble it gets them into. They invariably have some connection with the storyline in each episode but it’s not always to the same level of importance which is welcome.
What works to the first seasons advantage is that it isn’t an episodic adventure but rather one that spends a few episodes with each smaller segment that all ties together into the larger story. The first season works well in weaving these two types of storytelling together but the second season not so much. That one brings in the additional character of Lycoris who has come to recruit Orphen for the Public Order of Knighthood. He’s not terribly interested, but there’s a no-strings attached kind of deal to it that entices him to at least go on the journey. And that’s what dominates the show as they travel about and slowly make their way towards it. But there are events that keeps it moving, such as a good bit of fallout from the previous season that’s well used and gives the first half some definition before things shift gears and a few layers of truth are revealed.
While the first season had a larger and clearer storyline to it, the second one feels like it’s a bit more listless and wanders more than anything else. Which isn’t bad in a way because it’s fun to watch this group together even with the addition of Lycoris who changes the dynamic a bit. Her truths come very late in the series and there aren’t enough real hints early enough on to make it feel like a natural progression, which made her more of a one-note joke for a lot of it, unfortunately.
A release like this is one where you have to come to terms with the idea of it being better to have a flawed release that uses the materials on hand as best as possible than not having any release at all. It’s not a show that’s going to look good at all outside of full Japanese remaster, so I fall into the category of glad to have it on the market again, especially before a new adaptation lands next year, Orphen is a series that has stuck well in my mind and was really fun to get into again after all these years. The series holds up pretty well overall because the characters are definitely enjoyable and it works well off the light novel material by avoiding the usual manga to anime chapter adaptation structure. With the amount of episodes here, there’s a lot of value to the set and it’s one that definitely has a good sense of fun about it as well as good action and adventure. Fantasy series of any stripe tend to be few and far between in the anime world and this one is showing its age to be sure but it works out well and generally pleases when you view it as a whole.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Sketches, Japanese TV Spot, Cape Day & Other Silliness, Interview with Japanese Staff & Cast, Outtakes, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 20th, 2019
Running Time: 1175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.