ADV Films // 1998 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // December 2nd, 2004
Is this the end of Orphen's gang?
In Volume Five, things really start to get interesting as the newest teammate, Lycoris, starts remembering her past and her connection to the man who seems to be trying to kill Orphen.
Orphen, the hero of our story, is a sorcerer of some skill, and he has broken away from the school that taught him everything he knows in order to find some peace in his life. He travels with a teenaged apprentice, Majic, whom he treats more or less as a servant, and Cleao, a feisty girl who comes from a privileged background and packs a sword she isn't afraid to use. At the beginning of Orphen: Revenge, they also took on sweet-natured Lycoris, an innocent and bookish girl who has been trying to convince Orphen to join the Royal Public Order of Knighthood, which she represents. However, it doesn't look like peace will be coming any time soon for Orphen, who spends most of his time avoiding attacks from an unknown enemy who sends monsters to destroy Orphen and anyone in the near vicinity.
I haven't seen previous incarnations of Orphen, but I found it wasn't really necessary -- the characters come across very well in this series, grabbing your attention and holding it as their adventure unfolds.
There are four episodes in this volume:
* "It's a Fake Orphen!"
No fewer than six doppelgangers for Orphen are sent to vanquish him. They know all his moves and have all his magic. The only problem for Orphen is how to kill such ruggedly handsome foes.
* "Rhapsody of Sorrow"
Lycoris is invited to stay with Cleao, but something is wrong. The mysterious woman who has been following them has awoken flashes of memory that are getting stronger.
* "Lycoris Neilson"
Lycoris awakens to some startling memories that may put the entire team in jeopardy.
* "The Truth Inside the Storm"
In a continuing arc involving Lycoris's awakened memories, Orphen and the gang must decide between their loyalty to Lycoris and the new information about her true identity.
Orphen: Revenge does a good job of layering storylines to keep the action fresh and engaging. Although the basic premise of Orphen may seem rather formulaic, it's the personalities of the characters that keep us watching. When we aren't wondering what is going on with the monsters Orphen is constantly encountering, there are smaller character and plot arcs to keep us busy, like the developing situation with Lycoris in this volume. Although these episodes are more serious in nature, as a whole the series has a good balance of humor and action to keep things interesting -- it doesn't get sidetracked by wacky, self-aware humor that takes away from the reality of their situation, but it never bogs down by trying to be too cool or too serious. I like that I can be on the edge of my seat one moment, then laughing the next -- Orphen: Revenge seems to find just the right timing for relieving tension with a little humor.
ADV has also taken a multilayered approach to the dub and sub for this series. The English dub changes the original dialogue substantially, updating it and making it more appropriate for a Western audience, while the subtitles preserve a great deal of the original dialogue, all of the spell names, and even some of the distinctly Japanese references that only advanced anime fans would understand. It's a good compromise, offering a faithful translation for otaku, who probably wouldn't listen to the dub anyway, and a lively dub that captures the spirit of the original nicely.
Video and audio transfer for Orphen: Revenge is excellent, with a crisp image that shows off the glossy animation well. Sound is clear and robust, with a stereo mix that is not particularly active as far as channel separation, but (for the mostly open-air settings, especially) has a good balance on environmental sound that helps to set mood. I found myself paying special attention to the animation for this series. It's nothing special or innovative, but it has a kinetic quality that I like, and light and dark balancing is done well -- sun glints and shadows look like a painting in each scene. Also, the body language of each character, right down to Lycoris's and Cleao's supernatural pets Pam and Leki, is natural and unforced.
As for extras, the usual clean opening and closing sequences are provided, as well as some previews, and there's a full-color poster inside the box. The poster folds out in fourths and features a nicely stylized painting of Orphen in the foreground, Esperanza and Lycoris in the mid-ground, and everyone's favorite creepy little Heavenly Creature in the background. There's also a reel of outtakes, which are mildly racy and showcase the voice actors either flubbing lines or getting a little silly with ADR. It's funny to see how easy this "alternate dialogue" fits into the scene.
In Volume Five, I couldn't tear myself away as things slowly unfolded with Lycoris. The emerging events also feature a compromised character who traveled down a path of darkness with the best of intentions. Yes, I'm being deliberately vague here, but the point is that these types of complex situations are interesting to watch when they are done well, and so far I'm digging every minute. It's a good development in the story, and reminds us of our own weaknesses, drawing us in even further.
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
* English (signs only)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Fold-Out Poster