animefringe june 2003 / reviews

Ronin Warriors Vol.10: The Fate of Evil
Format: bilingual DVD, 3 eps., 75 min.
Production: Bandai / Hajime Yatate
Comments: The end of a long running series finally arrives on DVD, and looking back, watching this show was a worthy endeavor.
Animefringe Reviews:
Ronin Warriors Vol.10: The Fate of Evil

Ronin Warriors (or Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers in Japan) was an engaging series that ran longer than most. Aimed primarily at younger boys, this is a textbook case of a standard shonen action series. Yet, I'm not trying to suggest that Ronin Warriors isn't worth the time it takes to watch it. It is an older show, so the production quality isn't nearly as snappy as recently produced anime series such as RahXehpon. It also has some relatively stereotypical plot elements - a group of young men are chosen to wield a great power against an evil threat, learning about themselves and the world around them, as they combat evil. How many times has that been done, anyway? Yet, there is more to this show than a mere marketing machine aimed at selling toys - though I'm sure that took place to some degree of success. What kept me interested in this series even after 39 episodes was the character development.

It's hard to summarize the story so far after 36 episodes have already gone by and only three are left. In a nutshell, Arago, the Dark Lord of the Underworld, wants the realm of the living for his own. To accomplish his malicious dream, he must merge the living world with that of the dead, which would spell certain doom for every creature on the planet.

The Samurai Troopers (or Ronin Warriors) possess the only key to stopping Arago's plan: they wear legendary elemental armor, the only objects strong enough to stand against the Dark Lord's might. As they work to fend off his various attacks, they must face terrible enemies along the way, but they aren't without allies, either. In the end, they discover that the key to winning is working with others, and their characters develop as the story moves along. There are other factors that will help them put an end to Arago's ambition besides teamwork, and perhaps the concept of sacrifice is the most emotional, but the struggle they must overcome is honestly an engrossing one, and by the time viewers arrive at the last three episodes, the Troopers' success is not guaranteed.

The disc is dual-sided, so to watch the show in Japanese, turn it over to the Samurai Troopers side. For English, flip it to the Ronin Warriors side. I'm not sure what benefit this bestows upon the disc, but I do somewhat miss the ability to simply change the language track on the fly. The Japanese cast takes their roles a bit more seriously than the English one. I can't help but think of the voice acting for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I watch the English side of this DVD.

This is an older show than most of the hot releases that we've been subjected to lately, and it really shows its age. While fight choreography is impressive, there's a good deal of stock footage in each episode. The character designs are solid and the armor is detailed and distinct, but don't expect any CG explosions in the backgrounds or anything. Truth be told, it was somewhat refreshing to see traditional animation once again after watching Noir, Cowboy Bebop, and Jo-Jo's Bizarre Adventure.

Extras are pretty much nil for this release, and no, I still don't consider the uncut original language version to be a "bonus." The box kind of suggests otherwise, however. If anything, getting the show in English is a bonus. It was in Japanese to begin with. That's like taking a hard drive out of a computer and giving it to you separately, as an extra. I'm not complaining about what they've given us, but I am a little confused by the presentation. The most only true bonus worth mentioning is the reversible cover, so that those of you who don't want anything to do with Ronin Warriors can flip the art to show the Samurai Troopers title instead. If you never insert the disc on the Ronin Warriors side, then you won't even know an English language version existed.

In the end, this is a series that has some merit if you can see beyond the aged animation, slightly corny acting, and stereotypical characters. Despite what you may expect from a glance at the series, the story is actually complex and the characters evolve drastically over the course of events. I admit that this isn't a series that I would have picked up on a whim, but now that I've watched it, I'm glad for the experience. I suppose I'll be showing my appreciation of the show when I go out and get the follow-up OVAs the next time I see them.