Stephen reviews: Legend of Crystania (1995)

Legend of Crystania [はじまりの冒険者たち レジェンド・オブ・クリスタニア, Hajimari no Bōkenshatachi: Rejendo obu Kurisutania] (1995)
AKA First Adventurers: Legend of Crystania

Starring Hikaru Midorikawa, Mitsuki Yayoi, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Sakiko Tamagawa, Chinami Nishimura, Kazuki Yao, Toshihiko Seki, Fumihiko Tachiki

Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura


This film supposedly ties into an anime series called Record of Lodoss War. I saw that series once upon a time, but I honestly don’t remember much about it. I even had trouble remembering its name just now. It developed a cult following for some reason, but I never really saw why. I enjoyed it at the time, but it never struck me as particularly great, or even unique. Legend of Crystania has left much the same impression on me, and like Lodoss War, I will probably forget most of it in a month or so.

It’s actually rather hard to come up with anything to say about Crystania, because there really isn’t anything good or bad about this film. It’s positively average. It’s a typical revenge story where the main character discovers that vengeance won’t make his life better, just like every other revenge story out there. It’s also a typical fantasy adventure across a magical landscape that really isn’t all that amazing because we’ve seen it all before. And it’s the typical coming of age tale of a young nobody getting sucked into a grand adventure and becoming a stronger and more reliable somebody.

Young Redon witnesses the murder of his parents by a group of soldiers and vows revenge as he runs away with a disparate group of adventurers who also have their issues with the soldiers. They find themselves invited into the land of the gods, one of whom has promised Redon the power to get his revenge. As the group finds their way through the land of Crystania, they get caught up in local politics. You might not expect a war in the land of the gods, but that’s what’s going down, and Redon’s band of merry adventurers spend the rest of the film battling people who transform into snake-men and lion-men, and bear-men. Just about anything but werewolves, thankfully. We don’t need this to be any more generic than it already is.

That brings us to what really holds this film back. Magic is so commonplace that it doesn’t seem special when the wizard starts throwing fire at people or the obnoxious girl commands fairies to fight for her. The characters are unimpressed by any of it, and consequently neither is the audience. It is also rather odd that while all the people living in Crystania are able to shape change into some animal or another, almost none of them cast spells. Most of the wizards in the film come from the outside human realm, which only reinforces magic as common and average. This common magic is also present in the Slayers series, but while that series pokes fun at the standard genre tropes, Crystania is composed of nothing but those tropes.

The action comes at a fervent enough pace to keep everything moving, so even if nothing is particularly impressive, it still keeps the tension up enough to prevent boredom. The plot, too, chugs along without wasting any time, constantly adding new developments and advancing the characters to their goals. Unfortunately, it seems to forget the whole reason the story began, and rather than confront Redon’s original quest for vengeance, the movie simply ignores it and focuses on the troubles brewing in Crystania. Even Redon himself just stops caring about his homeland and the events that dragged him away from his home. I suppose the sequel anime series may address the issue, but it’s still rather odd.

There’s not much to recommend Legend of Crystania, but if you’re in the mood for magic and monsters, it has plenty enough to hold your attention. There are far worse ways to kill an hour and a half, but it won’t do anything beyond that.

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