Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 19th 2010
Tytania collection 1
In the far-flung future, the star-spanning Empire of Voldana is securely under the thumb of the Tytania clan, a family which technically controls no territory but nonetheless is the most powerful and feared group in the galaxy and has been for 200 years. As the clan's four Dukes each position themselves to be potentially named successor to clan lord Ajman Tytania, though, trouble is afoot. An effort to seize a new technology from the fringe city-state of Euriya results in a sound and shocking military defeat for one of the Dukes, a first for the Tytania clan and one which opens many eyes amongst both the Tytania leadership and its dissidents. The man at the center of attention for orchestrating the defeat, a laid-back individual by the name of Fan Hyulick, gets no respect at home for his feat (he was supposed to lose in a token show of resistance), so he sets off across the stars, dodging or escaping from Tytania's attempts to alternately capture, kill, or recruit him along the way. Although Fan also diligently avoids further opportunities to directly oppose Tytania, his growing notoriety and a lingering affection for a young woman makes that difficult. It is only a matter of time before the scheming Dukes find exactly the right button to push.
Meanwhile, bold, young Princess Lydia of the Elbing Kingdom journeys to the Tytania home fortress of Uraniborg in order to offer herself as a hostage for her Kingdom's good behavior in exchange for Tytania not taking over a vital Elbing mine. In her the seeds of change for Tytania may lay.
Based on an unfinished series of novels published in Japan between 1988 and 1991, Tytania is a rarity in sci fi anime: a true space opera, one which draws its style template from Glass Fleet but uses a story structure more akin to Banner of the Stars or Toward the Terra. Amidst its mix of grand events and personal struggles lies an epic tale about those who sit in the seat of power and those not content to let the powerful do as they will. As typical as this may sound, in this case it is especially important to understand that the story is as much about those who rule as it is about those who resist.
The advertising copy for the series pitches it as a story focused on reluctant hero Fan Hyulick, but throughout the first thirteen episodes he actually gets no more front time than Tytania's Dukes do. Instead, the series focuses at least as much time and effort on what the four Dukes are up to, with the greatest emphasis on Duke Jusran, the reddish-haired one whose distinct character traits are his intelligence and thoughtfulness; he could, in fact, be considered the series' secondary protagonist. Though the other three Dukes get less screen time, each has his own distinct personality niche: Duke Idrice is the amoral schemer, Duke Ariabert is the stiff and formal one, and Duke Zarlisch is the military man whose first answer to everything is to use force. Amjan, the white-haired clan lord, typically fades into the background despite being the ultimate decision maker, allowing the dashing Dukes to be the focus of attention. A third potential lead is headstrong Princess Lydia, who pops up here and there during the first few episodes before getting actively involved in the plot beginning around episode 10. Both the timing of her first appearance in episode 1 and the narration's comments about her are none too subtle in indicating that she will have some major importance as the story progresses. Each side also has its lesser but significant supporting players, including Duke Zarlisch's apparently gay brother Alses (and the series vaguely suggests that the reason Alses is assigned to govern a frontier world is because Zarlisch is uncomfortable with and/or embarrassed by his homosexuality); Lee Zhang-chen, a handsome doctor of philosophy who works with the rebel forces trying to recruit Fan; and the two prominent women in Fan's life: feisty love interest Lila and pragmatic former princess Miranda, who in every sense is the antithesis of what you would normally expect from a princess.
Yes, it's quite a colorful cast, and the story actually occasionally gives them interesting things to do. Nothing about the writing is particularly bold or innovative beyond Fan's clever strategies and the twist about how he inconvenienced his government by actually winning a battle he was supposed to lose, but it does make a diligent effort to flesh out the characters a bit while simultaneously juggling several plot balls and keeping the overall story flowing. Generally it succeeds, especially in the relationships it builds between Lila and Fan and between Duke Jusran and Lydia, but the writing also has its dull points, and unfortunately the entirety of the first episode is one of them. That the space battle scenes lack much sense of excitement or vigor does not help since the focus of the first episode is on one such battle.
One of the main reasons the space battles fail to impress is that they look like pretty much any other massed anime space battles you have ever seen. They make no effort to do anything fresh or distinctive, instead relying on heavily on battle designs first established by the earlier Gundam and Macross series. The animation and artistry here is certainly far superior to anything seen in those series, but that alone doesn't make these battles interesting; compare them to the ones in Banner of the Stars to see how a series which is inferior on technical merits and artistic refinement can still upstage this one on execution.
The CG elements used prominently in the battle scenes are also a factor here, too. While they looks very sharp in a technical sense - near top-of-the-line, in fact - too often they also look too artificial, especially in the explosion shots. The artistry is otherwise very good, with a strong emphasis on creating rich and varied backgrounds which highlight both the opulence and poverty of the varied settings. Character designs are also distinctive, attractive, varied, and well-proportioned, ranging from the very boyish-looking Lydia to a Lila who is amazingly hot despite her petite build to a plethora of handsome dudes to satisfy the female viewers. Perhaps the most interesting design aspect is how the European décor is applied even to spaceship interiors, with military apparel and the dress of nobles also consistent with classic European styles. Non-CG animation is also good, although not quite a top-tier effort.
The soundtrack, by comparison, is a weak point. Its operatic opening number sets a pretentious tone that the episodes do not maintain despite heavy use of orchestrated numbers and the battle pieces fail to generate sufficient excitement. Closer “Lost in Space” by Psychic Lover is a solid rock number but feels out of place paired with this material.
Sentai Filmworks has recently started dubbing some of their releases, but this is not one of them. The subtitles are even a regression to their earlier releases last year (the ones heavily plagued by lax editing), as there are several minor typos throughout. In typical spartan Sentai style, only clean opener and closer on the second of two disks are included for Extras.
Judging Tytania based on its first episode may leave a false impression of its quality, as the series definitely gets better as it delves more into the personalities and plot threads in play. Calling it a truly good series may be a stretch, but those who favor sci fi anime with a grand scope which includes action, but is not a slave to said action, may find this one to their liking.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : C+
+ Character and background designs, breadth of story.
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