I love the Dragon Quest games. I have played about five of them, there are eleven mainline games, but I have not played Dragon Quest V, which this movie is based on. Dragon Quest is huge in japan, but has never done very well here. This was a huge movie in japan, but didn’t get a theatrical release, or even a very big Netflix release. But I care! So here are some thoughts.
The story is that of Dragon Quest five, which I didn’t play. But it felt like it could be that of any Dragon Quests. The subtitle is Hand of the Heavenly Bride. I think you get to pick your bride in this game. I only think that because of this movie. Apparently you have a kid in the game, and maybe the kid is different depending on who you pick.
The animation is where this movie scenes. I really think this movie is a masterclass in animation. The flow is spot on. The animation will stop just for an instant on a moment of impact that just heightens the feeling of a bit of the action. Everyone is so expressive. There is a small pudgy witch who moves quickly but stouty. Each monster has their own personality, expressed through movement. The Saber Tooth Tiger is silly but strong.
Overall some of the more villainous characters are a let down. The first big bad– does every Dragon Quest have two big bads? No, in the first one there was the green dragon. I just think the evil guy looks goofy, and not fun goofy. Just silly and I can’t take him seriously. Dragon Quest always kind of teethers this ledge between believable silly and too much, especially since most of their big bads seem to be some kind of jester. How do you taste jesters in today’s world? Clowns are mass murderers and jesters are somehow creepier than clowns.
The music is beautiful, it’s all from the original game. At the beginning there are more 8 bit sounds, but then we get a full orchestra. I find this to be a great decision. I love these songs. They have so much meaning already, and clearly show where the story is and what’s happening.
Okay, so here is a big spoiler– the twist is that it’s not just Dragon Quest five! It’s a virtual reality of Dragon Quest five, complete with a bug in the code. The game starts by wiping the players memory, which is completely believable, and totally safe. The other big twist is that the slime talks. His voice is very gruff, and he claims to be an Antivirus program. I find this twist… bad. It’s a bad twist. It’s silly and kind of obvious at this point. I just want a Dragon Quest. Whatever this ending is, isn’t Dragon Quest. It’s silly and out of tone. Additionally I find the ending to be kind of sad. The player character says “this world will always be the real world to me” which I find to kind of pathetic. I mean if a person said to you, Call of duty is more oreal to me, than the real world. Wouldn’t you be worried? Wouldn’t you hope that you never get into the military, and that hopefully find friends?