AKA: The Green Legend
Year Released: 1992-1993
Distributor: Sentai Filmworks
Running Time: OVA, 3 episodes, 45-51 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-MA VS
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Dune, Now and Then Here and There, Mad Max, Elysium, Akira, Avatar, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Future Boy Conan, Megazone 23, Toward the Terra
-The Japanese language track was used for this review.
-This review mainly involves the Sentai Filmworks re-release of Green Legend Ran, but I’ve also seen the original Pioneer DVD release years ago. At least the Sentai Filmworks version has a DVD menu in it instead of the original. No, I’m not making this up.
-The rebel group against the Rodoists will be addressed as “Hazzard” per DVD subtitles.
-Green Legend Ran was one of Pioneer Animation’s (the company that would eventually be Geneon USA) first DVDs and it’s one of the first anime series to be released on DVD in North America.
-Composer Yoichiro Yoshikawa is an Olivier Award-winning musician who has also scored the anime Kyo Kara Maoh.
-Ran is played by Hidehiro Kikuchi who is most famous for being the voice of Hiroto Honda/Tristan Taylor from Yu-Gi-Oh!.
-Director Satoshi Saga has also directed Armitage III: Polymatrix and the Hunter X Hunter OVA (the first sequel of the original TV series which concludes the Phantom Troupe/Genei Ryodan arc).
Here’s another retro anime that I recently rediscovered. While I’m not knee deep into anime as much as I used to be, I do enjoy finding some hidden works every time and again. This one involves the works of AIC which you might know for the Tenchi Muyo series, Burn Up, or Bubblegum Crisis to name a few. When I found out that Sentai Filmworks re-licensed an obscure OVA (I thought Discotek would’ve beat them to it) I remember watching over a decade ago as I discovered some unknown anime series, I thought it would be fair to watch this 90s work.
Is this anime still legendary? Let’s find out.
Green Legend Ran takes place in the very distant future as mankind was on the brink of annihilation from the invading Rodo alien forces. They attacked with their monoliths landing on the planet while hoarding the flora, fauna, and the greatest commodity of all…water. Their presence caused the entire earth to transform this once green and blue planet into a rusty red color during their reign even before the otherwise polluted condition of this firmament. Two major factions spring up, the Rodoists who act as a theocratic dictatorship across the whole planet while there’s a rebel group called the Hazzard who want mankind to have the decency to get water and food much like the Rodo forces. There’s one rambunctious boy named Ran who wants to join the Hazzard to get revenge on a mysterious man with a prominent wound on his chest who gunned down his mother in front of him during his childhood. He eventually gets caught in the fray especially after he meets a silver haired girl named Aira who has strange visions and knows about secret spaces that are filled with water in this desert planet. Both of them join the Hazzard, but things aren’t what they seem as both the Rodoists and the Hazzard want Aira for their own selfish reasons and Ran has to make a decision to either kill his mom’s murderer or to save his silver-locked friend/potential love interest.
It has been a long time since I first watched this anime, but this was a good refresher. Ran could be a loudmouthed character who happens to look like mix between a race-bent Rule 63 version of the title character from Nadia: Secret of Blue Water or a teenage version of Saburi from Patapata Hikousen no Bouken, but he was likable enough to root for him. He has his moments where he acts like a typical shonen hero, but he’s shown to be effective while also balanced out with a decent sense of humor. It was also interesting with how he deals with his goals of vengeance versus rescuing as he’s conflicted with those feelings. Yes, I know there’s an obvious joke one can make with a parent of his getting killed by a scarred villain, but at least the cycle of vengeance is brought up and this anime came out two years before some other movie. Aira could’ve been some damsel in distress who happens to be a catalyst, but she certainly goes beyond those expectations. She’s able to psychologically torture her captors despite her otherwise cheery and mild-mannered personality, so she can hold her own whenever she has to. Jeke, a character who shows up in the second episode was a nice addition to the cast. He is a dirty old man, but he cares about his crew and was willing to take Ran in to help him out in saving Aira. Jeke even calls out Ran for his desire for vengeance while making some very defensible points as to why he shouldn’t kill his mother’s murderer. I also liked how both the Hazzard isn’t perfect as their leader did horrible things in the past and present which shows the organization is no better than the Rodoists they fight. Even some of the Rodoists such as the archbishop has sympathetic qualities or the boy that’s captured by the Hazzard who’s tortured to death show it’s not all black and white.
