A tabletop RPG enjoyed by some of anime’s most notable creators and writers becomes the focus of a brand new anime series! From the minds of Gen Urobuchi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero), Ryohgo Narita (Durarara!!), Kinoko Nasu (Kara no Kyoukai), and Iduki Kougyoku (Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou), comes the fantasy anime Chaos Dragon!
There is an island nation divided into three territories: D’natia, Nil Kamui, and Kouran. D’natia and Kouran are fighting for supremacy and stuck in the middle is Nil Kamui who is without a ruling body at the present time. Enter Ibuki, a child who is the rightful heir to the throne, but doesn’t wish to actually take the responsibility, at least, not at first. All of that changes when he is chosen by the powerful Red Dragon. Now, Ibuki embarks on a journey to rid him of the curse the Red Dragon’s power has bestowed upon him as well as end the fighting between the nations and take the throne as the new king.
The premise for this story is very good as it reminds me of a fantasy-RPG version of Arslan Senki, however, the execution and handling of the story really caused this anime to suffer. It seems as if they were throwing story elements at this show left and right hoping for something to stick. However, while it’s not as completely random as I make it out to be, you can definitely tell that there were parts that looked as if they were going to get developed and others that just fell kind of flat. Perhaps that would normally be the downfall of having twelve episodes in a season, but it truly isn’t in this case and here’s why.
The fact that this is an original work with very loose source material shows that they could have written the show to fit inside of twelve episodes and focus on the strengths to help make this show enjoyable, but they didn’t. This is a tabletop Dungeons & Dragons-style game that they have all played and anyone who has played or even heard of D&D knows that as a Game Master, you can pretty much make up a story. In fact, the more creative and original the story, the more entertaining and satisfying the game session is. You literally have full creative control over everything so there really is no excuse for poor story development just because you have twelve episodes to work with.
As a result of the poor handling of the story’s development, everything felt shallow and flat and the only character that really got any true development time was the main character, Ibuki, and even his development was kind of convoluted and confusing.
It is very disheartening to see this happen when you have some of the notable people in the anime industry working on this show. You kind of expect something better out of these creative minds and this isn’t really an entitlement issue.. this is simply based on the previous works produced by these individuals that you have a certain expectation from them. By no means should you be given an automatic masterpiece, but when you have these creators who, typically, hold a certain level of quality, it becomes really baffling, more than disappointing, when you don’t get it as is the case here with Chaos Dragon.
As stated above, Ibuki is the only character that gets any kind of real development. Every other single character in this show is nothing more than a plot device. Typically you see one or two characters like that, but… the entire cast!? That, my friends, is a rarity, indeed, and not in the good way. Let’s break them down.
Might as well start with the meat, potatoes, side dish, dessert, and beverage of Chaos Dragon. Ibuki is the heir to the throne in Nil Kamui, the major ruling government in the land. He doesn’t want to take the throne, but yet he wishes for the fighting to stop so he decides to become the King.
There’s contradiction number one.
He wants to protect his friends, too, and acquires the power of the Red Dragon, but the power comes with a curse that in order to use the power to protect his friends, he has to sacrifice people who are closest to him.
There’s contradiction number two.
Not to mention that he goes on the journey to get rid of the powers he accepted in the first place.
Contradiction number three!
How are we supposed to believe in a main character that is being pulled in every direction possible with no clear-cut path!? He says one thing and does another. He even vows that he won’t use the Red Dragon’s power to end the conflict, but towards the end of the show he goes against his own words and uses it anyway on a couple of different occasions! If you’re keeping score at home, that’s contradiction number four!
The only real development we get here deals with Ibuki’s past in which we learn of Nil Kamui’s downfall, some of his childhood friends, and, towards the end, about his sister. That’s pretty much it. Outside of that, he’s just a vessel for carrying the title of main character.
I simply give up here. NEXT!
Or it might be Eiha. It’s definitely pronounced in the show like Eiha, but FUNimation has the official spelling as Eykha. Who is right and who is wrong is irrelevant, what is relevant is the fact that she is plot device number one. She is Ibuki’s “sword” or guardian, if you will… and that’s it. She literally shows up at the beginning of the show and protects Ibuki, tells him that she’s his guardian, he believes it and they go on their merry little way.
Okay, so there is a little more to Eiha. She’s known as a Bound One. Her life force is tied to a beast and the two of them are, essentially, a fighting unit. They draw their strength from one another, but it also means that her life is also shortened so she just wants to make herself useful to Ibuki. Given Ibuki’s powers/curse, you can pretty much see she’s a prime candidate for sacrificial dagger food when it matters most.. at the end of the show. There is a little bit of nice development between Ibuki and Eiha where Eiha keeps telling Ibuki that she’s his sword and to use her as he sees fit and Ibuki saying he won’t do that because she’s the one most precious to him, but….
Ibuki says that Eiha is the most precious to him, yet he makes a HUGE deal over sacrificing Mashiro, his childhood friend, at the beginning of the show. In fact, Mashiro was the entire reason he swears not to use the power ever again and why he wants to end the fighting and protect everyone. If that doesn’t say Ibuki loved Mashiro with all his heart then I don’t know what is… so congratulations Eiha, you have become contradiction number five!
