I will defend the peace of Lodoss... with my life!
It first began as a series of role-playing game sessions (first-edition Dungeons & Dragons, no less), recorded and transcribed into a series of novels by Ryo Mizuno. In 1990, it became an animated 13-part OVA series, and from then on it branched into movies, manga and TV series (some of which were alternate universe versions of the OVA, but which followed the story in the original novels more closely).What is "it"? It is Record of Lodoss War, a sprawling epic which incorporates nearly every Tolkien-esque fantasy cliche in the book, but does so with style. The lovely art and character designs by Yutaka Izubuchi and Nobuteru Yuki make the OVA series a visual feast, in spite of its rather limited animation. The swelling orchestral score by Mitsuo Hagita makes it an aural feast as well.As far as plot goes, it's standard RPG fare: Kid Hero Parn and his cleric buddy Etoh find themselves Walking the Earth, investigating evil after Parn gets himself thrown out of his hometown. Joining up with them are the wizard with the cool name, Slayn Starseeker, and his friend, the dwarf Ghim, who are on a quest to locate a missing White Mage named Laylia. They are soon joined by Deedlit, a wispy Elf who is Friend to All Living Things (and who falls for Parn like a cliff-diver in concrete shoes). At some point in the adventure, our heroes come upon the last member of their main party, the grungy, trouble-prone thief Woodchuck, whom they must rescue from prison (and who from there goes on to repeatedly demonstrate just why he was thrown into prison in the first place.) Our heroes must fight battles large and small — with insane but beautiful witches, mountain-sized dragons, creepy dark elves, Bad Ass Black Knights, evil armies, and the godlike forces which threaten to tear their world apart. When one of their number is eventually captured to power the Big Bad's End of The World as We Know It Machine, our heroes must snap into action to save their friend. Ultimately, Parn discovers that, to make everything right again, he must somehow restore the Balance Between Good and Evil, but just how does one do that, while the villains are hacking away at them and the world around them is crumbling into a pile of artfully drawn boulders? You'll have to watch to find out.The production itself is played straight and with earnestness — which is probably one of its greatest strengths, since it makes the events all the more epic and edge-of-your-seat dramatic as the story nears its end. Later on, the TV series which spun off from it would insert humorous Omakes at the end of every episode, which were either enjoyable comic interludes, or which undermined the whole tone of the series, depending on how you looked at them. This series is actually more closely based on the plots of the original D&D-game-inspired novels than the beautiful OVA, and there are a number of different manga that also fill in the gaps to tell the full, true story. That said, regardless of what came after, the OVA version of the story stands out as one of the better examples of pure, Dungeons & Dragons-inspired high fantasy (if not the best animated example ever).See also Rune Soldier Louie, which is set in the same world as Lodoss, on the northern continent of Alecrast (but which is otherwise unconnected to the series).
This series provides examples of:
Action Girl: Deedlit in the TV series, Shiris, Ryna, and Leaf.
Adaptational Badass: Give Shiris some credit. She might have fallen for the Faux Action Girl role a few times in the TV series, but she had some serious balls when she held off Orson WHILE IN HIS BERSERKER RAGE BY HERSELF.
Always Chaotic Evil: The monster races and the Dark Elves — although the latter are allowed to be a bit more morally ambiguous.
Action-Hogging Opening: The opening of Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight features absolutely gorgeous animation and an award-worthy song. The show itself features far sparser action sequences, more still frames, and far more talking.
Ascended Fan Fic: Yup. Record of Lodoss War started out as nothing more than a Dungeons & Dragons fan fiction – the Dungeon Master's Broad Strokes re-write of how he wished the game had gone, complete with the female elf character (Deedlit) falling in love with the male Human Fighter (Parn). In fact, these were three different D&D campaigns (Parn's party, Orson's party, and Spark's party), with the older games' heroes appearing as GMPCs in the later two campaigns.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Lodoss' most powerful rulers have a habit of being legends in their own time. This trope is probably most literal with Kashue, who becomes King of Flaim by forcibly uniting its people.
