There’s a story in there somewhere. Separate the “humor” content, and mind the “video game” reference portions, and there’s a story to The Tower of Druaga somewhere. Marathoning the rest of the series certainly helped me follow everything going on.
The plot to a story can essentially be worked down into one of two types. There is the plot which comes to exist because of the characters, and there is the plot which will exist even without the main characters. The story to The Tower of Druaga is the latter, as it would go on even if Jil, Kaaya, Ahmey, Melt, and Coopa were not there. Events would not have turned out the same, but the history of Gilgamesh would have been the same. The monsters would have been the same, as well as the Summer of Anu. There would be climbs, and there would be someone with the knowledge of Neeba, someone with the knowledge of Kaaya, someone with the knowledge of Pazuz, ready to enter that second tower.
If the characters are not driving the plot, then the plot itself must motivate the characters. Once characters have a shared destination, all it takes is to put them together, and watch them interact along the way.
As far as story telling goes, this is where The Tower of Druaga does things right. There was no oracle appearing before Jil, Kaaya, Ahmey, and Melt saying, “You are the Four Chosen Warriors of Light, and you must Travel Together to Save the World, for This is Your Destiny.” Rather than falling back on any crutches of destinies and chosen ones, The Tower of Druaga gets all of this out of its system in the first episode, then the real story begins.
A group of individuals comes together with a shared goal of climbing the tower, and the requirement of Climbers becoming a party to increase their chances of survival rubber-banded these four together. And of course Coopa came along for the ride.
Still, simply joining forces isn’t enough to move characters through a story. It’s their motivation which drives them, and The Tower of Druaga is big on motivation. Why else would you risk your life against large and powerful monsters, even if you’ll have a wish granted?
There are plenty of Climbers with their eyes on riches, but I don’t think these Climbers could get very far on their own. They rely on the army to help clear the paths for them. They’re able to go into a fight to be sure, as seen against ol’ One-Wing, but there’s no way a group more concerned about the youth of their face can expect to take on the guardian on the second-to-last level on their own.
Looking at the main cast of characters, Jil is the most flawed, when it comes to writing. He’s seen being punched right in the forehead without even a nudge. A large stone is broken over his head. True, he does end up bleeding and collapses, probably not likely to survive if not for Kaaya’s intervention, and it does set up his general ability to take abuse, something he encounters in later battles. At the same time, if the only explanation is that he’s so gung-ho that he can take anything, and worry about the pain later, then he’s given a special ability as a character by the writer, something no one else is offered. If Jil is going to be tossed around in a manner that would put any other teenager down for the count for a while, there needs to be a reason for Jil to be able to get back up and return to the fight. I simply cannot accept that it’s all in the attitude.
That can-do attitude, the “everything will work out, no matter what” is also a character flaw when used in many stories, due to the unrealistic nature of naive optimism, no matter what happens. What happened for Jil came as Ahmey’s death, and now he has two options. He can continue to be happy-go-lucky, or he can tone it down a little, realize there’s something much greater going on, and realize his brother and Kaaya know something they believe would be dangerous for him to know. Whether it would be dangerous to Jil for him to know it, or to their own quest for him to know it, remains to be seen.
Why did Kaaya form a party with Jil? Initially, she’s seen as an oracle, someone with an ability to heal, approaching Jil to heal his wounds. Accepting that Jil as a character has an uncannily hard head, it can be determined that this is part of Kaaya’s motivation. She knows there is a second tower, and this hard-headed warrior could have what it takes to get her there. She’s probably already in her mind enlisted Ahmey, an ex-soldier of the king’s army. Add in an offensive magic user, and she has a team ready to take her to her destination. All she needs to do is act naive and innocent.
Once Jil follows Neeba and Kaaya into the tower in the next chapter of the story, Kaaya’s feelings for Jil may be her downfall, and may be exactly what Neeba will need to be away with Kaaya after he’s done with whatever purpose she’s needed for. And her upcoming travels with Neeba? How does Kaaya know she can trust being with him, trust he won’t be using her to reach Druaga?
The only character whose motivation really gets a chance to be known completely is Ahmey’s, and it’s laid out for the viewer along side her past. Unfortunately, Ahmey is otherwise a fairly unnecessary character. Her spotlight moments were sticking her weapon into the guardian–allowing Jil to use it as the finishing blow–and to die, so Jil could understand what Neeba said about Jil’s friends dying. The last scene concerning Ahmey is her handkerchief, found by Jil, perhaps to him a symbol of why he cannot give up now, a reason for him to return to the tower, and follow his brother and Kaaya.
There has to be more to Ahmey in the next portion of the series, and hopefully she’ll be more than a motivation for Jil to carry on. There’s no need for her to physically return, but giving her an episode devoted to her past and her wish came as a rush to info-dump as much about her as the writers could before they got rid of her. Very convenient for the writers. Not so much for Miss Ahmey.
