Guin Saga is a huge (130 volumes) series of High Fantasy Light Novels written by Kaoru Kirimoto in a sword-and-sorcery world, arguably The Lord of the Rings of the Japanese fantasy genre, due to how it defined the genre.
It begins with the Twins of Parros, Rinda and Remus, being transported by a magical device from their homeland as it is being invaded by the army of Mongaul. They awake in the Roodwood, and find Guin, a Conan the Barbarian-like warrior with a leopard head, who can remember nothing but his own name. He ends up their 'knight' and agrees to help them home, with plans to also remember his forgotten past. In due time, they fight with spirits, are captured by The Black Baron, meet a cameo of future characters before jumping into the river Kes to escape a raging inferno. This ends the first book.
As the story progresses, more characters are introduced, and at times it's even difficult to remember who the designated protagonist is at any given time. Any of the story's arcs include fighting, political intrigue and lots of Character Development.
The series started in 1979 and ran all the way into the late 2000's. For the first 19 volumes, the art was done by Naoyuko Kato before the job was taken up by Final Fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano until volume 57 when he was replaced by Jun Suemi. Shinobu Tanno replaced him at volume 88.
In 2003, the first three books of the series were published in English as hardcover versions, sans any of the original art, by American publisher Vertical. Vertical later republished these books (as well as the following two) in paperback form with the original cover art and insert art in 2007. However, they had said there are no plans to release any more volumes, despite each book ending on massive cliff hangers, as the sales weren't that high, despite several positive literature reviews. The novels have also been published in German, French, Russian, Italian, Korean and Chinese.
There have been two manga adaptations, the first being The Guins Saga Manga: The Seven Magi. Self-contained, the manga requires some understanding from the books before being read and ended with 3 total volumes. The second takes the name of the book and begins with book 1, and is still running with 4 published volumes as of 2010.
An anime adaptation was broadcast by NHK between April and September 2009 with 26 total episodes that cover the first 16 volumes. Sentai Filmworks licensed the series for English distribution and released the series in two parts.
Guin Saga provides examples of:
- Action Girl: Lady Amnelis certainly fits.
- Effectively more of a deconstructed Faux Action Girl: she's devoted to being a Lady of War, but doesn't fight herself, and various signs (and comments by characters) show she doesn't have the attitude for it. Explained that she's driven more by personal reasons such as her refusal to Stay in the Kitchen than because she actually belongs on the battlefield.
- Anachronism Stew: The series seems to take place in some kind of medieval fantasy-world at first... then comes the apparent fact that the Mongauls that attack the protagonists' city in the beginning have lasers with them, and that there's a highly advanced-looking teleportation device in the tower at the center of said city.
- Anti-Hero: Aldo Naris could be viewed as this.
- Anti-Villain: The series takes time to look at all the different sides.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Black Baron.
- Anti-Climax: Guin has a habit of ending fights that have been played up as big climactic encounters with one sucker-punch to the gut; in the anime, the dramatic music is suddenly cut off to emphasize this.
- Author Existence Failure: Kaoru Kurimoto passed away on 26 May 2009 after fighting pancreatic cancer for years, while the anime was still airing. With her death, there can't be a definitive ending for Guin Saga. Though technically, the series "ended" at volume 100, with everything after that being gravy for the fans.
- Beast Man: Guin, though he's possibly more of a Half-Human Hybrid.
- BFS: Lord Marus of the Mongauls uses one of these, though it sometimes seems more like a Blade on a Stick.
- Bishōnen: Several of the main characters, most notably Aldo Naris.
- Black-and-White Morality: Rinda tends to believe in this, though the series itself tends to side with a more Grey-and-Gray Morality.
- Broken Bird: Lady Amnelis
- Cartwright Curse: Guin is mostly celibate, the reason being that his love interests don't last long.
- Chaste Hero: Guin, at least through volume 16. In the light novels it is later revealed that he was married before, and he gets married again even later. It doesn't go very well though.
