The penultimate volume is upon us and it’s the best one in the series so far. Kev reviews the latest ADV release about a group of adventurers who find trouble wherever they go.
Louie longs for a good brawl and he’s gonna get it when the fighting tournament comes to town. Louie is usually better off when he lets his fists do all the talking but can he stand up to a host of monster sized combatants? Even still can he defeat Conrad and Leonard, who have turned up to cause him more grief? Assassination plots, wine-carrying races, magical transforming items and ghostly houses are all just a day in the life of our loveable hero.
When we left Volume 4 things had ended on a twist, setting up what should have been some kind of running storyline for the final two volumes. Well having watched this volume I’m now at the stage where I realise that Rune Soldier isn’t going anywhere, which is fine as for a series made up of simple standalone episodes it works tremendously well and maintains its fresh quality. It’s somewhat worrisome to see how the writers have decided to tackle the on/off situation that rears its head on occasion, as well as trying to delve into the Melissa/Louie relationship that is practically non-existent, but with one volume left there’s all the possibility that it could be revisited. However, despite there being absolutely nothing in the way of development here these four episodes make up one of the funniest volumes in the series – a collection of wild and wacky tales that will delight throughout.
Our new adventures begin with a fighting tournament that is about to take place in a nearby town. The prize is a crystal eagle and the girls all decide that they could use it in some way. However it’s to be Louie who must go out and fight. What’s interesting here is that the fight is purely bare knuckle, with no magic or weapons allowed. This allows Louie to do what he does best as he is practically inept with a sword, despite Genie’s best teachings; but as he proves he is quite capable of triumphing. While Louie fights on, Conrad makes another appearance in a desperate bid to win Melissa’s heart in the hopes of an eventual marriage and elsewhere we see Leonard and Melissa’s rival enter the fray. Meanwhile the comedy shifts and we follow Merrill as she gets carried away once again by money. Soon she is thrown into a seemingly inescapable situation and while Louie is winning his fights she is stuck down a well screaming until she loses her voice, which results in a continually brilliant performance from seiyuu, Tomoko Kawakami.
As we move on, the next episode brings us a familiar but wholly effective premise that sees our Louie falling victim to a mysterious magical item that Ila possesses. Thus a series of gags centred on Louie ensues, as he unwillingly changes guises resulting in all sorts of mischief. Starting off as a woman he realises that he can abuse this and sets off to the bath house, ready to get an eyeful of female bodies. His hopes are soon dashed when out of the blue he turns into a crusty old man. As Ila tries to reverse the spell she only makes matters worse and Louie goes from a baby child, to several members of the animal kingdom. It’s all very jovial and executed masterfully, showing plenty of that much loved physical comedy which although simple is nothing short of brilliant.
In the past each character has had his or her own episode, where we’ve learned about particular traits and seeing us into the third episode on this disc we once again go back to Merrill as she buys a new house, after her crappy little tent is destroyed. Being the tightwad she is with money it comes as a surprise that she’s willing to spend her savings after living the tramp life for so long. Well if there’s one thing we have learned in the past it’s that Merrill is rubbish at making decisions and proving that point once again she decides to purchase a decrepit old building, which wouldn’t be entirely bad if it didn’t sit on an old battle ground where two ghostly armies continue to fight each other. This situation is endearing for the most part as Merrill tries her best to spruce the place up; her optimism is just so lovable at this point because her best efforts usually go to waste. Of course her friends think she’s mad but if it keeps her happy they’ll go along with whatever decisions she makes.
To wrap things up, as there’s really little else to elaborate on we’re left with the Louie/Genie rivalry scenario. These two go at loggerheads from time to time and once again an event arises whereby they can challenge each other. This time it’s a wine race – an event that the whole town takes part in over a stretched course. Merrill being the quick little lady she is takes the lead but it’s not long before Conrad gets in her way and Louie and Genie take charge. From here a series of comical moments take place, which not only present Louie as a very funny sportsman but also shows signs of character progression. We can look as far back as volume one and realise his transition. His time spent with Genie has definitely been character building for him and there are clear signs of respect between the two, even if Genie doesn’t always acknowledge it in front of the others. And that’s where we begin to form an understanding as Genie is often the quieter type and maintains an image in front of Melissa and Merrill, but when left alone with Louie she can come out of her shell a little and have a decent conversation if the situation presents itself. A little camaraderie goes a long way and by now we can see how the girls have gone from hating Louie and finding him useless to actually finding him a good companion. But it’s Melissa who still has those doubts as to whether or not he can be her true hero as he constantly manages to embarrass her. Only time can tell now and that’s to be over the course of four episodes on the final upcoming volume.