Another character with motivation unknown is Melt, unless what he tells Ethana is to be believed. He’s introduced by Coopa as a mage once of the royal palace, and informs her master that she has brought Climbers with her. She points out his failure with the last group of Climbers he joined, being fired right away. He didn’t join Jil’s party to be around Kaaya and Ahmey. He joined a group of Climbers, which happened to have Kaaya and Ahmey as a bonus for him. There is no mistake, he wants a wish, and he doesn’t care which party he joins.
As for Coopa, she is loyal to Melt. There is no motivation for her to climb the tower otherwise. In what may be her and Melt’s final moments, she tells him she’ll assist him into the next life.
On the other side is Neeba’s party. They claim to be Climbers with a shared goal to garner great wealth.
Looking into Neeba’s childhood, he had to watch his younger brother be their shared father’s favorite. Young Jil would carry on their father’s legacy. Young Neeba simply stood on the side-lines, a carry-over from “the first wife”, Jil of the second.
As a Climber, it’s suggested that Neeba lost his first party to One-Wing, and he may be the one who took the dragon’s first wing. The blue-haired Succubus suggests as much, about being able to reach the top of the tower with Neeba’s new party members, as well as Neeba telling Jil how he’d lose his party members going at things headfirst.
Neeba’s motivations (like Kaaya’s) are kept hidden up through the end (although Neeba gets scenes such as very early on when Fatina tells him he’s hiding things from their party). The two lie to those around them to get to the top of the tower, keeping secrets, falsifying their plans. Not only can their true motives be unknown to Jil, Fatina, and the others, but also to the viewer. And whatever their motive, Neeba is intent in need to take Kaaya with him.
Like Ahmey to Jil, Kally is to Fatina. Due to the nature of Neeba’s party not being the focus of the story, Neeba’s party members are never really touched upon. It’s suggested that Kally, the same as Fatina and presumably Utu, is climbing the tower for the promise of wealth. Utu says Kally wanted to “bring wealth to his hometown”, showing he, like Fatina, and perhaps Utu, really did fight for the wealth.
As a member of Neeba’s party, Kally brings his ability to go to the street-ears and gather information, his ability to move around swiftly and obtain the knowledge his party needs. He has the ability. He has the connections. And in the end, Kally’s motivation doesn’t matter. He assists Neeba’s group in numerous ways, and this is all that matters for Neeba.
As a character in a story, Kally’s purpose is to begin opening Fatina’s eyes to their quest, and to Neeba’s true motives.
Fatina is the interesting character to watch throughout the series. She’s loyal to Neeba, following his every word, a slave to his lips upon hers. She comments early on to Neeba about Jil being “cute”, but teases Jil along the way. In the end, Neeba betrays her, and she finds herself with Jil. It isn’t her first time with Jil, as she had prior been stuck with him after being separated from her party. At that time, she’s portrayed as being lost on what to do, and it’s Jil making the decision to continue to their destination, in hopes of meeting up with their parties there.
Looking on to the next series, the only place for Fatina to go is to strengthen herself as a character. She needs to be able to stand up on her own. She must be self-reliant, and she will have to face Neeba before she can find peace, for herself and for Kally. She fought alongside Neeba for wealth. Now she must fight alongside Jil for inner peace.
Hopefully Utu will be a character to keep ones eye on in the next installment of the series. He, like Kally, has mostly just been there. At least Kally went around gathering information. The secret will lie in Utu’s motivation. If he was after money, then chances are he’s not getting it, and he’ll need a new reason to keep on going. If he was after something else, then his motivation to go after Neeba may be even greater. It’s not as if Neeba is responsible for there being no Crystal Rod, or for there being a second tower, but Neeba knew about these. Therefore, Neeba lied to Utu and the others, Neeba is responsible for Kally dying chasing after something which could not be obtained, and Neeba simply used his party throughout the tower.
Pazuz leads the third party of Climbers containing someone who knows about the second tower. He kills the king perhaps to prove to himself the existence of the second tower. He knows Neeba knows about the second tower. He sends a group of monsters after Jil’s party, but there’s nothing to suggest he knows about Kaaya’s knowledge.
During a conflict, Jil gives Pazuz a second scar. This brings into question how Pazuz earned the first scar. Conflict with Neeba in relation to the two learning about the second tower? No, Neeba says early on about wanting to meet Pazuz, suggeting he was scoping out his rival for the first time. Perhaps an early battle, leading to Pazuz later learning wind magic, allowing him to attack monsters from a distance?
The “ghost of the Tower”, the red-glowing Ki, maiden of Ishtar, acts as a know-all able to bring information to Jil that the viewer does not know otherwise. She talks about Jil’s lack of readiness to battle “the true Druaga” before the party encounters the guardian, and she refers to Kaaya getting “her single-mindedness from him,” suggesting perhaps that Kaaya is Gilgamesh’s granddaughter. The king did speak with Kaaya early on, the conversation suggestive that both he and Kaaya know the truth behind the tower. And he used the name “Ishara” in this conversation.
