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Three thousand years in the past, there was a war in the heavenly realm. Betrayed by their allies, the Go clan are banished from heaven and forced to wander Earth as mortals for 117 generations, until the dragons contained within them burst forth once more to begin the battle anew.
Fast forward to the present, where the four Ryudo brothers live in Tokyo but have recently been the subject of several kidnapping attempts. While the brothers are plagued by kidnappers and dreams of dragons, they have to cope with a takeover bid at the family college and dynastic machinations as a mobster tries to marry his son to Ma-tsuri. As if a surname that is Chinese for "Dragon Pavilion" is not enough of a hint, the brothers are the earthly incarnations of the four Dragon Kings of legend, and the powers of their former lives still dwell within them, bestowing superhuman strength and speed. These powers are desired by the "Old Man of Kamakura," who lures them to a firing range by kidnapping their cousin Matsuri. The Old Man is not the only one who wishes to possess the magical powers of the Ryudos-the mad Dr. Tomosawa, famed for live vivisections, and the U.S. military are both keen to kidnap the brothers themselves. The doctor sends cybernetic soldiers in to obtain the brothers, but, as with all the previous assailants, his minions are seen off by the brothers' powers of transformation. One Ryudo, however, is caged and taken to Yokota Air Force Base (see Blood). The others must rescue him before the cruel experiments awaken the dragon within him and turn him into a monster of awesome destructive capabilities. You can guess the rest.
Dense without being engaging, LotFK is based on a series of novels by Legend of Galactic Heroes-creator Yoshiki Tanaka, but it has none of the virtues of its more illustrious counterpart. A failed attempt to recreate the monthly "video comic" feel of the U.K. distributor's previous Guyver, the dub is particularly poor, with the "Weirdo" brothers speaking a mixture of English and American, and for all their supposed genius, not being able to pronounce each other's names properly. The plot development is confused by the intercutting of disparate scenes from the eight-volume series of novels, patched together with unhelpful voice-overs. The animation itself is often mediocre, barely above the level of later Crying Freeman episodes, but the design has a certain special something. From the opening credits that depict the brothers in Chinese dress through to the uncommonly "Asian" features of the characters, LotFK is steeped in oriental myth and culture, shamefully occluded by the English-language dubbers, who do not bother to rewrite the Japanese pronunciations of Chinese proper nouns and bungle a whole succession of historical and geographical references. These, however, are minor issues unlikely to rescue an already doomed production. The U.S. subtitled version demonstrates all too clearly that the dub is a surprisingly faithful rendition of the original's tepid tone, with the exception of the story's single funny line ("Don't step in the custard"), which was not present in the Japanese version. Dubbed at the height of Manga Entertainment's beer-and-curry era, LotFK even managed to disappoint the lowest-common denominator audience with its failed leap of faith toward hidden depths-the same company would return many years later with a much better version of similar material: its adaptation of CLAMP's X: The Movie.
In addition to the Four Kings novels, the brothers also appear in the Japanese audio drama Mirage City (1995), released on CD with an accompanying manga drawn by CLAMP, who also contributed to the earlier anime adaptation of Tanaka's Heroic Legend of Arslan. V