Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk
Wishing to reach the top of "the Tower", Jil, having been "fired" as a guardian from his last group due to his incompetence, seeks out a new set of allies for his quest. There, he meets Kaaya, a young oracle and Ahmey, a lancer. Together, they decide to give it another go.
The Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk is yet another show I watched on recommendations from a fellow THEM reviewer, but in this case, I think it's safe to say that a general helping of mirthful curiosity had a hand in my decision. See, this anime show is a sequel to... well, to the "original" Tower of Druaga. And what, exactly, IS this "original"?
I've seen quite a few shows based on video games, but I think Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk holds the dubious honor of being the first one based on a really old arcade game. It's certainly aware of this too, if the several self-referential scenes are any indication, with the scenes featuring the cast as easily recognizable game sprites immersed in your average game dungeon thrown in from time to time. The proper character artwork looks pretty good too, and although I felt they also looked a bit flat, the animation is certainly workable and the background art is pretty swanky as well.
If you plan on watching this, let me warn you right now: the first episode of the show is absolutely out of its goddamned mind. It's also hilarious; a run-on parody of every fantasy cliche known to man, as well a tour-de-force of sight gags, puns and various other gut-busters that are bound to tickle your funny bone. It's got little to nothing to do with the actual story, and the episode actually ends with our hero waking up. It had all been a dream, probably born from the school of hard knocks (to the head.) Anyway, I'm saying this now, because thanks to said episode, I had a hard time taking even the next couple of episodes seriously, even though the show itself started on what basically is the main story. What I'm saying is that you may or may not want to save that episode for last. It's not going to hurt the main story in any way.
So that I won't cause any misunderstandings; Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk is a serious fantasy show. Well, for the most part anyway. To its benefit, once the story gets going, it sets the pace rather well. Being only 12 episodes in length, I guess it goes without saying that it would need to do so. On a somewhat related note, I actually expected the show to end here, but it went ahead and pulled a Symphony of the Night on me at the end, so it's at least a relief to note that the sequel is already in the works.
See, while I said that Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk had a good pacing (maybe a little too swift, but...), it's the story I had some problems with. That, and the characters. I'm fully aware that this show is partially a comedy, but Jil plays the part of the naive, straightforward lead protagonist idiot too well. It's also a little bit too obvious that Jil and Kaaya will eventually fall in love and that Jil will be the one who strikes the finishing blow on the show's main boss. (Which will also lead to a rather predictable character death.) It also has a bit of a problem balancing out the comedy acts with the more serious parts, first episode notwithstanding.
Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk is also very, very self-referential, to the point that it not only breaks that fourth wall repeatedly, but also dedicates an entire episode to making references to the original arcade game in guise of an episode where Kaaya takes advantage of Jil's kindness and naivete by having him enter the original Tower of Druaga, which gives her control over his body by way of a tabletop arcade cabinet. No, I'm not kidding. That actually happens in the show. She even puts coins into the thing, much like an arcade game, and controls the hapless Jil with a joystick and a fire button (or stab button, rather) much like an arcade game.
The really sad part is that this episode, along with the first, is my favorite two episodes in this show. With the rest of the show playing the standard fantasy route so safely, I could just as well have been watching Lodoss Wars, the two episodes in question basically gave me a break from the norm (so to speak.) It sure didn't help (or did it?) that the episode with the arcade game actually managed to awaken some feelings of nostalgia in me, what with all the people in the show discovering this secret room and seemingly agreeing on taking a break from their important quest of traversing the tower so that they could unwind by playing games and generally just socializing.
It's not a bad show, but despite my initial optimism, I can't help but being disappointed by the whole deal. Oh, it left enough mysteries and hooks for me to want for more, but I can only hope that the next season comes to a conclusive end, because that's something this show didn't do: follow up on the many mysteries it unearthed. It's clear that the king, Gilgamesh, is a representation of the hero of the original arcade game. We also learn that he's somehow become immortal, at least when it comes to fatal wounds by way of weaponry. Kai, the girl he originally rescued, is also involved in this somehow, and there's enough clues abounds that Gil (as he's known in the game) and Kai's victory weren't as happy as they wanted it to be.
Sadly, the show is much too preoccupied with our team racing to the top of the tower -- kind of like "Wacky races" except in this case, "wacky" and "races" are separated... sorta -- and only crumbs of any main story is frugally handed out to keep viewer interest, which is part of the reason why I felt somewhat ripped off by the ending and also why said side episodes ended up being my favorite ones. I mean... scaling the tower was what our team were supposed to do, so why did the conclusion of that arc do nothing in particular other than leave me with a few more unanswered questions and nothing else? It would have worked better as a game, but I doubt that The Tower of Druaga: the Recovery of BABYLIM will make it outside of Japan.
Either way, this show really needs to get its act together, or it won't get a place in my high score table any time soon.
It's a decent show, I guess. Maybe my expectations were too high or something, especially after that ludicrous-yet-hilarious first episode. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: It's a fantasy show, so expect the violence in kind to go with it. That is to say, there is a lot of redshirt death in this show. It's not all that visceral, though, mostly limited to charred remains of redshirts and green blood from monsters. There's also some light fanservice, but no nudity of any kind.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Tower of Druaga: the Aegis of Uruk © 2008 Gonzo, Bandai Namco Games.
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