Labyrinth Of Flames

April 19, 2013

Is it me or is it just coincidence that when I am surfing the internet randomly at certain occasions, a big majority of the random searching would lead me to discover a very short OVA series. This time, Labyrinth Of Flames caught my attention and despite only having 2 episodes released way back in the year 2000, it was enough for me to develop a little interest to go watch it.

This is why I wanted to try this out. From the synopsis from Animenewsnetwork, the story reads something like this: Meet Galan, a spastic geek who’d do anything to be a real, live samurai. But that’s just an impossible dream. When his Russian princess girlfriend gives him the gift of an ancient sword, strange events unfold and even stranger people drop out of the sky to attack. Now Galan must overcome his ineptitude and join a bunch of beautiful women in a wacky romp through a kingdom that time forgot. Bunch of beautiful women… Wacky romp… I somehow only saw those lines… The only words that caught my eye. Wow. Must go see… If you feel like strangling me for that ridiculous reason, wait till I finish watching the babes, oops, I mean the series first, okay?

Episode 1
Galan loves samurai movies. Probably he got too excited acting out while watching one that he crashed his head into the ceiling. Natsu Aoi has a very annoying ninja servant. Kasumi is always bugging her to do things on her behalf. So irritating to a point that she slams herself against a puddle just for her to walk over. I think she’s a masochist too… Maybe that’s why she is always seen with those hospital drips… Stay clear of this nutcase. Kasumi isn’t thrilled Natsu is going to see Galan at university. She reminds him about her arranged marriage but Natsu doesn’t intend to marry the man her father picked without her consent. Kasumi can have her future husband if she wants. I think Kasumi doesn’t think that’s a bad deal either… After Kasumi annoyingly wants to knock the door on behalf, Natsu is shocked to see the place in mess. It’s Galan and one of his samurai romps, I guess. Seeing that one of his swords is broken, Natsu hands him a short sword. Galan is impressed and promises to take good care of it. But Kasumi wants it back. The girls argue as Natsu invites Galan to come over to her house. He won’t miss this chance since she says her house is filled with all those samurai swords. Natsu leaves with passed out Kasumi and denies about the short sword being scared or has something to do with picking her husband. Well. That just says it. She reminds him to bring this sword when he comes to her house.

Next thing Galan knows, he has to parachute down from an airplane! It’s the only way to reach her house. Seriously. No turning back. Galan makes a bad landing. He just crashed. Thank God he is still alive. They bump into handsome hunk Datenoshin who is Natsu’s arranged future husband (Kasumi can’t seem to annoyingly stop fawning over him). Seems he is here to show a visitor around town. Despite dressing like a sexy cowgirl, American Carrie White is a freelance reporter planning to do a report on Natsu’s town. The gang arrives at Natsu’s little kingdom right smack in the middle of the desert. And everyone greets the princess they love. Natsu is a princess?! Natsu wants Galan and Datenoshin to spar with each other while she goes to look for her father, Shigemitsu. She finds her father in the bath and you can tell he is an idiot who dotes on his daughter because he gropes her ass as a greeting! Thankfully, she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t hesitate to beat up any kind of man who violates her modesty. Including her father. Natsu is pissed off when his girlfriends enter the bath with him, Nastassja and Erola. She knocks him out and brings him away before he can continue to fool around. Galan and Datenoshin show off their pretty cool moves. Galan gets motivation from Carrie’s cheerleading (he saw her pantsu). He is fired up to strike Datenoshin but I guess he jumped too high and got his head stuck in the ceiling. Deja vu?

When he wakes up, he finds himself by the side of Shinka, Natsu’s aunt. She sees the sword with him and is surprised to learn Natsu gave it to him. I can’t believe that jerk tried to kiss her when she puts his face close to him just to examine his face! Anyway he didn’t manage to smooch her. She wants him to take care of the sword and also to look after Natsu. Meanwhile Shigemitsu is pissed to learn Natsu won’t be marrying Datenoshin but Galan. He won’t accept that and reminds her about the sacred weapon of their family heirloom that acts as a marriage’s blessing. That’s why she stole it in the first place. Yup. It’s not in his possession. He still won’t approve this so Natsu leaves. Datenoshin feels he shouldn’t force Natsu into marrying him but Shigemitsu won’t have any of this nonsense and orders him to kill Galan. That night, Kasumi sneaks around in hoping to take erotic shots of Datenoshin with her camera. She bumps into Carrie who is equally suspicious in filming about.

