Anime: Dances with Dragons
Season aired: Spring 2018
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Drama, Action, Fantasy
Thoughts: Where do I even begin for Dances with Dragons? Honestly, I have never watched an anime that left me so overwhelmed yet underwhelmed at the same time, which also leaves my thoughts in nothing but scrambles. I guess it is a story that should’ve been extremely interesting for someone of my tastes, but it wasn’t in the end.
The anime adaptation of Dances with Dragons is based off the light novel series. In a world where magic can be explained through science, the story follows the adventures of Gigina and Gayus, two partners in crime who honestly seem to find trouble without even trying.
What’s particularly confusing about this anime is that the light novel series is critically acclaimed. Many call it one of the darkest fantasies to have entered the industry, so it would’ve almost been expected for an anime to bring such a well-received story to justice. And all the points are checked. There’s heavy politics at play, there’s a protagonist who is a fighting genius and another protagonist who is a strategist, there are morally grey villains with understandable motives, and there are literal dragons along the way.
But alas, this simply isn’t a good anime. As the series ends at 12 episodes, I am honestly left wondering whether it is simply because the anime wasn’t a good adaptation of the light novel series or because the story was never meant to be adapted onscreen in the first place. I am not a reader of the light novel series, so I cannot criticize how the story is told in the original source. All my criticisms are based solely on the anime.
One of the biggest problems of the anime adaptation is that the audience is never really given a description of the political environment surrounding the two protagonists. Even though I watched all the episodes, I still have no idea how many countries there are, how many countries are important to the story, and which countries even surround the protagonists’ home, the Dragon Empire. While this typically wouldn’t be a problem to explain briefly, this entire series is already drowning in political plots that leave the audience utterly confused when foreigners and politicians jump into the fray to explain what is going on and what they are aiming to achieve.
And it’s not to say the plot is complete garbage. There are incredibly clever moments that left me very impressed and shocked. Gayus definitely proves himself as the observant protagonist, and when he figures things out, it’s honestly very satisfying to watch. The politics are well done at times, and it leaves the audience uncomfortable with the fact that some governments will not hesitate to step over others for the sake of their own countries. On the other hand, there’s some inconsistencies in the story that were so annoying that it made me roll my eyes. Such inconsistencies include becoming critically wounded and then acting like everything is fine a few minutes later, losing an ARM and suddenly gaining it back without an explanation, and the lack of emotional reactions to some of the biggest revelations in the anime (SPOILER: like your friend getting BOMBED and being revealed as the traitor). It’s like biting into chocolate that is partially spoiled and partially sweet.
The two protagonists are acceptable when separate, but when they’re working together, they become unbearable. That is because they check every cliché trait in the book of an “opposite partners” situation, such as fighter and the strategist. They constantly argue. They almost always kill each other. One is quirky, and one is nerdy. Part of an anime’s appeal to the fandom for generations has been its usage of teamwork, but this one is just so incredibly boring that it literally left me feeling nothing about their relationship.
Which is disappointing considering that they managed to employ two Seiyuu Award winners to act as the protagonists (Nobunaga Shimazaki as Gayus and Yoshimasa Hosoya as Gigina). In fact, the entire cast was an all-star cast, with five award-winning seiyuus in total to play all the major characters. But even talented voice actors are incapable of stopping a train crash when the formula for the story simply isn’t working.
I will say that the art and animation is pretty nice. The fight scenes are actually pretty fluid, and there was never a time where I could perceive an obvious drop in quality. The soundtrack is also both catchy and involving, and I definitely say it’s one of the biggest highlights to the anime.
I also thought the storyline for the second arc was insurmountably better than the first. Instead of leaving the viewers completely confused, we were actually privileged to see and understand the political environments of different countries through gradual reveals and flashbacks. Unfortunately, all the hard work done to connect the first arc to the excellent second arc was completely unraveled by the underwhelming last episode. Instead of neatly tying up loose ends, it instead left us a plethora of questions regarding Gayus and Gigina’s old teammates, who are inevitably not present in the current timeline. Even worse, the last episode slapped together a cheap resolution to the final antagonist of Arc 2 that the anime spent so long to build up and humanize.
All in all, I simply don’t suggest this anime. It has its high points, and the second arc is well done, but the last episode, in my opinion, completely destroys the redemption the second arc could’ve brought to the series.
I am planning to rate all my anime based on the anime rating system that Japanese anime critics use. I will have 5 categories, each with the top score of 10, and then a final multiplier of 2.
Voice acting: 5
FINAL SCORE: 60