Based off of the classic arcade game from Bandai-Namco, Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk is the tale of wannabe hero Jil. Sixty years after the Tower of Druaga was defeated, it has once again returned to the Uruk Kingdom. But fortunately for the people of Uruk, the Summer of Anu approaches, which subdues the monsters living in the tower enough to give the villagers a fighting chance to enter and climb its many levels.
While most of the folks who venture into the tower merely wish to take the treasure hidden within it, Jil has much bigger plans in mind. He wants to reach the top level and beat the evil Druaga himself. But his first guild fires him after he nearly gets them all killed in the lower levels. So he gathers another colorful band of warriors, mages, and other characters you’d expect from a typical fantasy story, and ventures on into battle.
If you remember a few weeks ago, I reviewed Blassreiter, one of the first anime series legally simulcasted on the internet while airing on Japanese TV 20 months ago. Well, Druaga was the other simulcast that aired that season, and just like Blassreiter, I absolutely loved watching this series on a 2-disc DVD box set from FUNimation.
As you start watching this series, you will immediately notice that it is funny. It is really freaking funny. In fact, the entire first episode is just one joke after the other. Most of the humor comes from the fact that this is based off of a video game, and that video games have silly and contrived plots. This is done perfectly with much sarcasm and hilarious contradictory statements:
“I don’t want to fight you. So if you insist on fighting… [draws sword] then you’re going to have to defeat me first!”
For the most part, the rest of the series does not have the same level of comedy as the first episode, but this does perfectly tell the viewer that this whole series is a very tongue-in-cheek fantasy story, and that you should not be taking it seriously. So once you can let go of this and give in to the silliness, you’re in for 12 episodes of good, entertaining anime.
The heart of Druaga‘s appeal is in the characters. While all of them may be one dimensional video game archetypes, they all have their own charms and their interactions together are fun and comical. I found the female characters to be incredibly appealing, and the little bits of fan service involving them were far sexier than anything from the boob-fest that was Dragonaut last week.
But comedy and charm do serve as a distraction to the many flaws within this series, all of which come from the fact that there is not much going on story wise. There is probably three episodes worth of content in this video game plot, and they have managed to stretch it out across 12 episodes. This ends up with very serious pacing issues that comes close to killing the momentum established in the first episode.
But the one thing that keeps the series going strong even with the bad pacing is the fantastic script and acting in the English dub. Comedy is hard to translate between Japanese and English, so the ADR writer has to be creative in their adaptation to keep the laughs coming. The folks at FUNimation has successfully done this with plenty of laugh out loud moments through out the entire series.
I am also really starting to take notice to dub actor Todd Haberkorn who plays the lead role of Jil in this series. After playing the title character of Sgt. Frog, this is the second time I have seen him in a funny leading role in recent memory, and he has been amazing both times. His comedic timing is dead on, and his high pitched voiced is perfect for cartoon character acting without ever becoming annoying or irritating.
* * * * *
The Good: Lovely characters, occasional fan service, and great humor enhanced by a fantastic English dub script and voice acting.
The Bad: Video game style storyline is contrived and silly. Uneven pacing through out the entire series.
Final Verdict: Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk is an entertaining tongue-in-cheek tale of epic arcade gaming proportions. Watch it!
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment.