Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 21st 2008
Ragnarok The Animation
Using Zealotus, Keough, and Zephyr as his (sometimes unwitting) pawns, the Dark Lord advances his plan to collect crystals representing the Seven Deadly Sins, which will allow him to step free of his prison and rain destruction on Humanity, thus bringing about a new age dominated by Monsters. Unaware of the grander scheme, Roan, Yuufa, Iruga, Judia, and Maaya must deal with an outbreak of monsters while seeking passage to Comodo, where Roan was told his destiny awaits. Devastated by a fateful encounter during the monster outbreak, Maaya finds herself repeatedly plagued by the half-Human, half-Monster Zealotus, while the rest must deal with recurrent appearances by Keough and the weight of their own insecurities – especially Yuufa, whom Keough determinedly attempts to sway to his side. Old allies and enemies step forward, and Roan receives guidance from an unlikely source, as the heroes' path ultimately leads them to Glast Heim, the place where they originally lost Keough and where the Dark Lord seeks his escape.
Given the epic awfulness of the first two-thirds of this series based on the popular Korean MMORPG, it comes as no small surprise – nay, even shock – that this concluding third actually does not (entirely) suck. Sure, the series still has pervasive flaws through this span of eight episodes, and sure, the writing and visuals are nearly as trite as in earlier volumes, but these episodes also suggest that the creators saved the best (relatively speaking) for last. As a result, this volume actually manages some good moments in ascending to the level of mediocrity.
The improvements can be seen across the board. The musical score, previously weighted down by repetitive use of lame action themes, steps up with a series of newer, more dramatic, and definitely more effective pieces; no longer does the modest opening theme outshine the rest of the score. While the animation is still rife with still shots, static movement by characters, recycled footage in power use scenes, and other shortcuts, it looks like the G&G Entertainment at least made an effort this time. Some of the fights actually have a sense of movement and animation of characters interacting with each other in non-violent fashion isn't too bad, which leaves the unmistakable impression that they reserved the bulk of their budget for the later episodes. The effort still does not impress but at least the animation is not an eyesore anymore.
Some improvement can also be seen in the writing and storytelling. As the backstories of both Zealotus and Zephyr play out, the theme of trying to redeem bad guys who had been twisted to the Dark Side by bad past experiences becomes prevalent, but sometimes it works. Some of the characters also actually develop past their one-dimensional original constructions, even if only just a bit; Maaya gets the lion's share of such treatment and a couple of genuinely sad moments, but Roan also sees some growth, too. The overall plot also comes much more into focus, giving the story more of a sense of continuity. On the downside, the plotting continues to be as hackneyed and formulaic as you might expect from an adaptation of a fantasy MMORPG, but it does generate at least some tension and produces a nice epilogue. Amusingly for an RPG-based series, the plotting violates one of the key tenets of RPG play at multiple points during this span of episodes: don't split the party! (Of course, this happens because the "you go on, this obstacle-like foe is mine" philosophy has been so deeply embedded in anime for so long that the creators probably felt compelled to use it.)
Flashy displays of power and named attacks continue to be a staple, although at various points the series drops the attack names in favor of regular dialogue. Character designs remain one of the series' strengths, including a very nice-looking set of twins. These episodes offer some hints of fan service, including a French kissing scene gone bad, some near-nudity, and various skimpy costumes.
This volume offers eight episodes on two DVDs for a price equal to a normal single DVD, but includes but no Extras beyond company trailers. The video transfer quality on the second disk shows some flaws, resulting in blocky images in places. Funimation does, at least, give the series a competent dub, albeit one whose dialogue wanders greatly from the original. The most notable change is using the Seven Deadly Sins in place of another set of seven flaws far less likely to be familiar to American viewers. The English script and subtitles are also at odds on the names of several characters; Zealotus instead of Jirtas and Zephyr instead of Zephyrus, for instance.
Is the last volume good enough to justify wading through all the crap presented in the first two volumes just to get to it? Probably not. If you did suffer through those first two volumes, though, then you should find your persistence at least mildly rewarded here.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Improvements across the board over previous volumes, particularly in the musical score.
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