I got the first set of this a few days back, and I just finished watching the first disc. It’s pretty good so far. It’s fairly typical fantasy anime fare, but it executes everything quite well. The animation is crisp, polished, and brightly colored. The video quality on the release is very good. The subtitles are excellent, and I only noticed two errors of note through the first seven episodes. One may have been a simple translation error or typo. One of the girls was given instructions on how to milk a cow, and she was told to “play” her fingers on the utter, when it appears it should have been placed. The other was a line that Morgan spoke, and it appears a word was double upped by mistake. Other than those, the subtitles are well done and free of misspellings or errors.
The Japanese performances are quite good, and the music is excellent. The opening is a bit funny, as it is one of those Japanese songs that likes to randomly through English phrases in the middle that don’t quite fit, but it’s still a very nice song. I think I actually prefer the ED though. My only real complaint is the audio. Sadly, this show is presented in Japanese 2.0 (like most subtitled releases), which is a shame, as it could really benefit from directionality in the audio. I found myself cranking up the volume a bit more than normal, until I remembered that my receiver has a function that splits the audio channels and does an amazing job simulating Dolby Surround.
As for the show itself,
you have a lot of the standard anime/RPG characters. You have the orphans who lead their tribe, the Gael, including the innocent maiden Riannon and her protective brother Arthur. These two are the primary characters, along with the recently resurrected Demon Lord Arawn. Arawn is surprisingly laid back and level headed for a Demon Lord who was awoken to destroy humanity. But he’s had a 1000 year+ nap, so he probably feels quite refreshed.
You also have a lot of archetypes, such as the constantly hungry and drunken female warrior Morgan, who is craving Arthur’s position as “First Warrior”. There is the old and wise mystic Ogam, who knows much about the history of their land of Arawn. And of course, you have fun and cute maids, Limwris and Ermin. On the enemies side, the most notable character so far is the beautiful warrior Octavia, who is bound by honor and duty, and who you’re willing to bet will realize at some point that she’s on the wrong side. (Or die a tragic death honoring her duty.) It’s always one or the other in these types of shows.
The characters are quite sympathetic and likable. I even found myself liking several of the characters on the side of Divine Empire (the bad guys). All of the major characters seem to have some significant depth to them and a rich back story, something many shows in this genre often skip out on. Though it’s still quite early in the show, and whether or not these characters become fully developed and are allowed to grow remains to be seen, but they are full of potential. My only gripe so far, is that with the sheer number of characters in the show, that sometimes background information is literally dropped in your lap, with little pretense for it. For instance, when you find out that Arthur and Riannon was in fact murdered by spirit, and that Arthur was the one who found his body. It was brought up quite suddenly and did feel a bit out of place.
The episodes so far are rather self contained, though there is the presence of a broader plot line ever present. Even in episodes where little is done to advance the larger story line, you do get a quick glimpse of something important at the end of each episode. (Think of some of the filler episodes on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) The pacing so far is rather brisk and keeps you interested. The larger, flowing story line that is slowly building up seems interesting and full of potential. I can’t wait to see where they go with it.
So far, this has been a pretty good show. It’s much better than most RPG and game based anime series, though it does loose some points for falling back on so many stereotypical characters and plot devices (i.e. all the bad warriors suck, and it seems they can never kill any of the good guys. Yet, all the good guys seem to be able to kill dozens of enemies.) However, Tears does make up for it with excellent animation, execution, and overall very likable characters. It also gets a lot of points to taking some time to develop it’s characters, and not immediately jumping straight into the battles. I’m not saying there isn’t any action, as there is quite a bit in these first episodes. What Tears didn’t do, is immediately jump into massive battles and start killing off characters. You’re given time to know and understand the characters, and develop sympathy for people on both sides of the fence.
Tears to Tiara may not be groundbreaking so far, but it’s a beautifully told story with well crafted and likable characters. The show is quite enjoyable so far, and I highly recommend it. If you like shows like Utawarerumono, or perhaps Fate Stay Night, then you should enjoy it.
My grade so far: Solid B, Maybe B+ (depending on the rest of Part 1)