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Tales of Phantasia Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Tales of PhantasiaThreatened by the powerful Demon King, a small band of people travels through time to stop him before he can destroy everything.

What They Say
In the land of Midgard, a bloodthirsty conqueror breaks the seal holding Dhaos, the Demon King. Dhaos’s goal is to eradicate all mankind. A few survivors of this destructive event have banded together in an effort to fight against the impending darkness and chaos. A warrior, cleric, witch, summoner, archer, and ninja make up the Heroes of Space and Time as they relentlessly pursue Dhaos in order to end his conquest of death.

The Review!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English mix is done as a 5.1 design encoded at 448kbps.  Both tracks sound pretty good though the edge goes clearly to the English language mix both for its better sense of clarity and placement but also for a bit richer sounding presentation. The Japanese mix is solid and clean throughout but has more of a full soundstage feeling than anything with a lot of noticeable directionality. Both tracks are clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released between 2004 and 2006, the OVAs are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being that these OVAs come from a fairly high profile game series, the budget for them is pretty good and there is a visible sense of quality to the presentation overall. The transfer for this seems to be in good shape and there really isn’t anything that seems to be wrong with it but certain things seem to stick out. While colors look good overall and maintain a solid look about them and cross coloration isn’t anywhere to be seen, the way the show deals with its camera panning has left it a bit problematic for some scenes. In such areas as the mausoleum in the first episode, when the camera shifts along the various interior walls, you can see some bit of rolling to them, like a number of columns riding underneath a piece of paper. This crops up in a couple of scenes throughout the four episodes and is noticeable on our 50″ setup but it was far less pronounced on our 23″ setup. Something like this feels like a source element rather than an encoding issue, however.

With this release going from four original Japanese volumes to just one here, someone is going to lose out. That said, the artwork used for the cover here is solid and definitely lets you know what kind of show to expect. With the fantasy oriented setting in the background with the castle, the foreground has the four lead characters done in very good looking vibrant colors and designs that are, if a touch generic, still rather appealing. Framed with the usual trappings of fantasy themed shows, it sets expectations right from the start and lets you know what you’re getting into. The back cover expands on it with a scroll design that provides the minimal summary while below is a collage of shots from the show. The remainder is well laid out and uses good fonts to cover the discs features, extras and production information. I was also rather glad to see the technical grid used with this release since it lays it all out very clearly. The reverse side cover is a full two-panel piece that has the leads again but in bigger action poses that’s nicely detailed. The insert doesn’t provide any real information but it has various pieces of artwork on both sides and a two-panel spread inside.

The menu design for this is simple and effective but not without some flaws. The main menu layout takes the image of the Great Tree and the many surrounding ones and brings in small clips of character animation to the side of it with a bit of vocal music playing to it. Using the same logo as the cover artwork, it has a very good fantasy feel to it and it all blends together very well. While I continue to dislike the mixing of the setup and extras menus, I really dislike here that the languages are “set” in a way that forces you to use the remote on the fly to change it to what you want. You can’t set it to the English language with English subtitles or Japanese with no subtitles from here, but at least it isn’t locked out of the disc itself. Access times are solid and the transitional animations for the menus are brief and well done.

The extras are pretty simple with clean versions of the opening and ending sequences and an art gallery. Geneon’s done some really interesting art galleries in the past, such as Kamichu, but here’s a straight shot of small images in a leaf surrounded window. On the plus side, they didn’t skimp and included over a hundred pieces of artwork and sketches.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My love affair with RPG’s ended years ago and isn’t likely to return until my kids are in college but it’s a genre I’m fairly familiar with. Having never played the Tales of Phantasia games that Namco put out, I ended up going into this series cold but came away very pleased with how the show managed to work. With it being short and focused, it takes on more of a theatrical feel by telling a movie-length story with the pacing set to an OVA format.

The series deals initially with a group of friends who are fighting against the Demon King Dhaos. Dhaos is a thorn in their side as he seems to have little rhyme or reason in what he decides to attack but the group, some of them who have lost their homes to him, are intent on stopping him. Ostensibly led by Cress, a human warrior, the group is made up of a somewhat standard group of characters. His childhood friend Chester is a more than capable archer and Min, a young woman whose relation we aren’t entirely clear on, is something of a naturalist who is also a capable fighter. Along with an older mage, they’ve attempted to stop Dhaos inside a mausoleum before he can continue to wreak havoc elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Dhaos is far too strong for them and the old mage realizes the only hope is to gain the help of a pair of powerful mages. These two mages, a man named Claus and half-elf woman named Arche, managed to repel an attack by Dhaos before. The problem comes in that this happened over a hundred years ago which means that Cress and Mint must travel back in time to bring them forward. That provides us with some interesting if brief adventures there as we see Dhaos working over the land of Midgard then. It also sets the larger picture as Cress now has to work with a group of people that must chase Dhaos across time as everywhere he goes he’s working towards his goal of eliminating humanity.

Where the show manages to work rather well with this somewhat straightforward storyline is that even though Dhaos isn’t exactly a charmer with his position, he is the latest in a line of villains who aren’t quite evil. His goals, protecting the Great Tree, is one that is quite admirable. Where his problem lies is that humanity tends to use a combination of magic and technology called Magitech to harness the mana of the world. When this is used, it causes the world to tremble and often isn’t controllable. Dhaos’ intent is to stop this from happening and he’s involved in it over time, but eventually the realization comes that evil lurks in the hearts of all men. Therefore, the race simply must be destroyed. Unless, of course, the weak named “Heroes of Time-Space” can stop him.

There is a lot to like about this show even though the storyline may seem a bit simplistic. Visually, it’s a very good looking piece of work that’s well accented by the character designs by Kosuke Fujishima. Though Mint easily reminds of Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess, the rest don’t feel like he’s copying himself from other pieces. With his designs not being all over the place, they have a good feel here as they stand out well. With the show being an OVA, the budget is definitely higher per episode which brings in a very good looking sense of fluidity to a lot of it. There is a lot of detail mixed in here and some very rich looking colors. Scenes that have the cast outside against bright blue skies are very well done and add a sense of depth and epicness to the show. Beyond that, there are plenty of nods to the time-honored traditions of the fantasy genre but they’re very well executed here.

Another piece that really appealed to me here is that the show plays it straight throughout. There aren’t any animal mascots or goofy sidekicks that accidentally save the day going on here. The closest it gets is that Arche occasionally acts like an anime girl in that she gripes about certain things not going her way. One thing that surprised me that works well in the show as well is that there isn’t any serious romance mixed into it. Some light feelings are exchanged here and there and a bit of potential is drawn into it, but there aren’t any overly romantic moments or declarations of love in the midst of dire situations. I continue to dislike comparing shows but a lot of this reminds me of aspects of Record of Lodoss War in how it plays it straight.

In Summary:
Video game to anime projects when this was made weren’t always the best but there are a few here and there that have worked quite well. While Tales of Phantasia isn’t among the top of the list, it’s a very solid entry. The characters aren’t deeply fleshed out but they play their roles well and it has a solid sense of pacing about it that keeps you moving from event to event. Add in the fun of time travel in this kind of setting and it’s a winning combination. Tales of Phantasia hits all the right marks and is a solid production that’s a great self-contained adventure that will please both those that need a fantasy fix and those that just want to enjoy a good series.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening Animation, Textless Ending Animation, Production Art Gallery

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: January 16th, 2007
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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