Reviewby Bamboo Dong,
Legend of Crystania
DVD: The Chaos Ring
In the Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring, the seals that protect Crystania are being destroyed by people with different ambitions. Some wish to resurrect the King of Gods, Barbas, while others wish to rescue friends that have wrongly been sealed. Redon, Sheru, and their companions fight to bring Lord Ashram's soul back from the Chaos World with the help of the Chaos Ring to fight Barbas and his ravenous wrath.
Released in Japan as a three-part OVA series, the Legend of Crystania: the Chaos Ring is now available from ADV to viewers in North America on bilingual DVD. With the entire OVA series on one disc, each episode running an hour long, it is a great chance for fans to buy it at a reasonable price. ADV did a good job with the packaging, but oddly enough, rated it for viewers twelve and up, which is strange given the high intensity of blood and gore throughout the episodes. The annoying thing about the DVD is that each individual episode can only be accessed through the main menu, which means that the entire thing cannot be viewed from start to finish. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the introduction to the menu is rather dull and shows the first few seconds of the opening theme before the menu options are shown. After a while, this gets tedious, waiting for the few seconds to pass before being able to go to the next episode. Included with the DVD is a clean version of the opening theme, which is great for the viewers who enjoy it, but after using the same opening for the menu, it gets tiresome after awhile. Also included as an extra is a trailer for the Legend of Crystania movie, which, although fun to watch if there is nothing left to do, is nothing to get overly excited about, as it is merely an extra plug for another ADV release.
The story itself contains both good and bad elements. On the positive side, the story is exciting once the viewer gets into it. Accolades must be given to the director for the way he chose to jump constantly between several scenes, which forced the viewer to wait impatiently each time a scene ended and wait for the next one. Thankfully, he was also brilliant everytime the setting changed to label each setting with the name of the location which is a great help keeping all the places and their significance straight. The main downside with the entire OVA is the utter confusion littered everywhere; it is ironic that the series is entitled "the Chaos Ring." Until midway through the last episode, it is extremely hard to decipher who's who, who's fighting on who's side, what each characters' motivations are, and in general, what's going on. The characters, especially, are hard to keep track of, as there are too many of them introduced in too short of a time. In addition, there are a multitude of tribes running about whose intentions and origins are never explained. Viewers who are familiar with other Legend of Crystania works and its background are at an advantage, but those who are stepping fresh into this OVA will be hopelessly lost. Luckily, this can be cured with multiple viewings, but it's not really worth the extra time.
Varying between breathtakingly gorgeous and unimpressive flat scribbles, the art in the series ranges on a wide spectrum of quality. There are a few places where Redon and the twins are having flashbacks or visions when the art is comprised of beautiful watercolors and delicate pencil sketches that bring about an air of nostalgia. Shots like those are nothing short of awe-inspiring, and convey a mood of either serenity or loneliness. Unfortunately, this quality of art doesn't carry through the entire series. When the characters travel into the Chaos World, the art is abhorrent and unspectacular to the fullest sense of the word. The drawings are simple, flat, and . . . Unchaotic. The animation, on the other hand, does not waver along the quality meter, but instead hovers near the lower quartile of the scale. In no instances was the animation incredibly fluid, but on the positive side, there were also no places where the animation was akin to a slideshow refreshing at an abnormally fast rate. For the most part, though, the frame rate was adequate, though jerky, especially during the more minor scenes involving walking or talking. Especially noticeable was the way that the motions of the characters' mouths failed to match the words every single time. Even on the Japanese dialogue track, the characters' voices would stop moments before the mouths would cease their flapping. Granted, the characters' mouth actions seemed natural enough and varied in motion instead of just an incessant flopping, but the problem was that no matter how natural their mouths looked, it just wasn't normal to have them moving by themselves without any accompanying dialogue.
For the most part, the Japanese dialogue track was decent, although none of the actors really were convincing enough to carry about the strong emotions attached to the words. On the other hand, none of the actors did a bad job either; in fact, some of them managed to sound angst-driven enough to almost be believable. The accompanying subtitles, at least, were done carefully, translating every little nuance. There were minor typographical erros, but those are hard to avoid. Not so commendable was the English dub track. The actors were bland, emotionless, and sounded much like a Keanu Reeves film festival. In addition, the script was written poorly. As per ADV tradition, the writers have a strong penchant for changing the original script to the extent of completely changign the meaning of the words and allowing characters to speak when they are supposed to be silent, and vice versa. At least they are consistent in (almost) all their series in the way they completely change the script. Credit, however, must be given to the writers, as it is a hard job translating a script to a different language, and still matching the characters' mouths, but let it be shown that the ADV scriptwriters are slightly of less talent than some of the other production companies.
With the exception of the opening and ending themes, and a sweet orchestral melody that plays in the last few minutes of the last episode, the music in the series isn't enthralling, either. In fact, it's downright dull, and has no real perks to speak of. Kudos, however, must be given to a certain track that plays during nightmares that has a qualtiy of eeiriness about it that is very X/1999-ish, and fits the scene well. Other than that piece, and the lovely ensemble piece mentioned eariler, none of the other music pieces really match the settings or the scenes. The music often seems out of place, as though it is there for just filler noise, instead of to enhance the actions on the screen. The opening and ending, on the other hand, are pleasant to listen to. Although they aren't enough to make most viewers run to their computers and import the soundtrack, they make good selections to sing along with, and good anime convention karaoke candidates. To be fair, the opening would be a lot more pleasant than it already is if it wasn't used in the menu in such a long, drawn-out manner.
Overall, the OVA series were of a mediocre quality. Neither were they good, nor were they exceptionally bad. For the most part, they make good rentals, but nothing more. If someone is a fan of other Legend of Crystania works, or the 'gods-'n-elves-'n-dragons' genre though, and want to own the OVA series, it is a good buy at three complete, hour-long episodes on one well priced disc. For the majority of viewers though, it may not be the most life-changing anime ever created, nor will it end up on many "favorites" lists. If you're bored on a Saturday night, though, and there's nothing else better to do, rent it, you may like it. If not, it's not entirely a waste of your time either.
+ Nice watercolors here and there
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