Sorcerous Stabber Orphen (2020) Review

It’s time to look at the 2020 remake of the classic Orphen story. This one takes a far different approach than the last one though which was pretty interesting. Azalie plays a much bigger role here which I was happy to see. It definitely ended up completely surpassing the original series. This one is a blast and a half from start to finish with excellent animation and story beats. If you want a solid action anime to check out then this is definitely the one that you will want to have at the ready.

The show starts by introducing us to Orphen. He used to be a member of the Tower of Fang but left to pursue Azalie since he disagreed with the Tower’s approach. Most of this is cloaked in mystery and explained as the story goes on so I’ll leave it there. He’s now a renegade mage trying to make ends meet until he can find her. He takes on an apprentice named Majic who really wants to be a great mage but Orphen doesn’t take him too seriously. A rich girl named Cleao also ends up joining the party so now this trio have to try not to hold Orphen back as they tag along. Orphen will have to go up against assassins, the Tower of Fang, and of course Azalie. Are his skills as a stabber and inheritor of the Razor’s Edge going to be enough for this?

The show starts off quite fast paced and it has to in order to cover all of this in only 13 episodes. The show does a great job of making you feel like a lot is happening. We get to see Orphen in a lot of different fights and scenarios. I’d say that the first arc of the series is naturally finding Azalie and then the second half is sort of about finding her again. We get mini arcs throughout of course so there’s always more than one plot going on. For example, one plot has the heroes head to an isolated village of people who can’t stand sorcerers. Naturally they aren’t too happy to see Orphen and pals so the heroes have to end up fighting them off.

Another mini arc and my personal favorite in the series is when a fake Orphen appears and stars murdering Tower of Fang members. Naturally this puts Orphen in a bad light especially as this clone looks like how Orphen was back when he was a member. Orphen has to try and take this guy out but the problem is that the Fake Orphen appears to be as powerful as Orphen was at his peak. Unfortunately the Orphen, he has actually grown weaker over the years because he is not able to actively train like he used to and so his skills have naturally deteriorated. It’s a pretty intense arc for sure.

Finally the last arc involves some more assassins. These guys want a book that the Tower of Fang currently possesses and they will do whatever they have to in order to get it. Once they start targeting Orphen’s friends he takes it personally and decides to remove them. He is a stabber after all and isn’t opposed to destroying his enemies when necessary. They went after Cleao and Leticia (Tish) so at this point Orphen needs to make sure they don’t go after anyone else.

The season ends with a nice cliffhanger setting up the next season pretty well. Once again Orphen and the gang are going to be heading to a place that isn’t exactly known for being nice for mages. Should make for a pretty tense second season. We already know Azalie can protect herself so the question is if Orphen’s up to the task. He never backs down from a challenge so I expect he will do just fine here. He’s ready for whatever they throw at him and is pretty good at using underhanded tactics in a fight to make up the power gap as well. He’s not the kind of guy who will just give up.

All of this is to say that Orphen is a pretty great main character. He has confidence and ability, two traits that you absolutely need to have.
His fight against the Fake Orphen is a good example of that. He was completely outmatched in terms of physical and magical ability so he had to win with his pure intelligence. Otherwise he had no real shot to pull this off. Same as when he fought with Azalie. He knew that he couldn’t take her down in a fair fight so he had to have some good equipment at the ready. It’s not really uncommon in this series for Orphen to be outmatched so it’s good that he’s so cunning. He is the inheritor to the Razor’s Edge which the show loves to bring up every episode and used to be the strongest but he no longer holds that title. Even so, I feel like he is second only to Azalie in terms of ability from Tower of Fang members. I wouldn’t be surprised if people outside of the tower would be able to take him on though. He didn’t exactly do well against the Elder Dragon.

Then we have the main heroine Cleao who is a fun character. She may not be much of a fighter but she’s a good morale booster and is always here to raise everyone’s spirits. She also has her pet dragon Lucky who can fight really well. At least this gives her something in the way of defense and she can land a surprise blow when needed. She definitely will always try to contribute when needed. Her role isn’t huge and it doesn’t look like she will ever be going into more of a full combat role but as it stands she does add to the dynamic.