- Do Not Go Gentle
- Dogged Nice Guy: Deconstructed with Astreas, who comes off as utterly creepy when he starts to view Amnelis this way.
- Doomed Hometown
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Remus and Rinda are described at times as "two pretty girls" in the novels, while Aldo Naris is successful in crossdessing.
- Easy Amnesia: Guin remembers nothing but his name, his fighting skills, and the name Aurra.
- Five-Man Band
- Four-Temperament Ensemble
- Guin (Melancholic)
- Istavan (Sanguine)
- Rinda (Choleric)
- Remus (Phlegmatic)
- Gambit Pileup
- Genius Bruiser: Guin of course. He's built like a sacrificial god of battle, yet is an eloquent speaker, knows countless languages, and is a master tactician and strategist.
- Godhood Seeker: Aldo Naris, though being a God isn't his final goal.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: Guin, though he's more than proficient with swords.
- Half-Identical Twins: Rinda and Remus
- I Fight for the Strongest Side
- Incurable Cough of Death: Lady Amnelis' father.
- Informed Ability: Lady Amnelis, in the anime at least. She's supposed to be a great general and battle-hungry warrior, but once her older, more experienced adviser is gone, her head for strategy seems to disappear and the only weapon she wields is a conducting baton; mostly her talents seem to lie less in being a military officer and more in being very, very shiny. She also seems suspiciously helpless when being threatened.
- Karma Houdini: With the author's death, a number of people who should get their comeuppance in the novels seem to have gotten off scot-free (most notably Istovan. In the novels, Flori gets a free pass on sleeping with the mistress's husband and almost running off with him. In fact, she gets to have all sorts of fun adventures with Guin and his team and it's heavily implied that her son will be a great man someday.
- Kick the Dog
- Lady of War: Lady Amnelis, General of the Mongaul White Knights.
- The Lancer: Istavan
- La Résistance
- Last Stand
- Lightning Bruiser: Guin's massive body builder musculature and strength is often uncannily contrasted with his inhuman agility and speed. The Lagon giants are also given this treatment, especially their chieftain, whose size and Strength puts the massive Guin to shame, while still being fast enough to put Guin's exceptional agility to the test.
- Loincloth: Guin wears just one throughout the first several episodes, though he eventually gets a full set of armor.
- Long-Runners: The novel series ran from 1979 to 2009, ending at 126 volumes.
- Mask Power: Istavan
- Medieval European Fantasy
- The Millstone: Remus and Rinda, though they get better.
- No Export for You: It's unlikely any more of the books will be translated in English.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Suni.
- Not So Different
- Out of Focus: Several episodes ignore Guin and company in favor of other characters
- Pimped-Out Dress
- Prequel: The Sword Of Paros. Erminia resembles Amnelis a great deal.
- Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Lady Amnelis take this to the extreme, reacting with disgust when shown the array of dresses her father wants her to wear. Her attitude is somewhat justified by the Stay in the Kitchen attitude everyone around her seems to have in regards to her desire for battle. Pretty much everybody she talks to wants her to take off her armor, put on a dress, and get married, and in some cases, they go to great length to humiliate her into submission. Apart from her occasional empty threats in resistance, it works.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized
- Rousing Speech
- Scenery Porn
- Shadowland: Nospherus.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series, on a whole, tends to end up in the middle.
- Small, Annoying Creature: Suni.
- Sword & Sorcery
- Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Istavan.
- Team Pet: Suni
- Troperrific: It inspired and set the tone for many tropes of the RPG genre in Japan as mentioned below and thus may appear like a Cliché Storm today due to being the....
- Trope Maker: Many of the tropes universal in Japanese RPG have their origin in the novel.
- Waif Prophet: Rinda.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In regards to the Sem.
- Whole Costume Reference: Guin's appearance is directly inspired from another feline-headed protagonist in Tiger Mask.
- Wutai: The Country of Khume.