Upon the drafting of this article, only 5episodes of the new Orphen anime have been broadcasted. Despite this relatively small number, we feel they provide enough material to compare it to the Orphen anime from 1998. In both versions, it’s about how Orphen, a 20-year-old master sorcerer, is on a quest to save his foster sister, Azalie, who turned into a dragon. While they do share the same foundational plot, the execution between both versions differ, and that’s what we are going to share along with some other qualities.
In the first 4 episodes of the 2020 series, it focuses on Orphen’s quest to save Azalie, and how his old friends want to kill her. Much of Orphen’s past is portrayed in these episodes such as his time at the Tower of Fang, his relationship with Azalie and the other apprentices there. In both versions, his real name is Krylancelo, and his former allies from the Tower still refer to him as that. He assumes the name Orphen to cement his status as an orphan and to protest how his former friends and mentors at the Tower of Fang reacted to Azalie’s predicament by just assuming she died.
The first episode of the 2020 series immediately opens with how Azalie turns into a dragon. In the 1998 series, the first six episodes do everything they can to make Azalie (and Orphen’s past) as obscure as possible, and it doesn’t explain who she is until episode 7. By episode 4 of 2020 Orphen, Orphen and Childman (Orphen’s old mentor) somewhat manage to save Azalie but in the 1998 series, she is saved upon the ending. How Azalie is “saved” is pretty much the same in both versions, but how they present the reveal is different. In the 2020 version, it’s obscured through on-screen text as Orphen talks to its head (only for the audience to find out the truth later), while the 1998 version pretty much shows the reveal immediately.
While both versions share the exact same supporting cast and have the exact same roles, they’re introduced very differently. In the beginning of the 1998 version, Majic is already Orphen’s apprentice while in the 2020 version, he doesn’t officially become his apprentice until episode 5. As for Volkan and Dortin, their roles as comic relief are the same, but they’re also introduced under different circumstances. In the 2020 version, Volkan and Dortin are wanted by the authorities and Volkan still owes Orphen money. In order to get the money, Volkan gets Orphen to pretend to be a prospective husband for the daughter of the Everlasting family in order to get their money, which leads to Orphen finding the sword that turned Azalie into a dragon at a storage facility in their house.
In the 1998 version, Orphen already has his eyes set on the Everlasting manor (already knowing that the sword is there) and uses Volkan and Dortin to work as servants in the house in order to get it. The sword is on display above the fireplace and this also leads to Cleao’s introduction. In the 2020 version, Cleao sees right through the scam while in the 1998 series, she initially catches Orphen peeking from a faraway tree thinking he’s a Peeping Tom.
Like Sailor Moon Crystal where Kotono Mitsuishi, the voice of Sailor Moon, was the only returning seiyuu, Shoutaro Morikubo, the voice of Orphen, is also the sole returning seiyuu from the 1998 series. The performances of Volkan, Dortin, and Cleao in both versions feel the same regardless of having different actors portraying them, but we feel the most impacting change is with Majic. Since Majic was originally played by Omi Minami (most famous as Ruri from Nadesico), a female, and by Yusuke Kobayashi (most famous as Subaru from Re: Zero), a male, in the originall, audiences who watch both versions are going to feel this difference the most. Through Omi Minami’s performance, we do feel a sense of prepubescent innocence of the character, but Yusuke Kobayashi’s portrayal makes him sound more mature.
The character designs, color schemes, environments, and everything you can think of are almost the same. It’s just that the 1998 series is more in-tune with the “sharper” style of that era, while the 2020 series tends to be much smoother and rounder. However, the differences are more notable with Azalie and Childman. In the 1998 series, it appropriately portrays Childman as someone who is middle-aged as he is more wrinkly, while the 2020 series has him wrinkleless to the point that you swear he’s probably just a few years older than Orphen.
With Azalie in dragon form in the 1998 series, she is colored with a golden scheme while the 2020 series colors her with a shade of green. As a human in the flashbacks, the 1998 version does a much better job of portraying her as being a few years older than Orphen. In the flashbacks, she is much taller than Orphen and she looks more like an adult compared to the child Orphen. In the 2020 series flashbacks, they look about the same in height and, in some frames, Orphen looks taller than Azalie to the point that they’re probably a year apart in age as opposed to four or five.
Just like how Sailor Moon Crystal and 2019 Fruits Basket are intended to be a faithful adaptation of the original manga they’re based on, the 2020 Orphen series is intended to be a faithful adaptation of the original light novels. As there was a season 2 of the original 1998 series, and considering all the material that has been released these past 20 years, we’re hoping that there will be future installments based on the 2020 anime.