Unfortunately Orphen’s other partner Majic is not nearly as good. He’s just around to hold the team back. He’s the hapless trainee whose abilities aren’t improving at nearly the rate he was hoping for. Usually that could be an inspirational character as you root for his success but he ruined that in his first appearance when he betrays Cleao’s confidence and only stops because he is caught. His character never recovered from this peeping incident and for the rest of the series I was rooting against him. Clearly Majic doesn’t have the discipline needed to improve his magical abilities.

You’ve also got the pair of comic relief characters Volcan and Dortin who follow the heroes around. Their roles have been greatly reduced compared to the original show though. They show up a few times as they sell out Orphen over and over again but that’s about it. They’re pretty fun though and it’s a comic relief kind of style that has aged pretty well. I dare say that it’s about as funny now as it ever was. Keeping it in short doses is probably a good thing though so we can really focus on the actual plot going on.

Azalie was always a great character in the original show and the same is true here. She makes for a very good wild card. I would certainly not call her a hero but as a loner she doesn’t mind helping the heroes out once in a while. Her abilities are still formidable and she only loses one fight in the series due to a good magical item. Otherwise she looked pretty much invincible. She definitely enjoys being quite mischievous and pranking Orphan all the time. It makes for a very fun dynamic and she really is the heard of the series. The whole thing revolves around her so much that you couldn’t have the show without her.

Then we have Childman who is a pretty interesting character. He certainly looks after Azalie like how Orphan does although in his own way. He doesn’t have a huge role in the series but gets a lot of respect in his own right. He’s certainly a powerful opponent and a pretty reasonable guy in general. At least he’s someone that you can count on when the going gets tough and that’s always important. We’ve also got Leticia who’s another high ranking member of the group. Her abilities are fairly decent although I wouldn’t say I was too impressed. Her first big fight doesn’t really go all that well. In a fair fight I’d take her over most of the opponents though. When you’re outnumbered it’s hard to really do much.

The other members of the Tower of Fang like Heartia or Forte are around but don’t do quite as much. The final character I’d single out here is the Fake Orphen who really steals the show. Naturally there’s a twist about his true identity. His episodes were really the peak of the series with how fantastic they were. This guy would really keep you on your toes the whole time and I loved his absolute confidence. He’s definitely one of the strongest characters in the series without a doubt. Unfortunately he will likely never appear again so you will need to have enjoyed these scenes as much as possible.

As mentioned, the animation is quite solid here. It’s definitely bright with a lot of good color contrasts. The energy fights are good and the same goes for the hand to hand choreography which is quite impressive. I think this goes a long way into helping shape the series into the great title it is. When you’re following a show that just looks really good in addition to its good writing and solid soundtrack then you’ve got a solid combo. The soundtrack may not be an all star or anything like that but I thought it sounded really good for the scenes that were there. You’ll hear the themes a lot over the course of the series. The opening theme is also pretty catchy for sure.

Another thing that separates this show from the average title is that it was even able to make the flashback scenes interesting. In most shows I definitely don’t look forward to flashbacks at best and normally I dread them. It’s the perfect way to absolutely destroy a show’s pacing and give us extra info we didn’t need to know. 9 times out of 10 we don’t need a sob story for the characters. Fortunately the flashbacks are actually pretty interesting this time though. I think they could even make a whole show about Orphen’s days at the academy. It’s always rare to see a main character who was stronger as a child than when he was grown up. The idea that he had to fight while always holding back at the Tower was a pretty interesting one that they could run with. The writing here is just exceptional and it’s why the show is so much fun and so interesting throughout.

Overall, Orphen is definitely a great anime. As a reboot it’s very easy for anyone to just pick up and watch as well. You don’t need to go back to the old shows and can just start here. The animation is very smooth and the writing is on point. The show really has no weaknesses and had no bad episodes. It just does a superb job of showing what you can do in 13 episodes. It set a high bar for the next season but I look forward to seeing what other adventures we get. This was definitely one of the more fun self contained shows I’ve seen in quite a bit. It really took all of the strengths of the first show and expanded on them.