Episode 17 – The Fighter Louie
When they visit a little town, Louie and friends learn of a fighting tournament that is due to take place soon. Naturally Louie is required to take part and fight for Melissa’s honour but when Conrad shows up to fight for her and Leonard returns to the stage his work is going to be cut out for him. Meanwhile Merrill stumbles across an assassination plot and when she’s caught spying she’s chased away. Escaping, she manages to fall down a shaft. How’s she going to get the message to her friends in time?
Episode 18 – Transform x 5
Louie and Ila are tidying up and organising their magic collection when Louie soon comes across a strange egg-shaped item. Curiously he begins to play with the object but it ends up cutting him and after getting a scolding from Ila he storms off. As Louie heads into town, Ila begins turning the item’s dial which soon causes Louie to transform – into a woman! At first he panics but then he realises it has its perks and so he sets off to use it as best he can. Unfortunately it’s only the beginning in a series of bizarre transformations.
Episode 19 – Oh, My Home!
When Merrill’s home is swept away in a flood she finds herself with nowhere to go. She decides to use her measly savings and buy an old, worn house and fix it up. No sooner has she settled in when a battle begins to rage downstairs. Why is there an army of ghosts fighting each other in her home? And why did she have to throw out all that junk?
Episode 20 – Sweet Wine of Victory
Louie and Genie have continued to train with each other, with Louie having shown little progress with his sword skills. When they head back to the local bar Melissa informs them of the upcoming wine-carrying race. Louie realises that this is his chance to better Genie at something and he challenges her to take part. Come race day the participants set out but soon Louie, Genie and Merrill run into Conrad who is using his horse in order to win. Soon he has to leave it alone when they approach a chasm, leaving everyone to guess who will make it through to the end.
ADV bring us another volume with a nice little reversible cover. The front sees Genie in a striking pose, along with Louie and Ila, while the reverse shows a funny super-deformed bunch, featuring “Magical Girl Louie”. We also get an insert with some nice artwork and episode guides.
The series is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio and true to form it exhibit’s a very colourful palette, which has been used superbly throughout the series. There are a lot of outdoor scenes and these colour elements are reproduced perfectly for DVD, with lush greens and strong blue skies. Black levels are solid and contrast is equally good. Detail still wavers ever so slightly during wider shots but this largely seems to come down to the animation process, when lines become thicker drawn.
For audio we have English and Japanese stereo tracks. Both of these sound clear, with dialogue being utilised effectively and sound effects and music being carried across well. The action scenes sound great and separation is clean. Addressing the vocal work again I have to stress how marvellous the Japanese casting is. There is no other way to listen to this series. The characters are portrayed splendidly, with Tomoko Kawakami and Katsuyuki Konishi walking away with some top honours. The English dub is respectable but just doesn’t capture the comedy and nuances quite so effectively.
Optional English subtitles are included. These are of the standard yellow, bold font and are well timed and easy to read.
Clean Open/Clean Close
As standard practice we have the opening and closing sequences but without the credits playing. You’ve only got one more chance to see these guys and girls with volume six coming up.
Every time I put a DVD in I always go straight to these first. Here we have trailers for Fist of the North Star, Last Exile, Chrono Crusade and Gad Guard
Rune Soldier offers up one of its best volumes yet. This is pure comedy gold that I can’t imagine being bettered in the final volume but you never can tell with this series. It’s clear that it never was meant to offer anything more than simple fun adventures and in light of this it’s a great thing indeed. This is the perfect series to watch if you’re taking a break from some of the more convoluted series out there. If you can go in with few expectations then there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with it.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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