Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai (Episodes 1 – 13) Review

I was interested in The Adventures of Dai for two reasons: I enjoyed playing as Dai in the unfortunate game known as Jump Force, and secondly I always enjoy seeing smoothly animated Toriyama characters powering up and overcoming evil with some sort of special attack. Is the series worth watching for such a flimsy excuse? Let’s find out as I look at the first “cour”, or 13 episodes…

Synopsis:

Years after the evil Demon Lord Hadler was defeated by the hero Avan, Dai grows up on an island full of monsters that have become docile due to the dark influence once controlling them having passed along with Hadler. One day Dai begins to train under a famous teacher, but little does he know how quickly he’ll have to put that training to the test…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Now there’s a smile everyone can get behind!

The first thing I have to say about the series is this: don’t go into it expecting anything deep, violent or gritty, it’s very much a “brave hero and his friends go on a long adventure together” type series, and the setting is full-on JRPG, as you’d imagine. So plenty of monsters to fight, spells to cast and swords to clash. If you’re on board with that, then the show is… fine.

Dai is your classic “naïve boy who grew up away from civilization” type, but he’s also unnaturally strong when pushed, something Avan discovers when he arrives on Dai’s island with his student Popp. Dai’s training is cut short by the reappearance of the Hadlar, the Dark Lord the old hero had previously defeated, leading to Avan doing the whole heroic sacrifice thing to save his students. Dai and Popp then go out into the wide world to get stronger, save people and eventually defeat Hadlar as the new hero party. They eventually run into Maam, a female student of Avan that has to use a special type of gun to fire magic rather than casting the spells, and the trio become the focus of the series. We go through a “Popp being a coward and then learning to be brave and help his friends” story arc, but that’s about it in terms of character development. In the hero-side anyway, the large crocodile general of Hadlar’s army rather unimaginatively named Crocodine eventually sides with Dai because he values honour in battle, but is immediately cut down by the next big bad of the series…

Erm… I honestly didn’t mean for this screenshot to look so… questionable. Oh well! “Oo-er misses!” and all that…

Speaking of which! The highlight of these episodes to me was Hyunckel, the leader of the Undead Knights part of Hadlar’s army. He was a human raised by monsters much like Dai, and even trained under Avan as well, but only because he wanted to get strong enough to kill the hero who killed the monsters that raised him, specifically a skeleton knight he saw as a father figure. Very weird story, but it made for a bit more interesting of a showdown than what we’d had up to that point. It turns out that Hadlar had actually killed Hyunckel’s “father” in a rage that the knight had let Avan through his dungeon, so he ends up seemingly sacrificing himself to save Dai, Popp and Maam from a lava attack by their next general: Flazzard. Given Flazzard (who is half made of fire, half made of ice) is seemingly just straight up evil I assume the pattern of defeated generals sacrificing themselves for Dai will end going forward… I guess we’ll find out in the second cour!

The Bad:

Now there’s a smile evil monsters can get behind!

The only bad isn’t really the show’s fault, but I can’t help but feel even with the age range it’s aiming at it’s very basic and tame. I’m not just talking about the blood that blatantly has been removed and replaced with black scratches (or in the case of some monsters, it’s just green or black) but in general the story is just “Dai and friends go to one location, fight and defeat a general who turns out isn’t so bad after all and then go on to the next one”. Now we’re only 13 episodes in, and given Episode 13 looks like its roughly at the end of Volume 5 of the 37 Volume series I have no doubt it probably gets a bit more varied as it goes along (or at the very least, I bloody hope so!) but as I’m just reviewing these first 13 episodes I will have to call it as “slow start”, to put it nicely…

I also have to mention that while the animation is fine for the most part, there are moments when the camera swings around the fighters and it switches to CG that make it seem a bit… weird? Not really bad, just… odd. Pulls me out of the moment, anyway…

Other than that it’s perfectly fine for what it is, probably a bit better if you’re really into the Dragon Quest games and play “spot the spell or monster”. Me? I’ve never really played them, though know a lot about them by being a fan of Akira Toriyama…

Overall Thoughts:

It was around this point I started paying more attention, mostly because of Hyunckel’s “bad-ass” armour…

Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai is a harmless show aimed at a younger audience (or fans of the games, I guess) that will pass 20 or so minutes each week without much effort. I wouldn’t be able to watch more than one or two in a row without becoming bored of the rather simplistic nature of the show mind you, but right now it’s fine as a weekly thing to stick on…

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