Friday, July 7, 2017
Forgotten Anime: “Luna Varga”
Original Year of Release: 1991
English Video Release: 1996, NTSC VHS, Japanese Dialogue with English subtitles
Japanese Title: Demon Warrior Luna Varga (Maju Senshi Luna Varga)
Runtime: 4 episodes x 29 mins
Note: Originally posted on the "Lost World of Anime" website in 2006. Revised version published on the "Anime Archivist" blog in December 2012.
Please don’t judge this series of reviews based on the first one. While I may have picked an arthouse title to begin with, the majority of other titles certainly won’t be. In fact nearly all of them will be OVAs from the 1980’s or 1990’s. And most of them will be B-grade trash. That’s mostly because I’m focusing on titles that never made the leap from analogue formats to digital ones. The majority of these titles have been largely forgotten by anime fans. In the mid to late 1990’s, ADV Films pretty much dominated the US anime market, and released a whole heap of now rather obscure OVA titles during that period. Certainly with a large OVA market churning out over a hundred titles per year in Japan, there were plenty of short OVA series for them to buy and exploit. Unlike most US anime distributors, a sizable proportion of their VHS titles never made to DVD. “Luna Varga” is one of them. This OVA’s story goes something like this;
Outside, the battle is raging, and the numbers are stacked against the Rimsbell troops. Suddenly in the lake beside the castle, a large column of water shoots up and proceeds to head towards the Dunbas troops. A monster emerges and begins to wipe out the invaders whom soon retreat. The princesses’ grandfather tells his granddaughters that the giant monster is called Varga, originally resurrected by their ancestor Lord Legion to fight the King of Evil many years ago. The monster was sealed away, but it seems that Luna has resurrected it. Luna awakes and surprised that indeed she did resurrect the monster, but is also merged with it. Her bottom, legs and feet are stuck inside the monster. She is Varga’s “brain” and controls its actions. Though the army seems to have been defeated, one Captain, Bat Robis, won’t give up, and is determined to slay the monster, despite being 100 times stronger and taller than him. He eventually gets up on top of Varga’s head where Luna can’t be protected by Varga. Luckily for Luna, Varga can have a sword materialise her in hands for these kinds of situations.
The Wyvern do more damage than the rest of them combined, and Luna, Bat, Mil, Rapier and Gils end up fighting off the monsters. Rapier attempts to force Gilbert to stop the spell, but he can’t remember how to do it. Luna decides that the only course of action is to transform into Varga, but Mil pleads with her not to do it. She ignores him and transforms, and easily defeats the monsters. But soon Mil’s worst fears are realised as the presence of Varga has unleashed another slumbering monster, a large sea serpent called Cross Serpent Varga who could destroy the entire town.
A lot of reviews compare this show to “Dragon Half”. The only similarities are the inclusion of a dragon (monster in “Luna Varga”), both the leads have tails (though Luna isn’t a dragon) and they’re both set in fantasy worlds. That’s it. I can’t see any similarities really. “Luna Varga” is a comedy to a degree, but it’s not a madcap, slapstick one like “Dragon Half” despite some of the bizarre concepts. The second half of the series is much more serious and darker in tone, as Luna discovers where her sister Viena is being held and the reasons why Dunbas has been so aggressive are shown to be more evil and dark than anyone had imagined. The ending of the series also could be seen as a bit of a downer, depending on how you interpret the closing credits of the final episode (this ending may have something to do with the fact the manga series it was based on still had two years to run before it finished). However it’s the humour and the characters in this series which make it worthwhile. The mountainous captain of the Dunbas army, Bat Robis, provides a lot of a humour with his never-think-things-out and never-give-up-no-matter-what attitude. The nameless Chinese chef, who always seems to be there to feed Bat, has an almost “Iron Chef” like attitude to cooking and is a brilliant supporting character. The incompetent wizard Gilbert Eizen is a blast too (no pun intended), especially in the sequence where he battles a wizard just as incompetent as him from the Dunbas army. The “beast changers” are also pretty clever, but it’s a bit of a well-worn concept. Luna’s childhood friend and servant, Loco, who changes from a human to a winged cat, is the only one that stands out amount the “beast changers”.