Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 13th 2010
Tears to Tiara
DVD - Collection 2
As Gaius deals with trouble at home and gathers a bigger army to assault Avalon, Arawn's crew ventures out on a couple of journeys to collect important items and treasure. With the ultimate confrontation with Gaius looming, a conflict within Arawn's group results in a devastating accident but also spurs a journey of self-discovery for one key member and the forging of a new alliance. Even once the affair with Gaius has completed, the heroes cannot rest for long, for an even bigger enemy still lurks, one directly connected to the pasts of both Arawn and Arthur and one which even Arawn and Ogam cannot defeat alone. As the humans, Elves, Ogam, and Arawn, with the help of some giants, fight valiantly with the fate of the world at stake, two must discover the true powers within them to unleash decisive strikes and one must tread down the path to becoming a king.
As its first half came to a close, this adaptation of the PS3 fantasy RPG (and original ero game) had finally assembled its full cast and so looked to be on the upswing. The second half fulfills that expectation; as these episodes prove, the occasional signs of quality peppered throughout the series' first half were not flukes. In fact, the story comes together well enough that this may be among the best straight-up adaptations of an RPG to date.
Of course, the RPG influence still lingers, and typically not in a good way. Even those who have never played the game the series is based on can probably check off the quests that the heroes must complete or the individual classes represented by the distribution of heroes. The monster distribution is fairly typical of fantasy RPGs and, naturally, there is a Big Boss at the end – who, conveniently, is at the top of a challenge-filled tower which allows all of the core team of heroes to show off their stuff in small groups. And of course there's also the exotic costuming, as Riannon's outfit seems like something more fit for a medieval lady than a Gaelic woman and most other designs conform to expectations for fantasy RPG archetypes.
But it's in the parts where the RPG influence does not dominate that the series shines. Watching the friendship of Morgan and Octavia develop further, and how the two seem to feed off of each other, is a joy, as is seeing Riannon become assertive when needed and watching Arthur overcome his disastrous hotheadedness and take the next big steps towards becoming a worthy leader. On many occasions through the episodes in the mid to late teens, events take on a surprising degree of weight and power, a circumstance helped greatly by skillful use of the musical score (or, in one case, its notable absence); one later scene even takes the first half's most effective comedy bit and capably reuses it in a more serious sense. Unraveling the full truth behind Arawn's background and origins, which requires most of two episodes and small parts of others, reveals a weaving of elements from Greek mythology, Judeo-Christian lore, Arthurian legend, and traditional fantasy elements to create a distinctive backstory which flows together much better than it probably should given its piecemeal construction. The backstory finally explains many mysteries, including what Arawn and Ogam really are, the relationship between Arawn and the Elf King Pwyll, why Arawn is so revered by the Elves, the circumstances of the epic war in the series' past, and, most importantly, the identity and significance of the little girl so prominent in the opener and closer. If you were waiting for Merlin to pop up at some point, he is in that mix, too, though not in the way you might expect. One of the flashback scenes does also strongly telegraph one of the pivotal moments of the series' climax, but considering how much the series does right with its backstory, it is a small flaw.
Studio White Fox's artistry continues to be a grade above the norm for game adaptations, with appealing characters designs complementing attractive background artistry and suitably flashy magical effects. The animation, which was never a weakness, impresses a bit more through this run, as several of the battle sequences are more detailed and fluid than would normally be expected for series animation. In fact, the whole series is just a minor step from being a top-notch visual effort. An effective musical score filled with a mix of bold action numbers and medieval-themed tunes nicely complements the visuals, making these episodes a pleasant viewing experience based on technical merits alone.
Like with the first half, this half has no English dub. The Japanese cast turns in fairly standard performances which handle all of the messy Gaelic names well but then totally drop the ball by consistently mispronouncing one much simpler name which would be well-known to Western audiences. This cannot be explained off as just a cute Japanese affectation or intent to make it a different name, either, as various references in the anime clearly indicate that the name was carefully and specifically chosen. (Seriously, if they are going to use such a prominent name, they could at least be bothered to try to pronounce it right.)
Extras are once again light, consisting only of clean opener and closer included on the first of two disks. Both disks come in a single regular-sized case. The error count in the subtitles this time is two, with both merely being examples of careless proofreading. The TV PG rating also remains in question; while this half has no hint of fan service, the bloodletting in it is substantial enough that a higher rating should be warranted.
Tears to Tiara only occasionally shakes the pervasive feel of its fantasy RPG origins, and it suffers in its end for that, but that does not ultimately prove a hindrance to playing out a solid enough story, and with good enough visuals, to raise the bar on anime adaptations of computer games. Most who at least tolerated the first half should be quite pleased with the second half.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Solid story execution, effective soundtrack, fully-animated battle scenes.
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