Mike Toole rates it:
You just can’t escape the curse of being based on a video game. Granted, anime based on video games has managed to have somewhat mixed results (while Sin and Panzer Dragoon were rat turds, Virtua Fighter and Fatal Fury were surprisingly entertaining), but it’s generally a big red flag when the show you’re watching came from a video game. I’ve found that this is doubly true when it comes to anime based on console RPGs– there’s Panzer Dragoon, there’s the Final Fantasy anime (which I gave embarrassingly high points to, back in 1997), there’s Fire Emblem… in fact, the only really excellent console RPG-based anime I can think of is Arc the Lad.
Dragon Slayer, basd on a series of RPGs for the revered (but unloved in the west) PC Engine, can’t escape this stigma. It’s a one-shot OVA that manages to have an oddly appealing sense of humor, but it’s so explosively incoherent that the viewer won’t care about or even remember the light tone. Fara is a stereotypical magical kingdom (complete with stereotypical RPG-style map scene at the outset) beset by dark forces. Good King Aswel was slain by Ackdam, a reliably evil demon king who seems to want to rule as the despot of Fara because that would fulfill his role as the Evil Bad Guy of the show.
Naturally, he’s opposed by the king’s only son, the heir to the throne, a smartassed young swordsman named Sirius. We’re not given any clues as to how he was raised outside of the castle, other then that he has a royal steward, Rias. He casually decides to take his kingdom back one day, and is quickly joined by the stereotypical console RPG party– the hotheaded sorceress, Sonya, Galan the strongman, Riunin the secondary fighter, and Ro the vengeful warlock. Aside from Sonya, who’s given a little face time because she’s the would-be love interest, these characters are cardboard cut-outs, utterly devoid of any personality or presence.
To be fair, Dragon Slayer‘s action scenes are quite kinetic and exciting. They’re well-directed, but executed with a spareness of animation that does the show no favors. Also, while the show’s fast pace benefits the action scenes, it makes the plot virtually impossible to follow, as secondary good guys and bad guys get whacked roughly as soon as they’re introduced. The characters go screaming headlong into every fight, battling with crazed, focused, Fist of the North Star-esque sadism. (This meshes well with the character design, provided by Getter Robo co-creator Ken Ishikawa.)
If there’s one good thing about Dragon Slayer, however, it’s the English adaptation. Jack Fletcher turns in his usual quality job here– everyone sounds good and committed in this incoherent mess of an OVA, from Matt “Tenchi” Miller’s Sirius to Kate “Washu” Vogt’s Sonya, to Michael Reynolds’ reliably gravelly-voiced retainer, Rias. The whole thing is written by Ardwright Chamberlain, TV’s Kosh, which never fails to amuse me.
But the engaging voices can’t save this jumbled pile of video game cliches. Everything is stilted in Dragon Slayer, which frequently left me wishing that the characters would just cut to the chase, proclaiming to each other, “You must join our fighting party! You have many hit points! With our rings of strength and Weapon of Importance, we’ll win! Now, let’s go to the Abandoned Temple of Getting the Power-Up and Winning the Game!” In the end, Sirius kills the bad guy (of course he kills the bad guy!) with one hit, leaving me wondering why he didn’t just save everyone the time and do it earlier. The show ends with a monologue from the prince, which is essentially “For now, the bad guy is gone. So we won! YAY ROLL CREDITS!”
This whole thing is just the product of Nihon Falcom, the makers of the game. (They also made the excellent Ys RPGs and animation, but that doesn’t excuse this dreck.) The story is by Falcom, the music is by Falcom… and I can only assume that the director, Noriyoshi Nakamura, is a Falcom guy, because I can’t for the life of me find any other anime project that he’s ever been involved with. Dragon Slayer isn’t awful, but it’s so lame and pedestrian and jumbled that it’s not really worth the trouble.
Added: Friday, October 10, 2003
Related Link: Urban Vision