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[Arc the Lad box art]
AKA: アークザラッド
Genre: Adventure with fantasy elements
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from ADV Films out of print.
Content Rating: 13+ (fantasy and sci-fi violence, death, emotional intensity, medical experiments on children, adult themes)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Record of Lodoss War, Wild Arms
Notes: Based on the video games "Arc The Lad" and "Arc The Lad II".
Rating:
 

Arc the Lad

Synopsis

When he was a young child, apprentice Hunter's Guild member Elk's village was razed, his parents murdered before his eyes, and their village's sacred statue stolen. Besides having to witness those horrors, he was kidnapped and taken a mysterious scientific research facility, White House, where children were experimented on to produce artificial monsters called chimera. Years after his escape from White House, a chance encounter during a mission may provide the clues he needs to carry out his long held desire for vengeance against White House. Soon he will find himself entangled in a conspiracy that may threaten the entire world.

Review

If you have played any number of Japanese console role-playing games, then you are probably already generally familiar with the general type of world that is the basis of the setting for Arc the Lad. It is quasi-modern, though filled with somewhat retro airship designs, just a touch of magic, and of course some dark and ancient battle that occurred far in the past. Now since I happen to find those types of settings somewhat interesting, I didn't really hold it against the show, but at the same time from the very beginning it seemed like nothing about the plot or setting was going to really make this show stand out.

That being said the plot, overall, is generally well paced. Arc the Lad avoids the folly of some other recent Sony RPG adaptations (such as Wild Arms) of wasting too much time with opening filler and instead goes a bit more directly into the plot. However, the show still does manage a few somewhat unnecessary story arcs (no pun intended) that perhaps didn't seem as intrusive in the original video game versions. Some of these are used to try and allude to epic events and civilizations in the distant past of the world, but they never significantly developed that aspect of the storyline. Even as the show closed in toward its conclusion, I was a bit dissapointed that they didn't reveal a bit more about the ancient battles that they were alluding to earlier in the show.

In terms of character development, this title is a mixed bag. A good job was done of developing Elk. They flesh out his background, gradually but not too slowly to let us have greater insight into his motivations and his rather haunted past. In particularly, he is at the center of the show's emotional climax around episode 13 and at the center of several scenes that I felt generated rather solid (if sometimes depressing) dramatic intensity. I cannot say that the "young man with a special power haunted by his dark past"is exactly a particularly unusual type of character in anime, but they did a good job of keeping him from being too flat.

Most of the other characters were a bit more flat. They all seemed to mainly exist to fill various archetypical roles for this type of adventure. I suppose most of the characters are fairly likable but I thought they could have done a better job with most of them. Most of the villains of this show were extremely generic and a bit disappointing with the notable exception of the frighteningly polite and mysterious Clive. There were a few elements toward the end of this show that I felt could have used a bit of expansion in regards to him, especially since he ends up being an important element of the plot. I think it would have only strengthened the show to show a bit more of his background and clarify why he ended up the way he did.

Despite being the character the show is named after, Arc himself is rather uninteresting. One problem is that they make him so ridiculously overpowered that there is very little dramatic tension involved in any scene where he shows up. Though there are certain themes of "tragic destiny"that they toy with in relation to his character, whenever the show moves its focus off of Elk to focus on Arc, it begins to drag a bit. I suppose I just found it more interesting to follow Elk's journey from being an apprentice Hunter who is somewhat unsure of himself to a confident champion. Arc is a much more static and unfortunately somewhat less interesting character.

This is one of the issues I had with the show. The dramatic and emotional climax occurred a bit too early and was focused solidly on Elk. Though the events in the second half of the show are more important in terms of scope, they just don't seem to generate the dramatic impact of the first half and almost seemingly to justify the change of focus, a number of plot elements more related to Arc's role in events beginning popping up a bit too quickly and without the explanation they should have. I thought I had a pretty good handle on what was going on and what the world was like in the second half, but as I entered the second half, it just felt the plots points were just being brought up and not significantly explained. A bit tighter plot integration could have helped things flow a bit better.

On the technical side the show again is competent but not outstanding. I had no particular qualms with the design work or the animation in and of itself. Though for a show where there are so many battles most of these end up being rather sterile affairs that seemed to suggest more than they actually show. Various animation short cuts (flashing backgrounds, a blackened background and sword $BEG(Blash$B!&(Binstead of actually animating it) were used. Some of the battles involving airships and vehicles later on in the show were done a bit better done, but I thought the personal battles were, for the most part, a bit disappointing. In addition, the music is for the most part rather average. A lot of it even sounded like old console music at times. There are a few notable exceptions and I suppose it did a decent enough job of setting mood for certain scenes.

A fairly decent, though not outstanding, console RPG adaptation. If it had a touch more depth for its characters, a bit better action, and a bit better plotting it probably could have a bit more impact as I think the basic show was good just not great. If you are a big fan of game series, you'll probably want to add a star. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: There is a lot of violence and death in this title but most of it is pretty clean though there are a few scenes associated with death and emotional intensity. There are a few scenes that get a bit bloody at certain key points in the series. The implications of the nature of some of the medical experiments White House is performing on children is disturbing and particularly in the middle of the series there are a few scenes that showcase some of the disgusting results of those experiments. There is brief nudity but it is not particularly sexual in nature and the scenes are it involved in are disturbing more for show casing medical experimentation than seeing some skin. Overall, this is mostly appropriate for teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Arc the Lad © 1999 Bee Train / Sony / SPE Visual