The Comics Get Serious logo

Record of Lodoss War: The Lady of Pharis. Written by Ryo Mizuno. Translated by Laura Jackson and Yoko Kobayashi. Illustrated by Akihiro Yamada. New York: CPM Manga, 1999-2000. 200p. $15.95. ISBN 1-56219-926-9.


Adults, teens; violence, nudity, some gore

NOTE: According to the book, this story is original, not adapted from any of the Lodoss War anime.

The first few pages of this work concern the mythology behind the island of Lodoss and a chronology of the decline of magic and the rise of "the strength of the sword." The story then starts in a small town, where the Duke of Skard stands over a blood offering to the gods of evil, exhorting them to show up and give him power. A beautiful naked woman appears. While the Duke tells her what he wants, a sword bursts out of her body. From the blood that drips out, ravening monsters grow. The luckless Duke is promptly beheaded, and the monsters rampage across the countryside.

After a while, a young woman shows up to fight the monsters. She is Flaus, leader of the warrior priests of Pharis (one of the good gods). While battling, she is aided by two male mercenaries: Beld, a warrior, and Wort, the sorcerer. They makes short work of the creatures. Flaus asks the two to pledge their loyalty to her, for she wants their help in battling more of the monsters. They return to Flaus's monastery, where she reports on the state of the countryside, and they are joined by Fahn, leader of the holy knights of Valis. Fahn tells them how a doppleganger of himself stole the sacred weapons of Valis, and the little party determines to go retrieve the precious items.

The party travels to the city of Alan so Wort can borrow a scrying crystal from his old school. While they're there, a badly wounded dwarf staggers into Alan and collapses. In the Marfa Monastery, the priestess Neese hears of the dwarf, pegs him as King Flaibe of the dwarves, and sets off for Alan to meet him, accompanied by a mysterious woman in armor [who apparently does not enter the city with Neese, because she vanishes from the story for a while, to reappear at the castle to help out in the fighting]. As the good guys crowd around his bed, Flaibe describes how all his subjects were wiped out by monsters. Through magic, Wort figures out where the sacred items are (the Duke of Skard's castle), and, rejecting Flaibe's help because he's still wounded (and being nursed by Neese), the party sets off to storm the castle. After much mayhem, they kill everything there (except the beautiful naked woman, who is apparently elsewhere), retrieve the sacred weapons, and arrive battered but intact in a nearby village, where they are nursed and healed. However, the problem is by no means solved. While the villagers celebrate the destruction of the castle, their festivities are interrupted by a wounded elf, who describes how the beautiful naked woman, riding a winged horror, destroyed the golden trees of the Forest of Mirrors and killed most of the other elves. That gives the party something new to do.

The book ends with more than three full pages of text from Yamada about his background in fantasy (especially rock music fantasy), interest in European-style quest stories, and work on this book.

Did you read what I wrote about Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch? Well, all the bad stuff I wrote about that book is applicable here, and none of the good stuff. This is an annoying, simple-minded epic fantasy quest with as much depth as a wading pool. It's the kind of quest story you'd play in a video game: bare minimum of character development, lots of hack-and-slash, and stupid, stupid monsters. More than once a monster just stands there and stares at one of the good guys. The many characters and unannounced cross-cutting between story threads don't help. One can't care about any of these people, none of whom are more than two-dimensional. This may be a convention in heroic fantasy, but that doesn't make it good.

Just as Ochi's art buoyed the story in Grey Witch, so here does Yamada's drag it down. Oh, it's beautiful in spots, but it's so fuzzy and cluttered in many panels that I can't even determine what's intended to be depicted. This is a problem in "quiet" panels, so you can imagine what the battle scenes look like (or don't look like). In some places this might have been a printing problem rather than an artistic one, but in others the fault was clearly Yamada's--poor choice of images to depict and just plain indecipherable art, the fault of way too many fine lines via superfine pen and not enough contrast between things like a creature's outline and the lines within its body. In his afterword, Yamada himself mentions that "As the story progressed, I needed to fit more information into each frame. Once I started, I kept putting more and more in until I felt like I was strangling myself." Strangling the reader, too. I'm more than a little startled by the glowing quote from Manga Mania on the back of the book ("Lady of Pharis is a joy to behold....")

Another clear artistic problem is the really bad use of sound effects. The volume button on this book is seemingly set on 11; sound words fly at you all over the place, and even tiny sounds are "loud," like the KLOP KLOP of a horse's hooves, the SSSSPURT of blood from a monster's head, or (my favorite) the TMP TMP TMP TMP of a woman racing away from a monster (at least I think that's what's supposed to be happening--this is one of those ambiguous panels). Like Dark Angel, the sound effects often slash across the action, which is obviously not helpful when trying to interpret what's happening. And why the heck use a giant "LEAP!" or "SHOVE!" rather than actually showing someone leaping or shoving?

Another artistic problem is the mostly static facial expressions on and body language of the characters. One thing I found very attractive in Grey Witch was Ochi's ability to portray all kinds of emotions. By contrast, Yamada seems to be doing poster versions of each character, posing them and making them singularly lifeless. Beld almost never varies from the slight smirk he wears throughout the book (likely because he's going to end up as a major evil figure--George W. Bush, take note); the women are all big-eyed and serious; Fahn is always noble.

Does Mizuno really consider this story to be superior to that of Grey Witch? I certainly hope not. Though this book contains events that took place before those of Grey Witch, the other is definitely the preferable purchase/read and will be enjoyed by readers who have no acquaintance with the anime (like me). This one is only for Lodoss War fans.

Buy it directly from CPM Manga!

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


Return to The Comics Get Serious main page

Return to Rational Magic Current Issue

Return to Rational Magic Home

Rational Magic logo