Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Anime Review: Legend of the Legendary Heroes

When I first heard the title of this series I was told it was a parody of the over-dramatic titles you often find (or at least a joke) and I assumed that the whole series was a bit of a parody of the heroic fantasy genre. That's actually not the case here, yes there are plenty of lighthearted moments in there but it has a pretty solid and serious central plot. So, not a parody (although I do swear it is poking fun at itself at times) but I'm hardly complaining, anime needs more fantasy no matter what the variant is.

Legend of the Legendary Heroes

Summary: Ryner Lute, the strongest magician of Roland and bearer of the cursed eyes the "alpha stigma" would much rather be napping than being dragged around the continent with his partner Ferris in search for the legendary "heroic relics." True these are powerful weapons and in the hands of his king and friend, Sion, they could make Roland into a strong and peaceful country, but Ryner would rather nap anyway. But there are strange forces at work both outside and inside the country and Ryner is going to have to at least stay awake if he wants to stay alive.

The Good: I'm not quite sure what it was about this series but it really managed to draw me in and I can't wait to rewatch it on DVD. The plot ends up being more complex than I expected (more fractions involved and some unexpected mythology) and as soon as the anime finished I raced to track down the next novel series. The story turned out to be a lot more plot driven than I expected, which is a plus, and the plot itself got more complex as the story went on*. I actually liked the story better for the plot than anything else but Ryner and Ferris really grew on me by the end of the series as well as a few of the other characters. Some of the other characters whoever....

The Bad: The pacing never felt horrible to me but the anime whipped through the original light novels at a crazy speed (11 novels in 24 episodes) and I do wish they had a few more episodes to use on some of the larger arcs. The characters' backstories were explained well enough but after a few novel readers filled in the details it became clear just how fast the anime was having to go through everything. Some of the characters were also rather annoying, and I'm afraid to say their backstories don't help much there, and I really wish the story could've done without them (also, who names their kid Milk?!?). The story is also having a hard time making some of the villains likeable (since it's clear that the story is trying to set up the countries of Roland and Gastarck as being very similar in ideals, probably to set up some grey and gray morality but it's not working) so probably about half of the cast is disliked and that's not a good thing.

The Art: By and large the art for this series is consistent and I like the style a bit better than the style used in the light novels. There are a few episodes however where the art is a bit sketchier because of the fight scenes and those scenes seem a little more animated than normal. It's a noticeable shift (also noticeable is that some of the girls get larger assets in these episodes, and again it's noticeable even to a causal viewer) but the characters still stayed relatively on model so I didn't mind. There's nothing that special about the designs but it's still a good looking show.

The Music: I wasn't that fond of the first opening (I just found it really forgettable) but liked the second opening better (it was more dramatic and for a show with this title you need semi-dramatic song). Also liked it better than both of the endings since I didn't care for either of the endings as well (both were soft and ballads and just didn't work for me). And I think I really need to start writing these reviews closer to when I watch the shows since I can't remember the background music at all (aside from one or two dramatic points when they played the opening and that doesn't exactly count).

I mentioned that the series is based off a series of light novels so a quick word on that. Originally the author was planning on writing a fantasy series but, as he tried to figure out how to work in the backstory, he realized there was so much that it would be easier to write that out first as it's own series and then do the rest. So we now have Legend of the Legendary Heroes** as the first series (11 volumes), Toriaezu Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (Legend of the Legendary Heroes Anyway, a collection of side stories and more backstory, 11 volumes), Dai Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu (Legend of the Great Legendary Heroes, currently 9 volumes) as the story he originally wanted to tell and another side series Ochita Kuroi Yuusha no Densetsu (The Legend of the Fallen Dark Hero dealing with Shion's rebellion, currently 6 volumes). There are fans translating the series (and they're starting with the sequel too!) but the writing is very Japanese and comes off as pretty awkward in English. Sentence fragments, repeating sentences, sentences without subjects (to the point where there are whole sections where even the Japanese fans don't know whose talking or about whom), I found it frustrating to read at times (especially when the characters start monologuing). But if you really want to know what happens next I would recommend them since the DVD sales for this series were hideously low (I forget if it sold more or less than Shiki but I remember Shiki selling only about 600 DVDs each time). But it is streaming on Funimation's website (/hulu/youtube) for US viewers and hopefully it has a bigger fanbase overseas than it did in Japan, the youtube viewing numbers would suggest so anyway.

*I swear, I think I need to make a chart of everyone's alternate personalities, former personalities, and which one is currently in control, it's a bit confusing especially since some of them share the same names.
**Also, apparently the title doesn't sound as awkward in Japanese, Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu which is the name a lot of fans use of the series (either that or the Japanese nickname DenYuuDen). I like the English title however because the abbreviation of that is LOL Heroes which just bemuses me.