animefringe july 2003 / reviews

Ys: Book Two
Format: bilingual DVD, 3 eps., 75 min.
Production: Anime Works
Comments: Old-school role-playing game fun, anime style.
Animefringe Reviews:
Ys: Book Two

I can't help but enjoy Ys. It's more than ten years old, and it certainly shows its age, both in character designs and animation. Its characters don't really develop much, either, and the story and villains possess more potential than they actually live up to.

Yet, thanks to some nostalgic madness, I thought this series was a lot of fun. I've never played much of the Ys games save for a brief run through Ys III on the SNES. However, I have listened to some of the classic Falcom game music soundtracks, so perhaps that's what generated such an unusual amount of affection for this series.

In case you're worried about my judgment, my girlfriend enjoyed the series as well, and she's not quite into video game music as much as I am.

Ys is the story of Adol Christin, a young man said to be the "legendary brave soul" destined to save the land of Esteria from the resurgence of monsters in Esteria. Generations ago, the continent of Esteria was once known as Ys, and it was peacefully ruled by a group of wizards and two sorceresses. Suddenly, however, the realm was overtaken by monstrous beasts, and a golden age of prosperity was ended in bloodshed and misery. After wreaking havoc throughout Ys, the monsters eventually faded away, passing almost into legend. Yet prophecies foretold the return of the beasts, but also spoke of one who could end the nation's strife once and for all. As noted above, Adol is that one. The story for this disc begins with him searching for the Books of Ys, which will hopefully give him clues telling him how to put an end to the rising threat of the monsters.

This is essentially a fantasy story that will remind you of every RPG you've ever played, which can either be a good thing or a bad thing. As I mentioned, the characters won't really surprise you too much (even the plot twists appear in exactly the way one might predict them), but they are likable people, at least.

Exaggeration aside, the animation isn't really sub-par. It gets the job done for a video game inspired anime series, and while it may be a bit better than TV series of the time, there were OVAs being produced with more impressive visuals. The design of the actual environments may be the most admirable aspect of the show, for the backgrounds look like scenes straight out of The Lord of the Rings, and this was produced more than a decade before the epic trilogy was filmed (not counting the earlier animated version).

The voice acting for both versions is good, and while it may be a bit corny at times, it's more a result of the source material than any reflection on the actors' abilities.

For me, the best part of the series is the catchy background music, which takes me back to the days when game music was good even on an 8-bit system. As one of the first games to come out on a CD-ROM based system, the music for Ys was far better than average, and the anime series does a good job of matching the quality of the games.

If you pick up this series and decide you want more, then check out the rest of this tale in Ys II, the sequel OVA series, which is available now.

In the end, this is a fun diversion for those of you who like fantasy stories or older RPGs. It won't have the greatest storyline you've ever encountered, and the animation won't floor you, but then again, the show doesn't promise to, either. With Ys, you get exactly what you pay for, and for some of us, that's all we desire. Shows like this are a nice break from mind-bending series such as Evangelion or emotionally charged as long running romances such as Kimagure Orange Road, but it does hit the spot for my monthly fix of just plain fun fantasy adventure. Really, after reading Battle Royale, a trip to the land of Ys is exactly what I need.