The classic Japanese franchise Record of Lodoss War deserves a revival, especially with fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons stories thriving.
Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, is thriving thanks to the success of the animated version of Matt Mercer’s campaign Vox Machina, its presence in the super popular Stranger Things and an upcoming live-action film. With this blossoming popularity, older D&D-inspired media should resurface and find new audiences. D&D is a tabletop role-playing game created in the 1970s that has had an enormous impact on fantasy media across the globe. Now is the time to rediscover Japan’s most famous D&D campaign, Ryo Mizuno’s Record of Lodoss War.
Record of Lodoss War was one of the purest manifestations of high fantasy to come out of Japan in the 1980s and 1990s. The core cast is a balanced adventuring party out of a classic D&D campaign. Leading the party is a human knight joined by a sorcerer, a cleric, a high elf, a dwarven warrior and a thief. Parn, the protagonist, is an idiot hero who runs with reckless abandon into conflicts and needs to be saved by his savvier party members. Those party members, the antagonists and the worldbuilding add that timeless fantasy aspect to the story.
The plights of Parn’s party members carry the emotional weight for much of the story. Ghim, the dwarven warrior and Slayn, the human sorcerer share a quest to rescue Leylia, the reincarnation of the High Priestess of the God of Destruction. With that title, Leylia doesn’t sound like someone worth saving, but she is in control of her consciousness, and the aspects of the High Priestess only come out when her kidnapper, a centuries-old magician named Karla, possesses her.
Karla is one of the adversaries who provides a refreshing perspective in the story. Series creator Mizuno highlights Karla, Ashram and Pirotess as beings with strong convictions in their goals that give them a vital element of likability. These three add depth to the antagonistic aspects of Lodoss War. The rest of the party’s opposition consists of the evil wizard Wagnard and the forces of nature that are the dragons and sinister creatures.
Gods, dragons and powerful magic add depth and excitement to the world of Lodoss War. Mizuno sets the stage for the classic quest to slay an enormous dragon and channels the absolute core of D&D and classic fictional literature, like the Epic of Gilgamesh or Beowulf. To cover all the bases, Lodoss War also contains some solid dungeon crawling coupled with solid humor. Unfortunately, this humor comes at the expense of Parn continuously getting in over his head, setting off traps or running directly into protection spells.
The world of Lodoss War is ripe to be revisited, either to enjoy this classic show or to remake it with the intent of going all-in on the scale and potential of a true high fantasy story. Establishing a narrative that would allow for more breathing room regarding character development would further strengthen the antagonistic forces while adding more emotional weight to the protagonists’ tragic journeys. It might even be worth reworking many core characters and story threads to create an anime epic to try and compete with Wheel of Time and A Dance With Dragons.
Revisiting Lodoss War, specifically the OVA, provides a satisfying escape with Madhouse’s fantastic animation, a gorgeous soundtrack and an immersive world. However, this franchise also has a lot more potential than meets the eye. The franchise established its ability to become a multimedia beast decades ago through novels, games and anime. Still, only bits and pieces of this media received the proper attention and funding to produce quality works — so there’s no better time than now to breathe new life into the world of Record of Lodoss War when fantasy, D&D and anime are all seeing prominent popularity once again.
Nathaniel is an anime features writer for CBR. He has been immersed in nerdy fandom for decades, beginning his anime journey with Voltron and Samurai Pizza Cats. When not watching all genres of anime, he enjoys reading fiction novels, playing peaceful games like Stardew Valley, or cooking.