ANIME & MANGA - Review
13:00 - 6th July 2013, by Matt Kamen

The Tower of Druaga

Young Jil just wants to be an adventurer, climb the Tower of Druaga and be lauded as a hero by everyone in his home village - is that too much to ask? Apparently, yes, since he gets knocked unconscious five minutes into his first mission, has hilarious delusions of epic heroism while being carried to safety, and is fired from the questing party by his own brother, Neeba!

It's clear from the first episode that The Tower of Druaga doesn't take itself too seriously, embracing and exploiting all the cheesy conventions of the fantasy anime genre to the best of its ability. However, the series isn't full-on Slayers-esque farce - at the heart of it, it's a series about Jil growing up, stepping out of his brother's shadow and building his own life. As he forms a new party of his own - consisting of mysterious oracle Kaaya, warrior Ahmey, conceited mage Melt and peppy aide Coopa - Jil sets out to conquer the tower and defeat the evil entity waiting at its peak. Meanwhile, political and mystical machinations are afoot in the background, ones that could affect both Jil and Neeba's parties disastrously....

Set 80 years after the events of the original Namco arcade games, many of the places and characters are drawn or continued from that mythology, though prior knowledge isn't a requirement to enjoying the anime. In fact, with over 25 years since the original game dropped, the creators at Gonzo have had considerable freedom to play around. This is clear in the structure of the show, and this boxed set - you're essentially getting two complete Druaga series in one here, The Aegis of Uruk and The Sword of Uruk, which, combined, tell one huge fantasy epic. Gonzo took the fairly bold move of ending the former series on a surprisingly bleak point, though luckily we don't have to suffer a six-month gap between seasons like Japanese TV viewers did.

Unfortunately, there are some odd but minor technical issues with this set. The Aegis episodes have no song subtitles, nor a signs-only subtitle track, so dub-watchers will be forced to turn on full subtitles to know what on-screen text says. This is probably down to Druaga being one of the very first anime series to be simulcast online, where it also lacked such subtitles, but it's a bit of a shame to see the omission carried over to the DVD. Curiously, this is corrected on the Sword episodes, which have full song and signs subs. It's a minor issue but one that might annoy some.

We have a feeling this is a series that's going to pass a lot of people by - it doesn't have a huge 'buzz' about it, and the game it's based on is all but unknown here, so there's no nostalgia factor. We hope we're wrong, and that viewers check it out in their droves. Those that do will find a series that's genuinely funny, emotional and gripping, with some brilliant action pitting the heroes against some very imaginative enemies. It's easily one of the best fantasy anime series in years.


If you like your fantasy series blood-soaked and dripping with gore, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a surprisingly deep and emotionally resonant story, with themes of finding your place in the world and building relationships, with a few gags on the side, then The Tower of Druaga is going to provide you a very rewarding time.
SCORE: 4/5
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