By Justin Graham / February 27th, 2013
Legend of Lemnear is a one-shot fantasy OVA production originally released in 1987. Animated by AIC, the production is based on a manga written by Kinji Yamamoto and drawn by Satoshi Urushihara. It is also, easily and without question, one of the worst anime productions I have ever seen. This isn’t something that I say lightly. While it’s easy to become hyperbolic when making statements like this, Legend of Lemnear, at least in its anime incarnation, is an utter mess. It may be easier for fans of the manga to comprehend and enjoy, but coming in cold as I did (I’m writing this after my first viewing) left me baffled, confused, and perhaps a little insulted.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should be blunt in noting that Legend of Lemnear is for mature audiences only. The DVD I watched even went the unusual step of including a “parental discretion is advised” notice before the start of the production. Why? Well, it should become obvious in a bit.
Unlike Record of Lodoss War, which was inspired by Western high fantasy and table-top RPGs, Legend of Lemnear feels more or less like it was inspired by the artwork found in the magazine Heavy Metal. The protagonist, Lemnear, is a beautiful young woman that flies on a small, dragon-like beast, fights using a sword, and wears what amounts to little more than an armored bikini.
Honestly, I could probably call it Heavy Metal-inspired anime and leave it at that. At least, that seems to be enough for the current state of the Legend of Lemnear Wikipedia page. (For the record, I and the Wikipedia author came to the same conclusion independently.) The fact of the matter is that there simply isn’t much to the OVA at all. At a running time of forty-five minutes, it whips through the action, breezes past important plot points, and in general feels like a Cliffs Notes edition written by someone that doesn’t understand what Cliffs Notes actually are.
Here are the major points, as far as I am able to summarize. The protagonist Lemnear is the Champion of Silver. There are two other Champions, one of Bronze, and one of Gold. The villain, Varhol, has captured the Champion of Bronze, Messhu, and is now after Lemnear as well. To accomplish this, he sends out his left-hand man, Gardein (who is literally made of Varhol’s left arm). Gardein, meanwhile, contracts the help of a sultan’s slave-trading ring.
Lemnear shows up in town, looking to avenge her family’s death. She stops in at a bar, gets felt up by some slaver thugs, and then proceeds to exact revenge by giving them all a sound beating. However, it’s not long after that when she’s ultimately knocked out and captured by the slave traders.
Here’s where things really go bonkers. Lemnear awakens in a room filled with women that have all been captured with the intent to either become the sultan’s playthings or be sold into slavery. She’s informed that there’s an old man in a cave that wishes to meet her. And so Lemnear just waltzes out of the presumably locked room and encounters absolutely zero resistance as she makes her way to a cave that’s apparently just down the hall, where she encounters an old sage. Said sage then gives her a brief history on the three champions, informs her of her destiny, presents her with a magical gift, and so on. It’s after this that the guards finally locate her, but only after they forcefully interrogated one of the women that Lemnear had met in that mysteriously unlocked, unguarded cell.
And it only gets more ridiculous from there, folks. After stealing the keys to the cells (No, seriously, how did she escape in the first place?), frees the prisoners, and then stops a rape (there’s your parental discretion warning), Lemnear confronts the sultan; a corpulent perv that might be what Jabba the Hutt would look like if he weren’t a giant alien slug. Apparently not content with the bevy of mind-controlled, topless beauties with whom he’s surrounded himself, he effortlessly puts Lemnear under the same thrall by using glowing eyes on her.
It’s only about two minutes later when Gardein finally shows up to ask what in the hell Jabba Jr. is doing with Varhol’s target. Lemnear breaks free of her trance, gets it together, kills the sultan, and then flies off to Varhol’s final boss lair; a giant floating skull fortress in the sky. (Man, in what way is this not Heavy Metal?)
So Lemnear enters the fortress and is lured to the throne room, whe she finds Varhol and the bound Champion of Bronze, Messhu. Wait, you might be wondering. Who is the Champion of Gold, you ask? Why, Varhol himself, of course. Corrupt and twisted into a supervillain, he’s bent on capturing the other two champions so that no one can stand in his way. Yet, Messhu manages to get free, and the second and third-place champions take on the gold medalist in a confusingly choreographed final battle in which Varhol unleashes his ultimate form; a stone giant with an easily identifiable weak point. Using their combined powers, Lemnear and Messhu annihilate their enemy. They then escape the collapsing skull fortress-in-the-sky and join their friends on the coast.
And then the footage suddenly freezes and the music cuts out as the English credits begin to roll against total silence.
Wait, what? Uh…hmm. OK, that ending might not be the fault of the animation team. Not having seen a non-localized version, I don’t know if that’s how it was intended to end, or if that was the sloppy work of the English distributor. On the other hand, that does little to negate the utter madness of what preceded that abrupt conclusion.
Legend of Lemnear is a shoddily written production with a plot that is almost total nonsense. What little there is in the way of world-building and characterization in the opening minutes is completely sidetracked by a lack of focus, comical shortcuts, and a general sense of emptiness. It’s calorie-free anime whose only apparent quality is Urushihara’s character designs. Yet, even if I wanted to recommend anime based on the fan-service aspect alone, I could do better than to recommend this.
Seriously, go watch Heavy Metal instead.
Legend of Lemnear was released on DVD by U.S. Manga Corps, a Central Park Media Label. It is not rated, but is recommended for ages 16 and up by the publisher. It contains graphic violence, nudity, and sexual content.
AICLegend of LemnearU.S. Manga Corps