A dusty old title from deep in the "rarely borrowed" storage area at Quickflix... The first copy I got was also broken. I was very pleased they sent me another copy, but I have this terrible feeling of guilt I may have convinced them to buy a replacement copy for a title that's probably going straight back onto the back shelf.
It takes roughly 10 seconds to know exactly what sort of movie this is. A fantasy world full of tough men, vulnerable women, awesomely powerful villains and rewards beyond a mans wildest dreams. In particular we get to follow Amon as he seeks revenge against one such villain. Valhiss killed Amon's mother after all, and even though Valhiss is a huge armored figure, at the head of a powerful force of brutal warriors and has a dark citadel built on top of the back of a city-sized turtle, nothing will stop our hero from his vengeance. And along the way he'll gain some loyal allies, rescue a princess, foil the villains plot and have a final showdown in a mysterious building that contains one of the greatest treasures in the known world.... but which will then inevitably and suddenly collapse into rubble at the conclusion of the fight. I'm not exactly sure why these buildings, that have stood for thousands of years, feel the need to suddenly collapse. I think it's some sort of tradition.
Of course I actually do know why the "final resting home of the awesome treasure" always gets buried under the rubble. It's because the hero has to be kept hungry for their next adventure. They get a bit hard to motivate when they have massive wealth, beautiful princess and royal power. Whereas if it get buried under rock they can just shrug and look for the next historical marvel to collapse. Amon is definitely of this school, which explains why even when he rescues the princess, who has made it clear she loves him, he gives her back to her father and heads for the hills. Then again, given his character design (by the "incomparable" Yoshitaka Amano according to the blurb) and manner I'd say there's a 50 / 50 chance he's gay anyway.
This title is also pretty old, not just in production value, but also in content and presentation. It's the sort of straightforward, self-indulgent fantasy that was popular at that time. As expressed in movies like Conan the Barbarian and perhaps prompted by the emergence of roleplaying games. This sort of material tends to invent a central group of characters, each of whom have a specific distinctive attribute, and then invent a world for them to occupy and do great deeds. And indeed this movie has that as well. One is a rogue type, and one a huge muscular guy who likes to fight with his bare hands. It was also fairly obvious from the moment we meet them that they would be joining him but the story doesn't feel the need to invest any great effort in explaining precisely why. Nor is there really, given this is a not particularly long movie, that much time to develop them as characters. Then again Amon himself, being a strong but silent tough guy, doesn't really offer much insight or character himself.
The world itself might be interesting, it's some what hard to tell given we don't see much of it. There's enough weirdness to make us well aware it's high fantasy, such as the turtle city, a fleet of ships sailing over grasslands, flying mounts and a variety of monsters but at the end of the day it remains a backdrop. Most of the screen time is spent within rather generic city environments that lack personality or interest. Needless to say there's not much history or backstory, the things that can add depth to this sort of fantasy.
So in essence it's about as hard to get excited over watching the title as it is to find things to comment on in this review. It's not that bad, the story flows cleanly and quickly which means you don't tend to get bored. The main characters are not totally un-interesting, the villains have a degree of presence and some of the action probably looked decent when this was made. However it can easily seem more than a little corny and unsophisticated, possibly because we've seen this sort of material (and its more modern descendants) many times before. So this title will get a archaic rating from me, and can probably continue to be safely ignored by the vast majority of anime fans.
As I write this the title is nineteen years old, and unsurprisingly that's pretty evident in the production values. It was probably solid stuff in its time, and there is evidence of money in the production, but the heavy colors and linework and limited motion (especially when the scene gets even remotely complicated) are seriously dated. The visual style is as well, especially their vision of "magic" which ends up looking more like some sort of weird psychedelic drug trip than anything else (which some people might well find entertaining in itself). That's also one of the few points where the movie is not painted in dark blue and black, the movie uses night scenes a lot. Partly because Amon is a stealthy sort, but also because it reduced the amount of detail that needed to be animated. The other time color enters the scene is when there's some blood being spilt, which is reasonably frequent and which the designers quite obviously enjoy, it's relatively violent. In short perhaps it was once technically impressive, but that time has definitely passed. The voices are decent, although the script is so traditional and limited that you can mostly guess what they are going to say before they do, which reduces the interest in the drama. The music is light orchestral or instrumental material which is nothing special being limited in personality and interest.
Riding in from the wastes comes a barbarian hero on a mission, and it involves sticking a sword through an "evil overlord"(tm) and anyone else who gets in his way. It really is about that complicated, a very traditional fantasy tale with relatively limited character and dated action. It's not bad, but that's not really enough reason to want to watch it, let alone buy it.