Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Dec 29th 2007
Ragnarok The Animation
Roan and Yuufa, two inexperienced adventurers, spend their days doing what all wannabe heroes do: buying items in the town market and exploring sewers in hopes of leveling up. In their explorations, they happen upon an experienced, youthful merchant named Maaya and Takius, a powerful magician sporting a blindfold and a mage-bikini. By happy chance they are also reunited with former comrade Iruga, a silent bad-ass with a penchant for mummy-wrappings, and his partner Judia, a busty huntress with an abrasive accent. From them Yuufa learns that Keough, her beloved but deceased older brother, may still be alive, running hither and yon wreaking mischief and abusing green-gumdrop monsters under the villainous alias of Haze. Like all adventurers, knowing there's safety and cheap drama in numbers, the six band together to destroy chubby little goblins, anthills and all manner of evil menaces while trying to get to the bottom of Keogh's new existence.
Based on a Korean online RPG and animated with perfunctory laziness, Ragnarok makes no attempt to sidestep or elaborate on its basic RPG structure—characters talk to townies to receive missions, forests are full of monsters to fight for no reason, everyone belongs to a "class" (hunter, merchant, warrior, healer, etc), and forming a party and wandering aimlessly seems to be everyone's ultimate goal in life. A lack of inspiration, however, is but a minor flaw in a show that effortlessly surpasses the merely uninspired to become one of a rarefied group of series that are truly, torturously, awful.
Included on these two innocuous discs are nine episodes of torture that would give the Spanish Inquisition the heebie-jeebies. In a scene about halfway through, Yuufa is attacked by goblins in a forest. Then suddenly she's on a grassy plain and the goblins are gone. Her brother/evil villain is there beside a single tree (the remains of the forest?), where he attempts to lure her to the dark side with one of those "everything is darkness and hatred" speeches that villains are so fond of. And then her whole party is there. Haze/Keough waves his cape threateningly, and with much fanfare does nothing. And then the goblins come back. Where did the forest go? Why does Haze want Yuufa to join him? How did her party find her on a grassy plain that apparently materialized out of nowhere? And what the hell is with those goblins and that cape? With no answers forthcoming, the writers cap the scene with a pathetic goblin fight, apparently in hopes that the audience will laugh hard enough at its feeble execution to forget their questions. It doesn't succeed.
Remove everything where logic, character, and cause-and-effect are void, and what remains is either written for, or by infants. Conflicts that begin with no catalyst are tied up with the plot sophistication and cheap moral of a bad picture book. The world has no depth or distinguishing characteristics, other than being populated by monsters that were apparently kicked out of Mario Brothers for being too dorky. Characters are amalgams of one or two main personality traits, a distinctive speech pattern, and a signature weapon; except when the writers are feeling adventurous and add a weakness, like an insect phobia or drooling idiocy. To keep viewers from getting too comfortable, long stretches of merely boring dialogue are cleverly booby-trapped with excruciatingly tacky lines, the worst of which are spouted by Haze, who happens to bear a suspicious resemblance to a be-mulleted Char Aznable. There's also a Pretty Sammy rip-off (Maaya), and if the two of them combined their powers to defeat the Earth Federation of Evil Magical Girls with their Magical Pretty Red Comet Attack, it wouldn't be any less sensible than the show, and would probably be a lot less painful.
The only people who might possibly care less about the show than the writers are the animators. The series shows every sign of being animated on autopilot. Outside of the nearly competent opening fight with a living clock tower, the action sequences are hilariously inept, many of them hardly worth the title "animated" so dependent are they on stills. More mundane actions have such low frame rates that they often resemble some weird attempt to replicate stop-motion animation with two-dimensional images. The art fares much better, simply by being mediocre (monsters and Char and Pretty Sammy rip-offs aside). It's bright, reasonably detailed and consistent enough that you can recognize characters by more than just their outfits.
The series' score is similarly anemic, hitting the notes the series wants—mildly epic sweep, goofy humor, minor menace—as best as its yawning composer can, eternally lost in a forest of mediocrity without meaningful content to lead the way out.
Squandering their talents on this tripe are such Funimation stalwarts as Greg Ayres, Carrie Savage and Luci Christian. They're an experienced bunch, but the best they can do is preserve the series' precious few respectable scenes (a mildly funny joke involving a repeated heal spell, an illogical but potent outburst by Maaya). Some minor adjustments to the dialogue ease the pain of the more awful lines, but that's spitting on a forest fire; nothing short of an outright parody rewrite could quell this raging garbage inferno.
Ragnarok is an exercise in pure sloth, weighted with hokey monster-hunting, and graced with a plot that you wouldn't hesitate to scrape from the heel of your boot. Even the somnambulizing effects of the .hack franchise are preferable to the agony of this random, senseless mash-up of decaying RPG clichés. There are real monsters in the world, and sometimes they write anime. Hunting them is illegal, though.
Overall (dub) : D-
Overall (sub) : D-
Story : F
Animation : D-
Art : C
Music : C
+ At nine episodes for thirty bucks, it's affordable.
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