Natsu drops the bombshell to Galan that she wants to marry him. This guy has no chance to free himself. Since he doesn’t hate her, then this settles it. She gives him a kiss. Can’t say no now, eh? After she leaves, Datenoshin disguised in some musketeer outfit appears before Galan and announces he will take his life. Unless he gives him the sword. Galan won’t hand this important gift over since Natsu gave it to him. Datenoshin attacks but Shinka steps in. Datenoshin wants to escape but Shinka won’t allow him. She cuts off his mask to reveal his identity. He runs away but she is hot on his tail. Kasumi and Carrie have also come into the scene and along with Galan they follow Datenoshin and Shinka. Nastassja and Erola are seen doing some ritual. By the time Galan catches up, he sees Shinka’s bloody body on the ground. Carrie notes she is still alive as the wounds aren’t deep but has passed out. Did Datenoshin do this? But the bloody scene has Kasumi shriek in horror and passed out too. Just great. To make things worse, several marionettes drop down and surround them. Make them creepy and dangerously armed marionettes.

Episode 2
Erola is controlling the marionettes with her erotic dance. I guess the only thing it ripped is Shinka’s clothes! For once Kasumi shows she’s not a useless excess baggage. Due to some super drips in her transfusion, she turns into a super fast and powerful ninja like those we expect them to be. See her kick butt! She gives enough time for Galan and Carrie to escape as Nastassja calls it a day. Next morning, Natsu punishes Shigemitsu for putting Datenoshin up to this despite him lying through his teeth that the dude acted on his own. Shinka confirms it wasn’t Datenoshin who attacked. Her assailant was swift so she couldn’t see who. She points out her punishment won’t work on Shigemitsu because he’s enjoying every one bit of it. Masochist… You think Galan is not scared seeing her true form? This is the woman he is going to marry… Meanwhile Datenoshin is hiding in Kasumi’s house. He feels guilty for raising his sword towards Shinka. Kasumi moves in on her plan to seduce him. Big serving of food. Naked apron. You get the idea. However he wants to return to the house to clear his name but Kasumi won’t allow him. Datenoshin panics upon hearing he attacked Shinka. He denies he never hurt her. Carrie reveals her true self to Natsu, Shinka and Shigemitsu. She is an Interpol agent and got a tip that the criminals she is chasing are in this town. Say, don’t they look like Nastassja and Erola? It is them!

Meanwhile Galan falls for the oldest trick in the book when he follows a trail with a bunch of samurai swords. It leads him to a road whereby Nastassja feigns she is being attacked by a gang and needs the aid of Mr Samurai. Yeah. That name sounds good. Till he sees the ‘gang’ contains marionettes. Nastassja uses this distraction to steal his short sword but since it is tightly fasten to his underwear (?!), she couldn’t get a clean getaway. After all that hyped up declaration soul of a samurai, blah, blah, blah, Galan is ready to strike but the marionette got him first. Carrie continues her explanation that the criminals have been stealing treasures in the region to be sold all over the world. Natsu doesn’t believe there is anything that valuable in their house but Shinka mentions the Tokugawa government funds. That is what Carrie suspects they are after. The official story has it that Natsu’s people emigrated from Japan at the end of the feudal era and settled here. But in actual fact, they are to deliver the government funds abroad in a secret mission. The treasures are said to be worth up to thousands of billions. At that time, half of the money was paid to the Czar for the land for the people to leave on. This leaves the other half unaccounted for. Guess where that is? Yup. Somewhere in this country. Natsu is furious daddy never told her anything. It’s a strict family secret that he has reservations about telling her. So it was okay to tell his ‘girlfriends’, Nastassja and Erola? Yeah. Sex appeal won over him anytime. Thus the little sword Natsu gave Galan is supposed to reveal the location of that treasure. Yikes! Better find him now!

