Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
Running Time: 120 minutes
Rating: 13 and Up
Release Date: November 25, 2008
Fighting the good fight across time and space.
I must admit that I practically snatched this DVD away from the prying hands of Clive Owen. You see, while I’m not a huge video gaming fan, I do have a fondness for role-playing games to the point that I look forward to each new release. So believe me when I say that I am very familiar with the Tales of Phantasia role-playing game and even loved it. So you can imagine my delight when Tales of Phantasia: The Animation has made its way to our shores. Told in four episodes, the action-fantasy anime is short but still fun to watch.
Those familiar with the game will be delighted to know that the anime touches on many of the things the game covers including the world of Midgard, Mana (a source of power derived by the magic of nature) and the Battle for Valhalla. It tells a story of brave heroes both human and of the Elf variety and of old magic that has to power to save humanity as well as enslave it. In the land of Midgard, a city is decimated by the Demon King named Dhaos. The city’s only survivors is a warrior named Cress, a cleric named Mint and an archer named Chester face off against the Demon King only to find that they aren’t powerful enough to defeat him. So a powerful magic user sends Cress and Mint to the past.
Of course, back in the time of their ancestors, things aren’t so tranquil their either seeing as Dhaos has assembled an army of thousands of monsters that participate in the famous Battle for Valhalla. Cress quickly finds himself joining the good kingdom’s army while Mint – going before a committee – explains her case to them. It is here that we all meet those who will become Cress and Mint’s greatest allies. Claus is a talented summoner who is joined by the cute witch, Arche, who rides on a broom. During the battle, however, Mint is called to the Tree of Life (an ancient tree guarded by a spirit) that is in need of healing. Strangely enough, Dhaos himself is also drawn to the tree that gives off Mana but to aid in its healing rather than setting out to destroy it as Mint thinks.
Meanwhile, in the castle, Sir Reisen convinces everyone to allow him to use a most powerful instrument that uses an excessive amount of Mana. When the device’s firepower is unleashed, it levels the entire city and parts of the castle. Mint sees that Dhaos is genuinely concerned about the Tree of Life and wants to see it healed and in one scene he even helps Mint by lending her some of his power. When Cress arrives with Arche and Claus as backup, he attack the Demon King despite Mint’s protest.
Cress, Mint and Arce do travel back in time to save their friend Chester who they left behind to battle Dhaos in their time. It is there that they come across another time traveler, an Elf who begs Cress and the others to jump several years into the future to stop the Demon King who fled to the future to finally fulfill his mission of destroying mankind. Once again, the group time travels only this time joined by Claus and a ninja named Suzu. Actually, unlike the game, Suzu doesn’t join Cress and the others but rather aids them by taking on the Demon King’s faithful follower who just so happens to be connected to Suzu.
We finally join the band of heroes as they storm Dhaos castle. The Demon King makes a most interesting observation that – personally – makes him seem less of a bad guy but rather a powerful force that thinks that man isn’t deserving of living in a world where the power of Mana can be wielded. “If there is evil in this world,” Dhaos says. “It lurks in the hearts of men.”
Maybe he’s right or maybe he’s not letting mankind prove that they’re also capable of other things worth redeeming humanity. Either way, the final battle is one of the more exciting moments in the last episode and its battle (one of the best moments in the game) is a good one. Unfortunately, the four episodes aren’t enough for non-gaming audiences to warm up to the characters or get to love them the way those who played the game have loved them. Even if you are a fan of the game, the story is over before you know it and darn if Dhaos doesn’t even change into his angel form in the final battle.
Tales of Phantasia: The Animation is still a great story no matter how short it is and if you like fantasy then you are in for a nice treat nonetheless. It’s an exciting story with a few great battles tossed in but mostly it’s a tale of humanity trying to prove that there is a place for them in the world. I wish the animation was a bit longer but what is here is not bad.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The four episodes rather rapidly tell the tale of a small band of heroes that defend humanity against the Demon King that threatens life on Midgard. It’s an interesting story but we don’t get much of a chance to really come to know the heroes enough to really care about them. This is too bad since there’s a lot to this fantasy anime than just swords and magic.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
A great overall visual presence makes the animation stand out beautifully. The colorful backgrounds and characters are easily some of the best.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English dub voice cast is really solid and the Japanese is even better so you’ll be happy to crank up the volume for this one. Even the score is handled beautifully and the opening and closing theme songs are good.
You’ll have the clean opening and closing options as well as a number of trailers to keep you busy. Just about the best extra here are the Japanese audio and the two English subtitle streams. The production art is not bad either.
Fans of the Tales role-playing video game series or the fantasy genre will find a lot to like about Tales of Phantasia: The Animation. Sadly, it doesn’t give viewers a chance to get to know or feel comfortable with the characters and its over when things just start to get interesting. Still, this one is well worth a glance if you like action-fantasy or have a warm spot in your heart for the Tales of Phantasia games.