Legend of the Legendary Heroes Episode 2 – Class Warfare
In my initial review of Legendary Heroes (I’m not going to type out the full name each time), I said that the show had all the right elements for a adventuring farce in the vein of Slayers, but also had hints of a much more serious background and plot that could conflict with the original comedic tone. That, as it turns out, was not completely correct. The serious, dramatic, and political elements completely displaced the comedic in this episode. If not for the fact that they shared characters, you’d be forgiven for thinking the two episodes belonged to two different shows.
If last episode was about introducing Ryner and Ferris in the middle of their quest, this episode is revealing the backstory for it all, particularly about King Sion’s early years, back when he was just an noble bastard (in the technical sense) consigned to a military academy and trying to avoid the occasional assassination. Having endured years of abuse at the hands of nobles and the sight of his peasant mother dying unaided by his father, it suffices to say that he is ready for a little revolution.
The academy itself is described as a place where the unwanted are trained to be soldiers so the nobles don’t have to fight, so while the students do learn serious attack spells in classes, their training is just to make them effective cannon fodder. Sion, however, thinks he has found an advantage in fellow student Ryner Lute, student always on the verge of flunking. Somehow, Sion has figured out that Ryner is the bearer of the Alpha Stigma, which gives him extraordinary magical abilities. Ryner just doesn’t use them.
Sion eventually resolves this issue by blackmailing Ryner with this knowledge, as it seems the bearer of the Alpha Stigma is considered to be cursed or a monster or some such thing. It’s possible that Ryner allows himself to be blackmailed because he doesn’t want to expend the effort that being a prodigy would entail. If people knew about his gift, he might actually have to live up to their expectations; for now, he’s just the slacker who only has to show up for practice and get trounced every month or so to get people to leave him alone.
I should note that Ryner is probably the reason I keep watching the show. Like Sion, he’s undergone some fairly horrific things at the hands of the noble classes, including being shunted from academy to academy with the understanding that he would either serve at the whim of the upper class or die. Unlike Sion, he seems not at all embittered by the experience, or inclined to defy the powers that be. He just wants to enjoy his life (such that it is) as much as he is able.
Of course, he has the advantage over Sion in being naturally powerful and not regularly hunted by trained murderers and noble bullies, so their differences in motivation stem from more than personality. But Ryner’s can’t-be-bothered attitude to most everything that isn’t directly trying to kill him was one of the original selling points of the show for me, so it’s nice to see it still in full force. (Well, since this is a prequel episode, it’s more like “nice to see that it was in full force” but you understand.)
Ferris also gets an introduction in this episode, although not as another abused orphan. Rather, she is a member of a noble family who serves as the elite guard for the royal line. For some reason, her older brother has taken an interest in protecting Sion (probably owning to who Sion’s father is, but neither Ferris nor Sion know for sure), so she starts to dig into whoever is behind the attacks on Sion.
Ferris is the least developed character so far. She seems motivated by dangos (Japanese dumplings) and by her older brother’s orders, but she’s still a bit of a cipher otherwise. And without having Ryner to play off of/insult/beat up, she’s just not as interesting to watch.
(Perhaps obedience to siblings runs in the family, as her younger sister seems happy to do whatever she asks, even when what Ferris asks is to help kidnap and torture noblemen for information. It’s played for laughs.)
I could go on at some length at the over-the-top villainy ascribed to the upper classes throughout the show. With the exception of Ferris and her family, nobles are uniformly depicted as selfish oppressors (and often fat, too) who use their wealth and power to lord over everyone under them. Likewise, just about everything the government does relates to using the lower classes as disposable tools for the self-adgrandizement of the powerful. Subtle political commentary this is not: The outlook this show takes on the medieval era is practically Marxist in moral simplicity.
The same applies to the war that breaks out at the end of the episode, threatening to get everyone at the academy killed. Officially, the neighboring kingdom of Estabul is invading due to food shortages caused by bad weather, but both Sion’s immediate reaction and the revelation of a corrupt noble indicate that the entire thing might be engineered for the nobles’ own purposes. Certainly, the powers that be are taking to opportunity to send Sion’s team on a suicide mission, just to get him killed off.
The good news about this is that if the humor in the first episode didn’t work for you, you don’t have to put up with it now, and probably won’t next episode either, if the foreshadowing and episode preview are any indication. On the other hand, if you liked how the first episode came together (as I did), this is a bit of a disappointment. Ryner’s still funny, but Ferris is not, and Sion was never meant to be in the first place. As long as the story centers around Sion’s road to the kingship, I’m guessing that the “anti-heroic fantasy” we saw in the first episode will take a back seat for at least a while.
And the fantasy world of Legendary Heroes just isn’t interesting enough to justify a serious plot line, at least at this point. Maybe, had the show waited for six or seven episodes smuggling in hints of a serious threat in between gags, it could have pulled off the change in tone it is trying to do now. As it stands, I’m just riding out the drama until things get silly again. And given my overall preferences in shows, that says something.
You can watch the episode here. Yes, they finally put it on Hulu.