This anime, a tie-in adaptation of the popular MMORPG, was perhaps my first introduction to typical by-the-numbers formulaic anime, back in 2004. Being derived from an MMORPG with a generic fantasy setting – and having little in common with the original Korean manhwa beyond the world it takes place in – it was never going to be shockingly original, but it has fun little quirks and a working plot.
Typical good-hearted swordsman Roan wants to be strong enough to protect those dear to him. He teams up with a cute acolyte, a mysterious mage, a taciturn assassin and a skilled but rather hapless huntress – as well as a funny little merchant girl with a snooty attitude and a pet poring – and they go off on a quest speckled with happiness and tragedy.
Everything about Ragnarök is safe, predictable and familiar from dozens of fantasy anime. Other MMORPG-based titles far outshine it – ½ Prince is cleverer and has far more memorable characters, and Master of Epic’s parodies are more entertaining than anything you find here. .Hack//Sign was less enjoyable to watch, perhaps, but was certainly more iconic, original and daring.
You’ll also find many of the same themes, concepts and general fantasy clichés in Gonzo’s feature-length Brave Story, but done rather better and with much more likeable and memorable characters. The studio does better there than here, I feel.
Ragnarök the Animation was safe and ordinary, with cute art and likeable character types. But ultimately, there’s just not enough to hook an audience or make it stand out. One for curious fans of the game and people who lap up anything fantasy-based.