With the Tower of Druaga fully conquered and occupied, our intrepid Climbers must now tackle the Tower of Fantasy.
What They Say
Scaling the sixty treacherous floors of the Tower of Druaga is no game. Infested with slimes, dragons, and tentacled beasts, very few survive its twisting corridors and lethal traps. Against all odds, Jil led his band of climbers to victory against the demon Druaga - but the fabled Blue Crystal Rod remains out of reach.
To claim the mysterious treasure, a merciless enemy of god-like power must be defeated. Brave and true, the young Guardian Jil raises his shield to play the role of hero, battling his way up to the level where his destiny waits.
Contains episodes 13-24.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty nicely done as we get the original Japanese stereo track encoded at 192kbps and the English language adaptation done in 5.1 at 448kbps. The Japanese track is what was originally with the broadcast and it comes across well here with a fair bit of directionality to it and some decent placement. It's not an exceptional work but it serves the material well. The English 5.1 mix adds a bit more clarity to the placement but also a noticeable volume difference which can be misinterpreted as being better. There isn't anything really noticeable in terms of using the rear speakers but it does make for a sharper presentation overall. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release is split with seven episodes on the first disc and five on the second. The second disc also has a full length bonus episode in the extras section which gives it a seven/six layout in truth. Visually the show has a lot to offer with lots of earth tones but also a lot of vibrant moments, especially with the magic. It's a very active show at times which does introduce some minor noise here and there, notably in the opening sequence, but by and large it's a very appealing show. Colors are strong, cross coloration is non-existent and there's hardly any real line jitter during the panning sequences. The bit rate is fairly variable but there are a lot of high bit rate moments throughout because of the quality of the animation itself and the amount of detail it has.
The Tower of Druaga gets the standard half season set packaging release with a decent thin slipcover that holds two clear thinpak cases. The front of the slipcover pushes a strong fantasy feel to it with most of the core cast of Jil's party group together while the interior of the Tower is behind them along with Kaaya and Neeba who add some shadow to it. The framing is really detailed and appealing while the white background draws attention to the character artwork itself. The back cover is minimal overall but it's very good looking with the upper half showing Jil with his sword out while the interior of the Tower is behind him. There are a few shots from the show in a strip through the middle which again doesn't show the humor at all. The summary plays it straight as well as it describes the standard setup while below it is a very lean and clean listing of the discs extras and the episode/disc count of the set. The remainder has the production credits while the bottom of the slipcover features the minimal technical information grid.
The two thinpaks inside are really nicely done here as when you put them side by side, it makes for one large two panel piece that has Jil carrying a different love on each one with their reflections of the other in the water. If he's carrying Fatina, Kaaya is in the reflection and vice versa. It's really quite a good design and brings some good parallels to the covers that highlights the character problems within. The back side of the covers are the same with a lot of dark space along the top that has the episode numbers and titles along with a brief summary of what's covered in each episode. Each cover has artwork on the reverse side as well, with each volume showing off various characters against a white background, but done in a way that you can easily reverse them and have a good looking front facing cover for each volume. No show related inserts are included in this release.
The menus for the Tower of Druaga are pretty standard and fit in with the style used for the release in general in that it plays it all very straight. The character shots from the slipcover are used with a soft background of white to them is the standard here where the top two thirds are given over to this and the bottom third is white with the dark red navigation strip, which is pretty minimal overall even with the extras submenu. The menus may be simple but they're bright in a way that doesn't reflect badly on the show. Submenus load quickly and access times in general are fast with the responsiveness. As is standard for FUNimation, it did not read the player presets and defaulted to English language with no sign/song subtitles.
There's a good selection of extras here overall if you can really get into the history of the show. The first extra is the only one on the first disc in the form of an English language episode commentary from FUNimation's folks. The second disc has the standard in the form of the clean opening and closing sequences, the opening of which I like a whole lot. A small extra is a thirty second gag movie commercial about salmon roe of all things. The meaty extra here is a twenty-five minute “walkthrough” on the history of the games and its evolution into the anime. It's really quite neat to see the game's past brought to life like this, though it is all done overly dramatic at times, as it helps to explain some of the nuance bits including the use of the original game logo. It covers a lot of material here for the show itself which is quite enjoyable.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a successful first season, Gonzo followed up with a second season of the series that had another twelve episodes of sword and sorcery adventure and humor. I really liked the first season for a lot of reasons and watched it weekly when it came out, but I never took on the second season when that was streamed. So this experience of viewing it was all new and with a little distance from the original viewing of the first season. I didn't hold high expectations for this season so I can't say I'm terribly disappointed by the results.
