YOINK! That’s the sound of the rug being yanked out from underneath me at least five times while I was watching the first episode of THE TOWER OF DRUAGA: AEGIS OF URUK (and thanks to Gia suggesting it to me). For the opening teaser, I was getting a little nervous that this was going to be like RECORD OF LODOSS WAR. Sorry to fans of the show, but I couldn’t watch that past a couple episodes because it was so dry - - and I suspect that had a lot to do with the story being governed by the rules of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. So, when this episode started off with characters charging up and announcing their attacks like this was a turn-based RPG, I got a little anxious.
Then the boy named Jil (a cousin of Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue”?) gets conked out, we cut to the opening titles and I’m seeing the questing band’s real life counterparts roaming around the subway while a bubbly girl sings about “swinging.” Oh, OK… I see orc warriors roaming around the train station and tripping on the turn-styles. This series is about a bunch of kids’ fantasy lives colliding with their real lives. I’ve got it. It’s like the NEVERENDING STORY.
Then the boy named Jil fills us in on the back story of the fantasy world and, again, color me surprised, because I DID NOT expect this series to be drawing from the Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ve seen modern fantasies inspired by Greco-Roman mythology, Norse mythology, Egyptian mythology, even Celtic mythology… but this is the first time I’ve seen SUMERIAN mythology. Kudos to these people for fishing outside the pond.
Then the boy named Jil starts running into a number of funny gags and this anime becomes a (very funny) spoof of fantasy tropes. Again, not what I could've called. I particularly liked the gags about the guys ogling the girl in their band writhing in a tentacle trap rather than save her right away (shades of that really disturbing vine-scene in EVIL DEAD there), the taboo words of voicing your plans to get married and settle down after an adventure marking you for death (glad to see clichés can be ridiculed on both sides of the Pacific) and Jil’s careless insistence on getting the Black Knight’s name wrong. I’m starting to suspect this is like that one of episode of SOUTH PARK where the kids are acting out their ninja fantasies with their very real, and very dangerous, ninja weapons. I’m waiting for the fantasy to end abruptly when TOWER OF DRAGUA’s Butters-equivalent gets cut on his own katana.
Then the boy named Jil destroys Druaga and wakes up back at the beginning scene. What? That was all just a dream? Is this about the wacky fantasies of a character within a fantasy? Where’s the reveal of their real life identities? Is that something they’re not going to get to for a few episodes? If it all? Now, I’m intrigued…
-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Comics and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia Comics. Watch out for the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover collection this March - - available for pre-order now on Amazon.com.