Overall 8/10

Slayers Review

There aren’t many TV shows that really deal with the fantasy genre. Or at least, most of the titles I would not consider to be a true fantasy title. A true fantasy title means that the heroes must go to the wilderness or to towns/cities that look as if they were created in the olden days. Of course, this is a risk since it is basically impossible to pull off in a live action movie. An anime can achieve this though and that’s what Slayers sets out to do. It’s like an old fashioned RPG or what Sword Art Online would have been if it came out 20 years ago. It’s a pretty fun anime with its ups and downs.

The story revolves around an experienced sorceress by the name of Lina Inverse. She is always on the lookout for some extra money or jewels to obtain and she doesn’t mind being used as a mercenary to obtain such treasures. She meets up with a gallant bodyguard by the name of Gourry and he decides to escort her to the next town since he thinks that she’s just a little kid. The two of them have many adventures until the plot finally begins.

Rezo, The Red Priest, is one of the strongest beings on Earth. Or at least, one of the strongest humans. He is supposed to be a wise sage from the past, but he seems to be pretty shifty and he tells Lina and Gourry that they possess an item that many villains are after. They will stop at nothing in order to get the object and Lina doesn’t even know which one it is! The heroes may be outgunned here.

The second half of the show’s plot is pretty similar to the first one’s or it at least builds off from it. Lina, Gourry, and some new friends are having a decent time when they find out that someone is attempting to unleash another power on the planet. The culprit responsible for this wants to destroy Lina and her friends because of something they did in the past and he has framed them. Lina cannot earn money freely because of this situation so she has to get to the bottom of this and fast! Luckily, she has made friends with a Prince’s daughter so she does have some more connections now.

It’s an intriguing plot summary, but many of the episodes are pretty episodic so it all works out. The series mostly acts as a comedy/adventure title, but the climax typically adds some more action to the mix. The series is very light toned and the violence is also kept at a very low level so it’s a mainstream title that you can easily recommend to someone else if they are looking for a fantasy title. Things just tend to heat up during the climax. The final batch of episodes is the only place where you will really see a big blood puddle like in Bleach or a character getting stabbed as an instant KO. The rest of the action scenes borrow elements from DBZ while maintaining a hit and run tactic so it is rare that any serious damage is dealt to any of the characters. If a character is burnt, they will typically look more like a Pokemon Trainer when he gets zapped.

So, I would consider the action segment to be a pretty good positive for the show. They’re fun to watch although the comedy can be a bit much at some points. The timing is crucial for such a thing and a character can go from being very powerful to very weak in a short amount of time depending on what genre the show is currently operating on. I’ll likely address this more as we go into the review.

Lina Inverse is the main character and she’s debatably the strongest hero on the planet. She is also one of the strongest beings on the planet not counting the big deities like the Lord of Nightmares. Unfortunately, the comedy tones of the show can make it a little hard to say just how strong she is. Sometimes Lina will casually take on a planet buster and other times she will attempt to run away from your average batch of minions. The inconsistency can definitely be more than a little tricky.
Personality wise, Lina is definitely not your average lead. That’s because she really not even a hero! She just does whatever she wants whenever she sees that there is some money to be earned. One running gag in the series is that she loves to use her Dragon Slave attack, which can instantly wipe out a city. She actually does wipe out a few towns and mountains using this attack and there are typically a lot of casualties. It’s played for laughs of course, but the amount of innocents that she ends up taking down is a pretty large number. At least that does say something for Lina’s abilities. It’s why I always find it a little hard to believe when she just runs away and barely puts up a fight sometimes. Lina typically acts tough and likes to insult Gourry a lot. He makes it pretty easy for her to be honest, but he’s a good guy deep down. Lina is a charismatic lead though so despite her not heroic actions, you can typically root for her. You just shouldn’t look at her as a hero and then you’ll be okay. She’s not the next Medaka or Kirito, but she’s much better than Harayuki and Sailor Moon.