This season picks up some six months after the first one ended which saw the cast thrown to the wind. Ahmey's dead, Kaaya and Neeba have left and Jil is spending practically all of his time drunk or listless. Fatina has taken to watching over him as she plays the role of tour guide as the capital city has moved wholesale into the Tower of Druaga. It's really quite fascinating to watch these various levels repurposed for human civilization, especially as all of the monsters have left the Tower so there aren't any real threats. Though you do hope some of the traps have been dealt with. Even a special elevator has been built that will bring people high up into the Tower, making so much of it accessible once it's done being tested.
The last six months have been hardest on a new character brought into the show as we see a young girl named Ki who is desperately trying to avoid the Knights of Gilgamesh. Their pursuit of her is in relation to her position as a priestess but there's something more to it as we learn that she's really Gilgamesh's wife from decades ago come back to life. The Gilgamesh that rules now has a shadow version of himself living in the Tower of Fantasy who is controlling Gilgamesh even more now and it's starting to turn the city and surrounding country of Uruk into a far darker place than it used to be. Ki is intent on getting to the Tower of Fantasy, a place you can't return from, in order to stop the shadow Gilgamesh. And to do that, she needs some climbers.
It's little surprise that Ki in her child-like form comes into contact with Jil and Fatina, the two of which are something of a couple as Fatina has latched onto him and does a lot of work in trying to take care of him and get him back on his feet. Jil feels a rush he hasn't had for awhile and takes to the challenge of the Tower of Fantasy, which is accessed through magical means from the top of the Tower of Druaga, and sets out to find others to help him. There's a bit of an old friends series of events as they come across Melt, who has created a world of his own within one of the levels where he's marketed himself heavily, along with Coopa. Some of the swordsmen from the past come back as well as we see various soldiers in their new lives as well as Utu making a return, though nobody recognizes him without his helmet on which is highly amusing.
Much of the show focuses on the climb through the Tower of Fantasy and the challenges that are to be had there. Different groups are after Ki for different reasons and they don't always come into conflict, but when they do it gets pretty messy. There aren't too many creatures to be dealt with here as the opponents tend to be those in pursuit, though Jil is in pursuit of those who have taken Ki from him and entered the Tower. What becomes the main theme of the show is that of the history of Uruk as we learn more of how the different countries were forced into a single nation. There are a lot of people who harbor ill will over this and want to free the original citizens of Sumar from Uruk and the drive through the Tower of Fantasy will give them the power to do just that. Unfortunately, this isn't exactly an engaging storyline though it doesn't become a larger issue until some time past halfway through. It gets mentions before that but takes on a bigger life further in and in the end becomes a battle between man and the gods as Neeba decides to take them on in an effort to free humanity. Or to boost his ego about his position in life as he's feeling even more threatened by Jil's growth and ability than usual.
The story for this season didn't do much for me but it's the kind of show where I find myself loving the characters so much that it's fun just for watching them. The humor doesn't get as much time this season though, which is a bit disappointing as we had some really funny episodes that made all the characters even more fun to watch. This one is a bit awkward as it loses some of the lighthearted atmosphere but also because we did lose a couple of characters. Kaaya and Neeba are absent for awhile and without Ahmey we're down to Fatina, Utu and Jil. They do bring in a few new characters as well as various people that are pursuing them, but the group doesn't gel like it did before.
The Tower of Druaga's second season is overall fun and enjoyable as it plays out, but because of the characters and not the story itself. Gonzo's animation here is a real high point for me as I love the character designs with the kind of softer and more fluid feel to them. They have a grace and movement that's very appealing as well as a solid choice for a color palette. The fun of this season is in watching the changes from the first, especially with the Tower being inhabited by tons of people, and seeing where many have ended up. There's also a greater appreciation you can get for this show in watching the Walkthrough bonus episode in the extras section here that shows how some of the original game went which ties to the events here pretty nicely. I like this show a lot overall, especially when taking the first season into account, and I'm glad to have seen this one. It's not as good as the first but it's still a lot of fun.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Track, Movie Spoof Promo, Druaga Walkthrough
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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