RUIN EXPLORERS (1995)

 

Format: 4 30-minute OVA episodes

 

Rating: PG-13 (BN, AC, GV)

 

Type: Fantasy

 

American Production: ADV Films

 

Japanese Production: Bandai Visual/Movic

 

Grading

 

Premise:

B-

Story:

B

Writing:

B-

Character Design:

C+

Animation:

C

Artistic Merits:

C+

English Dub:

C

Musical Score:

B-

Opener:

C

Closer:

B-

 

 

Humor Content:

B

Action Content:

C

Drama Content:

B

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B

DVD Extras:

C-

 

 

OVERALL:

B-

 

Synopsis

      Two intrepid souls – the scarred human brunette beauty Ihrie and the humanoid half-squirrel (!) Fam – explore a fantasy realm in search of the items necessary to gain the Ultimate Power, which will allow them to fulfill their wishes. Intrepid adventurers such as themselves are colloquially referred to as “Ruin Explorers” because that constitutes a lot of their regular activity: exploring through the ruins of a collapsed world-spanning empire in search of valuables. It’s a dangerous job, but Fam is a Wiggin (a spellcaster who calls on and manipulates spirits to work magic) and Ihrie is a decent warrior who can call upon quite potent magic herself, so they are usually able to muddle through. Unfortunately for both, Fam has a rare talent for getting the two of them into trouble and Ihrie’s magic carries an odd side effect due to a curse laid upon her: whenever she casts a spell, she turns into a mouse for a time. Things become even more problematic when a rival team of Ruin Explorers – the human sorceress Rasha and the human warrior Migel – crosses their path, as do the merchant Galuff and Gil, his rascal of a dog. All six are eventually brought together on a quest by Lyle, a prince seeking to avenge the destruction of his kingdom at the hands of a madman. Association with Lyle also earns the others a very powerful enemy in the form of Rugudorull, a onetime priest who became insanely corrupted by a forbidden magic and obliterated Lyle’s kingdom (and “obliterate” isn’t too strong a word here). To defeat Rugudorull, the unlikely team must collect three items of power and use them to confront the villain at Lyle’s former castle home.

 

 

The Long View

      Ruin Explorers starts as a light-hearted, high-spirited comedic fantasy adventure but gradually transitions more and more into dramatic adventure once Lyle is introduced. By the time the dramatic events hit their peak in the fourth episode the hijinks have been set by the wayside, perhaps as an indication that the characters themselves recognize that there are no fun-and-games about the business with Lyle and Rugudorull. Oh, the story is still quite a bit of fun in the end, but its serious side is fairly compelling, too. Although he is clearly insanely evil now, Rugudorull didn’t start out that way, and his quest for the forbidden power that ultimately perverted him was borne of noble reasons. This is a man who became evil in an attempt to do good, which makes him a far more interesting villain than just some common mad wizard.

      In fact, it’s the flaws of the characters in Ruin Explorer, and their likeability despite them, which make the series worth watching. Ihrie is greedy and bent on revenge, but she does have an appreciation for what’s right and has the kind of drive and determination that you would want on your side when a job really needs to get done. Fam is frustratingly flaky and childish but also pure of heart, which becomes a key factor as the story unfolds. Migel is boastful but genuinely indomitable in a fight, while Rasha is uppity and bitchy but also quite competent at what she does and genuinely concerned about her partner’s well-being. Galuff is a cowardly, opportunistic con artist, but he is also quite resourceful. Lyle doesn’t exactly have a fault, but he’s so handsome and such a good guy that he causes a major feud between Fam and Rasha for his affections – although, interestingly, he ends up spending more time talking to Ihrie, who doesn’t actively pursue him.

      Until the story turns serious the humor level in Ruin Explorers is quite high, with various individuals falling down pits being a running gag. The action and magic are run-of-the-mill for anime, and there’s nothing much exciting about the magical system established here. The writing, though heavily ground in anime clichés, fares well overall; this is a better-written anime then it will appear to be at first. The artistry and animation, while not bad, fall well short of the top-of-the-line series. The music is okay, the opener unimaginative, and the closer respectable. And the vocal performances? The delivery is fine (if unremarkable), but I’m not so sure about a couple of the casting choices, especially Tamara Lo as Ihrie.

      Although is a bit of racy content and graphic bloodshed and two brief scenes of near-nudity, this is a relatively tame series overall. I have given it a PG-13 rating, but Ruin is at the low end of that range.

      Although not top-of-the-line anime, Ruin Explorers nonetheless is a highly-entertaining production. I recommend it for any fan of fantasy RPGs and animation.

 

DVD Extras

      The only extra, aside from company previews and a company Web site advertisement, is a Scrapbook which contains still shots from the series. The Credits pages do have an alternate angle, but these just show the credits rolling against a blank screen. I’m unclear what the point is to that! Also, there are some editing issues with the credits.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Fam

Jessica Calvello

Ihrie

Tamara Lo

Migel, Gil

Brett Weaver

Rasha

Kelly Manison

Galuff

Guil Lunde

Lyle

Jason Douglar[sp?]

Rugudorull, narrator, minor roles

Tristan MacAvery

Ghost Queen

Hanh Nguyen

Sargus

Phil Ross

Miria

Kira Vincent-Davies

 

 

 

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