Ki says she waits for “him”, the one she “loves with all [her] heart”. Does she expect Gilgamesh to return, to find her as he did 80 years prior? They married and had a son, but he was killed, and Ki was taken back to the tower. Can Gilgamesh save her again, free her once more from Druaga? Or will someone reaching the top of the true tower allow her and Gilgamesh to be free of the curse of Druaga, allowing both to finally die, to be together once more, as Ahmey with the one she loved? The king told Kaaya that their meeting would be their parting in their life, which can suggest Kaaya’s victory would lead to his belated death.
In the game tower within the tower, Ki tells Jil to be careful of three betrayals, to soon befall him. Later, she tells him to be careful, motioning toward his party. This can be suggestive of Kaaya, Ahmey, and Melt betraying him, as only one person can get a wish on the Crystal Rod. Since Ki must know Gil took the Crystal Rod with him, she may instead have motioned toward Kaaya, knowing Kaaya and Neeba had their own hidden agendas. This leaves one more betrayal, waiting to happen in the second chapter of the story, a betrayal Ki and Succubus would know about. Is one of the betrayals to learn that Druaga at the top of the tower is only a guardian, another betrayal to learn that the Crystal Rod is not at the top of the tower, and the final betrayal to learn of the existence of a second tower?
The missing piece for me here is how Ki knew about the upcoming betrayals, if the betrayals are based in Jil’s friends and family. Succubus remarks about Ki finally waking up, having been awoken by Jil when he reached the 60th floor of the old tower. How could Ki have known about the betrayals soon to befall him, unless they were betrayals of the tower and what people expected of it?
Opposite Ki is Succubus, loyal to Druaga. While Ki informs Jil, the one carrying Gil’s sword, Succubus chooses to tag along with Neeba. She speaks to him softly but bluntly, reminding him that the lives of Fatina and the others mean nothing to him. If she’s trying to dissuade him, she’s not doing a very good job of it. If, on the other hand, she’s trying to help shape him up to be the kind of person she wants to encounter Druaga, then she may be doing a rather fine job.
The rest of the cast goes to minor cast members. Gilgamesh is certain to play a greater role in the next series, as he watches Neeba and Kaaya achieve his goal for him. Whether Kelb and Ethana will lead the army back up the tower, now that it may be traversed sans monsters, up to the second tower, is yet to be seen. Certainly Marf will appear again, as he’s worked with Pazuz against the king.
Finally, there’s a character shown without actually appearing yet (unless I missed her), the silver-haired lady from the ending theme. I’m guessing she’s the goddess, Ishtar. Until now, the only true symbol of her existence has been the prayers of an oracle, with claims that those powers bestowned upon the oracle exist by Ishtar’s benevolence. Beyond this, and Ki’s position as a maiden of Ishtar, Ishtar may actually be a fictional character, someone who does not actually exist.
Or, she may be a true goddess, with Druaga as her opposite, much like Ki is a maiden to Ishtar and Succubus to Druaga. Be this the way things are, there is a case to be made for her to appear near the end of the final chapter of the story.
When I first read about the concept of The Tower of Druaga, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I enjoyed Petite Princess Yucie, but the handful of dubbed episodes of Record of Lodess War I’d seen long ago bored me. Medieval/fantasy is my favorite genre, but Record of Lodess War showed that falling into this genre isn’t enough to catch my attention. I went into The Tower of Druaga knowing this.
The first episode left me lost and confused. The second episode redeemed the show. The third episode continued to improved things. Then I stopped watching for quite some time. Finally returning, I found The Tower of Druaga to be literally sound in its characters and plot, in character interactions, and in the building and revealing of mysteries. The characters became more then single-minded cardboard cutouts (which is always a good thing).
The use of computer animation never set well with me. It was plainly obvious every time, with motions more fluid than the drawn animation. There was never any attempt to keep the tower guardian from being overly out of place. Of course, this is shown early on, when Gilgamesh first defeats it, so that much was to be expected for Jil’s encounter. Still, it felt as if an enemy from ReBoot slipped into the series (which would actually make sense, with The Tower of Druaga being based on a video game’s mythos, and ReBoot featuring the digital avatars of video game characters. Hexadecimal, is that you?)
Was this series worth $12 to me? Certainly, as I paid that for it. If it wasn’t worth that amount, I wouldn’t have continued the series after giving it a second chance. Is it one I’d buy on DVD? Nah. Although, if I were going to buy it on DVD, it’d be nice to be able to buy it on DVD through BOST and get a $12 discount due to having paid that much toward the series already. Either that, or give me DVD quality downloads.
The first chapter of the story ends with Jil being the shield, the aegis, of Uruk. Questions are left unanswered. New character interactions are waiting to be seen, as Fatina may now team up with Jil in Kaaya’s place, and Utu can be a powerhouse in Ahmey’s stead. As for Melt and Coopa, their return could only be done so either under Melt having a hidden agenda still waiting to be fulfilled, or Coopa’s forcing him to return to putting his life in danger.
I await the next installment.