Speaking of that devil, here he is fighting the villains on the rooftop. Galan’s honourable words to protect the sword amaze Natsu. He gets fired up to unleash his Gagarin-whatever 1961-whatever move. Unfortunately he misses by a mile. What more, his samurai sword broke. Ultimate depression. Not even Shinka’s slap could snap him out of it. Nastassja captures Natsu and Carrie as hostage. If he wants them back alive, he must give the short sword. I think Natsu is too devastated to even notice that. Natsu calls for Kasumi. Where is that ninja girl when you need her? Oh. She’s chasing Datenoshin. She pretends to trip so that she could sneakily knock him out with an injection. Shinka gives Galan her sword. Then she lectures-cum-motivates him about his duty to save her, the sword constitutes engagement, it symbolizes tribal pride, blah, blah, blah. Can’t understand a word she says, eh? Better give it back. YOU CAN’T! But what fires him up to do his job is that if he is successful, she will give him a samurai licence! Let’s get it over with now, baby! I guess they took too long that Nastassja and Erola are having tea on the rooftop. So are you ready to rock ‘n’ roll? Galan surprises everyone by giving the short sword to Nastassja. However that is just to let her guard down. Before she could take it, Galan snatches it back via his mouth and cuts the hostages loose. I know he only has 2 hands and can only save one of the girls. But he had to save Carrie and let Natsu crash hard… To make things worse, Carrie loves this guy and starts kissing him. Can you blame Natsu for being mad? She beats him up but it was so hard that he swallowed the short sword! Oh dear.

Nastassja will chop off his head and cut his belly in that case. The villainous ladies corner him. Nastassja activates her bird spinning kick (Chun Li?) but Galan counters that with his sword strike and lots of determination to be a true samurai.  As Erola’s flaming spin is heading his way, Natsu tosses him a mini fire extinguisher. That douses the flames and Galan finishes her off. But the ladies aren’t done yet. They summon an army of marionettes to surround the place. However one by one they get blown away by heavy artillery. It is Shigemitsu firing from a tank! In the aftermath, Carrie leaves with the apprehended criminals. Shigemitsu is sad that he would love to get intimate with those boobs… Datenoshin must be crying because he bedded Kasumi… That girl must be on top of the world… This can’t be happening. Oh yes, it is. As for Galan, he is running away as fast as he can not because he doesn’t want to marry Natsu. Rather, Natsu wants to operate his belly to retrieve the short sword! I’m not sure about the samurai licence, but I think he is more likely to get a marriage certificate ;p.

Where’s The Flame? Where’s The Labyrinth?
How misleading. No fire? No maze? I suppose the flames come in the form of Galan’s determination to be a samurai. Yeah, you can see it burning brightly so fiery in the background. I guess the maze part is how he got lost in all this deep conspiracy thingy. No physical labyrinth whatsoever. And about his marriage to Natsu, that is more of an entangled sticky web rather than a maze. He’s now like a hapless fly just moments away from being devoured by the black widow. Haha! Doesn’t it feel like that for Galan?

So for a couple of OVA episodes, I guess everything was pretty okay to me. For a short series by itself, there isn’t anything that would warrant what many anime TV series would do that would make viewers cry for the way it ended halfway and thus the possibility of a sequel. This series is wacky enough to let you in on the main plot, throws you into it and then just ends when everything is solved. Easy. Simple, right? No need for plot over plots, convoluted twist of twists and some master hidden agenda that even Sherlock Holmes would take a week to decipher and think about. No need to crack your brains over anything. You just sit in, watch the couple of episodes and probably forget them once it ends. Nothing that memorable in the long run but you’ll enjoy the randomness in the short run. The treasure part was just probably a distraction to get the series going and for the events to fall into place at least for this OVA.