Even though there are obvious environmental themes, Green Legend Ran really isn’t that preachy on that subject at all. Keep in mind, this came out in the 90s which was the decade of media with pro-environment messages (see: Captain Planet, Fern Gully, Once Upon a Forest, etc.), so that’s saying something. Yes, the concept of mankind polluting the earth is brought up, but it’s really more in passing than in your face. What subverts it is the true intentions of the Holy Mother who’s connected to the Rodoists who reveals (spoilers minimized) her intention of making the earth filled with forests and water again at the expense of humanity’s existence which was the most villainous conclusion of a pro-environmental message out there that barely any movie or series dared to cover, so the viewer can really see both sides of the environmental argument. It’s also good to see the heroes wanting a proper balance of having a sustainable earth again, but without sacrificing human lives to achieve it. A little side note about the aesthetics, I think Green Legend Ran might be a prototype for AIC’s later series Now and Then Here and There (I recommend that series, by the way) which also deals with a post-apocalyptic world where water is a rare commodity all with the backdrop of a war and with some harsh imagery going on, but the plotting is certainly different. Besides that, I do applaud how the environmental issues were handled in this anime.
Not everything is green on this side when it comes to Green Legend Ran. For starters, the animation is quite dated. In the Sentai Filmworks DVD, the masters were straight from the original Pioneer release and it wasn’t remastered or improved, so there are situations where the coloration got warped in multiple places. Also, the production values do decrease in the last episode which was a shame. One aspect that I thought was funny that really shouldn’t was Aira’s grass dress outfit when she sees the Rodoist bishops. I’m sorry, it looked like she was cosplaying as Tinkerbell (the Disney version) and she wears it for the latter half of the final episode. There was the plot point about Ran’s dad being missing or possibly dead which wasn’t as clever as the creators thought it was. As soon as one female character borrows Ran’s necklace that originally belonged to his deceased mom and when one male character saw it, I knew exactly where they were going with this which proved the dad was still alive despite Ran being oblivious as to who it was. I also wished he would’ve put the two and two together which probably would’ve made him a stronger protagonist out of it even though I can see why the director did what he did in not having Ran know who it was for all this time.
Green Legend Ran was a fun watch and a decent entry into some early 90s OVAs. The story was basic, but there were some nice complex things and the main heroes were certainly likable. This could’ve been some super preachy anime about the environment, but the writing on that matter was far more nuanced and subtle which is a rarity when it comes to media tackling similar subjects especially the ones made in the same decade as this OVA. The animation was quite dated and the fact that there was no attempt to remaster things was just disappointing. The positives do outweigh the negatives for Green Legend Ran, and I thought it was a good entry into finding some older anime.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like dystopian anime.
Add 1-2 points if you like stories with environmental messages.
Subtract 2-3 points if you’re not a fan of watching older anime.
-Good main characters
-Complex and deconstructive aspects of the environmental narratives
-Very dated animation with no remastering done
-Obvious and un-clever revelation of Ran’s missing dad
-Subtitles having more profanity than what was said
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Warning: I read one review that said Green Legend Ran is entertaining for children. I’m sorry, but the 16+ rating on the original DVD and the TV-MA rating on Sentai’s release was there for a reason. This anime gets bloody and people die in violent and gruesome ways like getting shot up, stabbed, tortured to death, or the case of plants sprouting inside humans and Rodo which causes their bodies to explode on impact as trees burst out of them. There are instances of topless women like the Rodoist servants and Jeke accidentally walking in on his female subordinate changing clothes. The scene with Aira surrounded by Rodoist priests gets very unnerving as they want her hair and possibly something more which makes the conversations disturbing. The Holy Mother has genocidal ambitions to kill humanity for daring to pollute earth to begin with. The Sentai subtitles have strong language including one case of Ran saying the F-word when fighting Kiba. Yeah, those would be perfect for kids to watch…NOT!
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Green Legend Ran is property of Satoshi Saga, AIC, and Sentai Filmworks. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of Sentai Filmworks.