3 Episode Rule is a series in which I watch the first three episodes of a new anime and decide whether to stick with it or drop it based on those three episodes alone.
I tried to watch eight anime for the last series of 3 Episode Rule, although in the end I ran out of time and only managed to get to six. This season, I’m trying for eight again, only I’m changing my approach slightly and hope to manage to squeeze them all in. Even if they don’t end up making out in the most timely of manner. This third time I’m digging into a remake of a classic anime, to see if a lack of nostalgia for it can keep my attention in this packed couple of weeks.
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai is a remake of an older anime series by the same name, which itself comes from a manga based on the Dragon Quest video game series. The original manga ran from the late 80s into the mid 90s, not long after the first couple of video games were released for the NES.
It’s a classic manga and anime for in all regards, that first series running for 46 episodes in 1991/1992. This new anime revisits that story and tells it again for a contemporary audience using more modernised techniques and technologies in its production. For better and for worse.
The series begins as you’d expect any classic fantasy story would; with a baby of mysterious birth being discovered and raised in a relatively isolated place, away from the greater dramas of the world by a humble, common people. As a baby, Dai is washed up on a small island wholly inhabited my friendly monsters. He spends the first twelve years of his life being raised by the monster called Brass, being taught to survive and how to use magic. Well, the theory of using magic at least anyway.
Brass enamoured Dai with stories of the great hero that once saved the world from the Demon King. Which might have been a mistake form Brass’s perspective, as he’s adamant Dai is to train as a mage and assist the next great hero. Dai himself struggles to use magic and has bigger dreams for himself, constantly testing himself to become the next hero himself. A title he ends up having bestowed him him much sooner than I expected at least.
In the first episode, we’re introduced to Dai, Brass and all the friendly monsters that inhabit the island. Pretty quickly, a ship appears on the horizon, carrying what appears to be a Hero and his party. The façade of these characters is paper thin though and they’re revealed to be a group of con-artists. Upon being greeted to the island by Dai they manage to trick him long enough to capture his best friend; the rare and valuable Golden Metal Slime.
Being the kind and endlessly valiant boy that he is, Dai pursues the fake hero, along with some tools gifted to him by Brass. Little metallic cylinders that can capture and release practically anything within them to assist Dai in any way he might need. Almost like Pokemon. Speaking of Pokemon, I’m getting some real Team Rocket vibes from this team of fake heroes, who quickly reveal their true colours to the king who waits for them aboard the ship they all arrived on.
After a thrilling assault on the ship and having rescued his friends, Dai manages to impress the kindly King. With the imposter’s true intentions revealed the King very quickly anoints Dai as the future Hero. I kind of feel like he’s jumping the gun a little here, but hey, maybe it’s better we just stop pretending that it’s not what everyone is thinking and just say it.
The following two episodes show other parties arriving at the island, including Princess Leona; who visits to undergo a right of passage as a young ruler. Only it turns out her entourage are all trying to kill her, and it ends up being down to Dai unlocking some new power within him to defeat the power-hungry sages and save the Princess. Following that, the eccentric hero trainer Avan De Zinuar III shows up with his apprentice Popp to get Dai up to speed to fight the quickly emerging Demon King.
It all goes by fairly quickly, especially Dai’s training in the third episode which feels like it’s been rushed a little to get him up speed with the threats he’ll be facing later on. But at the same time, it still feels like we’re in the prologue an that the story really hasn’t gotten started yet. Which I’m guessing we will be getting to after the cliff-hanger at the end of episode three is resolved.
There’s a lot I like about this show, but all of that is just what I’m seeing on a surface level. Right from the first shot it has this retro 80s/90s look to the art style I really enjoy. Which is a given considering this anime’s status as a retro throwback. But when the show’s action scenes happen, I’m really in two minds about them.
It uses a combination of traditional animation and computer-generated animation. And for as good as those hand-drawn battle sequences and dynamic poses can look, the CG scenes look just as jarringly bad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not foaming at the mouth and holding myself hack from going on a tirade about CGI in anime, but seeing how good most of the series looks just works to increase the cold, sharp shock that comes from seeing those 3D models floating around.
I can really understand the benefit of using CG models, it’s easier to keep your characters on model and significantly cuts the time and resources needed for animating action sequences. But that lack of stretching, warping and perspective takes away from the charm and energy of those same sequences. It can be done well, I felt all of the CG in Demon Slayer was pretty fantastic. The problem, I feel, is that something is really lost from the impact of the scene when CGI isn’t used in the exact same style as the rest of the show.
It just really throws me out of the moment and makes me remember I’m watching a show.
I don’t want to end on a negative point though. What I will end on is talking about how charming all of the monster designs are in the series. It’s cool seeing these elements from the video games in a series like this. I’ve only really played two of the Dragon Quest games myself (VIII and XI), and yet the continuity of design and style have already ingrained those creatures and costume designs in my brain. I like this show, I really do. But…
Verdict: I feel bad about it, but I think I’m going to drop this one.
Undoubtedly, this anime as based on an old, classic anime. From a time where tropes and clichés were yet to become tropes and clichés. So I’ll give it to Adventure of Dai that it’s not going to surprise me at any point. And I’m okay with that, but because I lack the nostalgia for the original anime or manga I know it’s going to struggle to keep my interest.
Here’s the thing, I’ve got six more anime to watch for this season. And as pretty and as charming as most aspects of this show are to me, unless each and every one of those other shows turns out to be real stinkers then this one is simply going to be too low on my list of priorities. And I don’t feel strongly enough about it to really feel like I’m going to give it the time on top of everything else I’m watching outside of these new seasonal anime.
If I do end up continuing it, then I’ll be sure to come back and rectify my thoughts on this post. But as of right now, it’s very dependant on a number of other shows I haven’t started watching yet. And based on the buzz I’m getting about some of them, I don’t see Dragon Quest making the cut. As of this moment, it’s a regrettable cut.