I am going to begin by pointing out a bias. I love Dragon’s Dogma. I own it on three consoles. I’m running 4 characters on Switch currently. The lovechild of Monster Hunter, Devil May Cry, and western RPGs like Elder Scrolls, Dragon’s Dogma is an underappreciated gem of semi-recent gaming. It is far from a flawless game, however. I’m not going to review the game, but much like the game, Netflix’s anime adaption is good but screws the pooch in some aspects.
Without going too much into spoiler territory, the basic premise is “Protagonist Man live in peaceful fishing village. He has unexplained Batman trauma. Dragon comes. Kills everyone, his family included. He mad. Gets Sasuke-from-Naruto style revenge boner. Our story begins.”
One big system from Dragon’s Dogma was the Pawn system. They were A.I. controlled party members. A pawn is exactly like a human aside from the “pretty-messed-up-the-more-you-think-about-it” fact that they have no free will and exist to serve the Arisen. Oh yea, the Arisen is a person who the Dragon takes a shine to, pops out their heart and eats it like the last cashew. Which he did to Protagonist Man (Ethan) after the whole kill everybody he liked bit. See, the reason I left that out of the earlier part is to simulate a small problem with the show’s length.
The game that the show is based on is one of those big, open sandbox style games where you can save the kingdom whenever you are done throwing rocks at a peasant you have singled out for having a hat you dislike. They have all the time in the world to layer on exposition. Its kind of a shame that a show with this level of quality in production would only get seven episodes. Here’s one spoiler I’m not ashamed to dole out: there is no “To Be Continued” season ender episode. The whoooole damn story is condensed in seven episodes.
This is the one thing that I have against an otherwise entertaining and well-made miniseries. The 3D/hand drawn art style wasn’t as distracting as I thought it would be, and I stopped noticing after an episode. It looks really good. They also avoid overtly confusing and hard to follow action sequences, with slick battles against fan favorite monsters. Again, the short length forces these encounters (save one) into a “Oh shit, there’s the thing that you know if you played the game! They fight now!” scenario.
That isn’t to say that there is no emotion to the show. The voice cast are superb in both English and Japanese. Both casts throw a lot of raw emotion and energy into their roles, which is good cause it gets heavy at times. My favorite character, Hannah, is the Pawn of Ethan. She begins a little stiff and robotic, slowly becoming more human as the quest continues. She’s also legit badass and does most of the ass kicking. Her gradual growth is kinda remarkable, given they only had seven half hour chunks to deliver it.
Sadly, Ethan suffers in a kinda funny way. See, he begins as peaceful hunky man with sad, mysterious past. He loses an adopted kid and his pregnant wife. His heart is literally and figuratively ripped out and eaten by the titular dragon. He is emotional and heroic at the beginning of the quest. He’s pretty nice for a while and suddenly someone flips his bitch switch. He goes from rushing to save people to “Sir, I give zero shits. Point me at dragon.” Its abrupt and weird. It felt weird, like a good friend suddenly cursing everybody out at the BBQ and scowling in the corner for the rest of the night.
Dragon’s Dogma was a fun game with some issues with the presentation of its story. Netflix’s series is similarly great, yet flawed. It’s good, but it’s short length kinda causes things to be thrown at you without much explanation. What’s there is good, just a little too condensed. I really liked it, I just wished they had taken a little more time telling the story. That said, “I liked it. I just wish there was more.” isn’t the worst complaint to get. Whether you’re grinding for gear in a playthrough right now, or just like stylish, high quality fantasy action, Dragon’s Dogma is here for a good time, but not a long one.