Legend of Crystania

Record Of Lodoss Wars is one of the most popular fantasy imports of recent memory, and it's no wonder--over the course of the original 13 OVAs, we get to know a band of characters very well, and their exploits are not only exciting but occasionally thought-provoking and (dare I say it?) touching. There's now a Lodoss television show, and although I haven't seen it, I understand that it's following the same style of formula. Legend of Crystania is set as a sequel of sorts to the original OVAs and the novels upon which they were based. Those who expect a sequel in the typical sense will be disappointed; others who can accept the basic carryover and don't mind a new story in the same universe ought to enjoy it for what it is.

Legend of Crystania starts with King Ashram and his people sailing to the ends of the world trying to find a home. Exhausted and starving, Ashram asks the gods why he is still wandering. An answer comes from Barbas, an evil lesser god who is willing to let Ashram's people settle in exchange for possession of the king's body. He agrees, and while his people now have a home, he is trapped for over 300 years as Barbas becomes more and more powerful through the use of his body. Pirotesse, the dark elf, accompanied Ashram on the journey, and wants to find a way to set his soul free.

From there, we get a setup not unlike that of Lodoss. A hotheaded prince, a thoughtful mage, a couple of warrior types loyal to the prince's family, etc. all enter into the world of Crystania when Redon (the prince) is called by Barbas to receive the power to avenge his family. Mayhem ensues as the inhabitants of Crystania, who turn out to be shapeshifters, defend themselves against the intruders while trying to break free of the evil of Barbas. Redon and his friends' decisions will help determine the fate of Crystania, the land of the gods.

First off, let's get the show's faults right out in the open. The artwork is off-putting, especially if you've come to enjoy the beautiful artwork from the Lodoss OVAs. The character designs are just plain weird--they don't look like typical anime by any stretch. The first twenty minutes or so, I was caught up in the whole "why do they look like this?" question. After that, though, the plot takes hold and it becomes less noticable. Don't be fooled by the box cover, however--the art there is not what is in the show. Second, there is no way an 85 minute movie (including the credits) can possibly develop characters as well as a 6+ OVA series can. It can't happen, and it doesn't. That is relatively minor, since the show keeps its focus on only primary characters, but you don't feel like you get to know the minor characters almost at all. Finally, those who want a sequel to the main characters in Lodoss Wars will have to look elsewhere--this is a sidestory that resolves a minor issue and does not concern any of the main characters.

Having said all that, I found Legend of Crystania surprisingly entertaining. It moved well, the main characters were interesting (if not unique), and I did like the whole landscape. The Lodoss universe is very interesting to me, and I find it engaging. Although this is not a perfect show by any means, the plot's the thing, and I believe the story makes up for the faults. Also, the action sequences are done very well, and are much more exciting than those in some of the "fighting" shows I've seen recently. So it depends--if you like Lodoss, you could wind up loving or hating this show. Nevertheless, I think's it's worth the chance.

Legend of Crystania -- violence, some graphic -- B