Sometimes legends get distorted over the years.
What They Say
SYNOPSIS: In a strange dark age, across the land that will someday become Europe, the Divine Empire has been on the march, ruthlessly devouring its weaker neighbors for generations. But when a savage priest attempts to resurrect the long-buried Demon King Arawn by sacrificing Riannon, the young high priestess of the Gael Clan, the Empire sows the seeds of its own destruction! Deciding to side with the beautiful girl instead, the revived Demon Lord joins forces with her potentially legendary brother Arthur, and begins to assemble a mighty force that may just bring the Divine Empire its knees! Humans, elves and even dragon take arms in a spectacular animated interpretation of the Celtic, Gaelic, British and Roman myths of Albion, as an all star English vocal cast adds the crowning glory to TEARS TO TIARA the complete epic collection!
This release of Tears to Tiara contains both an English and Japanese 2.0 track. For the purposes of the review the Japanese track was used. The track is a 2.0 track that uses the side speakers for most of the dialogue and effect which produces a rather full sound in this manner. Dialogue is clear and there are no instances or dropouts or distortions noticed. The center speaker gets some of the dedicated music work which helps that seem a bit fuller as well without drowning out the dialogue or effects driven parts from the side speakers. The English track that is new to this release mirrors the presentation of the Japanese track with the use of the side speakers for dialogue and sound effects while the music is primarily center speaker driven. As opposed to the Japanese track there is one instance of distortion where static worms into a few seconds of dialogue and one spot where it sounds like the audio track hiccups as a character is delivering a line. Other than that the track is pretty similar to the Japanese track in its quality.
Originally airing in 2009 the video is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The video contains grain, a good deal of noise, some minor ghosting and some dot crawl. The episodes are spread out in a 6/6/7/7 count on the discs so the video isn’t overly crowed most of the time. Thankfully this doesn’t produce much color blur as the series likes to use vibrant colors. Also the blacks are solid which is a positive given that it isn’t a rare color in the program.
The packaging for this release is a four disc Stackpak case. The front cover features eight of the characters from the series in various poses and the image is almost split in half diagonally with the top half featuring a lot of blue and a flower filled field that conjures images of heaven/paradise while the bottom half uses a lot of red and brown to give more of an Earth/Hell motif. The image is surrounded by a brown and yellow boarder that contains images that given the impression of an ancient text. The side continues the text look with an image of Riannon with her arms outstretched welcoming someone and Primula praying behind/above her. The back features a circular image with some older style text in the circle and the copy inside that. The back also features an image of Morgan with her hands on Octavia’s shoulder looking like she is about to land on Octavia’s back as both smile. The DVDs each have a set of characters on them with a circular pattern and runes around the edge. Disc 1 uses images of Arawn and Riannon, disc 2 Morgan and Arthur, disc 3 Octavia and Lydia and disc 4 uses Llyl and Rathy.
The menu screens are essentially the same across the four discs with a golden schemed menu that has the US Tears to Tiara logo and half the circle with runes theme that Sentai uses in their release. There is then a deep golden brown box that has little golden boxes with episode numbers at the top and an oval selection for the Languages plus one for the Special Features on the two discs that posses it. For the episodes the choice is shown by a small blue tiara that shows up on top of the box with the respective episode while a large blue box goes around the lower two box choices if selected. A few seconds of the open play in the background of the main screen. The Language screen and Special Features screen both use the same basic set up as the main screen with the circle and runes but they use the Japanese logo at the top. For both screens a few seconds of the end play in the background and for the Extras it uses large rectangles for the choices and the blue box around it to show selections. The Language screen uses long ovals for the selections and the special addition to this release is that the choice that is selected is highlighted by a large and very regal crown with the words “Now Playing” inside it, which is very appropriate for this release. The menu is quick to move with selections on the main screen but there is some noticeable delay in implementation, particularly when changing languages. It isn’t a horrible delay but it is a little on the long side for a release from them.
The only extra as such on the set are a clean opening and clean versions of both closings.
While not a typical extra this set does have the addition of an English dub. There are some very familiar names here for fans of the old ADV Films stable and they by and large deliver the performances fans have come to expect. Illich Guardiola (Arawn), Hannah Alcorn (Riannon), Monica Rial (Octavia) and Tiffany Grant (Morgan) particularly shine in this endeavor. The biggest flaw in this title is one that will come down to a matter of preference but the use of an Irish accent is one that doesn’t always work. The biggest problem is that it sounds like the actors were told to use an Irish accent but not given the same accent tapes or spent anytime matching them up. Some of the characters from the same village use accents that don’t match up completely, including the brother and sister pair of Arthur and Riannon. While they get closer to matching later in the series the initial episodes are rather jarring.
