Judge Josh Rode has finally found his role model: Ryner Lute, the hero who naps.
"I figured if I just slept all day, nothing could go wrong. I was okay with that. But it couldn't last."
The Legend of the Legendary Heroes followed the traditional path to anime. It began in 2002 as a Japanese "light novel," spawned a couple of sequels, and proved popular enough that somebody decided to put it on film. It took much less time to cross the Pacific than normal; the anime originally ran in Japan in July of 2010 and made it to the US in DVD form less than two years later.
Facts of the Case
All Ryner Lute wants to do is sleep, but people just won't leave him alone. "Ryner, there's a war. Come fight." "Ryner, I want to be king. Help me." "Rynar, if you don't get your butt off the ground, I'm going to beat you senseless with this sword." Ryner is so popular because he happens to be the most powerful magician in generations. Much of his power comes from secretly being an Alpha Stigma, a reviled creature that has the power to annihilate everything in its vicinity. Poked and prodded by his friend Sion Astral (who also happens to be king), he reluctantly joins the beautiful but abrasive swordswoman Ferris Eris to go looking for powerful totems of past heroes to help in the war that looms on the horizon. Sion, for his part, became king in order to ease the burdens of the people of his kingdom, but soon finds that being a king means compromising one's integrity.
The Legend of the Legendary Heroes has what is arguably the stupidest name in anime history. Even its own director makes fun of it. But I have a theory about its origins: the "legendary heroes" of the title are none other than the heroes of every other anime ever made. So much is obvious when seeing the vast repository of characters and concepts that seem straight out of other shows. There is, for instance, a guy with a tattooed-magic-infused arm that has been ripped straight from of Full Metal Alchemist's Scar. The "reluctant hero with hidden powers" has been done so many times it has become its own archetype. The magic system, martial arts action, Valkyrie-inspired unstoppable sword-wielding woman…none of its new. This show is the proverbial melting pot of anime. Fortunately, for everyone involved, it does exceedingly well with each aspect. The component parts may not be unique, but the show itself is highly entertaining.
The secret to The Legend of the Legendary Heroes' success lies in the writing and the acting. The characters are believable and there is a tangible chemistry between Ryner and Ferris. This is all the more amazing because they didn't read their lines at the same time, which means much of the credit goes to Ian Sinclair (Black Butler) for his ability to react to Luci Christian's (Samurai 7) recorded lines. Their relationship pattern becomes a bit repetitive after awhile, but they manage to keep it feeling fresh and funny. The show's humor serves as counter-point to the darker half of the story, with its multiple murders, kidnappings, and twisting allegiances.
And then there's the ending…or the lack of one. In this, The Legend of the Legendary Heroes unfortunately borrows from Demon King Daimao. About three-quarters of the way through, the show takes an abrupt turn, dumps a truckload of poorly-explained mythology on its viewers, and then runs off without answering any questions. Seriously, not a one. This show is like a tapestry that was abandoned before it was finished, with all the threads left dangling. All of the side characters, many of whom have pretty strong character arcs, are half-cooked. There's no resolution to the God's Eyes group, nor to Kiefer's multi-pronged story. We don't even get to see the confrontation between the two uber-powerful kings in the war that has been building from the very beginning. After all the investment in these characters and their world, the ending does not feel like an end. It feels like a cliffhanger, except as far as I can tell there are no plans for a Part Three. And that's unfortunate, because this really could have been an outstanding show.
I'd comment on the quality of the Blu-ray, but Funimation only sent us the standard definition DVD copies for review. As such, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescree picture is sharp and clean, with bright and balanced colors. The art is middle-of-the-road for anime, with good shading and moderately detailed characters. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English dub provides a nicely immersive experience, with plenty of action from the surrounds and a bass response that's present but limited. Purists will want to listen to the original 2.0 Stereo mix in Japanese, which itself serves the show well.
The Legend of the Legendary Heroes goes one step further than most anime by including a handful of episode commentaries, though they're more overarching thoughts about the show and various aspects of some of the characters. The first one is the most fun, as director Colleen Clickenbeard and voice actor Monica Rial giggle all the way through. The only other extras are the traditional textless opening and closeting credit sequences.
The Legend of the Legendary Heroes is one of those rare shows that's far greater than the sum of its borrowed parts. All it needs is a Part Three to finish the story and it would rank among my favorite.
Guilty of being unfinished. Everyone involved is sentenced to be locked in a
studio until the show has a proper resolution.
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