I've been wanting to update this review for quite a while. I donated the tape to an anime society a couple of days before I started the review page. My inability to update the review, for it is not an extremely common title, left the old review an increasingly dusty relic. But thanks to a loan from Scott, of the DVD release, I can finally bring it into the new century.
In classical high fantasy nobility, magic and destiny are always woven together, a tradition this title has no intention of challenging. The true king of the land, despite his magics, has fallen to a rebellion and the peace of the land is shattered. However the victor has perhaps been overconfident, for he has left behind a living princess of the blood and a prophecy that when the 6 stars align his reign will be brought crashing down.
Thus our heroes, led by a bishounen swordsman sworn to protect the young, potent, but heartsick princess, must strive to make the prophecy a reality. It won't be easy, for while they each possess substantial power the forces of the enemy are no less mighty. Nor have they found the sixth star, or penetrated the mighty fortress of the enemy, not to mention overcome his champions and power. The stage is set for a fantasy epic to take place as the fate of the world is decided.
Except, of course, it won't be. And the reason, indeed the central flaw in this material, is that it is only two 45 minute OAV episodes. The idea of fighting out an epic conflict in that sort of time just isn't going to work and they don't even really try. Was it a pilot that didn't take off? Or was it just a visual feast for fans of the manga? Who knows, although the fact that it doesn't actually come to a conclusion suggests the former.
In fact, given that the anime has a pretty leisurely pace, it's not even really enough time to introduce the characters properly. Clamp, the creators, have a rich shoujo style. They very much like meaningful scenes which slowly give insight into the characters. They also have, and enjoy exploring, a strong visual style. This is all very positive, in general, but it's not really an advantage when time is so pressing. As a result many of the main characters remain mysteries to us. No doubt they each have stories, and the fans of the manga know them, but the anime just doesn't have time to flesh them out.
The same is pretty much true of the story and action. It requires some massive truncation to work at all. Thus combat scenes are generally faceless and identical hordes being blown away by the heroes special attacks. After the first episode, which gives a feel for the world and is set in the icy north, they are suddenly transported to the stronghold of their enemies. And fortunately at a time where they can just walk in and say hello. Which is strange because the enemy knows they are there, knows the prophecy, but seems awfully relaxed about the whole thing.
The final disadvantage is that the "prophecy" angle pretty much ensures that the show follows a pre-defined path. You never really feel any of them are going to lose. They seem to know this too, because they don't bother to plan or use tactics, and just rely on things working out. Even in the heart of the enemy stronghold, under the watchful eyes of his generals, they're still calling each other by name and wandering off to chat to friends and relations. This really steals a great deal of dramatic energy from the show.
So when I first watched this material, when I'd basically only seen some Ghibli, Evangelion and Akira I was pretty negative towards it. What it has in character it loses in energy, and there's just not enough time for it to achieve depth. My feelings really haven't changed this time around, although I find CLAMPS visual style and shoujo pace much easier to enjoy. It's watchable, but you know it is not really going anywhere and taking its own good time to do even that.
The cover art is very attractive as are the character designs. Fairly typical CLAMP of course, narrow people with lively hair and expressive eyes. They are garbed with the trappings of high fantasy, strange exotic weapons and magic, although shoes and sensible clothing don't seem to be an issue or an interest. Many of these choices are not explained, why one woman seems to have a combat swan, why another has a ridiculously excessive sword. No doubt saved for future episodes that never came. The animation isn't really good enough to support the artwork though, color is a bit muddy and the detailed character designs have to have their motion simplified to be viable, but it is watchable. The music is fitting, light classical as is the tradition for high fantasy, and the voices are skilled and match the character well.
A rather traditional high fantasy story presented in a rather straight forward (for CLAMP) fashion. It would live or die on the development of the characters and the epic events that occur as the story progresses. However with only two OAV episodes there is barely time to meet the characters before the show is over (without a conclusion). It is watchable, but unimpressive largely due to the the lack of time to actually develop any depth.