Gourry is Lina’s main sidekick and he’s an “interesting” character. Have you ever met a character that you found pretty entertaining while on screen, but the character was technically pretty bad and you would have to root against him? Gourry’s like Furuichi in this case, but I’m not sure that many of my readers will understand the reference. Gourry spends most of his screen time being pretty unaware of the situation and making rookie mistakes whenever possible. However, he balances this out by also having some moments where he goes a little too far in his teasing about Lina being a little girl. The latter is why I ultimately can’t like Gourry. He acts a little perverted in that sense even if he’s really just not bright enough to fully understand what he’s doing. Ignorance is still no excuse so that ends up dropping Gourry. He’s still a lot of fun to watch when he’s on screen, but it just goes to show that a few bad scenes can really destroy a character.

When he’s a gentleman, Gourry is definitely at his best. He can turn his “hardcore face” on and off very quickly. He gets a rival in the second half of the show so Gourry will have to keep on switching between acting casual and intense in the blink of an eye. “Light come forth!” is his catchphrase and it signals that Gourry is going to use his legendary Sword of Light. While Lina is a magic specialist, Gourry is a more traditional fighter. He uses his swordsmanship to attack opponents and he wasn’t really aware of demons and monsters before the series began. Ultimately, Gourry tries to be a nice guy whenever possible, but things don’t typically work out for him.

Zelgadis starts off as a fairly intense villain and he slowly starts to warm up to the heroes by the halfway mark of the series. His skin is that of a golem’s and he wants to find a way to turn himself back to normal. To do this, he must defeat Rezo and possible use the philosopher’s stone. It’s going to be tough though and his journey could be a long one. He makes for a decently good ally, but I prefer when he meets up with the heroes from time to time instead of travelling with them. He just ends up being the straight man in all of the jokes and he just brings the humor down. He works better as a rival figure than as an ally. He’s definitely one of the better characters in the show though and he’s possibly the only other hero who can fight alongside Lina as a magic master.

Sylphiel joins the cast towards the end of the show and she has known Gourry from back in the day. She’s very soft spoken and is a Hinata type character. If you don’t know about Hinata, just know that Sylphiel always starts off her sentences by saying “Gourry dear” and she typically doesn’t fight when the going gets tough. She did have one really good scene where she blocked a huge blast that Lina and Zelgadis couldn’t stop with their combined effort, but it was just another outlier since she never shows that level of ability again. Towards the end of the show, she can barely muster up a fire arrow, which was a little sad. She’s definitely not my kind of character and she really blew it at the end of the show when she tackled Lina to protect the planet at the cost of her friends. That’s not a good trade off and especially when you realize that the planet likely would have been okay anyway.

Shabranigdo is one of the big villains from the first arc. He gets a whole lot of hype from one of the very first episodes and it never dies down. I was one of the first people to jump on the hype train so I was really hoping that he would end up looking impressive. Luckily, I was not disappointed! His character design is decently similar to Zorc’s and this beast is worthy of the term “Kaiju.” He doesn’t get to fight the heroes while at full power, but he still puts on quite the display. He’s above the usual spectrum of emotions so he’s pretty detached from everyone when he appears. He actually congratulates the heroes at one point so you know that he doesn’t take these things personally. He was easily the best character in the series and I hope that he returns someday.

Rezo is the main villain of the series and he is basically around for the whole series in a sense. The first arc shows how he became mad in his quest to heal his eyes. He decides to resurrect Shabranigdo so that the monster can help him so he naturally crosses paths with the heroes. He’s known to be incredibly powerful, but we don’t get to see him use that many attacks before the arc is over. His design is very interesting and he’s as sinister as they come, but I still preferred Shabranigdo.

