Anime Review: Dragon’s Dogma (2020)

TL;DR – When Ethan’s wife is killed by a dragon, he sets off on a quest to slay the creature. But will he turn into a monster himself in the process?

Review (warning: spoilers)

Dragon’s Dogma is based on the popular RPG video game by Capcom. I have never played the game, but I have seen mixed reviews on the anime by those who are die hard fans of the game.

Luckily for me, I watched this series without any preconceived ideas. The story is about Ethan, a devoted husband and father-to-be to his wife, Olivia who is heavily pregnant. The medieval world they live in is filled with magic and monsters. And when one day, their town is attacked by a dragon, Ethan is unable to save his wife from being turned to ashes by the dragon’s fire. The dragon then rips Ethan’s heart out and swallows it.

Ethan’s death, however, is prevented by Hannah. Hannah is a “pawn”, which from what I can gather is a magic endowed being that looks human but does not know anything about humans. She teleport to Ethan’s location, heals him with magic, and tells him that she is his protector. She doesn’t need to eat, and initially doesn’t understand why humans act the way they do. She uses a magic bow and can fire arrows of light that can cause immense damage.

Her origins and the reasons for giving her services to Ethan are not explained, which perhaps is derived in more detail in the video game but not the anime.

Also not explained until the last episode is why the dragon attacked the town. And why he takes Ethan’s heart.

Ethan awakens, accepts Hannah’s help and is now on a quest for revenge to slay the dragon and retrieve his heart.

There are seven episodes in season one, and each episode is titled after one of the seven deadly sins: wrath, gluttony, envy, sloth, greed, lust and pride.

In each episode, Ethan and Hannah encounter various other characters who fall prey to one of the seven sins. And as each episode progresses, we see Ethan slowly lose his humanity even though he seeks to help those in need. Conversely Hannah slowly begins to understand the strengths and sacrifices humans are willing to take.

By the final episode, it becomes clear that Ethan has transformed from noble, honour bound man seeking to slay the dragon to prevent it from killing more humans to a man filled with anger, pride and the desire for revenge.

The twist, which isn’t really a twist if you have been paying attention is that even though Ethan successfully slays the dragon in the final episode, it is revealed that the dragon was once human also. And it purposely stole Ethan’s heart and wants to be slain so he can be freed from the curse of being a dragon through death. And by being slain, Ethan then transforms into the next dragon.

There is a genuine moment of uncertainty where Ethan tells Hannah to kill him. And had this happened when Hannah was still devoid of human emotion then she might have taken Ethan’s life, but instead she can’t bring herself to do it. Once transformed, Ethan the dragon makes one final request of Hannah to protect the humans, which could infer that things have come full circle and her purpose has always been to protect humans.

Which now brings me to the animation. The story is solid if a little predictable. But the animation is not typical anime as it uses extensively CGI 3D models with mixed success. The models especially of the dragon do not mesh well with the backgrounds, and prevents an immersive feel.

Today’s level of animation means we are spoilt for choice and had Dragon’s Dogma been released in the 1990s or early 2000s, it likely would have been considered ground breaking in that department.

Some episodes are done better than others. The animation of the griffon and hydra are superior to the dragon itself. The fight scenes are also impressive, yet normal actions like walking by the characters look robotic. Mixed bag in the end.

And the second last episode (titled Lust) is by far the weakest as well as being the shortest episode. Others such as episode 2 (Envy) and episode 5 (Greed) are better because they attempt a modicum of depth and complexity.

But for all it’s shortcomings, I still found the series enjoyable. You get used the CGI and the fact the ending is as dark as it is shows the creators weren’t going to squirm away from it.

8.5 out of 10

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