Sentai Filmworks // 2009 // 650 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // December 5th, 2010
Before you resurrect a Demon King, make sure he's going to be on your side!
It's been quite a while since I've sunk my teeth into a decent fantasy series. For a while in the early '90s, you couldn't chuck a rock at an Otaku convention without hitting a fansub of Slayers or Record of Lodoss War. Then the worldwide Dungeons and Dragons boom ended, and with that, fantasy output slowed to a trickle. There have been a handful of worthwhile efforts over the years, most notably the goofy but fun Tower of Druaga, and now comes Tears to Tiara a mash up of fantasy tropes and old world mythology. Does this one manage to satiate fantasy fans for 26 episodes? Or should you blow the dust off of your old Lodoss War DVDs.
The hard fightin' people of the Gael Clan find themselves at odds with the soldiers of the "Divine Empire" (read: Romans). The Empire is sweeping across Europe, putting the heel to any civilization that will stand in their way. When a Priest of the Empire resurrects the Demon King Arawn in an attempt at world domination, the Demon King instead sides with the young Gael Clan Priestess, Rhiannon, and her brother Arthur. As the new Chieftain of the Gael Clan, Arawn then proceeds to assemble the army he will need to crush the Divine Empire once and for all.
Tears to Tiara really shouldn't be good at all; based on a video game for the Playstation 3 (and an "adult" video game for the PC if you really must know) that never saw release outside of Japan, and featuring the usual smattering of Elves, Humans, Dragons, swords and magic combined with the typically quirky sense of humor that can only come from people who've played way too much D&D; this one should join Slayers on the trash pile. By the second episode however, something clicks, and the whole series becomes a pretty endearing ride.
The plot, such as it is, draws inspiration from the history and mythology of Dark Ages Europe; including elements of Celtic, Gaelic, British, and Roman mythology; which gives the proceedings an air of familiarity. There's plenty of well animated action to keep things moving as well.
The show's biggest strength is in its characters. Arthur (yes, "that" Arthur) is a great, if stereotypical heroic lead, and the supporting cast does a fine job of filling out the usual roles, from "grizzled veteran" to "goofy female sidekick." Sure it's all a big collective of anime cliché, but for what it is, it works surprisingly well.
The character designs all look pretty creative as well (save for the bland trench-coated Demon King Arawn), and the show looks great in motion thanks to some fine work from studio White Fox.
This is my first experience with a Sentai Filmwork's Blu-ray, and they certainly don't disappoint. The transfer looks great, with some minor color banding undoubtedly carried over from the source material. The visuals are clear, and vibrant, with no hint of ghosting or flickering. The show's excellent voicework comes through pretty clearly, and the DTS master audio stereo track pumps the show's excellent soundtrack through to great effect. The only extras are the typical clean opening and closing animations, which is no surprise.
The English dub is well-acted, the script is well translated, and the decision to infuse the characters with all manner of accents is a daring one that is to be commended. That said, as charming as I initially found the Celtic accents, they do tend to get to you after half a dozen episodes or so. By that time you've thrown some British into the mix as well, which helps.
Then there's King Arawn, the central character in the series, whose morose line readings are rather dull compared to everyone else in the series. The character has his reasons, but he feels kind of flat next to all of the Irish and English accents parading around.
It's still a definite improvement on the Japanese language version, which is of the "chattering goofball" variety.
Above all else, Tears to Tiara is simply a fun action-fantasy romp. The plot is just different enough to set itself apart from its anime peers, and the production values are great. Sentai's Blu-ray presentation hits all the right notes, and will make a fine addition to any anime fan's collection. On the flipside, if you want your fantasy without a heavy dose of anime flavouring, you may have to keep looking.
Och! Free to go!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Sentai Filmworks
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (Japanese)
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Open/Close