Judge Sandra Dozier's spell check may not approve of Orphen, but she thinks it's nifty.
Things are really starting to heat up!
Orphen Season Two is a surprisingly comfortable series to step into. Somewhat formulaic, but always managing to present interesting stories that entertain and leave the viewer wanting more, this adventurer saga has likable characters and a well-paced sense of action and humor.
Orphen is a sorcerer of some skill, but he isn't the very best and doesn't bill himself that way. He travels the land along with his companions: Cleao, a feisty girl who comes from a privileged background and packs a sword she isn't afraid to use; sweet-natured Majic, Orphen's teenaged apprentice (and de facto servant); and newest member Lycoris, an innocent and bookish girl who has been trying to convince Orphen to join the Royal Public Order of Knighthood organization that she represents. Although they get into all sorts of situations and adventures, the arc of the series concerns a plague of enormous monsters that are trying to kill Orphen. He doesn't know why this is happening, but the audience knows that a wizard named Flame Soul is siccing these creatures on Orphen, though we do not yet know why. Perhaps the subtitle of this series ("Revenge") holds some clue?
In between defending himself from monsters and fighting off Lycoris's insistent pleas to join up with the Knights, Orphen seeks peace and an end to the conflict in his life. However, it doesn't look like his past is going to leave him be any time soon.
There are four episodes in this volume:
•"The Lady at the Speed of Sound"
•"The Phantom Mountain of Snow"
•"The Crab and the Boy"
•"The Big Courtroom of Revenge"
The story arcs for Season Two of Orphen are two-tiered: The larger arc of a menace that is pursing and trying to kill Orphen runs the entire series, while each individual episode (or group of two to three episodes) features shorter storylines and arcs that concern the other characters. Both arcs are influenced, of course, by individual character relationships and personalities. The affection Eris has for Majic, or Cleao's love for shopping and her toxic stew, get folded seamlessly into ongoing events. There is plenty of opportunity for humor and hijinks in this series, and although Orphen doesn't really take anything too seriously, that includes himself—he isn't the typical arrogant wizard looking to show off to anyone who will pay attention; he's just a guy with some particularly useful and deadly magical abilities.
Season Two of Orphen strikes a good balance between humor and plot. The fun and laughs don't get so outrageous or exaggerated that they can't be pulled up short for a more series story arc. In the last episode on this volume, a scene involving Flame Soul in his castle is grim and almost heartbreaking in its intensity, but it works with the overall mood that comes before and after—there isn't a sudden switch to shameless mugging and freaking out by comic-relief villains afterwards.
ADV has 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 Season Two 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 insert with a box-sized poster with the front cover image. There's a very short reel of outtakes (about two minutes long) that earns the "15 and up" age recommendation on the box with more colorful dialogue alternatives than were offered in the actual episode. Set against the animation they were originally intended for, the outtakes can be shockingly funny, especially since they are usually done while still in character voice.
At the end of this volume, a new villain is on the scene, and the allegiance of someone who has been following them for some time is put into sharp focus. I'm looking forward to the next installment, and would recommend Orphen Season Two to anyone who likes tales of wizards and adventure, or wizards on an adventure. 'Cos this has both.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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