Sentai Filmworks/Section23 continues to venture into the world of Blu-ray and have stepped up their game to give FUNimation some competition. The publisher has released some of their series in high definition so far, but more are on the way. Recently Tears to Tiara came out as a 2-disc complete collection. How does this 26 episode series fair in HD?
Tears to Tiara certainly doesn't have a unique background or story about how it came to be. Like so many other shows this one evolved from a PC ero-game, which happened to have caught on enough to warrant an animated version. We've seen it several times before and I'm sure anime publishers aren't going to stop looking to PC games for releases any time soon. Generally speaking that's a fine thing, but I must admit that not every endeavor of this sort is met with success. Quality is often hit or miss. Thankfully, in the case of Tears to Tiara, the good definitely outweighs the bad.
For all intents and purposes Tears to Tiara is a very straightforward, and one might argue generic, entry in the fantasy genre. All the staples are here from an ancient land with rich history that involves elves, dwarves, and what have you to magic users, sword wielders, and an ancient demon returning to the world. Many of the trappings will be instantly familiar to anyone that has watched anything such as Record of Lodoss War, Utawarerumono, or even Tower of Druaga. Granted Tears to Tiara marches to the beat of a different drummer, but many of the staples are there.
The show takes place at an undisclosed point in time on a world that has seen many changes and ages. This place has gone through the age of elves, dragons, dwarves, and names of some various metals, but for the purposes of this series we find ourselves in the Iron Age, or the Age of Humans as it were. Not much is revealed about the history of what's going on here, and in all fairness there's not much in the way of revelation about where the series is going by the end of this thirteen episode installment. It's a rather cryptic show with a lot of "legend says" and mythology that is just kind of dropped out of the blue. It's not such a bad thing, but more references in these episodes would definitely have gone a long way to fleshing out the world.
Basically the story in Tears to Tiara focuses on events that surround a village of a people known as the Gael. The chieftain's daughter, Riannon, happens to have a drop of elven blood in her so she's regarded as a person of significance when it comes to ritual sacrifices in the name of divinity. At least that's what a traveling priest and his sizeable forces would have you believe. He arrives in the Gael village to pillage and burn it down, but his ultimate goal is to get his hands on Riannon. She's to be used in a ritual to revive the Demon King, Arawn, and bring about the destruction of the world. Charming, huh?
While Riannon is in the priest's custody her brother, Arthur, assembles the troops and charges off to rescue her. He arrives a tad late and finds that the ritual is already underway, but before Riannon can be sacrificed a series of events is set into motion that proves to be rather unexpected. Arawn does indeed come back in mortal form, but rather than serve the priest and launch his destruction campaign he winds up saving Riannon from danger. This prompts Riannon to claim Arawn as her husband, thus making him the Gael's new chieftain. Naturally this doesn't sit well with Arthur, but he's not quite a match for Arawn. Just imagine the good times that would come from being lead by the king of all demons.
As the show moves forward it really begins to explore character relationships and how everyone relates to Arawn. A much larger plot involving a war between the Gael Clan and the Holy Empire comes forward in the second half and there's a nice struggle that stems from that. It gives the characters, world, and story some time to grow. In all honesty the first and second halves feel like two separate entities. Sure, the characters are the same, but whereas the first was a collection of lighthearted set up, the second is geared more towards conflict and drama.
Ultimately Tears to Tiara is a charmer of a series. It stays strong throughout and offers up many memorable moments. There are some inconsistencies as the show tinkers with things, and Arawn isn't as strong a character as the show makes him out to be. However, I'd call this one strongly recommended. It's a good fantasy show with some memorably characters, nice bits of action, and solid storytelling.
Tears to Tiara is presented on Blu-ray with its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and receives a full 1080p output with VC-1 encoding. The series wasn't produced in HD and it kind of shows. Colors aren't as vibrant or solid as they could be, some light haloing can be spotted at times, and outlines are sometimes a little jagged. The video is also a little softer than it should be and as such some parts appear muddier than necessary. The transfer doesn't contain any of the grain or artifacting the DVD release had, and it should be considered a step up in terms of presentation, but it's far from perfect.
The audio presentation for Tears to Tiara comes in the form of DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for English and Japanese (both presented in 2.0 stereo). First of all I do want to point out that the original Tears to Tiara release on DVD did not include an English dub. Secondly, I want to say that's probably a good thing since the dub here isn't exactly what I'd call "great". The Japanese dialogue is the better choice, though the technical presentation is a little lackluster all around. The 2.0 stereo serves its purpose for dialogue, but any sense of immersion or oomph to battle sequences is sorely missing.
Some clean animations are pretty much all you're going to find here for bonus features.
Tears to Tiara is a good fantasy themed show and it brings plenty of fresh ideas to the table. The characters are lively and the story gets better as it goes along. This Blu-ray release is the better of the two that I've seen so far, though the presentation isn't exactly home theater showcase material. Consider the release strongly recommended and a worthy upgrade over the DVD set.