Original blog post here.
You may be wondering what a Greatest Living Author watches when he’s not writing. Well, how about one of the most Fantasy-y animes that ever Fantasy’d?
Like I’ve mentioned several times now, Dungeons & Dragons has had a huge influence on Fantasy artists and writers (me included — that probably goes without saying), largely because a lot of said artists and writers have grown up playing Dungeons & Dragons.
By this point, DnD has been around long enough that the people who grew up playing it have been able to watch their own kids grow up playing it.
All of this is to say, it’s not exactly surprising that those stories, games, or shows that are quintessentially Fantasy-y end up looking a lot like Dungeons & Dragons, because DnD itself did a lot of the work to define what it means to be quintessentially Fantasy-y.
Which brings us to one of the most Fantasy-y — and Dungeons & Dragons-y — animes ever: Record of Lodoss War. In fact, the story that eventually became Lodoss War began life as an actual DnD game where the writer kept up a running record (of Lodoss War).
If you’re at all into anime, you’ve probably heard of Record of Lodoss War. Even if you’re not, you may still have heard of Record of Lodoss War.
It’s one of the most recognisable animes of the 90s, to the point where it really needs no introduction.
And even if you don’t recognise Lodoss War itself, you probably recognise its iconic female lead, Deedlit. As the most prominent female character and also a gorgeous Elf, it’s not exactly surprising that Deedlit has become as popular as she has.
What might be a little more surprising is how popular she still is.
Lodoss War started in the 90s, and most of its main media (books, mangas, and the two anime series) ended by the early 2000s. Yet Deedlit herself is still popular enough that she got her own video game as recently as last year.
Though, thinking about it, maybe it’s not that surprising.
Nostalgia is a pretty powerful motivator, and people my age are at the right stage of life to be nostalgic for Lodoss War. And, of course, Funimation did just release the anime(s) on Bluray a couple years ago.
And, a brief aside to this, uh … long aside, Deedlit’s voice actress is Lisa Ortiz, the woman who also voiced Lina in Slayers.
Moving on, Lodoss War can be summed up as basically the most Fantasy-y Fantasy anime ever produced.
There’s everything you’d expect from a sprawling, High Fantasy adventure: a party of heroic adventurers led by a virtuous but not very interesting hero, a good king, an evil king, his less-evil but significantly more effective and impressive second-in-command (whose girlfriend is pretty much Evil Deedlit), Dragons, Elves, Dark Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, magic swords, evil gods, epic battle scenes — all the good stuff that makes the Fantasy genre the only genre worth caring about.
Now, if that sounds generic and familiar, that’s largely because it is.
Thank — or blame, as the mood suits you — Peter Jackson and HBO in particular.
Now, even though it’s 2021, and Lodoss War doesn’t tread much unfamiliar ground and tells a very familiar story, it at least manages to tell that story well. And that’s a lot more than a lot of generic Fantasy is able to boast of.
If nothing else, that‘s what sets Record of Lodoss War apart from most of the genre — it’s not new, but it’s good.
Incidentally, more recently, the same author has put out the similarly named and overall fairly similar Record of Grancrest War. It’s a little more stylish, a little more outlandish in its worldbuilding, but the anime is also a mess given that it tries to fit 10 light novels into 26 episodes, so characters and events don’t really get a chance to breathe, or even be established satisfactorily.
I’m reluctant to recommend it, partly because it’s got more violence and mature subject matter than Lodoss War, but mostly because Lodoss War is just better.
Grancest War isn’t even the superior anime with “Gran-” in its title…
Lodoss War is actually two animes (and a bunch of mangas and books that I’ve never read and I’m not sure are even available outside Japan). There’s the original 13-episode OVA, and that was followed up by Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, a 27-episode sequel series.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other, though there are obvious differences in the pacing and storytelling, given that Chronicles gets twice as many episodes as the original OVA. Overall, the characters in Chronicles feel less bland than the characters in the OVA, but that might just be because they get more room and time to breathe and develop.
Also, every episode of Chronicles end with a weird, little funny interlude. In anime, they’re called omake. A lot of animes have them, but Lodoss War is usually self-serious enough that they can be pretty distracting, even though they are actually pretty entertaining.
For example, one omake has the new protagonists knocking the main characters of the OVA the heck out and taking over the show.
Honestly, they’re so ludicrous and out-of-character compared to the actual storyline that I think they might just be my favourite part of Chronicles…
As a final note: I was initially actually a little hesitant to recommend Lodoss War, though it has nothing to do with quality.
I try to keep Realmgard, and subsequently everything I’m recommending to my audience, family-friendly and no worse than PG-level.
Lodoss War surpasses that pretty easily.
There’s a lot of fairly graphic violence (nothing ludicrous and probably on the same level as the Lord of the Rings movies) and dark, potentially upsetting, subject matter. I wouldn’t watch it with young kids, but any kid old enough or mature enough to handle Lord of the Rings should be fine with Lodoss War.
Though the nature of the violence might be slightly mitigated by the fact that it’s animated and a lot of it is happening to creatures that don’t really resemble humans.
Unless you’re particularly sensitive to that sort of thing, you’re probably not going to be terribly scandalised, but it’s enough of a concern for me that I feel it’s only right I give fair warning.
But if you do decide to watch Record of Lodoss War, you’re in for a treat.
My other recommendations are available here.
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