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Back in the very early 90s anime was still slowly finding its way onto American shores and into pop culture. This period in time felt like kind of a dry spell with little to take interest with and some could argue a lack of quality. All forms of media go through that transitional period from the Golden Age into the current one and to be honest many series and OVA from this timeframe probably slipped through the cracks with today's otaku. Sure we had Tenchi, Lodoss War, and Nadia but it seems that for every great show, there were two that got swept under the carpet. One such example comes in the form of Ellcia; a dusty OVA from ADV's catalog that has finally arrived on DVD.
A blend of genres and animation styles, Ellcia comes across as a One Piece/Lodoss War hybrid. It's not surprising that the comparison to the latter springs to mind because this particular OVA came out shortly after Lodoss. With many inspirations drawn from other shows and some boorishly standard plot devices, Ellcia has a hard time finding a voice of its own. It stands on the shoulders of series that came before it though at times it feels like it actually could walk on its own two feet.
With a drab fantasy setting and talk about the "Chosen One" Ellcia doesn't do a lot to separate itself from the rest of the fantasy genre. The characters all play roles orthodox stereotypes and when you get right down to it the bulk of them are one-dimensional. By today's anime standards the design behind every aspect of this anime may seem archaic but you have to take into consideration the age of the material before fully judging its quality. If you accept it for what it is and don't look for anything too deep you'll most likely walk away feeling satisfied.
In a distant world on a continent called Hulk a nation called Megaronia has unearthed technology from beneath the ground. With these new found mechanics they become the dominant force among the other countries since they now have the power to build flying ships and such. Everyone else on this planet is restricted to using swords and nautical boats so you can just imagine the distinct advantage having the ability to fly and drop bombs would give a nation.
In this troubled land is a prophecy found on some sacred text of God. It states that the original ship which wrought Hulk will come back in a time of need and basically defeat Megaronia. The ship is to be piloted by the Chosen One and right from the start we have all these woefully generic plot devices shoved down our throats.
Ellcia is packed with such a smattering of ideals that it often becomes difficult to follow who's who and exactly what's going on at times. Megaronia is locked with political infighting, the king's daughter is out to rule the world and find this ship for her own benefit, Ellura is a captive prince who has a role in everything and Eira is a Pippy Longstocking-like pirate who sails the ocean blue with some riffraff. Each of these characters plays their part down to the letter and very rarely do they rise above the confines of their stereotype.
The story just gets more convoluted as it goes on but it never becomes too difficult to follow. The problem with Ellcia isn't the lack of character development and it isn't the uninteresting story; it's the way everything comes together. So much was crammed into these four episodes that it feels like the plot is rushing along to meet a certain deadline. The story isn't given time to flourish and because of that the entire show suffers. With proper spacing this OVA could have been a successful 13 episode series but as it stands that is not the case.
With a production date well over a decade old it's no surprise that there are some gripes with the transfer here. As is the case with most anime from this time period there is a fair amount of grain, some dirt in the picture, and washed out colors. In a sense the look of the show has aged beyond its prime but comparatively it doesn't look that offensive. For its time the animation is surprisingly lively with many fluid motions though that doesn't say much for the design which is entirely generic.
With 2.0 stereo mixes featuring English, Japanese and Spanish, Ellcia sounds competent but not impressive. The soundstage is relatively basic with little separation and little cause to celebrate. In many circumstances the audio here sounds mono in nature though there are some times when the action kicks in that it elevates. As far as dubbing tracks are concerned the Japanese language far outperformed the English dub but that may have just been my personal preference. English subtitles are included as well.
Some previews and a limited production portfolio are all you're going to find on this release. Sure it's disappointing but with an OVA that never hit the big time and is over a decade old it's not surprising.
Ellcia is a great example of time period anime. If you want to see a show that was iconic of early 90's anime then you'll definitely want to check this out. Beyond the value of nostalgia though, there isn't a lot worth taking this trip for. The story is woefully generic and convoluted plus the characters are commonplace and one-dimensional. It feels as though it was heavily inspired by Record of Lodoss War and not by its own merit.