Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring
Set after the events of the initial movie, this OVA series continues and expands upon the adventures occurring in the land of Crystania, as Pirotess / Sheru continues her efforts to free her lord Ashram from his stasis and truly free the people of Crystania from the sway of the dread god Barbas. Or something.
Sooooo I've elaborated on the great many failings of the original movie in its own review. This OVA series almost feels like an attempt to rectify the many problems posed by the film, including the lack of explanation or exposition, the hurried character development, and of course, the utterly lousy animation. While some of these issues are addressed to a mild degree, Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring careens headlong into the bottom of the barrel because of widespread production and conceptual flaws.
Let's start with the basics. While being a year younger than the movie, the design and animation are actually worse to some extent in many ways, though this isn't quite as apparent in the beginning of the first episode, which gives us false hope that they've fixed the problems in the movie. Not so: the action is very stilted and reliant on flashes of light and lots of red paint, and while the characterso initially look a smidge nicer than before, they have a nasty tendency to go off-model and flat. This is all evident even in the opening sequence, which inexplicably features a dragon with a massive drooling problem. And the "beast travel" forms seem to involve people glowing blue and turning into Long Cat - an effect which must be seen to be believed! Another particularly embarrassing moment is when Pirotess/Sheru returns to the World of Chaos in an attempt to rescue Ashram, which seems to largely involve her being assaulted by potting clay. The animation degrades to utterly horrendous levels in the final episode, which features what must be the stupidest looking, poorly animated dragon I've ever seen in a fantasy anime.
Another problem is the pacing - in the movie everything was ladled out so fast that it was impossible to keep up with new plot points or characters or setting locations. The OVA series seems to have flipped the dial from "rabbit" clear down to "turtle" - now we get repetitive, drawn-out scenes of townspeople interacting, of the animal gods discussing the ongoing warfare amongst each other, of the Scooby gang reuniting (somewhat) trying to figure out what's going on, so forth. It doesn't make much more sense than before, and there's what must literally be hours of screentime worth of people blathering on about destiny and fate and seals. Sure, I don't blame them for telling rather than showing, but avoiding animation altogether isn't quite the way to fix a visual problem.
This is not particularly skilled work in any aspect of the production. (Haha, understatement.) The music is about even or perhaps a step *down* from the film, with many dramatic moments drowned out by synthesizer that is apparently designed to make the viewer feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible. Yet again we have the problems with dialogue and lip flaps not matching, which you would think would be a rudimentary aspect of the whole concept of "animation" but apparently has escaped the creators of this series - shockingly, again, the ADV dub is an improvement, just a tinge less wooden than the original Japanese, where clearly no one could be bothered to insert actual emotion into their lines (or perhaps the seiyuu were being recorded in a particularly thick cypress plantation or something, who knows).
And the characters, ohhhhh the characters. Redon's naivete in particular makes every scene with him a real struggle to sit through, as does Garudi and his constant scenery-chewing and killing of extras. And then there are the creepy little twins Irim and Kirim who spend the entire series half dressed (and when one of them turns out to be a girl, this gets even weirder and creepier). And when Ashram FINALLY has his face-off against the big bad, his lines are so utterly trite and ridiculous that it's almost hard to believe this was the same Dark Knight who we were so impressed with back on Lodoss.
This whole experience is so repetitive and tedious that it's almost a chore to have to explain everything that has gone wrong with this series. I had the uniquely sick feeling of deja vu, having to flip through and rewatch everything (including the movie) to make sure I have the whole thing in the proper order and that I've dropped the right sentences in the right review, because so much of this franchise's work is so disjointed and inconsistent that it's hard to keep track. That's right: Legend of Crystania is so bad, it's not even memorable enough to keep proper track of what I've just watched, what just happened, and why I should care.
And the payoff? Let's just say that Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals had a more satisfying denouement and leave it at that. The final line (at least in the dub) in which adorable little Laifan breaks the fourth wall and proclaims that the audience "must've enjoyed every minute" feels like an outtake borne of the frustration of an ADR crew having to suffer through take after take of having to dub over this utter disaster of a franchise.
The thankful thing is that, at least with online viewing, it's not like you're having to directly pay for watching this except for all the time you just wasted, but that's two hours and fifteen minutes (plus the seventy-eight of the original film) that you are never, ever getting back.
Watching Legend of Crystania is like being thrust into a chaotic, horrifying dream in which everything you know and love about Lodoss has been lost forever and replaced by amorphous horrors, badly animated monsters, and flat, emotionless clones of the friends you've left behind, and you are powerless to do anything about it. Well, unlike Ashram (who stays trapped in limbo for most of this series) and Pirotess (who is clearly so traumatized by this entire experience that she spends much of the series weeping), I can yet escape the curse of Crystania simply by clicking that little x on the upper right corner of my Anime Network window.
Never before has a fantasy series made me so glad I can return to the real world.
While at first this promises to improve upon the movie, Chaos Ring instead devolves into an even more incomprehensible mess than the original movie. Even the most diehard Lodoss fans would find this experience frustrating and unfulfilling. — Carlos/Giancarla 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 and undetailed non-sexual nudity. Okay for teens and up (but really recommended to no one at all).
Version(s) Viewed: Digital release on theanimenetwork.com; R1 DVD from ADV Films
Review Status: Full (3/3)
Legend of Crystania: The Chaos Ring © 1996 Kadokawa Shoten / Group SNE / Marubeni
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