Original Run: January 7, 2020 - March 31, 2020 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Based on the Series Created By: Yoshinobu Akita and Yuuya Kusaka
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Sorcerous Stabber Orphen. Reader discretion is advised.***
Five years ago, there was an accident at the famed Fang Tower. There, young sorcerer Krylancelo (voiced by Shoutarou Morikubo) witnesses his best friend be transformed into a horrifying monster. While his fellow magic-users attempt to kill the creature, Krylancelo stops them. Since then, the once-promising sorcerer goes on a journey to find his friend.
Today Krylancelo has taken the name Orphen, and he hears word that the monster his friend became has been sighted. Orphen rushes to intercept before other sorcerers come in for the kill.
Although Orphen left his former comrades, his potential as a powerful magic-wielder has made him somewhat of a legend. Despite his abilities, Orphen must hurry if he wishes to save his friend.
2020’s Sorcerous Stabber Orphen was released to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the series’s original light novels. This show is also the second anime production of its source material, the first being 1998’s Orphen and its sequel Orphen 2: Revenge.
This most recent installment is my only exposure to this franchise, but having now seen it and considering the information stated, I can only infer one thing. The original light novels must have, at least, a decent following. Otherwise, why would any studio think it necessary to celebrate such a notable anniversary? Stemming from that, it isn’t inconceivable to think that the first anime run may have some bearing on this series’s legacy. Perhaps, one day, I will confirm that idea for myself. In the meantime, I have to think there must be something to the name Sorcerous Stabber Orphen.
Whatever that something may be, I feel confident with this next bet. We will not be celebrating the 2020 version in twenty-five years. This Sorcerous Stabber Orphen was not very good.
But, having now written that out, “not very good” is not very fair. It would be better to describe this series as wasted potential. (Now that I think about it, that might actually sound worse.) This show had a commendable fantasy setting. There was magic, there was high-adventure, and there was plenty of mysticism to go around. Sorcerous Stabber Orphen had a well-defined world.
The best showing of this was with the depiction of the different religious factions. Without going into too much detail, the two biggest sides were the Sorcerers and the Church. Our main hero party existed within the Sorcerers’ sphere of influence, and here was where magic and magic-users were a way of life. The Church, on the other hand, felt that magic was stolen from the Gods, and anyone who practiced it was disturbing the natural balance.
It was a simple distinction, but a clear and definitive one. These opposing views allowed conflict within Sorcerous Stabber Orphen’s world to feel more concrete, and the show didn’t need to rely on long drawn out explanations of why some people didn’t get along. One of the great opportunities this series wasted was how straightforward problems were. The more significant obstacles in this show never needed overly-complicated reasons for existing. Some people wanted power, others had conflicting goals, and it was all easy to follow.
Also, it was interesting to have sorcerers who were masters of hand-to-hand combat. In most any other fantasy narrative, a magic-user can dish out a ton of damage but is as fragile as glass when taking a punch. It was neat to see a show where that convention wasn’t applied. Plus, when someone got hit in Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, they got hit. This series had some pretty cool fistfights.
Unfortunately, what good does it do to have a well-crafted world when the people who live inside it are paper-thin cutouts of forgettable nonsense?
It is incredible how much a good story with strong characters can distract a person from a bunch of otherwise very silly details. However, when it’s only the ridiculous that remains, it can make any show quite awkward to sit through. In the case of Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, it was a bit strange to see a wizard clad in biker-gang gear and blue jeans recite the same sort of magical spells someone going through a chuunibyou (Middle School Syndrome) phase might come up with.
This scenario becomes even dumber when said magic-user freely admits that saying such an incantation isn’t necessary and that any sound would work. The clash of stereotypical epic or – for the lack of a better phrase – badass tropes did not do this series any favors.
Also, one of Sorcerous Stabber Orphen‘s antagonist’s entire hold on power rested on him carrying a gun. Not a big-as-all-hell cannon, mind you; a crude, simplistic six-shooter revolver that broke after three shots. I don’t know what annoyed me more: The fact this guy thought he could scare any halfway decent sorcerer with his little peashooter, OR THAT IT ACTUALLY WORKED. Just f@#$ing jinx his ass, why is this so hard?
That said, Sorcerous Stabber Orphen suffered an irritating problem. Characters, particularly main protagonist Orphen, were only as strong as the story needed them to be.
There was an instance where Orphen fought this insanely formidable assassin. An assassin, by the way, that successfully took out several of the top Sorcerers. In their first encounter, the assassin made Orphen look like an incompetent fool. In about an episode’s worth of time, without any extra training or enhancements, Orphen faced the assassin again, and easily kicked his teeth in. Now repeat this same set up with absolutely every single person Orphen faced in this series.
And so that we are clear: Orphen was billed as the successor to the most powerful Sorcerer in the world. Where did that leave everyone else? No one in this show was worth remembering. They were merely around to do random background stuff.
It also didn’t help that most of this story’s character-building moments were told in flashback. Whole episodes were dedicated to people’s backstories, and they did nothing except break up the already slow and paint-by-numbers pace of this narrative. There was no excitement in this show.
Calling back to what I said at the beginning of this review, the original Sorcerous Stabber Orphen light novels must have something to them. Otherwise, why would it be worth releasing this lazy attempt to tap into people’s feelings of nostalgia?
This series had a fourteenth unaired episode. It wasn’t a one-off OVA; it was a continuation of the main story, and it suggested the possibility of a season two. To me, whenever any show does this, it is nothing more than a garbage move. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it – this extra add-on didn’t fix the underlying problems.
We had a narrative that was generic as can be with instantly forgettable characters. Although the world this show created had a lot of potential, none of it was tapped into anything special.
Was this really the best way to celebrate twenty-five years?
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen can be skipped.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Sorcerous Stabber Orphen? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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