What They Say:
Although the Demon Lord Arawn has thus far lead the Gaels well in the battle for Avalon, their tiny force has been battered by the near-constant combat. As Gaius is called to the High Court, Arawn attempts to lead Arthur and the Gaels to his own tomb, seeking treasure with which to continue funding their assault. However, the imperial forces’ continuing advance prompts a desperate change of plans, forcing Arawn to use a divine spell with grave and unexpected consequences.
As an act of treachery again changes the course of the war, leaving the untested Riannon alone in command, Ogam makes a stunning revelation! Ally turns on ally and the most ancient legends of lost Britain are reborn!
Contains episodes 14-26.
Tears to Tiara is presented only in its original Japanese stereo language format, encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that makes out well by its audio design as there is a fair bit of directionality and placement throughout it, both in dialogue and in the action scenes as well. The series is one that plays well whether it’s a big loud scene or one of quiet dialogue with some ambient music and the encoding here serves it well. This is one of the better stereo mixes, though not a top of the line, but it at least makes some use of the stereo channels overall and adds to the show rather than just being a simple part of it. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release contains thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a seven/six split. Similar to other works by Aquaplus, this show really has a very good look about it and the transfer captures it very well. Colors generally remain very solid with only a few areas showing some mild noise in a large area of a single color. Motion is free of problems and artifacting and cross coloration is pretty much non-existent. Some previous shows from this group had some problems with their CG work, but Tears to Tiara comes across very smoothly and with a wonderful look overall.
The cover design for this half of the series mirrors the first though it does give Arawn some space, though not with the best of images for him. The characters are a decent mix but it feels like they haven’t pulled together the right ones that work for the show and feel right for selling it. The background itself utilizes the background from the closing animation sequence which gives it a rustic and earthy indistinct look. It’s not a bad cover but it’s not one that will out and out grab you either. The back cover uses more of the same background with Primula leaning against the right side. The left side features a small selection of shots from the show while in between there’s a decent summary of the overall premise. Some basic production information is included along the bottom and the technical grid covers everything well. The cover does list that the disc includes clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, but they’re actually absent from the disc itself in the extras section which only has production credits.
The menus have a nice bit of simple style about them with a soft parchment like feeling for the overall background on which each disc has a different piece of character illustration artwork. The layout doesn’t offer too much to it, giving over a lot of space to the individual episode selection through the middle, No language submenu is included with this release so there’s really nothing here outside of the episode selection itself and the special features section. Everything does load quickly and it’s the kind of menu that does set the atmosphere pretty well before the show while making sure the episodes are easily selectable.
The extras included in this release are on the first disc with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
The second half of Tears to Tiara runs thirteen episodes and provides for a good run for the show, though the ending doesn’t come across quite as solidly as some other shows. Fantasy shows continue to be few and far between but Tears to Tiara does manage most of it really nice as it mixes in a lot of elements with a great big helping of religion and King Arthur style nods. Comparisons to Utawarerumono are still strong here and as much as I’m enjoying Tears to Tiara, it still feels like the weaker show.
Arawn’s story dominates this set and that’s almost from the start as he’s decided to return to his tomb in order to gain some funds that are needed to continue the campaign. The tomb starts to open some memories of the past as Riannon sees things from a long time ago with Primula and Pwyll. These visions of the past start haunting Riannon more and more throughout these episodes as she’s coming to realize the power that’s actually inside her. There’s a really good arc with this that’s spread out across much of these episodes as Riannon starts to understand her connection to the past, something that Arther deals with as well as both have strong ties to those that have come before them in Primula and Pwyll. These kinds of connections are fun to watch play out as you see them somewhat influenced by what has happened but also staking out their own positions in life.
While the show has focused more on the war between Albion and Arawn as they try to take over the land, it does shift away from there in this set as it progresses. The initial early battles are really good though, as Arawn has fallen into a slumber due to a weakness and that has given the Emperor’s army the opening they needed to go after Castle Avalon. With Arawn down, morale drops but it gives everyone else a chance to shine as they try to hold off the invasion as best as they can. Octavia and Morgan shine the best here though as they’ve become very close and have a sense of rhythm between them that allows them to have fun while dealing out all manner of death. It’s an interesting mixture for them but it works incredibly well.
Where the majority of these episodes focus, and it’s a good focus even if it does alter the flow of the show for awhile, is on the past where we see Arawn when he essentially first came to life. His time aeons ago as the thirteenth White Spirit highlights the rigid nature of the group as there can be only twelve and he’s considered an abomination. But he’s saved because he’s taken on the wing of Myrddin who is attempting to change the long range goals of the Twelve. The group has a very distinct idea about how the world should be and it’s one that does not include humans, as they believe it’s God’s will that the world should be pure and white with nothing there to despoil it. But Myrddin believes that the ice age that they’ve created must end and spring must come to the world, a world where mankind along with others will find their rightful place.
And for Myrddin, he believes that Arawn, who he names Lucifer, will be the one who can do that once he learns what it is he wants to accomplish in life. When Myrddin moves on and Lucifer takes on a formal position as one of the Twelve, he becomes an integral part of their plan until he starts to question it based on what he was told by Myrddin years ago. The connection between Heaven and Earth becomes the focus as Lucifer starts to understand the potential of the humans that have been brought to near extinction, causing him to question everything that he’s been doing. With all of this taking so long ago, seeing the differences in the world from then to the present time is really nicely done as is seeing Arawn in a very different way than we know him now. Unfortunately, the spend several episodes on this and when w get back to the present, it takes a bit to get back on track.
With Albion being less of an issue now and the focus shifting to dealing with one of the White Spirits’ that’s there, the war shifts to dealing with him and the massive armies of golems that are mobilizing out there. It takes on a good epic feel as we see more of the dragons of the past, giants with their hammers getting involved and entire mountains being demolished. The large scale of the battles, especially at the mountain, is really fantastic as everyone gets involved and it feels like a good solid epic moment. Tears to Tiara does get back to more personal moments though when the core cast heads into the castle where the White Spirit is operating out of as he has an obelisk there that will unleash enough Gravitas that will eradicate everything on the planet.
The final arc of the series is good as it wraps everything up, but there’s also the problematic part in that everyone gets split up into smaller groups and they each have to face different groups of villains that play to their strengths. After all the material on Lucifer and Arthur, giving the secondary cast subplots designed to give them more time is nice but forced. Everything does come down to Arawn and Arthur though and it’s really well done as it goes back to the time when the pair first met and how their relationship has changed and evolved over the course of it. There’s a lot of history between the two men that has happened, a lot of it that Arthur wasn’t even aware of for awhile, but when it reaches its climax it really is a spot on piece of epic fantasy.
Tears to Tiara is a fun fantasy series with great looking animation and solid character designs. The show plays up some interesting angles as it progressed, working religion heavily into it as well as Arthurian legend in a new light. As much fun as it is, there’s something that just didn’t connect as well as it could. All the characters are fun, the story is good and I love the animation. But Arawn didn’t seem like a lead character most of the time which kept it from reaching the next level. He’s a good character surrounded by many other good characters, especially Octavia and Morgan, but I don’t know that he really carried the series as much as he needed to. I enjoyed Tears to Tiara a whole lot but it doesn’t measure up to Aquaplus’ previous series of Utawarerumono.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 26th, 2010
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.