Six years ago, a young sorcerer?s best friend Azali was transformed into a dragon known as the Bloody August by the Sword of Baltanders. Unable to receive help from the Tower of Fang, he renounced his former self and became Orphen, forsaking his training and wandering the world in search for a way to save Azali.
This series was very enjoyable, to my surprise. It focuses on a small group of friends that set out on a journey to save the Bloody August before she is destroyed by the Tower of Fang, the magician?s guild. Orphen, the title character, is a young but powerful sorcerer guided by a single-minded desire to find the legendary Sword of Baltanders and save his friend. He is accompanied by Majik, his rather awkward and bumbling apprentice, and Cleo, a rather demanding child of privilege who decides to join them out of simple boredom.
The animation for this series was nice, although there was nothing particularly outstanding about it. I was a bit disappointed by some of the action sequences, however. They were usually fairly short and several of the animations were reused. In fact, the second intro used in the series had more well-choreographed action than any episode in the series. It was well done, but it didn?t really seem to coincide with the rest of the series. The overall animation quality was consistently good throughout, though.
Voiceovers for the characters were adequate, with Orphen and Cleos?s vocals actually being rather likeable. The music was above average, in my opinion, with some catchy opening and closing themes, although the first opening theme used sounded like a disaster orchestrated from a jazz remix of Inspector Gadget. The music score could have been even stronger had it taken advantage of several hair-metal style guitar solos that were scattered throughout the series. I think more of that would have lent a distinctive style and more continuity to the soundtrack.
As it turns out, the characters are one of the highlights of this series. Although at the onset they seem rather one-dimensional, as the series progresses their personalities become a bit more complex and definitely more entertaining.
Orphen retains his stubborn devotion to Azali throughout, but his propensity for nonchalant one-liners and sudden outbursts becomes more and more apparent and greatly enhances the comedic timing of the show. He is an anomaly among many recent anime heroes, since he actually appears to be an almost full-grown man, with some sense of direction and personal security. Finally, we find a male character who is not an insecure dispassionate basketcase!
His apprentice, however, is another matter. Majik really irritated me at first with his effeminate antics and whiny demeanor, but by the end of the series he is transformed into a parody of himself that is genuinely funny at times, although his voice is still rather grating.
Cleo, similarly, came on to the scene as another potentially annoying, predictable character. She begins as a snobbish elitist who seems content to argue for argument?s sake. Although her personality change is not dramatic, her caring, emotional side is emphasized in the later episodes. I actually found her to be the most entertaining of the characters, despite my initial dislike. Her snide remarks (usually berating Majik) were always right on cue and her massive understatements and random comments were hilarious in spots.
With such a cast, it is inevitable that humor would play a large role in the series, but, in fact, I felt that it actually became this series? saving grace. Without the comedic relief, the dramatic elements would have become stale and concern over the character?s fate diminished. Despite being a fantasy series, the humor was consistent throughout. I couldn?t help but compare this show to The Slayers, but I actually found Orphen to be more laugh out loud funny. The sarcastic remarks and parody elements were excellent and were a welcome relief from the zany slapstick comedy that is often included as an afterthought. The running gags such as the ?Black Tiger? were subtle and not overused. The blooper reels also contained some rather irreverent humor that proved the show did not take itself too seriously.
The storyline is above average, in my opinion, although not overly complex. Yet despite its simplicity, it introduced several unexpected twists along the way. They definitely helped to advance the drama and keep the pace from slowing. After several of these developments I was left intrigued and in eager anticipation of the next episode. I do wish that the relationship between Orphen and Cleo had been explored a little further. Unfortunately, there are only so many episodes to work with, and none of them felt like unnecessary filler.
One complaint I have is that the action was rather sparse, and when it did happen, it was rather anticlimactic. There was no obvious progression in Orphen?s magic use, although it was obvious that he was very powerful. The fights between magic users were almost always short, and usually took place in total darkness without much movement or residual damage. I kept waiting for him to use a really devastating spell (or at least more so than usual), but it never happened. I suppose the de-emphasis on the specifics of the magic is preferable to shows where the battle sequences or spellcasting is the only highlight of the show.
Taken as a whole, Orphen is a well-done series. Although not exceptional in any one area, the mix of action, humor, and plot development maintains a quality performance that keeps you entertained. Fans of fantasy anime should definitely check it out.
-Review by Reptile (17 Jun, 2006)
|Audio:||A mixed bag. Needs more metal...|
|Video:||Decent, but not spectacular|
|Plot:||Good fantasy storyline, surprising twists|
|Style:||Fantasy with some modern elements|
|Characters:||Stylish and humorous characters. Nice designs.|
|Nudity:||Mild (low-detail silhouettes)|
|Rating:||3.5 of 5|
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