Anime Review: Sorcerous Stabber Orphen – Final 2 Seasons

The last two cours of Sorcerous Stabber Orphen went back-to-back, feeding directly into the other, at a total of 24 episodes (which was the same length as the previous seasons of the show) but with two different subtitles – Chaos in Urbanrama and Doom of Dragon’s Sanctuary. The two series are somewhat mixed in quality, but they go one into the other to such a degree that it’s hard to talk about them in isolation.

So, Chaos in Urbanrama brings the journey of Orphen, Majic, and Claiomh (with the obnoxious dwarves of Dortin and Volkan generally in the vicinity), to the city of Urbanrama (after a few stops on the way, including a hot springs episode that isn’t a hot springs episode). This leads Orphen to run into some other plots that were set in motion by his deceased mentor, Childman, and several of his classmates – combined by some other plots that have been set up by some other varieties of Dragons, and possibly also the Kimluck Church. The second and final part, Doom of Dragon’s Sanctuary – takes us back to the forest of the Deep Dragons all the way back in season 1, with a slew of magical plans coming to a head related to whether or not the Gods can be kept from returning, and in the process wiping out humanity.

From right Majic and Claiomh from the final season of Orphen, wearing khaki tactical vests.

The core problem with all of this is that there’s a whole boatload of exposition and magical stuff that hasn’t been particularly elaborated on or explained particularly well in the last few series, that when this series drops 4 new factions on us and several new forms of “Dragons” – none of which act like dragons – it’s really hard to keep track of stuff. This all felt like something that would have been explained fairly well in the novels had I read that far, but in this context it instead commits the cardinal sin of throwing a whole bunch of nouns at you, not explaining what they are, and worse – reusing nouns that you should be familiar with but meaning something else and without any clear connection between our world’s use of the word, and Orphen’s world’s use.

To put this in something of perspective, I’ve been reading Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series. In the first book, it’s slowly hinted that the tower of the Guild of Torturers that the book’s narrator is raised in, and where he ultimately undergoes his apprenticeship, is a rocketship. It’s never explicitly called a rocketship – it’s called a tower. However, the way things are described around it, and how parts of it are described conveys to the reader – as they pay attention – that this is a rocket ship, it’s just that the narrator doesn’t know what a rocket ship is or they don’t think to describe it as such.

This isn’t an instance of “calling a rabbit a smeep” (using a made-up-word for a real-world thing), or doing another thing that Wolfe does – using an archaic term to describe something, which maybe doesn’t completely fit, but implies something of its true nature. This is just calling a person, who is only encountered as a person, who has no particular breath weapon of any kind, has neither scales nor feathers nor fur, doesn’t fly, and indeed doesn’t demonstrate any of the traits associated with a dragon from any other culture on earth, and calls them a dragon. And then also calling a giant dog (with basically no similarities to the other thing you called a “dragon”) a dragon.

And then, on top of the rest of this mess of nouns not meaning the things they normally mean in our world, nor having a meaning that resembles what they mean in our world closely enough to give the reader or viewer some common ground between the two, we then get a whole bunch of conspiracies and factions who previously hadn’t been introduced over the past few seasons. We know a little of the Kimluck Church from season 3, but also the church’s leadership appears to have been decimated in that season, and when their plans come up in these two arcs, we get no information on what they’ve been up to in the meantime. We know even less about the Tower of Fangs, and this is aggravated by introducing a big conspiracy that had been set in motion by Childman before the series started, that a whole bunch of people we’d met before knew about (including Orphen and the rest of the Childman Class – including Azalie), but nobody mentioned before this. It’s tremendously frustrating. It’s possible this is covered in the novels, but none of this useful information is explained here.

In short, this is a tremendously unsatisfying conclusion – and it is very much meant to be a conclusion – to the Orphen stories. The first half of this is somewhat messy, but there’s enough there that’s interesting that kept me going, just in terms of some of the specific character relationships. It’s when they decided to esclate to a save the world story that everything fell apart. If you feel that the ending is paramount, give this a miss. If you think the journey matters more than the destination, or you feel okay stopping the series partway through without covering that arrival, you may get some enjoyment out of the overall Orphen series – just skip Doom of Dragon’s Sanctuary.

These two seasons (along with the rest of the show) is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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