Sunday, January 17, 2010

DVD Review: Tears to Tiara Collection 1

Tears to Tiara isn't the most unique show in the world. Like so many other shows this one evolved from a PC ero-game, which happened to have caught on enough to warrant an animated version. We've seen it several times before and I'm sure anime publishers aren't going to stop looking to PC games for releases any time soon. Generally speaking that's a fine thing, but I must admit that not every endeavor of this sort is met with success. Quality is often hit or miss. Thankfully, in the case of Tears to Tiara, the good certainly outweighs the bad.

For all intents and purposes Tears to Tiara is a very straightforward, and one might argue generic, entry in the fantasy genre. All the staples are here from an ancient land with rich history that involves elves, dwarves, and what have you to magic users, sword wielders, and an ancient demon returning to the world. Many of the trappings will be instantly familiar to anyone that has watched anything such as Record of Lodoss War, Utawarerumono, or even Tower of Druaga. Granted Tears to Tiara marches to the beat of a different drummer, but many of the staples are there.

The show takes place at an undisclosed point in time on a world that has seen many changes and ages. This place has gone through the age of elves, dragons, dwarves, and names of some various metals, but for the purposes of this series we find ourselves in the Iron Age, or the Age of Humans as it were. Not much is revealed about the history of what's going on here, and in all fairness there's not much in the way of revelation about where the series is going by the end of this thirteen episode installment. It's a rather cryptic show with a lot of "legend says" and mythology that is just kind of dropped out of the blue. It's not such a bad thing, but more references in these episodes would definitely have gone a long way to fleshing out the world.

Basically the story in Tears to Tiara focuses on events that surround a village of a people known as the Gael. The chieftain's daughter, Riannon, happens to have a drop of elven blood in her so she's regarded as a person of significance when it comes to ritual sacrifices in the name of divinity. At least that's what a traveling priest and his sizeable forces would have you believe. He arrives in the Gael village to pillage and burn it down, but his ultimate goal is to get his hands on Riannon. She's to be used in a ritual to revive the Demon King, Arawn, and bring about the destruction of the world. Charming, huh?

While Riannon is in the priest's custody her brother, Arthur, assembles the troops and charges off to rescue her. He arrives a tad late and finds that the ritual is already underway, but before Riannon can be sacrificed a series of events is set into motion that proves to be rather unexpected. Arawn does indeed come back in mortal form, but rather than serve the priest and launch his destruction campaign he winds up saving Riannon from danger. This prompts Riannon to claim Arawn as her husband, thus making him the Gael's new chieftain. Naturally this doesn't sit well with Arthur, but he's not quite a match for Arawn. Just imagine the good times that would come from being lead by the king of all demons.

Throughout this volume Tears to Tiara explores each of its main character's backgrounds and relationships. What it basically boils down to Arawn doesn't seem like that bad of a guy and he keeps alluding to humans gave him a title, so that is what he must be. He's undoubtedly the center of attention for the show and a running gag is the collection of wives he amasses from the moment he appears in the world. Riannon is almost too goodie goodie for her own good(ie), Arthur is gungho and comes off as one-dimensional at times, and Morgan is the spunky eye-candy who is rather boyish thanks to many of her mannerisms. There is also a great deal of enemies as well and a few characters stand out such as Gaius and the rest of the Divine Empire's henchmen.

Tears to Tiara is presented on DVD witha 1.78:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. The show looks very good with some fine quality all around, sharpness, and bright colors. There is some grain to contend with, but it's never to the point it's very distracting. The audio presentation for Tears to Tiara doesn't really pop as much as it could have. The Japanese 2.0 track is realtively flat, there's no English selection, and all around the series just sounds fair, never great. Clean animations and trailers are all that make the grade here for bonus features.

Tears to Tiara is a charming show at times and though it plays it fairly safe, it definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer. The story feels like it's building up to something great and the characters receive an incredible amount of fleshing out with these episodes. The cast is large, but one gets the impression that screen time is well balanced so nobody gets lost in the shuffle. That's a feat within itself, though it's fair to say that Arawn steals the show. He's a fascinating protagonist and the other main characters work off him very well. Sentai Filmworks has a good show on their hands and I have to say that I'm really looking forward to the second installment.

Maki Rating:

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