The Atoner: Leylia is desperate to atone for the chaos that she inflicted upon Lodoss during her time under the possession of Karla, the Grey Witch.
Bad Ass: Kashue may be a very good fighter, but no other character of the setting, or few characters at all, can close to the awesomeness that is Ashram. He's a bishonenBlack Knight who wields a demon killing sword, and also does quite a lot of dragon killing on his way. When his boss gets killed, he's the first one to step up and take over. See the crowning music of awesome, for his personal character theme.
Badass Bookworm: Slayn's apprentice Cecil seems to turn into one after the Time Skip, no doubt thanks to Slayn's comment that he might have missed his true calling as a warrior.
Badass Cape: Ashram, Kashue, Parn, and Deedlit to name the big ones.
The Berserker: Orson. Literally. Holy SHIT, you don't want Orson to ever get pissed at you.
Berserk Button: That being said, DON'T hurt women in his presence. Double if it's Shiris, his partner and Morality Pet. The TV series gives us the heartbreaking reason for that particular button: he became a berserker upon witnessing his older sister's Heroic Sacrifice.
Best Her to Bed Her: Shiris, as it was deconstructed by Orson when he got his emotions back. Shiris was bested by Parn in the first episode of the TV series, and after that, Shiris was quite adamant that she was in love with him. However, Orson pointed out that she was really resentful of Parn beating her and desperately wanted to replace that resentment with another emotion, namely "love", in order to regain her lost pride. Shiris didn't take this lecture very well.
Beware the Nice Ones: Leylia, a priestess of the Marfa (the goddess of creation), is a kind-hearted girl who hates seeing people suffer more than anything. But don't over step that boundary, because she WILL send your soul to the other side if necessary.
Most of the good wizards fall under this as well. And Orson.
Breast Plate: Deedlit's armor, which did little to cover anything below her shoulders and chest. (Note, however, that she is wearing something under said armor.)
Breather Episode: Episode twenty of the TV series has a big shift in atmosphere, with the teams relaxing at a banquet and Spark and Neese's relationship being the focus. All in all, the episode has lots of laughs and is much more light-hearted. Unfortunately, the episode doesn't end on the same note.
Broad Strokes: The Series in relation to the OVA. This is mostly because the series takes the original novels and manga as canon, while the OVA tried to condense the entirety of the novels (or game recordings, rather) and manga volumes down into a 13 episode story arc. The series is much more faithful to the original stories, but requires forgetting everything that happened after the story-shifting moment midway through the OVA, as well as some points before that. It's better to just read the manga version of Parn's adventures and jump straight to the second anime if you want the whole story, but the OVA has better art and music, by most accounts, despite its highly condensed plot…
Brought Down to Normal: Groder, Ashram's new right-hand man after the time skip, lost his powers after performing magic that saved Ashram from committing suicide.
Captain Obvious: After the party has had fireballs thrown at them from unseen sources for around three minutes, Slayn shouts "Look out, that's a fire spell!"
Celibate Hero: There's no doubt that Spark and Little Neese are both attracted to each other, and they might very well think of each other as a lot more, but neither of them can do much due to certain circumstances with their quest.
Character Development: In the TV series, a lot of development happens with Orson in the first half and Spark in the second half.
Chaste Hero: Although Deedlit is attracted to Parn, he is often oblivious and/or doesn't know how to deal with it. Even so, she persists and he eventually returns them. By contrast, Etoh isn't so oblivious to Fianna's affections.
Chekhov's Gunman: In the beginning of the TV series, Spark and Little Neese are briefly introduced as children. Later, they become two of the most important people in the series. Lampshaded in one of the omake episodes.
Wagnard counts as well, as he and his plans are introduced in the first half of the series, but he doesn't become a major villain until the time skip.
Kashue to Parn in episode three: "If you hadn't stopped to think about the consequences, then you might have won."
Came in handy in episode eight, in the final showdown with the Black Knight in that story arc.
Similarly, in episode ten, Parn turns this around and becomes The Mentor to the new hero, Spark:
Spark: "Yes sir! I will never abandon my duties like I did last night!"