Arc 2 changes things as Rezo’s goal switches. The heroes are shocked to see that he is around since the end of Arc 1 was pretty dicey. He decides that the heroes must die and his powers have grown by a considerable amount. Arc 2 was more action packed than the first half so the fights were a lot better and we really got to see his abilities. With a single attack, Rezo was able to take down the entire city and he consistently beats up the main characters with ease. He also grows to be a lot more confident as he challenges Lina to use her strongest attacks on him so that he can prove his superiority. I definitely gained a lot of respect for the character and Arc 2 Rezo is much better than the first half Rezo in just about every area.

Eris worked for Rezo and she was pretty distraught to see him go down the path of evil. Unfortunately, her loyalty to her master is pretty misplaced since it ends up turning her into a warrior for darkness as well. It’s hard to gauge her abilities since she rarely fights, but it would appear that she is a decent sorceress. I can’t say that she is too likable though and her goals are pretty hard to sympathize with. She appears out of nowhere and then gets thrown back out of the spotlight just as quickly.
Amelia is another addition to Lina’s party and it’s safe to say that she’s easily one of the better characters. She’s always talking about justice while striking really dramatic poses. She’s not all talk though since she also has access to a wide variety of light and fire magic spells. She can hold her own in a fight and she can prove to be just as dangerous as Zelgadis and Lina when she’s serious. (Which is very rare I’m afraid) She helps the team to stay light during serious moments and the heroes could really use the firepower. It’s also ironic since she may be the only heroic member of the group besides Gourry until Sylphiel joined up. Amelia is also very polite so she’s really the polar opposite of Lina and she could easily pass for the main heroine of the show if you didn’t know better.

Prince Phil is Amelia’s father and he also strongly believes in Amelia. Their character personalities are very similar, but Amelia pulls it off a lot better than Phil. Phil gets insulted by the heroes a lot since he’s not the prince that they had been expecting, but he has a strong bond with Amelia. A running gag is that he may just be a human, but he can still hold his own against all kinds of monsters and demons. Phil is not to be underestimated and I may not have been a huge fan of him, but he was still a good character. He’s just better in small doses so he shouldn’t appear too much.

Zangulus is Gourry’s rival in the second half of the show and he’s a pretty decent character. He fights with honor and he may be a villain, but he’s not downright evil. He just wants a good fight and you could argue that he basically turns into a hero by the end. It all depends on where he goes from that point of course, but I definitely wouldn’t mind if he stayed as a hero. He’s very determined and he follows the heroes across the whole world until he finally gets his big fight. His sword is able to shoot blasts of wind that are very dangerous and Gourry may have been done for if not for his sword of light.

Vrumugun is Zangulus’s parter and he was a decent character at first, but he quickly dropped after a certain plot twist. He can give Lina a good fight when necessary, but it’s clear who the better fighter is. He doesn’t have much of a personality though since he basically lives for the mission. Even when the heroes are heading to the place that Vrumugun wants them to go, he can’t help but try to fight them some more. He also gets humiliated during a play that the heroes performed, which was pretty sad for him.

One of the negatives for Slayers would be that there can be some heard fanservice. “What’s heard fanservice sir? I don’t believe that’s a real term…” Well, it is now! Basically, “heard fanservice” is when you talk about something fanservicey without actually showing it. For example, Lina gets teased about her chest a lot and I would still consider that to be fanservice in a sense. Luckily, the show does a good job of not really showing it. There are the occasional moments where Gowry will fall on Lina and make a grab, but luckily they are few and far in between. “That time of the month” is also a running gag for about 2-3 episodes, which can get a little old. This is an area where the light nature of the show really helps since the moments are really used for humor. Unfortunately, it’s definitely not my kind of humor, but the show glosses over this as quickly as possible so the scenes don’t last for as long as they could. This does hurt the show, but it won’t actually cripple it. This is nowhere near as bad as many other titles and the 90’s animation also helps since it’s so old school. Shows had more class back then…

The animation for Slayers holds up pretty well. It’s fairly old so you shouldn’t expect it to look like Accel World or something like that, but this show did come during a pretty good time for character designs. The 90s were fun in that respect and all of the characters should be instantly iconic. Memorizing the names is pretty effortless as well since they’re all straightforward. You can see how the show was inspired from DBZ as it shares many of the same sound effects and the energy blasts look fairly similar. One of the fighters even powers up before unleashing his strongest attacks in very DBZish moments.