The accent also creates a new problem in that on occasion when Chris Ayres (Arthur) uses it at points (particularly when the dialogue is fast and louder, say yelling) the accent drags his voice up quite a bit. While having a deeper voice isn’t the most menacing thing, face it the first time you heard Mike Tyson talk it damaged how scary he was. Additionally from time to time various actors seem to drop the accents in some of their lines. Having recently spent time with someone with a Scottish accent this doesn’t happen naturally-especially for people who have never tried to drop the accent. It is a little thing that can help break the feel that using the accent is striving for which when done correctly nicely juxtaposes the different sides in the story against each other in a rather subtle yet consistent way. In the end the dub likely won’t become one lauded for the ages but it also is far from being one that should be derided either. If the accents had been a bit more consistent among the actors at the start and not vanished from time to time the decision to use the accent would have paid off far more than it did.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The origin of the Tears to Tiara franchise dates back to an erogame published in 2005. The game proved popular enough that in 2008 a remake for the PS3 was made with the adult scenes removed and a new character added and the title has since spawned a sequel and a pair of PSP games. The anime adaption follows the more mainstream remake with the removal of the erogenous material and inclusion of the extra PS3 character. Viewers will notice that the story borrows quite a bit from several religions and mythology including Welsh, Celtic, Christianity and Roman.
The feature introduces the viewer to some members of the Gael clan at a time where swords and magic are the weapons of the age. The first member shown is Riannon who is the greatest oracle in the land. She is taken prisoner by the Holy Empire priest Drwc who intends to use her as a sacrifice to awaken the Demon King of legend. The Demon King is prophesized to rain destruction around the land and so the Holy Empire declared that his temple be sealed when a prophecy of his revival was revealed but Drwc thinks he can control the Demon King. However Drwc learns that prophecy can be vague depending on one’s point of view and that legends suffer the same fate when the Demon King Arawn is awakened but has no interest in Drwc and his plans for devastation.
Arawn rejects joining Drwc and saves Riannon from his control as her brother Arthur arrives to try to save his sister. He arrives at a time that allows him to have doubts over Arawn and his motives which are further compounded when Riannon declares that she is his wife and so Arawn is now the leader of the Gael clan. While Arthur is suspicious of Arawn circumstances will force him to join with him as an unwilling ally. As the two fight together Arawn sees something in Arthur that reminds him of someone he knew from long ago and he decides to stick by him for a while. The Gael clan now looks like it will be at war with the Holy Empire after the confrontation with Dwrc they and will now have to leave their village and go to the mainland and the country of Albion to make their stand.
Despite Arawn having been revived too soon and having a body that is at the level of a normal human he declares that he will seek the throne to the Holy Empire general Gaius when events force the Gael to confront a Holy Empire fortress city but is there a hidden meaning in the words he uses as to his real plan and how it will play out with the Gael clan? As the story progresses the group around the Gael clan will gain a place to live and strong allies but they will also gain more attention from the Holy Empire and some powerful people within its ranks. Things will really pick up as the wheels of fate and reincarnation pick up speed and head toward a confrontation with Arawn’s past and with Heaven it self’s machinations.
Tears to Tiara is an adaptation of game story and as such it has a few problems in that the story told is widespread and far reaching and there are certain elements that can be used in games to get the player to develop a bond with certain characters through attacks and customization that are not available to be used in an animated product. Also in a game a single character can be the focus but the writers for the anime went for a more broad approach and at times that makes it harder to determine who they want the audience to focus on and empathize with. There is also a lot of story here and trying to make sure all the game characters get into the story winds up with times that the characters get only the most basic of introductions. These flaws aside the ambitious nature of the show does give a story that has a broad scope and some pieces that are epic like in the development of a kingdom. If one is patient with some of the shortcomings they will find a story that does not settle for doing things in small measure and some wonderfully developed characters and sense of a grand scope to be found within.
Tears to Tiara is an ambitious tale showing the rise of a country from a small clan as they grow and acquire the power to challenge the strongest empire of the day. Inside this tale one will find a personal struggle of growth as preconceptions of the world are challenged and the importance of freedom are realized. And all of this will take place against a backdrop of the efforts of the past as reincarnated people will get a second chance to build a place they can live in freedom. While not every character gets a chance to shine the whole of the product covers for some of the flaws in the individual ingredients. It aims very high and while it doesn’t totally get to that level it still achieves a fairly high level in the final measure of things.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.