Parn: "Don't do that either. It's wrong to abandon yourself. Don't become a man who lives only for the duty that's given to him. You'll understand someday."
This comes into play in episode 18, when Spark has to decide whether to continue following his orders to return home if he failed, or to follow his heart and chase after the bad guys he failed to stop.
The Chessmaster: Karla, the Grey Witch, is pretty much responsible for the on-again-off-again peace and war in Lodoss for the last 500 years.
Conflicting Loyalty: Hobb has this with his duty as a priest of the Kingdom of a Flaim and his duty (which is to find true heroism, even if it's on the opposing side) to his god, Myrii, the god of war.
Crapsack World: Hey, Lodoss ain't called "The Accursed Island" for nothing. Lucky that things turned around at the finale of the TV series, or else it would have ended up like this universe.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: The religious pantheon of gods and system of clergy set up in the Lodoss world, many of whom, oddly enough, wear Christian-esque crosses.
Cute Monster Girl: Pirotess is every bit as beautiful as her Light Elf counterpart, Deedlit, while the male Dark Elves who are with her seem comparatively hideous. This race-wide ugliness apparently doesn't strike male High Elves, as one appears in a spin-off manga with a traditionally Bishōnen appearance.
Disproportionate Retribution: So, Wagnard crossed the line with the academy of magic by switching over to The Dark Arts and was therefore justifiably booted out. And this has driven his whole agenda of resurrecting the almighty evil black goddess Kardis and wanting to become the King of the Dead. Even Neese pointed out that this was a childish vendetta.
Also, when Kashue's forces fail to slay Shooting Star, the dragon says that he would kill a hundred humans for every scale that was scratched. We can't do the math for that, but damn!
Enemy Mine: It's a given that King Kashue and Lord Ashram aren't exactly buddies. But during the showdown at Fire Dragon Mountain, they each must put aside their differences and join their teams together in order to defeat Shooting Star, whom they both want dead for their own reasons.
Even Evil Has Standards: Governer Rabido is so ludicriously villainous that the high council of Marmo dispatches Ashram to express their "disappointment" in him.
Ashram also disapproves of Wagnard's resurrection scheme for different reasons. In the OVA, it is partially out of revenge for losing Pirotess and being manipulated. In the TV, he simply objects to Wagnard torturing Neese as a sacrifice (but he doesn't try to stop him there).
Evil Counterpart: Ashram is the evil counterpart to Parn, and Pirotess is the evil counterpart to Deedlit.
He especially gets Drunk on the Dark Side at the climax of the OVA when he blasts both Ashram and Parn with his scepter with lightning bolts. Even when Ashram kills him, he still gets to get in one final scene to chomp on as he screams, "All Lodoss is doomed! Hahahaha! Nothing will remain! NOTHING! Hahahahahahahaha!"
Evil Laugh: Once he becomes the main badguy, Wagnard does a lot of maniacal cackling, particularly in the latter half of the OVA.
An interesting note is that these six also end up forming the "standard fantasy party" for "basic set"Dungeons & Dragons; you have exactly one of each for the major Human classes (Fighting-Man, Magic User, Thief and Priest), plus an Elf and a Dwarf. The only thing missing is a Halfling.
I Know You Are In There Somewhere Fight: Not a fight with the person in question, but in the TV series finale Spark is struggling and fighting against dark energy that is being spewed at him by Neese, who is being possessed by the dark priestess Naneel, in order to get through to her. She is able to free herself of Naneel's grip on her soul enough to allow Spark through to her subconscious right before she is absorbed into darkness. Once there, the real battle begins.
Happens in the OVA when Ghim tries to reach Leylia, who was, at the time, Karla's most recent host. He did not come out alive, though, and then Woodchuck was possessed afterward.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Subverted with Little Neese, in that she is the reincarnation of Naneel, the evil high priestess of the even more evil goddess Kardis. However, Neese herself is a priestess to Marfa, the goddess of light, but unfortunately is a candidate for being the vessel for Naneel's soul on account of her being a virgin. During the final showdown, Neese fully accepts Naneel into her... However, the girl is that damn devoted to Marfa that Naneel AND Kardis are pretty much vanquished on contact.
