Dragon’s Dogma

No-one has seen a dragon for over 100 years, so when one suddenly appears in the skies above the sleepy fishing village of Cassardis in the Duchy of Gransys, it leaves behind it a devastating trail of destruction and death. Only one man attempts to resist: Ethan, a local hunter haunted by a tragic past. For his troubles, Ethan not only witnesses the annihilation of his family, but has his heart torn out by the dragon – who addresses Ethan as “Heartless One” and challenges him to try and take his revenge. When Ethan regains consciousness, he discovers that he is not only the sole survivor, but is now an “Arisen” – a being whose sole purpose is to fight and destroy dragons. This is when a mysterious female warrior appears and announces that she is a “Pawn”, a being whose purpose it is to serve the “Arisen” and aid them in their quest. Together, Ethan and the “Pawn” – whom he names Hannah – track the dragon to its lair, along the way encountering both human and supernatural monsters who give expression to all the worst characteristics of human nature. But although Ethan no longer requires a heart to live, this symbolic loss of his humanity, combined with his experiences on his journey, work a change in his personality; while Hannah, who starts the quest as a coldly rational being, undergoes her own mirror change in character and perspective. But the significance of these metamorphoses only becomes apparent once the final showdown gets underway – and Ethan learns both the terrible cost of his quest and of the darkness residing at the core of his own being…

Based on a commercially successful and critically acclaimed video game developed by Capcom, and produced by animation studio Sublimation, “Dragon’s Dogma” is a Netflix Original series that premiered in September 2020.  Divided into seven episodes, each named after one of the so-called seven deadly sins, “Dragon’s Dogma” is a visually arresting mix of 3DCGI and traditional animation techniques, even though the matching of the former to the latter isn’t always as seamless as it might be. Likewise, the dialogue and the voice-acting are at times clunky, while the plummy British accents that dominate the English dub (presumably chosen because the world of Gransys resembles an idealised late medieval England) come across as affected and annoying. Despite this, “Dragon’s Dogma” manages to explore some meaty philosophical terrain through the episodic architecture based around a particular negative human trait, while the denouement is both narratively satisfying and compellingly reflects the ambiguity of human morality.  Violent, explicit, and about as far as you can get from a boys’ own story of knightly derring-do, “Dragon’s Dogma” does have some annoying loose ends – who, for example, are the Pawns? What is their relationship to the Arisen? How are they generated? – while viewers of the iconic series “Claymore” will recognise in the Pawns the hardly original trope of the instrumentalised female warrior. But all this notwithstanding, if you like your fantasy dark and gritty, this series should definitely fit the bill.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.