AKA: Princess Rouge, Princess Rouge: Legend of the Last Labyrinth
Year Released: 1997
Distributor: Unlicensed (DVD formally released by Anime Works)
Running Time: OVA, 2 Episodes, 25 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Ah! My Goddess, Fushigi Yugi, Rune Soldier, Tenchi Muyo, Magic Knight Rayearth, Shamanic Princess
-I watched the Japanese language track for this review.
-Two animation studios did production for this OVA. Episode 1 was handled by J.C. Staff while Episode 2 was animated by Front Line.
-The planning was handled by the Japan Narration and Acting School. Could this anime have been a school project that just happened to work with a major studio?
OVA series can be easy to review in a way. Several of them are short in terms of episode count, and some of them are shorter to watch than a full-length movie.
I had first heard of Legend of the Lost Labyrinth after seeing an insert in the Shinesman DVD that I bought that mentioned other DVDs that were sold at the time including Rurouni Kenshin back when Media Blasters/Anime Works licensed it. With little to no knowledge, I watched both episodes of this obscure fantasy series.
Legend of the Last Labyrinth is about an orphaned high school student Yusuke Mizuki who’s running late for school which he does a lot. Before he knows what’s going on, a girl literally falls from the sky right on top of him and he saves her life. She’s an amnesiac princess named Rouge who has no idea how she got there or why she’s in Japan. Yusuke promises to find clues to find out where she came from. As soon as I saw Rouge fall from the sky, I shook my head because it was another example of the “dream girl from another dimension” trope that would eventually become a cliche in harem anime series in the 00s. The fact that this is a 90s anime does soften the blow, but it is such a played-out trope. To be fair, at least Rouge isn’t stupid despite being naive. She’s sweet enough of a character to root for her, but nothing too crazy. I also appreciate how Yusuke, despite being bland actually isn’t some useless everyman as seen in romance anime. Sure, he is late for school a lot, but he legitimately cares about Rouge and wants what’s best for her.
The animation is basic 90s OVA fare. Nothing that impressive, but certainly not horrible. However, the fact that Legend of the Lost Labyrinth was made by two animation studios and with two different directors shows. The art was inconsistent especially with Rouge. The biggest change was how her hair gets several shades lighter in the 2nd episode. Yusuke does look like a generic character, but he does get more detail in the 2nd episode. Side note: Am I the only person who thinks that Kazuki from Comic Party looks like Yusuke? The fight scenes from both episodes are decent enough even though it resorts to 90s cliches of transformation sequences a la Sailor Moon or Magic Knight Rayearth and the typical “calling your attack” tropes whenever certain characters use their special attacks.
The music is nothing to write home about. It fits the mood of whatever scene is there, but it is obviously dated and one background track sounded ripped from the 80s which would even be dated by 1997’s standards. The ending theme was very middle-of-the-road. In addition to the ending theme song, I found it lazy how the animators recap the footage while adding a sepia tone filter. It’s a shame because I know J. C. Staff has done better with anime series such as Revolutionary Girl Utena, Azumanga Daioh, and ROD: The TV.
The overall story is quite unoriginal, but it had a surprising amount of potential. I did like the Yusuke/Rouge chemistry and development as it felt believable despite Rouge coming from another dimension. There was an interesting plot twist involving Rouge’s homeworld and what is revealed as part of her backstory as she slowly gets some memories back. The biggest flaw with the plot is that it’s incomplete. Once you watch the 2nd episode, you know that the story could have gone a few more episodes. Some of the flashbacks get really rushed such as the fight between one of the villains Regulus (which sounds like Legolas if you hear that name spoken with a Japanese accent) fighting one of Rouge’s sisters Kaige (it has a soft g sound). You find out their history in seconds, but it could have been expanded instead of being rushed. The plot had so much more, but the rest of the story will never be known.
Legend of the Last Labyrinth was unoriginal, but it wasn’t a completely horrible watch. The technical aspects like the animation and art were alright despite being mixed. There are some likable characters despite having cliches burdened with them. Alas, this is just another short OVA series that ended too soon and was hampered with some overused tropes even if some of them weren’t as abused as some other series would do so years later. All in all, it was an average way to spend an hour.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like fantasies with romantic overtones
Subtract 2 points if you must have closure with your anime
-Good relationship dynamic between Yusuke and Rouge
-Surprising elements about Rouge’s backstory
-Painfully incomplete plot
-Anime cliches abound
Final Score: 4/10 Points
Content Warning: It’s fine for people 13 and up to watch this. There’s some language thrown in, some very brief fan service with Rouge after she’s saved, and the fights do have some blood in them, but DBZ and Naruto are more violent than that. Not to mention Vega and Kaige’s outfits are quite skimpy, so that could be awkward for some viewers.
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