Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Dragon’s Dogma

Original Release Date: September 17, 2020
Number of Episodes: 7
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Based on the Video Game: Dragon's Dogma

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Dragon’s Dogma. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

For the past century, the world has lived without fear of the destructive might of dragons. Unfortunately, such peace is about to come to a fiery end.

A huntsman named Ethan (voiced by Yuuichi Nakamura) watches in horror as a dragon appears from nowhere and slaughters his family. Ethan charges at the dragon in a fit of rage, but the beast effortlessly pushes the puny human aside. However, instead of killing Ethan, the dragon rips out his heart, turning the man into an Arisen.

To earn back his heart, Ethan must hunt the dragon down. Helping him in his task, a mystical being, who Ethan names Hannah (voiced by Nana Mizuki), comes to his side. Together, the pair set off on a dangerous quest to save the land, not only from the dragon but from other great monsters as well.

Series Positives

Having never played Dragon’s Dogma the game, I cannot speak of how Dragon’s Dogma, the anime, faired as an adaptation. That said, it is not difficult to see this series’ video game roots.

Therefore, we should ask the question: Having now seen the anime, am I interested in playing the game?

Yes and no. Yes, because each episode ended in a boss battle that looked like it could be incredibly fun to take on. No, because I do not believe this show put Dragon’s Dogma in the best light.

Do I want to call this a bad anime? I don’t since I didn’t think this series was awful; it did have redeeming qualities.

First, the action in Dragon’s Dogma was effective. Visually, it was crap, but more on that later. Nevertheless, I never found myself growing board during an encounter. Since the animation was not doing this show any favors, what was it that held my attention?

It came down to a combination of variety and scale.

No two boss battles – because that was what they were, convince me otherwise – were the same. Therefore, our heroes, Ethan and Hannah, had to go into each fight with a different strategy. How you go about beating a cyclops is not the same when facing a hydra, lich, or griffin. Also, there was a goddamn cyclops, hydra, lich, and griffin, and these bastards were big.

Dragon’s Dogma did this very well.

The creatures Ethan and Hannah faced were not minor nuisances. These were terrifying monsters that had already been responsible for countless death and destruction. These things weren’t going to lose just because someone poked them with a sharp stick. Their size took up entire cathedrals, canyon gorges, and abyssal caves, and most could attack from multiple places at once.

Again, these were encounters I think would be incredibly exciting to take on in a video game.

Additionally, I liked how Dragon’s Dogma incorporated a real succubus into its story. Having now seen far too many comedic and purely fanservice-y versions of these beings, I took their true nature for granted. Succubi are dangerous demons not to be messed with, so I was glad this series decided to include them.

Aside from the enemies, Dragon’s Dogma’s narrative worked, for the most part. It wasn’t anything spectacular, and I can’t say it wowed me in any significant way. Still, it was mercifully simple and straightforward, and that is not a criticism.

I am willing to bet that the game version of Dragon’s Dogma is far more in-depth and rich in lore. After all, why shouldn’t it be? A video game is a much better medium to pack in tons of finer details than a seven-episode anime.

This series used the time it had efficiently. To me, it appeared as though this show was more interested in highlighting its source’s action and not its world. I believe that was the right call. Did it pay off in the end? Unfortunately, that’s another matter entirely. What I will say is that the alternative would have been a trainwreck.

Lastly, there was Hannah, and thank God for her. If she weren’t in this show, then there would have been no one to care about.

Although she may not have been a memorable character, Hannah was the only one you knew could take care of herself. Sure, Ethan may have been the hero, but Hannah was indispensable. She did all the work and never once complained when her hot-headed partner got all the credit.

If, for some reason, a second season of Dragon’s Dogma came out and Hannah was the sole protagonist, I would be down to watch it.

Series Negatives

The animation. Oh my, the animation in this series was atrocious.

Over the past two years, I have seen this style become more prevalent, and I do not understand why. It does not look good; it does not make things look better. Character models were like walking balloons with unnatural movements.

Then there were the action scenes.

Yeah, Dragon’s Dogma might have had variety, but visually they were terrible. I would say this series had video game graphics, but that would be an insult to video games.

Oh, but this didn’t stop this series from trying to look epic and badass. Lots of slow-motion and dramatic fantasy music can only take you so far – as in, not far at all. Still, every five seconds, it felt like this show was going into some forced quick time event. I know that Dragon’s Dogma is a hack-and-slash RPG, which does involve a lot of button mashing.  But if hammering the A button as a “test of strength” is a major gameplay element, my interest in this franchise has gone way the hell down.

And let’s not forget how there were actually two different visuals styles in play. One was the cell-shaded helium inflated characters, and the other was the poorly rendered enemies. And these did not mesh well together in the slightest.

I have to keep saying this: Animation is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to anime. If a story is compelling and the characters are fun and exciting, then any look can be entertaining. Too bad Dragon’s Dogma didn’t have either.

I might have said this show’s narrative worked, but it wasn’t near strong enough to distract from the visuals.

Computer animation can succeed in anime; I’ve seen it happen. However, where it’s at now is a joke.

Why does this upset me so much? The answer to that question is easy. In a month from now, I will not be able to tell you a damn thing about this show’s story or characters. But if you mention Dragon’s Dogma, I’ll probably respond, “Oh, you mean the one with the god awful animation. Yeah, I remember it.”

That was the problem with this series. It’s memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure what the goal of this show was. If this series was to highlight and honor the original game, I’m sorry, but this feels like a failure.

Granted, there were things to like here. The action was varied, and the story worked for a seven-episode run. I can think of worse ways to waste an afternoon. However, this would still be a waste of your time.

Therefore, I cannot recommend Dragon’s Dogma.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Dragon’s Dogma? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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