In the kingdom of Ohfun, now thriving after a recent war of succession, there is plenty of room for adventurers to crawl dungeons and battle monsters. Meet one well-traveled, all-female party: Gina the powerful warrior, Merrill the cunning thief, and Melissa, the pious priestess of Mylee. Their party is almost perfect, but they lack a mage to handle their magical needs. It would seem fate has a nasty sense of humour, though; the hero ordained by Melissa’s deity to follow is, conveniently, a mage, except he turns out to be none other than the headstrong, brain-weak, and all-around beefy wizard-in-training Louie, master of the Louie Punch! Stuck with the hapless Louie as their wizard, the party sets out on an adventure. Will Louie ever become a competent wizard? Or will Melissa, Genie, and Merrill kill him first?
With the story written by Ryou Mizuno, of Record of Lodoss War fame, Rune Soldier takes a similar RPG-based fantasy world with a four-person party of adventurers on a haphazard, humorous quest. Our four heroes represent the four general party members of any adventuring group: a warrior, a healer, a thief and a mage, and each of them has their own personality quirks to keep their journey entertaining whilst poking fun at their usual stereotypes.
I remember picking up Rune Soldier many years ago whilst I was on a kind of Slayers binge. Still just discovering anime, I was just starting to identify genres that I was interested in and was busy finding a breadth of content that I could enjoy and be entertained by. I was looking for big, bold characters and slapstick comedy. And I can’t say that Rune Soldier didn’t at least deliver on this front.
This is a generic fantasy anime that we have on our hands but it never claims to be anything else. Our adventuring group travel around fighting monsters, scouring ruins for fabled treasures, spending all their hard-earned cash on drink and on occasion getting involved in political drama and life-threatening situations. All the supporting characters are generally similar to our mains with the fighting and magic skills that you would expect they would have and there’s even a bit of world-building and lore surrounding all the places that they visit. It’s good to have, but it’s far from original. Things are generally mentioned to serve the purpose of the episodical storyline and there isn’t anything extra included and most places are rather similar.
With rather uninspiring surroundings, it’s up to Louie and company to make things shine a bit more. Louie is a barbarian at heart raised as a mage. He’s a dim-witted brute with a heart of gold and fists of steel, but by profession he’s supposed to be a magic-user, resulting in a number of comic and inappropriate responses to a variety of situations. Combined with the exasperated (or outright dumbfounded) reactions of his companions (and enemies), he’s a one-shot joke that holds up very well, and he has enough of a strangely-shounen bumbling hero personality to stand as a character in his own right. His three female partners are a dutiful priestess who can’t stand the embarrassment of following the idiotic “hero” her deity assigned her to, a spunky little thief who loves gold, and a burly fighter who despairs of sometimes being the only sensible one. Between them, they get the job done and keep the storyline ticking over.
With Rune Soldier, what you see in the very first episode if what you’ll get throughout. It’s a straight-up light fantasy series and would be good for someone wanting to watch more of the fantasy genre. Plus it has the added bonus of being nearly twenty years old, so you can examine just how animation and the concept of fantasy has developed since then (it was quite interesting for me looking back at episodes on YouTube to refresh my memory, at least). It will never be remembered for being something original, but I would say it falls into a category that’s more ‘comfortable’ rather than ‘exciting’. The story is standard, the comedy is standard, and though the characters may be entertaining, if you haven’t seen something similar to them before I would be very surprised. However, it does a decent job of walking the fine line between silly and serious, never swinging so far one way that it couldn’t swing back to the other. It would be a likeable watch for someone watching a lighthearted fantasy that doesn’t challenge the old brain cells overmuch. Rather entertaining, but not much else going on here.