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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: ティアーズ・トゥ・ティアラ (Japanese)
Genre: Fantasy, drama.
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Sentai Filmworks.
Content Rating: PG 13 (Light fanservice, warfare, death.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Utawarerumono, Record of Lodoss Wars, Tower of Druaga (both.)
Notes: Based on the game of the same name by Leaf, creators of the equally well known Utawarerumono.

Buyers beware: while this show DOES have a dub on its most recent release, the version I picked up is the two box sub only sets. If you're a dub enthusiast, make sure you get the version with the dub.
Rating:
 

Tears to Tiara

Synopsis

Driven by the desire for power, Drwc (yes, that's his name), a priest of the Holy Empire, tries to resurrect an ancient demon, Arawn, by sacrificing the Gaelic Priestess Riannon. While Arawn does indeed awaken, he is not particularly keen on playing into Drwc's plans. Staring down at the sword, now embedded solidly into his chest, Drwc probably reached the same conclusion before he died.

Arawn then joins the Gaelic tribe, bringing the war towards the Empire into full swing. He and his comrades head to the island of Albion to reclaim Arawn's old castle, which will be the focal point in the upcoming war.

Review

A couple of years ago, I encountered the fantasy anime Utawarerumono, a show I came to like quite a lot. Despite its somewhat harem-ish build, it took a rather down-to-earth approach to fantasy anime, not only due to its adult lead, but also the lack of flash and glitz. Being made by the same creators -- mostly -- this was eventually to be the reason why I took a chance on Tears to Tiara. It's quite easy to see the similarities too. While Arawn looks a good deal younger than Utawarerumono's Hakuoro, he's easily as calm, cool-headed and collected as the latter.

One could also say that the similarities the shows share isn't doing it any favors either. Much like parallells can be drawn between the cast of... say, Ranma ½ and Inuyasha, so can it be done with Tears to Tiara and Utawarerumono. Riannon is as much the priestess/motherly support as Elulu was in Utawarerumono. Riannon's brother, Arthur (and yes, you will get to see him pull a sword up from a stone), is a hotheaded warrior type like Utaware's Oboro. Morgan, though, is less of a mirror of Karura, mostly because she's vastly less intelligent than her forerunner. Octavia serves as a female version of Benawi, while Llyr could probably be counted on as a sister-in-spirit for Touka, but that might admittedly be a bit of a stretch.

Get used to the Welsh names, though, because that's where Tears to Tiara pulls a lot of its inspirations. Barring the naming process -- Arawn, Riannon, Arthur, Epona, Pwyll, Llŷr and Taliesin -- the whole show is a none-too-subtle interpretation of the late antiquity seen from the angle of the British fending off the Romans. Yes, you have a good deal of fantasy elements in here, like dragons and a "final boss" you're simply not going to believe, but that's about as close to fantasy as you get. There is far more swords than sorcery in this show, even if there IS sorcery as well, and, like I mentioned, one of those swords WILL be pulled out of a stone. By Arthur, of course. There's also elves, but due to the complete lack of pointy ears, they're virtually indistinguishable from regular human beings, save for the one who looks more like a gnome or a dwarf. (Or a little girl, despite the show insisting on trying to make us believe that the main characters mistook her for a boy, even though she looks so much like a girl that it hurts.)

Also, unlike Utawarerumono's RTS build when it comes to the main story, Tears to Tiara plays out more like your average JRPG. The focus is still on the war, but if you expect the same kind of grand scale battles as in Utaware, you might very well end up disappointed. During my millitary service, one of the things I was taught was that war is 10% actual action and 90% waiting, possibly with a side order of strategies and stealth/covert missions. Tears to Tiara has taken that to heart.

For all its grandstanding and the mythological bent it has, what Tears to Tiara lack is subtlety, and that's the show's biggest flaw; it's not going to hold a whole lot of surprises despite the numerous plot twists and revelations, and that goes doubly so if you're familiar with the Suikoden game series, particularly the first two (which, incidentally, are the only ones I've actually played. But I digress.) I wouldn't go so far as to say the show is cliche'd -- a few scenes, sure, but not the whole show. Tears to Tiara is more like assembling a puzzle. The more pieces put together, the more of an idea you're going to get on what's going to happen later on, all the way up to the conclusion.

Tears to Tiara isn't going to hurt to watch. White Fox/Oriental Light and Magic did a nice job with the art and the animation. The settings in general are nice to look at, and the characters are all distinct and easy to recognize and keep track of. Being a younger and more recent show, Tears to Tiara also doesn't suffer from "hilariously obvious CG" during the few all-out wars that takes place in the latter half. Some of the more dramatical moments in the show will probably have you rolling your eyes -- the ones with Arthur in particular, but Arawn's steadily building harem might contribute to a few of them as well -- but outside of that, Tears to Tiara is a perfectly serviceable fantasy adventure.

A fairly strong three, I'd say. Which is good for a show that has little to do with tears and even less with tiaras.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: While this show isn't quite as aggressive on the battles as Utaware was, people will still die by someone else's hand, often screaming. Outside of that, it's just about as clean as Utaware despite also having a H-game origin.

Also, much like Utaware -- except far more so -- Tears to Tiara takes on a bit of a religious angle. I'm not going to describe it in detail, except that it shares a few topical similarities with JRPG game Tales of Symphonia, and I honestly don't know how much they'll appreciate its treatment.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Tears to Tiara © 2009 Oriental Light and Magic, White Fox, AQUAPLUS