Sunday, November 15, 2009

DVD Review: Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk, Part 1

Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk is awesome. That is all.

Okay, so maybe that's not the entire review, but let me just say that I was blown away by FUNimation's latest series. I totally wasn't expecting anything special from the show. I thought it was going to be a "me too" fantasy anime with generic characters and a dry personality. Man, was I wrong to have that preconception! Tower of Druaga pops in just about every way and once I started watching this boxed set I couldn't stop!

You may or may not know, but Tower of Druaga was originally a game from way back in 1984. It launched a series of RPGs in Japan, but in all honesty it never really took off here in the States. The game has been made available through the online medium on the current generation of consoles. It featured a story about a warrior named Gilgamesh who battled his way through a massive tower to defeat the evil monster, Druaga, at the top and rescue the maiden, Ki. The show, however, takes place about 80 years after the fact and is a straightforward sequel.

In the decades before the series begins, Druaga's tower has once again appeared. Treasure hungry adventurers from across the land have made their way to the tower in an effort to make a name for themselves. I mean, Gilgamesh did it by himself the first time around and he was crowned king for his efforts. This tower is even larger and more dangerous, so imagine what kind of windfall would come your way if you were just as successful! That's where Jil comes in.

Jil is a plucky protagonist with a dream to use a magical rod at the top of the tower to rid the world of evil. The only problem is that he's kind of reckless and not too skilled. In fact he's fired on his first day as a member of a party. What's worse is it was his half-brother who fired him! Jil is optimistic though and lands on his feet, soon finding another party to become a member off. Together they set out to climb the tower and fight off monsters, and that's pretty much the core story. Thankfully there's enough superfluous content to fill in the blanks.

One of the best things Tower of Druaga has going for it is the cast. Each and every character is interesting, charming, and stands out in many ways. Jil, for instance, is unabashedly optimistic most of the time. He's a good guy and has his heart in the right place, but he's also not afraid to tell it like it is. Jil has a bad habit of blurting things out that are in his head and he's really just a goofy guy with mostly good intentions (Except when a magical curse turns him into a busty girl and he has a hard time resisting the urge to play with his breasts. Who could blame him!?). Joining Jil is Kaaya, who is equally as perky and confident in their ability to make their way to the top. Kaaya is portrayed as a cutie that seems to like Jil, and she's also related to Gilgamesh somehow.Other characters such as Ahmey the lancer, Melt the lightning mage, Coopa (Melt's perky retainer), Neeba (Jil's half-brother), Fatina, Kally, and Utu all fill in the ranks appropriately and have some role to play. In addition to all of them there is also a nice selection of villains and sub-characters that fill out the ranks as well. On top of all that there are also some plot twists and seeming betrayals as well, so the dynamic of the series shifts continuously.

Aside from the quality characters, the fantasy motif, and the story itself, the thing that makes Tower of Druaga such a winner is the sense of humor and personality. I can't tell you how many times I laughed while watching the show, and the first episode alone was enough to force me to pause the DVD until my fits were over. Seriously, my sides hurt I laughed so hard! For the record, the Roper is the greatest fantasy anime monster ever. Just watch the show, you'll understand. Both the Japanese and English casts do a spectacular job with the content, though I dare say that the English dub is in a class by itself. Simply amazing job by the localization crew!

Tower of Druaga
is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show is pretty sharp and features some strong resolution. Some light grain and aliasing pops up every now and then, but otherwise FUNimation's transfer is top notch! The audio is very good as well with the English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 performing as well as you'd expect. Bonus features make their way onto this set as well and aside from trailers and clean animation you'll find an audio commentary and a Director's Cut of the first episode, which feels like an additional episode.
I cannot stress how much fun I had watching Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk. I haven't seen a show this lively in quite some time and it shows that there was some real passion put into the project on both sides of the pond. Entertaining and hilarious are the best ways to describe the show, though as the first half of the series progressed the story got meatier as well. It looks like there're some plot twists brewing and the second half should be just as enjoyable as this one. We'll see how that turns out, but for the time being consider this show one you should run out to buy.

Maki Rating:

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