Review: The Tower of Druaga

(1) The Aegis of Uruk and (2) The Sword of Uruk.

Set in the world of Namco’s The Tower of Druaga game franchise, this anime series by Gonzo features events that occur about 60 years after Gilgamesh defeated the Tower with the aid of the priestess Ki. Since then, the tower has been reborn again, drawing many to its challenges by the rumours of a legendary treasure that can be claimed from its top floor. When the approach of 3rd Summer of Anu, a season in which the monsters of the tower weaken, inexperienced guardian Jil numbers amongst the numerous “Climbers” planning to tackle the tower. Most of them, including his brother Neeba and Kaaya, a girl he promises to take to the final level, have their reasons for climbing, but where do the truths begin?

Druaga 05-1When The Aegis of Uruk aired last year, I’d stayed away because I generally dislike anime based on games (with the glaring exception of FF7…) I finally started this series on a whim because of a somewhat favourable review of the end of the first season. And boy did I enjoy that first season, for reasons that won’t appeal to everyone.

Firstly, with episode 5, the anime tapped into the roots of the RPG genre and appealed to the gamer in me. The original Tower of Druaga was released as an arcade game in 1984, with a pac-man like interface much like one variety of the bauble traps.

Druaga 05-2 Druaga 05-3

There was also the classic gender switch trap (no pun intended), with a classic reaction from the chibi Cooper…and an absolutely hilarious scene of Neeba’s fellow members finding an unexpectedly appealing feature in the anatomy of their leader…

Druaga 05-4 door Druaga 05-5 door

What took the cake, however, was this door, voiced by the inimitable Wakamoto Norio, as it determined whether the performances provided by each team were good enough to pass…with the alternative seeing the unfortunate performer dumped into a bat of crap. Whilst there were indeed stupid boy moments early in the series, especially involving Fatina, the sheer hilarity of this one episode had me forgive those transgressions, though I’ll be sure never to watch them again.

Druaga 12 pretty Druaga 12-1

Aesthetically, the occassionally sweeping visuals had me longing for the days of freedom where my brothers and I would just drool over Blizzard’s brilliant movies for its Starcraft and Warcraft series. The opening sequences, especially of the second series, are also creatively entertaining, with the parody set in the modern world and the integration of seiyuu references. If not always a series with heavy themes, the first Druaga was loads of fun. I was definitely looking forward to the second half. 7/10

Druaga 2-weeee~ On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy Sword quite as much. The main humour episode involved Melt and his Ponzi scheme, and that just didn’t connect with me, although I do love Cooper’s ridiculous strength (this screenshot is actually from the last ep though).

In place of the humour, more time was spent on plot and character development – or attempted development, if you like. Neeba, Kaaya and various new characters’s choices had to be explained, whilst others like Jil and Fatina had to mature and learn how to deal with reality. However, whilst Neeba’s brother complex was confirmed (if you didn’t see this from at least the fifth episode of season one, then we weren’t watching the same series) and Kaaya’s decision to leave Jil behind made sense in light of what she knew of her quest, several other revelations annoyed me to no end. In particular, Fatina running away from her concern for Neeba by turning her affections to Jil and her sudden confession of her ‘true’ feelings felt incredibly forced because it was told rather than shown. Not that she actually had many chances to interact with Neeba at all during this series. Henaro’s motives and indecision are also rather beyond me, as was the strange changing allegience of Might the Fool, whom I thought really shouldn’t have returned to fight for Henaro. After all, didn’t Kally ask her to protect everyone?

All things considered, relatively poor character development was my major complaint about The Sword of Uruk. Some people cite other things that boggled their mind, such as the gods being more than metaphorical beings and actually fighting back against Neeba…but as one of the commenters on Randomc noted, why would you expect an RPG-based series to have that kind of logic? After all, Druaga himself is actually a god (of sorts), isn’t he?

Druaga 2-huh Druaga 2-huuuuuhhh? Please explain!

One thing that I didn’t really like was the implication that certain characters were actually still alive at the end – though perhaps only as spirits of some sort. Maybe another throwback to the genre (after all, there is often a little spell known as “ressurrection” in the computer games that I play…) but the lack of an explanation really gets to me. Mah…still a somewhat enjoyable series to follow, so 6/10.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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