Sweallow (according to FUNimation, Swallow according to everyone else) is a member of the Black Dragon Knights. It is through him that we learn that Red Dragon is not the only dragon on the island. A being simply known as Black Dragon also exists and he, too, hands out his power to those who can wield it. Thus the nation of D’natia has the Black Dragon Knights. While Ibuki’s curse is that he must kill the ones he loves in order to use the power, Sweallow is a bit different. His curse is a result of his power, but it’s not required to use it. He can use the Black Dragon’s power at will, but he must live with the fact that everything he touches with his bare hands gets destroyed.
As you can imagine, that makes combat with weapons pretty difficult. He also can’t touch other human beings otherwise their bodies would disintegrate and simply die. Sounds like Sweallow is a prime candidate to pay a trip to Professor Xavier… I hear he might have a girl for Sweallow that’s more compatible than anyone he could meet on eHarmony!
Sweallow kind of stays in the background for most of the show. Towards the end he goes out of his way to help aid Ibuki in any way he can, but it seems too little too late for his development. We get a little backstory on him on how he received his powers, but we don’t get much more than that. He was probably the most developed of the supporting characters and that really isn’t saying much.
Ka Grava Raihou Gramstahl
He is a mysterious immortal trader that is seemingly very wealthy with many political connections throughout the island. He joins Ibuki on his journey offering him support in any way shape or form. Ka Grava mainly serves as an information source for Ibuki as well as a negotiator between D’natia and Kouran. Outside of this, there really isn’t much to the character.
They really don’t go in-depth about his immortality, either outside of the fact that his is an autonomous mechanical body similar to Big Daddy from Bioshock except that he’s sane and super rich.
Pronounced “low,” she is a member of a religious organization and an assassin for the country of Kouran. She joins Ibuki on her journey, but she does have her own motives. She carries around a blade that can mesmerize those who gaze upon it. The blade itself has a conscience that converses with Lou, ordering her to kill whoever stands in her way so the blade can feast upon the souls of those she’s slain. The blade wants to feast upon Red Dragon and Lou makes it her mission to kill it.
Lou is a rogue through and through. She will even go out of her way to stop events from happening just so she can take down Red Dragon by herself. This even includes killing a member of the Black Dragon Knights who was transporting the Black Dragon Claw to the Expedition members. The claw could neutralize Red Dragon’s insanity long enough for it to be brought down, but Lou wanted the credit for herself and ends up almost ruining that plan. She has no real ties to Ibuki whatsoever and is only using him to find Red Dragon’s location.
This character was written by Gen Urobuchi and it shows. All of the typically nuances of his writing style are there and she was, by far, the most interested character out of the bunch. I just wish more of the characters were like her.
She is the main antagonist of the series and Ibuki’s sister.. except it’s not until the very end of the series that we are introduced to her. They introduce her as the reason why Red Dragon went on a rampage and burned down Nil Kamui in the past. She is also someone who has Red Dragon’s power, but she doesn’t exactly have a curse, per se. With her power, she can bring the dead back to life, which are then known as Returned Ones. Inori is slowly gaining full control over Red Dragon and she has to be stopped. Doing so would return Red Dragon to sanity and end this conflict once and for all.
This has got to be the biggest rush job of a main antagonist that I have ever seen. We literally go from introduction to rushed back story to final conflict all within the span of a couple of episodes. You were given zero reasons to care about her involvement in all of this and this character is a prime example of ideas just being tossed around in hopes that they stick
Art, Animation, and Sound
The artwork itself wasn’t bad. The backgrounds looked nice and detailed and the characters were distinctively created so that they stand out. The facial features were done in a certain style that made expressions just a tad bit odd, though. By using large eyes, you were often looking to the mouth and eyebrows to determine what mood the characters were feeling. Some emotions looked identical to one another and it took some adjusting to get used to them. I’m not really a fan of this style because of the problems it can present and those problems were pretty evident in this show.
The animation looked off whenever the dragons were involved. The dragons were full CG and they REALLY stood out in a negative way. Not to mention that a lot of the animation was reused throughout the show. Scenes from the opening served as scenes in the actual show and a lot of the CG scenes with red dragon were used over and over again in both the opening, the introduction, and in certain scenes. When trying to integrate the characters into the CG environment, it looked pretty bad. A lot of the CG animation resembled the early cutscenes that Squaresoft used to produce for their Final Fantasy series. Of course, the models looked better, but it wasn’t fluid motion. It looked jittery and some of the camera swoops and pans resembled the same kind of camera work in those early Squaresoft CG scenes. It just looked awful.
How to Enslave Your Dragon
The soundtrack is a redeeming quality to this show, however. Being a fantasy RPG-type anime, the music that accompanies the show fits it very well. Action scenes have a dramatic feel to it thanks to a driving orchestral track, moments of sadness feel appropriate with the accompanying music. It all fits and does its job of trying to invoke emotions well.
The opening and ending theme are also pretty good for what they are, but they do eventually fall into the generic fantasy rock category. It seems to be a problem with a lot of anime music where songs will often start out as sounding like something special, but then the song just degrades into mediocrity.
This was an anime with a lot of promise. The names attached to it are respectable creators from within the anime world and with this being an original story, they had the chance to tailor fit a story to a twelve episode format and failed miserably at it.
The less than stellar plot and the non-development of the cast really hurt this project. Normally I would say that this would have been better off with 25 episodes, but after seeing the way they handled this, I actually have my doubts that it would have had any positive impact at all.
This is an anime you can freely skip.
I’m going to take a story plot…
…AND KILL IT!
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Until next time,
An Anime That Needs a New Game Master
Underdeveloped characters, underdeveloped story, and a low budget to match. An anime you can freely skip
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