Legend of Crystania: The Motion Picture
Released from the control of the brainwashed King Beld of Marmo and the dark goddess Kardis, the vassal Lord Ashram and his lieutenant, the dark elf Pirotess lead their people to the island of Crystania. In order to secure a home there, Ashram makes a deal with the evil animal god Barbas which leaves him in stasis; Pirotess spends the next three hundred years trying to free him from this fate.
Also, other stuff happens with a whole ton of *other* characters.
Okay, you figure, Lodoss is an icon of Japanese fantasy. And here, we have a sort of sequel, in feature film length, from the same creators. Awesome, right?
Well, take out your thesaurus and find every word that is the opposite of awesome. All those words put together don't come close to describing just how awful this film actually is.
You see, I like Ryo Mizuno's Lodoss and its high fantasy hokeyness. It's essentially Dungeons and Dragons: the Anime, with the archetypes and magic and pretty girls with pointy ears and all. And, well, this is sort of a side story, which purports to follow Ashram and Pirotess (easily the most likable and interesting of the "villains") as they seek redemption in lands unknown.
Which would be well and fine, except that Pirotess is relegated to second banana, and Ashram spends 90% of this film offscreen or in stasis, leaving us with a bunch of other characters to fill up the remainder of the screen time, precious few of them particularly original or interesting. Prince Redon is a dismayingly naive clone of Parn, but without the discipline-instilling mentorship of King Kashue or the affections of Deedlit to give him purpose and emotional center. And guess what, he's the point of view character for much of this film!
The rest of the lot is bland and barely noteworthy (except genki little girl Laifan whose lines almost save this show). Even if the dialogue had been skillfully written (it isn't), the voice acting is alternately leaden and hammy, and also noticeably doesn't match the lip flaps, particularly in Japanese, where lip flaps occasionally come without matching dialogue like some bad Hong Kong dub of yore.
But then, it's hard to match lip flaps when the animation is so bad. Crystania has some of the absolute worst animation to grace a "motion picture" anime, pretty much ever. The washed-out art and simplistic designs are several steps below the Lodoss originals - it's a sad story when a 1995 movie can't compare with a 1990 OVA - but the action is worse, with speed lines and blurs and all sorts of other crap in place of actually animating motion. There is hardly any detail to anything whatsoever - it's horribly amateurish and generic even at its very best.
In fact, there is no aspect of this film that escapes scrutiny. The pacing is haphazard and the plot exceedingly hard to follow, as the point of view keeps switching every five minutes or so, hardly enough time to develop the excessive number of characters presented here. And it gets random and incomprehensible in a hurry - you know this is bad when sword fights, and shape-shifting beast gods aren't even worth paying attention to. Pirotess gets a massive downgrade from sexy bad-ass dark elf chick to being just sort of there. (It gets worse in the sequel!) Even the world design is over-simplified, with the island (er, "world") of Crystania itself looking like something straight out of my junior high school-era RPG drawings. (No, that's NOT a compliment.)
The funny thing is that this could have been a fantastic film - the director is Ryutaro Nakamura, who would go on to direct the universally acclaimed Serial Experiments Lain. With proper handling, the delve into the "World of Chaos" with Ashram could've been an interesting fantasy take on the realm of dreams and perception of fantasy versus reality. Instead, we are bombarded by overacted lines and poorly animated scenes that would've earned a failing score in design school - to think this actually aired in theaters is utterly laughable and more than mildly embarrassing. Even the music is dull, even embarrassing at times.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that you never, ever see newer titles advertised as being "from the creators of Legend of Crystania: The Motion Picture", because as a Lodoss side story, as an anime, and as a feature film, this is an abject, total failure.
It's very telling that the creators followed this up with three OVAs (Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring) in an attempt to compensate for the obvious shortcomings in this very special feature film: the failings of that work will be covered in another review.
A complete disaster in every way, this film will only please the most forgiving of Lodoss completists. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: There's a fair amount of violence and blood that would be a lot more worrisome if it weren't so badly animated. A few skimpy outfits. Okay for teens and up (but really recommended to no one at all).
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Legend of Crystania: The Motion Picture © 1995 Kadokawa Shoten / Group SNE / Marubeni
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