Plot: Jil, an inexperienced warrior decides to make it his dream to follow in the footsteps of King Gilgamesh, and ascend the Tower of Druaga and slay its master. However, he cannot climb the tower alone. So he must recruit many allies, before he may begin his quest of epic proportions.
Based on the 80’s Namco arcade game of the same name, this anime is two seasons. Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk and Tower of Druaga: Sword of Uruk. Since I believe it is kind of essential to see both seasons, since if you don’t you miss half the plot, this will be a review of the series as a whole. I also decided to review it since it seems to be a sort of overlooked series. One I haven’t seen a lot of reviews about, so I figured I would give my own.
Tower of Druaga or ToD as I will abbreviate it from now on, is a sort of fantasy action dramedy (drama and comedy). Knowing the comedic elements were present, I went into it not taking it very seriously. So I was pleasantly surprised when this show gave me a number of reasons to actually take it seriously and see through to the end. The most notable reasons are its likable characters, actually interesting sequel to its video game plot, and surprisingly good and well animated fight scenes for its time.
The characters in ToD are your typical fantasy action anime sort of archetypes, but with their own original flair. You’ve got the MC Jil, the typical headstrong Shonen protagonist who may not be the best, but will give it their all. His brother Neeba, who seems to be the perfect and wise older brother. Melt and Koopa, the comedic relief characters and about a dozen other characters worth mentioning due to character development. However I will save that for the spoiler inclusive section.
The plot is one that is simple in nature, but allows for many interesting and unique subplots along the way. At first glance, it is a “climb the tower kill the bad guy” plot. However, there is the addition of numerous Clue like betrayals, romance, and each character’s own backstory. I will say that I found a few issues with some of the subplots. There were numerous that were introduced that really made no sense, and never fully addressed. Which is a problem if you have an unhealthy desire for closure like me. Also, there is even an entire episode parodying the original game which this anime is based on, which was a funny and certainly interesting breath of fresh air. These funny scenes are often well-timed, being thrown in whenever the action is at a low.
The animation is something I was pleasantly surprised with in ToD. While it may not be too old (2008-2009), its age certainly shows at times. There was also interesting experimentation with 3D elements which were either hit-or-miss with me. For example, Druaga, the boss of the tower, often seemed kind of awkward to me with his weird, almost Code Lyoko style animation and movements. My favorite parts of the animation were easily the fight scenes. Each one seemed very fluid, and lacked a lot of the choppiness that takes away from the scenes. One scene in particular stands out, which is when Jil fights an ice mage. He deflects her icicle projectiles while running but falls to the ground in the process. I was actually really amazed by this scene and how well it was done. So much so that I rewound it about 4 times just to see it again and again.
I would also like to specify I watched the dub of ToD, and not the sub. I mostly picked the dub because I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to read any subtitles. But I am glad I did, since the dub was an enjoyable experience. The voice actors did a good job of playing their roles, and Todd Haberkorn as Jil (Firo from Baccano! and Hikaru from Ouran Highschool Host Club) did a fantastic job in my opinion.
As always, I would also like to talk about the music in ToD. The first season’s music was a little lackluster to me. I liked the ska OP, and the animation that went with it, but it kind of got old for me. Which I cannot believe I am saying since I usually love anime ska. With that being said, the second season’s music was much more my speed. The OP being my favorite here, and once again the animation that goes along with it is pretty cool. It also showcases the odd 3D mixture I mentioned earlier, if I remember correctly. Both season’s OP animations are pretty cool in that they are real-life depictions of the characters. From things like catching the train to playing a baseball game, it’s a fun and neat take on these fantasy anime characters.
To get the best viewing experience, I suggest watching both seasons. However, I can see the desire to not want to do so. This was a show I had started watching two and a half years ago, and only just now got around to finishing. In fact, I even originally put it on hold, since it had been boring me and to be honest I wasn’t sure if I would ever get around to finishing it. Though I decided to pick it back up and do not regret it. It may not be the that good show, but it was just what I was looking for. And that is sometimes all you need to enjoy something.
So to give it a grade, I would say Season 1 gets a 6.25/10 and Season 2 gets a 7.25/10, averaging out to a grand total series score of 6.75/10. An often overlooked show that was a nice surprise. Maybe not a “diamond in the rough,” but rather (to change the phrase a bit) an “opal in the rough.”
*Warning Spoilers Ahead*
To add to what I was saying earlier about character development, I think that was one of my favorite parts of this show. In particular, my two favorites were Melt who appears in both seasons, and Uragon who is only in season 2. Melt’s development is rather predictable, with him slowly becoming less of a self-centered jerk, and starting to show his feelings and compassion towards others. As seen with the death of Ahmei. My favorite display of Melt’s compassion comes when Koopa is nearly killed and then captures. He nearly loses his mind with rage at the loss of his assistant, which is nice to see.
The most unexpected development however, comes from Uragon. I was expecting him to remain a weak antagonist throughout the series, being foiled easily by Jil and his gang at every turn. Though it seems after his visit to the “House of the Dead” and not seeing any lost loved ones, he realized just how lonely he was. This allows him to feel compassion and take care of a robot assassin girl who was malfunctioning. It was quite an uncharacteristic thing for him to do, and one that warmed my heart to see.
This leads to quite possibly my favorite scene and quote from the show. After Shadow Gilgamesh slays the robot girl and is about to strike down Jil, he says to Jil “You cannot defeat me, only someone who has ever been truly alone can defeat me” to which the devastated Uragon comes from behind to stab Gilgamesh, leaving him open for attack from Jil. The person who “has ever been truly alone” here is Uragon. This was a deep sort of surprising climax I was not expecting, but certainly an awesome one.
One character whose development I felt was all over the place, was Henaro. After being introduced in season 2, she is thrown into the fray and forced to climb the Tower of Fantasy with Jil and his friends. She is then revealed to be the daughter of a season 1 antagonist, working as a spy with a season 2 antagonist (both people unrelated) and double crosses people left and right. I think she was really all over the place, and seemingly served the purpose of numerous characters at a time, which made her confusing to understand.
My favorite spoiler worthy part of this show was definitely the “what’s behind Kakashi’s mask” character Utu. Like Kakashi from Naruto, it was always a mystery trying to find out what was beneath the mask. Or in Utu’s case, underneath that suit of armor. But fortunately we get to see the handsome beast at the beginning of season two, even if only for a bit.
Before this review gets too long, I would like to talk about the ending of the entire series. I felt that it got REALLY out of hand really quickly. It changed from the simple plot to kill Shadow Gilgamesh, to Jil’s brother Neeba’s plan to kill the gods, due to his strange inferiority complex issues with his little brother. I felt that this was pretty random, especially when the whole Tower of Druaga turns into a Death Star-esque weapon that can somehow kill gods. I was not really feeling this ending, and felt like it was uncalled for and sort of out-of-place. As with the actual conclusion to the story, I wish there had been more to it. As I mentioned earlier, I like closure. And this story just kind of ends with a montage of the side characters doing silly things. Nothing really about Jil or Kayaa.
To conclude this really long review, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised with The Tower of Druaga, and would recommend it to someone looking for a fantasy action comedy with some romance sprinkled in. Definitely not the best show I have ever seen, but I ended up liking it a lot. Which is all that truly matters.