I’ve previously described the endearingly silly Rune Soldier as probably the closest non-Realmgard thing to Realmgard, and I stand by that. It’s one of the reasons Rune Soldier has won a place as one of my favourite animes.
It’s the perfect combination of silliness and legitimate Fantasy adventure, which is what I’ve always been aiming for with Realmgard.
Another of my favourite animes because of its ability to balance funny and adventure is The Tower of Druaga, based on a fairly obscure and infamously obtuse and difficult video game. That somehow managed to get three sequels.
The world of Tower of Druaga has a heavy Mesopotamian mythological influence — the main character is called Jil (as in Gilgamesh, but with a J), the monsters in the tower are the weakest during a time called the Summer of Anu, and various other places and minor characters have Mesopotamian names.
The technology level is fairly inconsistent (and I mean that in the nicest way possible), characters use swords and shields and heavy medieval-style armour, but there’s also crossbows and magic guns, and arcade machines. It’s a mix of traditional Fantasy elements and novel, occasionally goofy touches in terms of the magic and technology.
The uniqueness of the world and the memorably silly tone of the plot help to make Tower of Druaga stand out in well-established Fantasy anime genre.
Now, you’d probably expect an anime about adventurers trying to climb a magical tower full of monsters to kill the evil god who lives at the top to be pretty grim and serious.
That’s exactly what Tower of Druaga isn’t.
For example, the opening credits of the second season are a baseball game.
There’s an episode where the heroes have to navigate a maze full of ludicrous booby traps, including one that turns them all into 2D, original video game-esque versions of themselves.
There’s another episode where one of the characters builds a ski resort in the tower. There’s another other episode where the characters have to beat an in-universe version of the original video game to advance up the tower.
A little girl goes around jabbing people with a spoon.
The first episode is easily one of my favourite first episodes of anything I’ve watched. The protagonist gets knocked out, making him hallucinate an episode-long Fantasy sequence that manages to both be an over-the-top parody of Fantasy adventure animes, yet also foreshadow the events of the series with a shocking level of accuracy, something that doesn’t really become apparent without the benefit of hindsight.
The first episode is the goofiest by a country mile, but the series remains primarily a comedy. There are a few deep and dark episodes and several other episodes where major characters get killed off, and the last couple episodes create a Darkest Hour for our heroes that’s sufficiently dark to be legitimately upsetting. Pretty much, all is lost until it isn’t, and then everything works out for our heroes.