Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Anime Review: Tears to Tiara

I recently watched, then re-watched a show called Tears to Tiara. Now I’ve reviewed a few anime based on video games in the past but this case is a little different. As far as I can tell Tears to Tiara was originally a tactical role playing game…an adult tactical role playing game. What do I mean by “adult”? Well as far as I can tell by “adult” I mean “porn”. It was a JRPG that was porn.

Huh. Well that exists, apparently.

Remember that I try to keep myself from doing any  major research about an anime I’ve never seen before until I finish watching it so believe me when I say the cartoon had nothing to make me think that its source material was pornographic in nature. I would assume the main reason for this is that technically the show is based on the non-porn Playstation 3 remake that came out a few years later. Still to go through the whole show only to find out that it has ties to a game where cartoon girls, several of whom must be underage, are getting sexed up by the main character was shocking. And not the good type of shocking like “Oh man, that was awesome” but more like the “F**k, now I need a goddamn drink” type of shock.

Getting back on track Tears to Tiara premiered in 2009 and was produced by a fairly new studio White Fox (this seems to be their first series). Sentai Filmworks licensed it in North America very soon afterwards. At twenty-six episodes long it’s a pretty full series. Ignoring the porn that it’s associated with does this cartoon manage to stand on its own, or is it just a gimmicky premise that’s not allowed actually use it’s gimmick on Television (It’s gimmick is sex).

Full review after the jump.

 [WARNING: There are some spoilers in this review, fairly minor in the grand scheme of things, but still spoilers.]

The cast of Tears to Tiara (2/5th of whom are married to Arawn)
Rhiannon, priestess of the Gale Tribe, is kidnapped by a priest from the Holy Empire who plans on using her as a sacrifice in his ritual for summoning a demon. Arthur, Rhiannon’s older brother who is also their tribe’s first warrior, leads a party to try to rescue her but they arrive too late and Arawn, the Demon King, is resurrected. However Arawn has no interest in consuming Rhiannon and instead rescues her and helps Arthur defeat the Imperial troops. Despite having more questions than answers about the mysterious stranger Rhiannon gives herself to Arawn as his husband which automatically makes him the leader of the Gale Tribe (much to Arthur’s chagrin). Arawn begrudgingly accepts this position but secretly he has his own plan, one he’s been waiting centuries to enact.

Over the course of the first few episodes I was very worried that I had foolishly walked into a damn Harem Anime disguised as a fantasy show. Arawn accidentally marries at least three different women within the show’s first quarter so I was expecting Ranma ½ level romantic hijinks and misunderstandings, which would have made this show unwatchable. Thankfully despite his many wives Arawn’s love life is far from an important plot point. In fact aside from a few follow-up lines I’m not sure the show really ever acknowledges the marriages after their initial set-up, except for his relationship with Rhiannon but even that has little more than the occasional mention of her being his wife and a very rare instance of hand holding. The whole thing is superfluous to the story but manages not to distract from it too.

Arthur: "Dude, please don't nail my sister."
Arawn: "I promise nothing."
The story it’s a pretty decent one. It reminded me a lot of the Suikoden video game series (which is one of my favorite video game series, by the way), but since the original game was a tactical RPG it would have a lot more in common with them than not. Anyway the slow burn army building was pretty fun, as were the various battles the Gale Tribe ended up enduring over the course of the series. The real draw was how the show handled Arawn’s background. We know nothing about him in the beginning other than he may or may not be an evil overlord and we only learn tiny bits throughout. When we finally learn his true background it was very satisfying, and truthfully pretty of emotional.

There were a few standouts as far as characters for me in this show. I liked Arawn since he doesn’t fit so easily into standard archetypes and I liked Arthur because of the nice contrast to Arawn. And both characters have very good development. Rhiannon is…alright; not as good as her husband and brother but she has her moments. I also really like Octavia though she got kind of tossed to the background a few episodes after she appeared. Apparently in the original game she was one of Arawn’s many wives but here that is thankfully not the case which I think her character stronger for it. I also liked Taliesin and his story, except for his really weird ass habit of molesting Epona for the sake of comedy. I actively disliked Morgan who’s main characters boils down to “impulsive as shit”. All the other characters are either just alright or ridiculously underdeveloped to the point that they might as well be props. For example Llyr is an elf who arrives and accidentally is married or engaged (I’m actually not sure), through a wacky misunderstanding, to Arawn…and then almost immediately she’s relegated to the background and does nothing of any real importance or interest again for the rest of the show. Hell, I don’t think they even ever mentioned a romantic relationship between the two outside that initial encounter. She, like several other members of the cast, are completely unnecessary and any time we spend talking to or watching them do anything was time that should have gone to further develop the more important characters (Like Octavia…damn it).

Octavia: competent, former noble, badass
Never says "OHOHOHO"
The ending left me with some unanswered question, specifically [SPOILERS] what t hell happened to the other “angels” that weren’t accounted for in the climax. The show never mentions this or even suggests anything in regards to it so I have to wonder if the world is technically still in deadly danger when the cartoon ends. Speaking of the angels the villain of the anime wasn’t exactly the best thought out one I’ve ever seen as he, and his ilk, seem pretty evil for the sake of being evil with no real reason other than the possible mindset of “being a dick is hilarious”. Most of the villains of this show are kind of like that actually. It’s kind of a shame because I think that the main characters are actually decently strong here and an equally strong antagonist probably would have taken this show to the next level.

This being a Sentai Filmworks project rather than a FUNimation one I was a little worried about the English dub going into it butut it turned out to be solid, if quirky. The dub plays with accents; the Gale Tribe mostly sound Scottish and the elves mostly sound English (and in both cases some of the actors were hilariously bad at faking them) while the character associated with the Holy Empire all speak with American accents…except Lydia who is clearly English and I can only assume someone during the dubbing process just didn’t give a shit. Still it’s a pretty ambitious idea to do this “region specific accent” thing and the success of it will probably be determined by your own personal preference. I thought it was “okay” except in situations where the actor clearly couldn’t pull it off.

I actually enjoyed this show a lot (enough to watch it twice, actually). It has good action, good main characters and a plot that’s easy to get into. It was very close to be a top list show, which is shocking considering it’s, er, “pornographic” origins and had it made just a few changes, probably with its villain and supporting cast, it would have been one of the best anime I’ve reviewed. As it is it’s still pretty darn good. I encourage you give this show a shot if you get the opportunity. It’s a solid sword and sorcery based anime with a good beginning, middle and end. I had a good time with it. 

Pictured: Bill Henrickson Arawn the Demon King
I give Tears to Tiara 3 Adorable Panda out of 5


-Good leads and some pretty good supporting characters

-Good action

-A good story


-The cast, aside from key characters, are worthless

-The show deserved a better villain

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