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June 24, 2024

Anime Review: Orphen

By Mel Trent

Also known as Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, this twenty-four episode series tells the story of a young sorcerer on a quest to save Azalie, the woman he loves. Orphen leaves the prestigious Tower of Fang, a school of sorcery run by a council of elders who seem more interested in politics than in magic, and sets off on his own. The task at hand is an unpopular one, at least as far as the Tower of Fang is concerned. Azalie, herself a gifted sorcerer, has transformed herself into a dragon called the Bloody August and has been rampaging around the countryside, as dragons are wont to do. The Tower of Fang wants her destroyed in order to save their reputation. Orphen is convinced he can transform her back into a human.

The show has a few things going for it. The characters are interesting. The story is intriguing, and the pacing of it is well done, which actually surprised me. Most anime seasons run 26 episodes, and given that the main plot really could have wrapped up much quicker, I was expecting a lot more filler episodes. You know, episodes not connected to the story arc that are usually a waste of the time it takes to view them. Well, there are filler episodes, but they aren't eye-gougingly awful. Except for the conclusion of the Killing Doll episode in which we learn more about Orphen's former partner, Stephanie, than we really need to know. For the most part, I enjoyed all the episodes, and I liked the characters enough to tolerate the side jaunts.

However, I do have a few complaints about this series. As the first episode begins, we see Orphen teaching a young boy a spell. The apprentice's name is Majic. I'm sorry. If your show involves people using magic, it's just not a good idea to name a character Majic. It led to some really silly dialogue, which is good for a laugh but hard to take seriously. If sorcery had been referred to as sorcery every time it was mentioned, I might have over looked this gaff. That wasn't the case, so I just had to grit my teeth and make bad MST3K-style jokes in my head.

My second complaint is the animation itself. For the most part, it's decent. The series came out in 1998, so it's not quite as pretty as, say, Peace Maker Kurogane, but it's not bad. Along about episode four or five, there must have been an artists' union strike or something because the animation gets sloppy. There's no consistency in the characters' faces or body movements. In one frame, Orphen looks like the angsty 17-year-old bishonen he is. In the next frame, he looks like the fan art posted on a Geocities website by a 12-year-old girl. Fortunately, the strike, or whatever it was, didn't seem to last too long. The substitute artists are dismissed, and it starts to look like a real anime series again somewhere around episode eleven.

My third, and final (I promise!), complaint is the fact that the subtitles are so vastly different from the dub that you really have to watch both language versions to get the whole story. This is more noticeable and annoying through the first six episodes, and it seems to even out later on, but I have never seen such a difference as I saw here. You won't notice if you have no desire to watch the Japanese. Flip on the subtitles anyway, even if you're listening to the English. It's most noticeable in episodes five and six where the journey takes Orphen and his companions to a village where something that looks like a giant wolf is worshipped. In the dubbed version, this creature is called Wolfen. In the subtitled version and in the Japanese, it's called Deep Dragon. Clearly, someone wasn't paying much attention. Also, unless you have the subtitles turned on, you'll miss the episode titles, with a few expectations. This is a problem with the discs, though, I think. It's no big deal. The episode titles are really stupid.

So there's sorcery, dragons, mystical swords, pretty boys with issues and cheesy comedic moments. In all, it's not a bad show. I'm not going to run out and buy the box set, though. It's a good show to rent if you've got Netflix or something similar and have no expectations of it or at least low expectations. There's a second season also, called Revenge. Whose revenge? I don't know. Will I watch it? Maybe. Although I might be better off writing it myself.

Article © Mel Trent. All rights reserved.
Published on 2005-09-19
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