Inherent in the System: During the war of the gods, Kardis lay a curse on the continent of Alecrest as she was dying. Then, in an effort to counter that curse, Marfa performed a miracle and split the continent in two, one half being saved and the other half being cursed. And of course, the heroes are landed on the cursed half. Great.
Item Get: When Parn is given a holy knight's shield by King Fahn in the sixth episode of the OVA, he holds it up and a short fanfare plays. Considering the origins of the series (being based on a game of Dungeons & Dragons played by the creators), it may even be a lampshading.
Left Hanging: The fate of Woodchuck. He comes back briefly in the TV series, but then vanishes for good with no word on what ultimately happens to him.
Woodchuck is explained in the Demon of Flame manga, or at least why he isn't explained. Immediately after then end of the first story (which is slightly different than how it's told in the OVA, and fits into the TV continuity, Parn won't stop until he finds Woodchuck and destroys Karla. But when he's in the Desert with Deedlit in the manga that bridges the gap to the TV series, he comes to the conclusion that instead of relentlessly pursuing Karla in revenge, he should try to help fix the world and thus undermine the chaos Karla has created. He still regrets not saving Wood though, as pointed out in episode 2 of the TV series. And poor Wood probably was killed when Karla got her final form for the second part of the TV series.
Woodchuck's fate is reportedly revealed in the recent Record of Lodoss War Next Generation novel series.
Long Bus Trip: After the ten year Time Skip, all characters from the first arc make more than one appearance, though they are not the central characters anymore... all except for Cecil, that is. He is shown in one episode during the second arc and is never seen again.
Luke Nounverber: Slayn's full name, revealed in the novels and manga, is Slayn Starseeker.
MacGuffin: There are sacred and ancient artifacts everywhere in Lodoss, like the Soul Crystal Ball, the Staff of Life, and the Scepter of Domination. And they all have the potential of being artifacts of doom if they fall into the wrong hands.
Maybe Ever After: The end of the TV series presents us with three pairings and none really get resolved, but they all end on a positive enough note to imply that maybe good things will happen.
Mordor: The Empire of Marmo. In a twist, it's not the evil of its rulers that blighted the land, but rather that it was always a monster-infested shithole, and the leaders of the people stuck living there had to become ruthless and pragmatic just to survive.
Noble Demon: Ashram, while being the signature Black Knight of the series and one of the key leaders of the Marmo, isn't quite evil. He only does what he does because he wants his people to have a home of their own in the TV series, he even saved a whole village condemned to death by recruiting them to the Marmo and doesn't agree with Wagnard's plan of destroying the entire world.
Oblivious to Love: Parn may be good at the whole hero thing, but he is absolutely clueless when it comes to dealing with Deedlit's affections for him (he overcomes his shyness toward the end). Spark and Neese are also somewhat awkward about their feelings for each other, but not obliviously so.
Omnicidal Maniac: Kardis, the Goddess of Destruction, no doubt. Of course, the kook of a black wizard who wants to reincarnate her also deserves mention. Parn even said that the world would be better of if Falaris, the God of Darkness, was to be resurrected. That's saying something.
One We Prepared Earlier - A formal introduction of the characters and plot is not made until the second episode. Additionally, it is unclear exactly where the first episode fits into the continuity of the series, though it has been theorized that it takes place between the events of the fifth and sixth episodes.
The Pollyanna: Little Neese all the way. She may be the vessel for an ancient evil dark priestess and is pursued by an equally evil dark wizard, and is seen as The Load by some of her companions, but nothing gets her down.
Power at a Price: Wagnard is capable of some pretty strong Black Magic, but because he had turned to practicing The Dark Arts, a Curse was laid on him by the Master Wizard (as well as all black wizards), making Wagnard experience excruciating pain whenever he performs black magic.
Power of the Void: Kardis/Naneel don't just want to destroy the world - they want to engulf it into nothingness!
