Fantasy Game adaptations have always been a rather notorious genre, due to the huge amount of lazy productions. These series seem to think that “fantasy” means “lack of realism”, and where the end result is almost always an uninspired story about a young swordsman travelling from A to B, saving the world and getting the girl. There are two animation-companies who have managed to break this tradition: Bee-train and Gonzo. Even though .Hack//Roots and .Hack//Dusk were rather questionable, Bee-train did produce .Hack//Sign, which looked more at the philosophy-part of gaming, and the charming adventure story Popolocrois. Then Gonzo came and delivered the hilarious MMORPG-parody Master of Epic, and with Druaga no Tou (or the Tower of Druaga) they did it again.
Druaga no Tou is based on an arcade-game from the eighties. It follows a band of questionable heroes as they try to climb a tower to save the world, but that’s where the generic stuff ends. Finally there’s another series that’s put a bit of thought into its setting, and a lot of ideas went into it to keep things interesting. I especially liked the magician who fights with golf-clubs.
The real charm of this series, however, is that it knows exactly how much it should take itself seriously. It’s not entirely silly, because you can never get a good story out of it, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously at times, which helps swallow the fact that this remains a story about a young inexperienced male on his first adventure. There are a few hilarious episode that successfully parody and homage a number of classic games, but there are enough episodes that focus on the more realistic side of the setting, and Jil (the male lead) is constantly reminded that he’s just an inexperienced attention-seeker, both by the other characters and by the story itself.
When compared to other similar series, Druaga no Tou did a pretty good job, but the fact remains that it’s a miracle that the main party survived, considering that they all were just inexperienced, especially considering the huge amount of people who failed to do the things that they did.
Gonzo had been quite pathetic ever since Bokura no ended, with their only contributions to the past Autumn and Winter season being the crappy Dragonaut and Rosario to Vampire. Special A also went nowhere, and Blassreiter still misses something because it keeps focusing too much on emo, but Druaga no Tou really delivered once it caught steam. I’m glad to see that 2009 will see a second season, because there’s enough left for this series to play with, and with a bit of luck the characters will really warm up and develop significantly there.