The soundtrack is good, but I wouldn’t call it great. The tunes aren’t extremely memorable and I mostly just remember the To Be Continued music as well as the title theme. Others I would recognize if I heard them, but I probably couldn’t keep them in mind from my head. They fit in pretty well while you’re watching the show, although I wouldn’t mind if they added some fast paced rock themes. (They would just need to extend some of the fight scenes)

The dub voices definitely need to be mentioned. Most of the dubs in the 80s to 90s can sound a little interesting at times since they are so old at this point. There is typically a lot of gravel or a hoarseness in the voices as the transition wasn’t as smooth as it is now. That being said, Slayers takes it to a new level and you can argue that the voices are the worst or the most unique that you’ve heard before. There’s nothing wrong with Lina’s voice, but let’s take Gourry. He takes the oblivious strong, but not very smart guy voice to a new level. His voice is completely flat and he talks in a way that will purposely make you chuckle. Sylviel’s voice is the kind of voice that you know you would never hear in real life. She doesn’t put emotions into her words and her voice is way too light. Zelgadis talks like he’s half whispering in the first half and his voice ends up being flat as well. Amelia is the opposite as her voice is very high and it can almost sound like screeching. To an extent, I have to imagine that this was done on purpose. Maybe the voice director just thought that it sounded really cool or something. So, it depends on how you use the word “worst.” Technically, I would probably say that it is, but the voices actually help to make the show more entertaining. It fits the comedy undertones of the show so I’m actually glad that the dubbing is not more refined. If it is intentional, then I have to give the show some major props there. It’s an interesting tactic and it’s one that really works out well for the show.

There are several other side characters that I did not mention, but they are pretty unimportant. We had a fish man whose design was creepier than you could imagine. The voice made him appear to be quite the threat. Zelgadis also had two minions and one of them was pretty bold. He mentioned how humans have surpassed monsters and his speech is pretty brilliant as he attacks Shabranigdo. It’s a moment that you can probably imagine ending pretty badly for the guy, but at least he gave it his all I suppose.

Going back to the inconsistent power levels for a second, it can be a little jarring. Lina is able to go up against one of the four legendary priests in one scene and then she’s having trouble with your garden variety monsters in the next one. It appears like Lina just likes to troll her allies sometimes, but it goes a little far. We know that she’s immensely powerful and she somehow seems to know just about every spell so they may as well play it straight. There are quite a few third wall breaking moments to also make sure that the show doesn’t get too serious. It’s pretty interesting since the show is very direct on this approach. Gourry also suffers from this since he is usually an expert swordsman, as seen when he faces his rival, but he can also be pretty helpless at other times. For better or worse, it’s just the kind of show that Slayers is I guess. Every show has its weakness so having a minor one like this isn’t bad.
Overall, Slayers is a pretty fun anime. If not for the chest insults and other bits of mild fanservice, I probably wouldn’t have any issues with the show. It’s a light hearted adventure where it’s easy to get into the show after only a few episodes. It helps to remind me why I miss the 90’s and the show brings back most of the elements that you just don’t get in today’s shows. The cast is pretty likable and the villains are also pretty interesting. The second half definitely ramps up the action and we also get one or two scenes that are decently violent, but it’s a good trade off. (You still will be shocked when one of the characters dies since it just doesn’t feel like Slayers for a while there) Of course, the show can definitely work on its transition between action and comedy. The show needs to be a little more subtle about it since it can wreck the overall power levels. Slayers is a big franchise and this is just the beginning so I’m sure that it won’t be the final review that we’ll see on the blog. I recommend this show if you’re looking for a fun adventure or a nice, retro anime. You should be pretty pleased with the experience and I can see why it is so popular. Time to see if the next show can match this one!

Overall 7/10