Orphen is a young, powerful (well, at least from an ego standpoint) magic-user who has seemingly been idling for a year in a small town, taking on an even younger apprentice, Majic, and setting his binoculars on the local mansion where the rich girls live. But he's no voyeur, as he has his eyes set on something else ensconced within that household - a magic sword that can grant him untold power. Of course, he's got competition, namely the misfit brothers Bolkan and Dorchin, and the tomboyish younger daughter of that particular household, Cleao, who is thoroughly convinced he's seen much more of her than he cares to admit. But all the nonsense fades quickly as the dread beast Bloody August comes knocking at their door - a dragon whose mere presence could easily destroy their whole town, if not the world. What ties does the headstrong mage have what this seemingly inhuman creature who he calls out to by name? And what secrets does the seemingly nonchalant Orphen hold within himself?
Let's get this straight here, after seeing a lot of anime I've had to become more selective about what I see, not only for taste reasons, but also for monetary reasons (as in, I don't have enough >_<). So when my friend (former leech, now co-anime buyer) bought this series, the first thing that ran through my head was the alarms screaming "IT'S RELATED TO A VIDEO GAME!! WARNING!!!!" After all, with other video game-related anime out there like Variable Geo, the various Final Fantasy anime, and the dreaded Battle Arena Toshinden, my trepidation with the genre is well founded, no? Anywho, now that I've seen it, I really regret borrowing this anime. Heck, I didn't even want to watch it with my friend, much less take it home and watch it on my own, but, because she ranted, raved, and generally wouldn't stop hounding me, I agreed to borrow it. Now, I'm pretty well crushed that I'm borrowing it, but not for the reason that you think. "Why?" you ask? Well... Because I wish I owned it. ;_;
That's right, my automatic stereotyping of videogame-associated anime has come full-circle to bite me in the keister. Where other anime in the genre are lacking, this series shines like an expensive wax coating on a refurbished '69 hardtop Shelby Cobra. Plot? ICY-Check! Interesting Characters that develop as the series progresses? ICY-Check! As a matter of fact, this series is just plain fun to watch, reminding me of the fun that I had while watching Outlaw Star, but containing not only great characters, but a much more driving and twist-filled plot, right down to the final minutes. It also succeeds where other anime of this type have failed, managing to hit the thin balance of dramatic plot and comic relief like a somersaulting tightrope-walker (ok, maybe with a little more comedy than drama. Good thing there's a safety net.)
As for the animation, it's pretty standard fare for a late 90's television series. Bordering on incredible in some parts and slightly plain in others, it still manages to pull it's weight pretty evenly throughout, though again, nothing compared to say, Clamp or a Madhouse production.
Which brings us to my only complaint. Or really, maybe that's a little strong ... My only "observation" then would be the music. The first opening and ending themes aside, the soundtrack to this anime is very video game-esque, sounding like something right off the soundtrack to a Playstation-era RPG, and *just* as repetitive. It wouldn't surprise me a lick, as a matter of fact, if they did just transplant the soundtrack from the PS2 game to the anime, and added the op. and ed. themes later, due to their significant increase in quality. (Well, the first set. The second set of themes could have been replaced by my church's very nonprofessional choir singing "Kum-Ba-Yah" and I would have been just as impressed.) I think the best that I can say for it is that at least it doesn't take away from the important parts (plot/characters).
To bring this review out of the negative, however, we shall move on to another part of the sound process: The dubbing, and surprise surprise (considering the era of sub-standard dubbing that ADV was in as far as when this series was done) it is actually done pretty well in my opinion. True, some of the dialogue was restructured, but it was done in a way that actually added to the story and cleared up some elements that would have been confusing instead of really "taking away" from the story (thank God).
After all the analysis is done though, it really comes down (for me) to the enjoyment factor because, after all, that's what anime is generally considered to be: Entertainment. Thankfully, Orphen does not disappoint here, which leads me to wholeheartedly regret only "borrowing" it.
Methinks it's time to stretch that term like two grade-schoolers fighting over a Stretch Armstrong doll.
A must see for serious- and comedic-fantasy anime fans alike. Also, fans of the Final Fantasy game series would eat this right up (video game-sounding soundtrack and all). — Isaac Cynova
Recommended Audience: Teens and up. Younger audiences would find Bloody August creepy, and the dragon's transformation sequences are pretty gory. Characters get kidnapped, and Orphen gets involved in some rather involved battle scenes, though the actual violence level isn't as much as you'd expect. For the fanboy audience, Cleo loses her clothes several times (never in fight scenes), but apart from some questionable camera angles, nothing explicit or tremendously tacky. It's more innuendo than anything else, and it's really not that important. Orphen might have some rough language from time to time, though I'm sure ADV's played that up a bit.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Orphen © 1999 Akita Yoshinobu / Kusaka Yuuya / Kadokawa Shoten / TBS
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