Review by: Eduardo Zacarias
Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $89.98 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Sometimes it’s the most unlikeliest of heroes that make the biggest difference.
I have to admit that fantasy isn’t my favorite genre and despite the fact that it is a classic epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy never really caught my attention enough to want to sit through the six or so hour trilogy. However, I made an exception when it came to the Complete Collection of Guin Saga … an anime saga that has everything you can as for in an epic including a warrior with the body of a human and the head of a leopard. As it turns out, this 26-episode saga’s Blu-ray release is the definitive collector’s item for fantasy fans or anyone who likes their anime complex yet thrilling.
Taking place in Middle Country, the story finds the peaceful kingdom of Parros suddenly attacked by the Mongauli army that storms the royal palace and slaughters the King and Queen but, thanks to the royal steward, he manages to sneak their children – the twins Remus and Rinda – into a chamber that teleports them away from danger. Now, hunted by the Mongaul out of fear that they would one day reclaim Parros, the twins find themselves in danger.
Thankfully, a savior arrives in time to save them from soldiers that catch up to them. He is Guin, a formidable warrior with incredible strength and a muscular frame. However, Guin is something of a mystery because not only does he amnesia but he also has the head of a leopard so now he doesn’t even know if he’s a cursed human or perhaps he’s some kind of hybrid creature. Whatever the case might be, Guin decides to help the twins and decides to protect them. He comes to realize that Rinda is not only a girl with a rare gift but she is also far braver and stronger than her weak brother, Remus, who is the next in line to take the throne of Parros as its king.
Captured by the enemy as they try to look for safety, they meet a fellow prisoner named Istavan of Valachia, a good-looking rogue who has gained fame as the Crimson Mercenary. Istavan decides to tag along when they all escape and this is mainly due to the fact that the mercenary finds Rinda attractive. Along for the ride is a monkey-like Sem named Suni who leads them to the land of her people that welcome the strangers. However, when the Mongauli army – led by the daughter of the Archduke Vlad named Princess Amnelis – Guin sees no other choice but to lead the Sem into battle. He also sees that the Sem’s aren’t enough so he sets off to find the indigenous Lagon people to unite both the Sem and the Lagon to fight for their land.
While the series allows us to see how Guin and his friends struggle to come together to face the same foe as one army, we also learn about Princess Amnelis. Despite being beautiful, she is determined to make her mark as a capable military leader. Her decisions are questionable but that doesn’t stop a young soldier named Astrias to follow his beloved Shining Lady in order to rise in rank and one day catch her eye. It is also through Amnelis that we see the defeat of her troops as the Sem and Lagon help wipe out the main forces and even kill those near to her.
With a major victory won, the Sem and the Lagon want Guin to be the king of their desert land and likes the idea but he made a promise to Remus and Rinda who have decided to try to reclaim the land they had lost to the Mongaul. After all, if they could defeat an entire battalion they could get their people and their allies together to destroy Mongaul for good. Once again, they are joined by Istavan and Suni as they begin their difficult journey back to their familiar surroundings.
Meanwhile, the series shifts back to Amnelis who returns to her father defeated and surprised to find herself in an arranged marriage to Duke Aldo-Norisse who – aside from the twins – is the last of the remaining members of Parros’ royal family who managed to sneak into the Mongaul-occupied Parros. Thus begins Norisse’s intricate plot to overthrow the enemy by using Amnelis as well as a wandering minstrel named Malius who befriends Amnelis’ little brother, Mial.
As Norisse’s plan begins to unravel, tragedy begins to befall the Mongauli royals and there’s even an assassination that suddenly has the citizens of Parros and its neighbors raise arms against the enemy. Meanwhile, Guin leads the twins back home as Remus (who was once a scared child) finally takes charge as a leader. This all leads to an epic final battle as Mongaul goes up against a mob of citizens loyal to the Parros’ royal family.
As you can see, Guin Saga is quite a story with multiple layers as it follows the twins and what they go through as exiles (all of which includes romance and a boy finally facing his demons. Then there’s Guin’s story, which the series doesn’t fully resolve or even explain what he really is in the end. Then there’s Amnelis and Norisse’s story that involves backstabbing, murder and cross-dressing. Add Astrias’ quest to “save” Amnelis as well as Malius’ tragedy that is linked to his true identity and the story just gets even more complex and very fascinating at the same time.
On top of that, the series looks like it was really meant to be released on Blu-ray in the first place so expect an impressive-looking collection.
The Complete Collection of Guin Saga is a deliciously intricate, brilliant and completely absorbing anime fantasy series that definitely deserves to be on Blu-ray. There’s a lot to the story than that of the twins and who isn’t intrigued by a hero with a leopard head but thanks to the solid writing, great performances and stunning animation you will discover that there is a lot to like about this series even if you’re not a fan of the genre. This is a definite Must Have collection.
BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN
When the peaceful kingdom of Parros is viciously attacked by the militant Mongaul nation that wants to rule over Middle Country, the last surviving members of the royal family – the twins Remus and Rinda – escape their fate. However, they aided by a warrior named Guin who happens to have a leopard head. Together they set out to not only survive but to face their destinies as the twins must return to reclaim their homeland and Guin must discover his true identity.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
This series was definitely made for the Blu-ray format since the animation is stunningly gorgeous and the backdrop is true to the fantasy genre. Even the character design is excellent and the action scenes flow decently enough.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting in the series is topnotch whatever language option you favor and, while the original Japanese cast is stellar, I found myself enjoying the English dub performances that include David Matranga, Emily Neves, Blake Shepard and David Wald just to name a few that offer some great performances. The score by Nobuo Uematsu does a stellar job making this sound like an epic and the closing theme song, “Saga – This Is My Road” by Kanon is a rare gem.
There are a number of great extras that go beyond a few Sentai Filmworks trailers or the clean opening and closing theme songs because you will also find the original Japanese trailers for the series including an extended version and a trailer for the North American release. There’s an interview with the original creator, Kaoru Kurimoto, who talks about scenes directly from her light novel series and talks about her story being translated into an anime. This is definitely worth watching and more so if you’re interested in the background that makes up this impressive story.
Then there’s “The Men Who Searched for Their Own Star,” which are simply interviews with the talented Japanese male cast like Kenyuu Horiuchi (who voiced Guin), Shintaro Asanuma (Istavan), Tsubasa Yonga (Remus) and Yuya Uchida (Norisse). There there’s “Another Guin Saga,” which is an interview with Kiyoshi Imoaka who edited the novel series. Finally, there’s the Japanese Premiere Even featurette that covers the February 18, 2009 premiere at the United Cinema Toyosu where the cast, crew and Kaoru Kurimoto showed up.
Guin Saga truly is one of those epic anime fantasy sagas that is unforgettable and genuinely captivating to the point that you will find yourself appreciating its fantastic storyline. This epic tells three different stories – one of the twins, that of the mighty Guin and the third part covers a complex plot to overthrow a tyrannical kingdom that occupied a once-peaceful land. In other words, there’s a lot to take in but you will definitely not be disappointed.
Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks