Humanity fucked it up again! Green Legend Ran is set in a world that suffers the aftermath of climate disaster. The earth was left dried out and toxic, rendered borderline unlivable. Just then, giant monoliths descended from outer space and embedded themselves into Earth’s crust. While the rest of Earth declined into a wasteland, only the area around these monoliths remained fit for human life.
This brings us to Ran. A rebellious youth who lives in one of these survivor communities. He frequently sneaks out to explore forbidden areas in and outside of the city walls. He is also incredibly angry. Years ago his mother was killed and he is still searching for the perpetrator. He has a lot of pent up rage and is prone to lashing out at even minor frustrations.
His life changes when his city one day becomes a battlefield. Forces from the religious sect that rules society clash with the “Hazard” rebels that live out in the wastes. Ran escapes with the rebels in the confusion and meets a beautiful girl called Aira. When she winds up kidnapped shortly after, rescuing her becomes Ran’s newest goal. Though he soon figures out that getting revenge and saving Aira may be mutually-exclusive objectives.
On its surface, Green Legend Ran feels very derivative. Its story is in many regards an angsty rethread of Future Boy Conan. Ruined earth, ships crashing into the surface from space and, in doing so, revitalizing parts of the planet. It also gleans elements from Ghibli’s early environmentalist films. Most notably Nausicaä, considering the presence of a large, unpredictable death zone separating scattered communities.
This is not necessarily bad, though. While a lot of individual elements feel familiar, Green Legend Ran tells an entertaining adventure story with them. Across 3 lengthy episodes, we see Ran journey across perilous deserts, infiltrate enemy strongholds, and fight both rebels and cultists alike. It’s an exciting film that knows how to pace itself to stay engaging. Action scenes are balanced out by moments of wonder, fun banter, or charming scenes between Ran and Aira. I was especially fond of the motley crew of scavengers that Ran joins up with at some point. They have fun personalities and bring plenty of levity to the story. While also kicking ass when it’s time for action again.
I do have to raise an objection though. Helen McCarthy in her book “500 Essential Anime Movies” recommended Green Legend Ran, adding that it’s “rewarding and entertaining for children.” I have not read her book in full, but this is not a movie and I wouldn’t let my kids watch it. People get absolutely gored throughout this film. Blasted to shit in action scenes, dismembered by traps, torture, body horror. There’s full frontal nudity and upsetting surreal imagery. Then again, Helen also worked on The Anime Encyclopedia. Chances are good that she barely read the first 2 sentences on the back of the box prior to writing her endorsement.
But is Green Legend Ran “essential” at least? While I wouldn’t urge anyone to rush out and watch it right away, it’s certainly an enjoyable OVA series. It’s well-animated and I enjoyed the story a lot. Ran can occasionally be a grating protagonist, though. He is loud, short-tempered, impatient, and prone a lot of screaming. The rest of the cast has to basically shepherd him in the right direction lest he spend the entire anime aimlessly picking fights. Episode 1 is also fairly rough. Its tone wavers around a bit, character introductions aren’t done very well, and there are flashing lights that will be problematic to people with photosensitivity issues.
A fun adventure for sure, but don’t go into it expecting Green Legend Ran to be on the same level as the classics by which it is inspired.