Probably the Best Video Game Adaptation Turned Anime I’ve Seen
Awhile back while searching for another anime I happened upon a show called “Tower of Druaga“. This title was one I was quick to disregard, except two things struck me about it when I looked it up. The first being that this was somehow based on a 1984 Namco game and the fact that this was a Gonzo production. If you don’t know already, I have a philosophy that all Gonzo shows are at least interesting, even if they aren’t good, but sometimes they really delight. So the big question is, did Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk deliver?
First I should probably clarify that this is more of a continuation than a proper adaptation of the 1984 game. Gilgamesh, the main character of the game, has already beaten Druaga once before in the original 60 floor tower. Instead, Gilgamesh is now the beloved king of the land and is too old to deal with the reemergence of an even more threatening tower. That’s where the main character of this story, Jil, steps in.
Billing itself as a comedy set in a dark fantasy world, Tower of Druaga may come off as a bit confused tonally at first glance. Jil has aspirations to be the typical hero that we’ve all seen a hundred times. It doesn’t help that the basic story of climbing the tower, beating the monster, and getting all the glory that comes with is nothing special. However, Jil really isn’t capable of reaching this goal, at least, not on his own.
The first episode highlights this in a ridiculous sequence where Jil is promptly rendered unconscious against some fairly low-level enemies. This leaves his party without their “shielder”, as the name implies a defensive position in a party, and results in his getting kicked out. Jil loses the heart of a girl who may otherwise be interested in him, the respect of his brother, Neeba (it was his party he joined), and forever tarnishes his reputation.
During the time he is unconscious though, we see the dream that Jil aspires to. It’s really goofy, complete with a Gurren Lagann reference even. The humor can get a bit repetitive, but it just barely avoids outstaying its welcome. To this end, it’s easy to see where the comedy angle comes from but the more serious tone the show eventually takes is still present.
Still, not all hope is lost. There is one person who believes in Jil and shares his goal in climbing the tower. The mysterious Kaaya helps him form a party consisting of the warrior, Ahmey. Eventually they also recruit the narcissistic mage, Melt (who uses magic wands that are just golf clubs, how unique!) along with his attendant Coopa.
Really, the story is split into two plots. The A plot being Jil’s party as they crawl their way up the tower. Kaaya clearly has some secrets, but most of the time this group is like a D&D campaign where the party is mostly goofing around. That said, they can still get the job done at the end of the day. The B plot follows the more serious Neeba and is more akin to your traditional dark fantasy story.
Both of these plotlines are fully developed, which makes the world and its characters feel all that more alive. Even more, the side characters are given a decent amount of focus, even transitioning to more prominent figures as the plot goes on. It’s a nice touch that adds just that much extra to the story.
Where Tower of Druaga shines is when the A and B plots intersect, eventually blurring together and becoming one in the same. For a comedy series, this show gets pretty dark and maintains a fairly serious tone through most of its run. Not every comedy needs to be a bunch of jokes per minute, so this is something I appreciated.
While not everything always works, this anime certainly achieves its goals more often than it misses the mark. Often I see a series try to achieve something like this but fall flat because one of its elements ends up feeling lacking or neglected. However, that isn’t the case here.
Instead, you keep a fairly light tone in the earlier portion of the story while slowly transitioning to a more serious plot across 12 episodes. You still have a joke here-and-there as things go on, but by taking this approach, this “genre swap” feels natural.
Speaking of this being only 12 episodes, you might think that is a bit short, and that’s because it is only the first half of the anime overall. In fact, there’s another season that tells the aftermath of what occurs at the top of the tower. I plan to cover that in a future review, but want to take a second to mention it here as well. You won’t be disappointed.
Finally, when it comes to the actual story and plot of the anime itself, I wanted to mention something I really appreciated. There are serious stakes in the show, or at least, it feels like there is. This is most evident when they kill a main character and they stay dead. Often shows like this bring the character back to life and it is incredibly cheesy, but not here.
I didn’t have a good place for this but two things: 1) you can watch the whole series for free and legally on Funimation’s YouTube 2) this OP is really unique, just filled with tons of little details while being totally unlike the rest of the show but conveying everything pretty perfectly
I mention this because the supposed reward for defeating Druaga is a magical item that can grant ANY one wish. However, even that isn’t all that it seems. The show does a good job letting you in on a lot of details, but just hiding enough to keep many things a surprise. All-in-all, Tower of Druaga is a show that was unexpected, and one I can’t help but recommend.
What are your thoughts on Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you decide to check this title out if you haven’t already. Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of the second half. If you enjoy my writing, consider a donation by hitting one of the buttons below. Finally, thanks for reading!