Geneon // 2001 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // May 5th, 2005
"Where are those ugly Dragons? Ashton Anchors, hero of the day! Those stupid beasts must have fled. Cowards. They didn't stand a chance. Huh? Is there some reason why you guys are staring at me?"
Picking up from where we left off at the end of Volume 1, headband-wearing space hero Claude C. Kenni is still stranded on the magical planet Expel, which has been overrun by monsters, thanks to a mysterious object called the Sorcery Globe. With an elf-like girl named Rena as his guide, Claude is off in search of this powerful artifact. Not only can the Sorcery Globe rid the world of all the monsters, but it might mean a way home for Claude. On their journey, Claude and Reni are joined by Celine, a powerful enchantress with a fear of bugs.
The bulk of this volume concerns our three heroes' newest ally Ashton, a bumbling swordsman who ends up with a two-headed dragon permanently fused onto his back. We get three episodes about the characters spelunking through an ancient tomb, fighting their way through traps and monsters, just to find a cure for Ashton's condition. After that, it's off to a harbor town for two episodes of encounters with pirates and ghost ships, and even some genuine character development for Rena and Claude.
These five episodes show a definite improvement over the first volume. The animation is bright and colorful, and the characters' movements are much more fluid and lively. Visual highlights include a ghost floating past Claude at night, the fight against the slug-like monsters in the tomb, and Celine relaxing in her hotel room. Like the first volume, there's still some freeze frames and repetition of shots, no doubt because of a low budget. But this time around, these shortcuts are used more sparingly, so they're not as distracting. Story-wise, this volume opens up more interesting and emotional plotlines, whereas the first one came across as nothing but non-stop monster fighting.
Unfortunately, the creators also introduce an element that has killed many a fantasy adventure epic: comic relief. Ashton spends a lot of time whining about being left behind, about not having any friends, about dragon heads growing out of his back, and anything else he can think to whine about. And every time he does this, it's accompanied by the same upbeat comedy music. This character could be exciting in a comic book superhero kind of way, but the creators are making him unlikable by playing him as a buffoon.
In keeping with the sharper look to the animation, the picture quality is just as sharp, with few visible errors. Like the first volume, the two 2.0 tracks are a highlight, bringing the action scenes to life loud and clear. When Jean the demon king first speaks with his deep voice, your bass will set the floor rumbling. Differences between the subtitles and the English dub are mostly negligible, except that the dub adds a few more little character touches. For example, take a look at the moment where Claude asks Celine, "May I ask you a question?" In the subtitles, she responds, "What is it?" But in the dub, she comes back with "Spill it, handsome." Purists might appreciate the more accurate translation, but the other adds a small insight to Celine's personality. Fortunately, both versions are available on the disc, so fans can choose whichever version they prefer. Extra features include three anime previews and four needless character profiles. You can also view the closing credit animation without text, or with the original Japanese text.
Lovers of sword-swinging, spell-casting fantasy adventures will enjoy this sophomore effort, especially if they've already struggled through the lackluster first volume. This reviewer is curious to see where the creators take the series from here.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Character Profiles
* Original Japanese Ending
* Textless Ending
* Geneon Previews