Schmuck Bait / Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: In the first episode of the OVA series, none other than Deedlit falls for this in an underground passage when she spots a pretty item on a pedestal. Ghim told her not to touch it, but unfortunately she does, which causes the item to lock her in a vice and the whole surrounding area to cave into an even deeper underground area below.
She Cleans Up Nicely: Deedlit gets to wear a whitePimped-Out Dress in the OVA, during King Fahn's party. She does complain quite a bit about how tight it is, though (if only in the hopes of getting Parn to pay attention). Simiarly, Shiris gets to wear a nice red dress (befitting of her red hair and usual red outfit) in the TV series, when she dances with Parn at King Kashue's party. Both of these events of course are adaptations of the same moment in the novels and manga, which were condensed into one shorter and tighter story for the OVA.
Summon Magic: This seems to be the specialty of practitioners or shamanic magic, especially Deedlit, who often summons elemental spirits like Undine and Djinn. The TV series features a duel between Deed and the dark elf shaman Astar, who summons an earth elemental named Behemoth to battle Djinn.
Super-Deformed: The TV series featured a ending tag with the characters in SD style making jokes, sometimes vaguely related to the plot.
The dub often tried to translate these jokes and puns.
Time Skip: After episode eight of the TV series and the end of the first story arc, there is a ten year time skip in which the second major story arc begins and we are introduced to new protagonists Spark and Little Neese, and ascended antagonist Wagnard.
Took a Level in Badass: Parn spends the entire OVA as a reckless wannabe knight with no training and little skill with a sword. Sometimes he gets in a lucky hit, and sometimes he wins a fight if the plot demands it, but he's really not shown to improve very much. Suddenly, in the final episode, he's able to take on Ashram in a swordfight? Not buying it. Not to mention in the TV series, where we jump 5 years ahead of the midpoint of the OVA, and Parn is suddenly an accomplished hero. The manga helps explain the transformation.
That can be explained as Ashram being in a bad form after trashing Wagnard gave him.
Both Deedlit and Shiris take quite the levels in the TV series. Specially Deedlit, who manages to kill a dragon with a little bit of help.
Unusual Ears: Deedlit and Pirotess, whose ears are far longer than what most Western fantasy fans would attribute to elves. The character designer was supposedly inspired by the antennae on Gundam robots. It's worth mentioning that this seems to have influenced the appearance of "elf ears" in all Japanese media afterwards and even bled into Western productions like World of Warcraft.
Virgin Sacrifice: In order for the dark priestess Naneel to be reincarnated, it must be done so with the body of one who is of pure blood. The high priestess of Marfa Leyla was the first contender for this position, but after giving birth to a daughter, it was passed on to her.
Nature Abhors a Virgin: So basically, the fate of the entire world rests on whether the vessel that holds Naneel's soul has ever had sex. Wow. Try carrying that on your shoulders.
Walking the Earth: Parn's job requires him to do this. Though he is friends with many princes and kings, such as Kashue and Etoh, he is technically bound to no kingdom.
Welcome Back, Traitor: A not very big example, but in episode six of the TV series, Marr ditches Orson, Shiris, and Cecil on the pirate ship. He is soon intercepted by the rest of the team with Parn, Deedlit, and King Kashue and they all rejoin. Cecil says some words to Marr about him betraying them and Marr just says "sorry" pretty much. After that, they all team up and go along with their objective.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Karla the Grey Witch, whose atrocities were part of an effort to "balance power" in the world and keep it from being destroyed by any one faction.
What Happened to the Mouse?: When the gold (Mycen) and black (Narse) dragons fight against each other, they telepathically call out for a green (Abram) and purple (Bramd) dragon, which awaken from their slumber. After they are shown rising from their sleep, the scene changes and they get never shown or mentioned again.
Well, from the looks of it, they're probably sending power to the fighting dragons.
White And Black Morality: At the end of the day in Lodoss, the epic battle is always between the forces of good and the forces of evil. However, there are some exceptions, such as with the Karla and Ashram who are more in the grey.
Who Dares?: In episode six, the first thing that the sea dragon Abram says is ripped off from Aladdin's Cave of Wonders: "Who dares to disturb my slumber?"