Judge Paul Pritchard once brought down an imperial empire during his lunch break.
One Man Versus An Empire
In terms of both scope and ambition, Tytania is one of the grander anime series I've seen in some time. And, with it's tale of an imperial force wiping out the last remnants of rebellion in the galaxy, there's an obvious comparison (on a superficial level at least) to Star Wars. But where Tytania differs vastly is its depiction of the politics that drive the heroes and villains, and the emphasis on characters over action.
Beginning with a fleet of Tytanian warships amassing around the planet Euria, Tytania: Collection One quickly establishes the might of the Tytania clan, led by four Duke's, each undefeated in battle. Leading the armada against Euria is Ariabart Tytania, an arrogant, foppish dandy of a man, who through a combination of experience and inside knowledge expects little resistance from the Euria forces led by the inexperienced Fan Hyulick. You see, unknown to Fan and the rest of his fleet, the leaders of Euria have already agreed upon a secret pact with the Tytania clan, and have assembled nothing more than a token force to confront their warships in an attempt to appease their people when they lose the battle and are assimilated into the Empire.
However, through a combination of luck and bravado, Fan leads his Eurian troops to victory, wiping out the Tytanian warbirds by employing a risky strategy that sees Duke Ariabart barely escape with his life.
Furious at his victory, the leaders of Euria relieve Fan of his duties, and have him exiled from the planet. Learning of their subterfuge, Fan happily agrees to leave. Though not apparent initially, and certainly unbeknownst to Fan after his dismissal, this first defeat for Tytania leads to fractions within the powerful clan, with each of the four Duke's making a play for total power, while numerous elements within the Empire, who eventually learn of this remarkable happenstance, begin looking for ways to use Ariabart's defeat as leverage to better their own position.
The Tytanian leadership—anxious to best cover up their defeat, fully aware of the ramifications it could lead to—approach Fan and offer him a position within their own war effort. But word of Fan's victory quickly spreads, leading Lira Florenz, a member of a growing resistance that has been galvanized by Fan's victory, to seek him out. They see Fan as being instrumental in dismantling the Tytania clan once and for all. Joining up with the rebels, Fan is once more pitted against the forces of Tytania, with the very freedom of the universe at stake.
If the above paragraphs have you ready to race out the door to pick up Tytania: Collection One, expecting a non-stop, action-packed thrill ride, then hold on just one minute. Despite some large-scale battles taking place, Tytania is an exposition heavy anime. Entire episodes will pass by without a hint of action while the writers establish the numerous factions and power struggles that exist within their universe. It's easy to see how this could be perceived as a negative, and certainly the show's pacing will turn off less patient viewers, but stick with it, and Tytania reveals itself to be a rather deep piece of sci-fi. One of the big questions repeatedly asked by the series relates to the differences, and relative benefits, of democracies versus dictatorships; frequently the show appears to argue the differences between the two can be far fewer than we are comfortable admitting. Indeed, the backdoor deals and corruption that is so rife on both sides of the divide suggests that those in power, no matter how it was attained, are all willing to do whatever is necessary to cling onto it.
It's sad to report that when Tytania finally lets loose and unleashes a space battle, the results are often underwhelming. More often than not, the battles consist of two opposing banks of warships firing different colored lasers at each other, with no room for exhilarating dogfights. Sure, the warships, all rendered in impressive CGI, look great, but they're wasted with so little of note to do.
As already stated, Tytania is very much a dialogue driven series, and here the writers, for the most part, have managed to succeed in keeping things interesting. The power plays that take place following the Empire's first defeat adds a layer of intrigue to the proceedings, and ensures Tytania doesn't play out as purely a good versus evil conflict. Indeed, the writers ensure that as much time is spent with the Tytania clan as is with Fan and the resistance, lending a better understanding of each sides motives. When coupled with the show's assured pacing, it all adds to an epic feeling series that, going by the 13 episodes contained in this set, suggests Tytania will reward those who stick with it for the long haul.
Considering that Tytania is based on an unfinished series of novels by author Yoshiki Tanaka that began way back in 1988, my initial fear was that the series would suffer from a lack of direction. Thankfully, at this point at least, the show holds together extremely well and shows all the signs of knowing exactly where it is taking the storyline. Unlike many anime, Tytania never feels episodic, with the plot growing organically from one episode to the next.
Visually, from the costume designs which blend European aristocracy with more traditional sci-fi elements, Tytania is a winner. Character designs often fall under well-worn anime archetypes, though the level of detail put into each, especially when set against such gorgeously realized backdrops, makes it easily forgivable.
Spread over two discs, each episode looks fantastic on DVD with strong colors married to a sharp picture. Sentai Filmworks have decided against offering an English dub of Tytania, leaving the only audio option a perfectly acceptable Japanese 2.0 mix. As is proving to be the norm for anime releases from the company, there are no extras save for clean opening and closing animations.
For those looking at a long-term investment, Tytania: Collection One offers a well written, and epic feeling slice of anime. Only future volumes will decide Tytania's ultimate fate, but right here, right now, this set comes recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Sentai Filmworks
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