Literally. But also figuratively.
Netflix has dropped the first trailer for Sublimation’s adaptation of Dragon’s Dogma, the 2012 cult classic fantasy-action RPG from Capcom legend Hideaki Itsuno. Loosely following the premise of the game, the series follows a lowly peasant named Ethan who finds himself thrust into a heroic legacy when a giant drake named Grigori ravages his coastal village, killing his wife and child in the process.
Grigori, being kind of a jerk for more than just setting a village on fire for shits and giggles, steals Ethan’s heart during the attack—but it doesn’t kill him. Instead his fate becomes intertwined with the dragon’s, turning him into a mythical hero known as the Arisen, a powerful being capable of summoning a legion of interdimensional supplicant warriors called Pawns. Ethan, journeying alongside his new Pawn Hannah, sets across the kingdom of Gransys to seek revenge, and maybe get his heart back in the process before the toll of being the Arisen changes him forever.
It...looks pretty generic. While the basic premise of Dragon’s Dogma’s setup is here almost exactly as it was in the original, the rest of the trailer doesn’t really inspire much of the same charm the game had. There isn’t really much in the way of character beyond Ethan and Hannah (and even she is a relatively blank slate, intentionally so, a submissive servant to her master), a frankly absurd amount of aimless wandering about for an anime trailer, and just a lot of bland fantasy tropes.
Here’s the thing diehard Dragon’s Dogma fans probably don’t want to admit though: the game always was kind of a generic fantasy. That was, in part, some of its appeal: the charm came in some of that loving, cheesy clunkiness that was built around the generic fantasy tropes, pushing them into the background. The silly things that your myrmidon party members would repeatedly say to you (you know, they do say that all roads lead to Gran Soren...), or the emergent gameplay situations that could, at a moment’s notice, accidentally leave you trying to hold on for dear life to the leg of a Griffin that’s soaring into the skies because you also accidentally just set it on fire, while a full-on symphonic rock choir shrieks at you in the background.
Those things are, admittedly, hard to capture in a linear narrative TV show instead of an open world RPG. Dragon’s Dogma’s strength was in a pact: not just between the Arisen and their Pawn allies, but between the game itself and the player, to make the hokiest fun you could out of the fantasy toolbox being offered to you.
So far, Dragon’s Dogma the anime seems to at least be capturing the parts of Dragon’s Dogma that people didn’t really love, like the endless trekking about to get from place to place (those Ferrystones were few and far between before Dark Arisen) or the relatively uninspired medieval fantasy aesthetic. What it does seemingly add to the general premise of the Arisen’s plight and their relationship with Grigori doesn’t seem all that great, either—did we really need a motivational dead wife and kid on top of “YO THAT DRAGON TOOK YOUR HEART THAT’S MESSED UP”?
Hooefully we’ll find some of that hidden charm when Dragon’s Dogma hits Netflix on September 17.
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