After reading the summary of what this anime is about, I suppose many would have guessed that part of the reason you want to watch this is the fanservice. Yup. I think that’s your motivation like how being a real samurai is to Galan. The fanservice part is quite overwhelming in the sense that each time a female appears on screen, you can expect her to flash her undies to you. What do you expect when every one of them wears such a short skirt! It is like they are purposely trying to flash to us their panties whenever they bend down or do a high kick. However despite the abundance of panty flashing moves, the OVAs do not have any bare tits to flash to us. So do I feel a little cheated about the beautiful women and wacky romp part? It’s my fault for misinterpreting it in the first place. The art and drawing are from the early 2000’s so it is ‘like that’. I’ve seen much more ‘beautiful’ anime girls in recent animes. Whereas for the wacky romp, they didn’t say anything about a sex romp, didn’t they?

Then there is of course the comedy part. This OVA is really funny in some nonsensical ways partly because of the characters. In the first place it is because the characters are made to be funny, that’s why. You thought Shigemitsu would be the strict traditional father but nooooo. He is some kind of masochist wacko that his libido is the one influencing him to make decisions. To him, sex wins hands down, any time. Galan is pretty funny when he tries to be a samurai and fails badly (his face is funny too when he becomes a little pervy). Natsu is funny when she beats up her father. Can you blame her for his indecency? The lord of his land and he is like the lord of perversion. All that built up anger in her must go somewhere, right? Kasumi is funny because of her perversion. Okay, maybe she is creepy in that sense. As for the action part, I guess they are pretty decent. Nothing really much to shout about since it is just Galan taking on the villainous duo and their marionettes. How much can you expect with Galan swinging his sword and Nastassja and Erola don’t pull off any much variety with their moves either. There’s a wee bit of romance too. Sometimes I feel Natsu’s love for Galan may be just a way to defy her father but if it wasn’t for real, she wouldn’t have kissed him, right? Note, Kasumi’s love for nice guy Datenoshin feels like a creepy obsession. You’re dead if you have this kind of woman as your wife, which I think is happening to him.

So for Galan, his love for samurai could have been a double edged sword to him. Now that he has become Natsu’s future husband, a true samurai has to live up to his words, right? Since the series just ends that way, it is yet to be seen how he will handles it. Or maybe we won’t. It’s up to our imagination. Natsu is pretty much a mix of damsel-in-distress, princess warrior and high school girl in love. Now that she has shown her true violent colours, what are the chances this will be her permanent colour when they get married? Kasumi as said is annoying but at least she didn’t display her irritating character all the time. If only she kicked butt like that. Datenoshin’s role feels so minor that he has been reduced to a joker and somebody important after his failed attack on Galan. It is as though his role after that was just to wrap up his with Kasumi’s. Happily ever after. Not! Here’s another guy who has got a gloomy future in his hands. The short duration of the OVAs don’t do much justice to the characters and you can pretty much guess what kind of character they will turn out to be. Like Carrie isn’t just some busty blonde reporter and she too didn’t feel have much impact in the series just to provide a few fanservice. You can tell Nastassja and Erola are the baddies simply by the way they act are the angles that they are portrayed in.

Most of the seiyuus here I do not recognize (rather, I am not familiar with) with the exception of Yukari Tamura as Kasumi. She still has that cute squeaky trademark voice and is identifiable when she starts her annoying fawning. I find it rather odd that the ending theme is a Russian opera. Tenor Ivan Petrovich Larionov sings Kalinka and if I am not mistaken, I thought the feel of this opera is to motivate the Russian army. In the mean time, you might want to do the Cossack Dance when the tune starts to ramp up. And if you’re not for the song, perhaps you could stay of the fanservice-y pictures of the babes in this series in their undies and very sexy positions. And also thus, the combination of song and fanservice pictures feels like an overall mismatch.

If you are an avid antique collector, you might want to be careful and do lots of research in obtaining something that will have you end up more than you bargained for. Even if you are pretty obsessed in something, sometimes it is not good just to grab your hands just to add something to your collection. Often, the real world isn’t fantasy whereby the young unsuspecting hero gets involved in a deep local conspiracy, powers up and pursues his destiny to free/rescue/save the day. Not many people would want to marry a princess as a reward. Especially one that wouldn’t hesitate to operate and cut open your stomach if you accidentally swallow a family heirloom. Yeah. Money overcomes the power of love in this case…  Thousands of billions… I can understand and see why.