The Dragon’s Dogma Anime is a Bloody Good Time, But a Lacking Adaptation
Fans of Capcom’s sleeper hit Dragon’s Dogma were caught by surprise when Netflix announced an anime based on the RPG. After some time, Sublimation’s interpretation is finally streaming, and it’s pretty solid. While not an exact adaptation of the story, the Dragon’s Dogma anime does adapt the core concept of the game pretty well. With seven episodes to the season, it’s perfect for an afternoon binge watch. While we won’t go too far into spoiler territory, there are still spoilers that are necessary to detail the overall premise. If you wish to avoid them, please don’t read any further.
The Dragon’s Dogma anime tells the story of Ethan, a stalwart yet fairly typical man from Cassardis. He lives with his wife Olivia and an orphan boy Louis, and they’re also expecting a child soon. Unfortunately for him, a dragon attacks the fishing village and devastates the citizens. Trying to defend his home, Ethan suffers a tragic loss at the claws of the dragon. After this loss, the dragon makes matters worse and takes Ethan’s heart, turning him into the Arisen. It’s very reminiscent to the plot of the game, though Ethan’s motivation is more revenge fueled.
After waking up, Ethan meets his new pawn, a servant to the Arisen which he names Hannah. For the remaining episodes, Ethan and Hannah go on various quests, battling monsters and meeting various people. The adventures have plenty of action, but also plenty of sorrow, as there seems to be a reoccurring theme of loss. It’s almost like everywhere Ethan goes, he sees the good and bad side of man. Of course, Ethan has his moments as well, tapping into his own rage. The anime also dips into more mature territory with sexual content as well. Overall, the content makes it feel almost like Game of Thrones, which is an interesting parallel.
Dragon’s Dogma takes an interesting visual approach, using a cel-shaded CG style. While it’s not as typical as most anime, it does grow on you. There’s also quite a few moments where the visuals are a feast for the eyes. Sublimation has done a pretty impeccable job giving the details where it counts using this style. Of course, not everything is perfect. Some of the monsters that show up, like the Cyclops, are pretty ugly due to their textures. At least the many human characters that appear look good, with Ethan and Hannah looking the best.
The composer from the games, Tadayoshi Makino, returns to compose music for the anime. It brings a sense of authenticity, even if we don’t get some of the best music from the game. Even so, the introduction music does well to get you into the mood to watch an episode. As for the music in the show itself, it brings a level of intensity to the action sequences while also softening up for the quieter and more peaceful moments.
With the English dub, we get a pretty good cast of veteran voice actors. Greg Chun does well as Ethan, though it’s interesting to hear him with more of a British accent. Erica Mendez also delivers a charming performance as Hannah, making a pawn a pretty likeable character in a surprising twist. Other characters don’t appear as often, but we get an interesting performance from David Lodge as the dragon, and even some good moments with Christina Vee’s Olivia. Overall, the English voice cast is pretty solid, even if there isn’t really a standout performance.
When it comes to the Japanese voice cast, this may be the preferable way to watch the series for some. It feels somewhat more natural despite the fantasy setting, which forms an interesting contradiction. No matter which way you decide to watch it, the cast does an admirable job.
One thing that the Dragon’s Dogma anime does well is the concept of the pawn. Hannah comes off as an emotionless character with only one duty: serving the Arisen. Despite this, she does have a personality and her own loyalties to Ethan do give her a certain charm. There are moments where her actions will even feel reminiscent to the ones of pawns in the actual game. It seems the creators took a more simplistic route by only giving one pawn to Ethan, despite being able to have three in the game.
Despite getting the pawn right, there is one element that makes the anime pretty interesting. We won’t spoil it here, but it’s a major change to the lore of the game. It’s hard to know if it’s even considered canon, but if it is, it does throw the future of the series into question. While this ending revelation is a cool idea, it does pull away from the adaptation aspect with this diversion. Taking the approach of titling each episode after the seven deadly sins was also an interesting call. It doesn’t hurt anythin, but it does make one curious of the structure of the anime story.
Overall, the Dragon’s Dogma anime is a pretty enjoyable binge. At only seven episodes, you can take this one out in a little over two hours. The visuals make for a good spectacle and the mature approach gives it a unique flavor. While it does do justice to some elements of the game, there are other qualities that make pretty substantial changes. If you’re a fan of the game, or even a Game of Thrones fan that also enjoys anime, this might be for you. If you’re looking for a faithful adaptation, this one misses the mark by a few hairs.