Series Review: Dragon’s Dogma – Season 1 (2020)

I love animation. I love video games. So the two smashed together should be heaven, right? Right? Why are you so quiet?

Ladies and gents… “Dragon’s Dogma” season 1.

Ethan (Greg Chun) lives a nice, relatively quiet life with his wife. This peace doesn’t last however when the entire town is destroyed and Ethan’s heart gets eaten by a giant dragon. Shortly after our hero finds himself resurrected by a mysterious magical lady (Erica Mendez), and vows to find and slay the dragon that ruined his life. It’s a mostly classic fantasy/revenge setup with elements that we’ve seen before. Where it tries to stand out somewhat though is in its storytelling… keyword being tried. The idea with each episode is that as Ethan travels the country in search of the big spooky lizard, he encounters different monsters and situations mirroring the seven deadly sins (which can even be seen in each episode title). And while they have some wonderful ideas for how that will work, I feel like they undercooked this heart steak a bit. While the show’s fast pace keeps it from getting too stale, it does hurt the storytelling. Nothing really gets to simmer. They have interesting developments and ideas within each episode, but I never feel as invested as I could be given the interesting subject matter. So instead of getting the nuanced fantasy narrative that I know the crew’re striving for, we get a story that never reaches its full potential, bar one thing in the final episode.

Where the story does falter… the characters don’t do much to help. I will say that Ethan, our main protagonist, does have some interesting stuff going on. Each episode we see some mild developments on his side, and it does make him a somewhat compelling character. And Greg Chun does a great job with his voice work there. Then we have the pawn (also known as Hannah), the mysterious magical lady I mentioned earlier who resurrected Ethan. She is a little bit of a blank slate, only there to serve as a somewhat logic-driven sidekick to Ethan. There is great potential with her character, but it’s never fully achieved. At least Erica Mendez does a good job with her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t necessarily as great though, because most of them attempt some form of British accent (‘ullo gov’nah), with a majority sadly falling flat on their face.

The score for the show was composed by Tadayoshi Makino, and I think his music here is great. It is of course based in a lot of the brass, strings, and piano we have heard in fantasy before. But Makino puts his own spin on it to some degree, making for a score that is exciting, emotional, and ear candy of the highest degree.

Based on the 2012 video game from Capcom, “Dragon’s Dogma” was animated by studio Sublimation for Netflix, with Shinya Sugai handling direction. Aaaaaand I have mixed feelings. Lookign at the overall shot composition, you can tell that these guys have a good eye, there’s a lot of good “camera” movements and nice ideas for stills. This is however brought down by the studio’s choice to go with a pseudo 3D style of animation. Now, in the few instances I’ve seen this styles pop up in other things, it hasn’t been very good. And while it certainly looks slightly less shit than some other instances of this weird 2D/3D amalgamation, it still doesn’t work. All the characters look lifeless dolls, and movements look really janky. This is almost even worse with some of the creatures in this show, who get these pretty murky textures draped over them, which makes them look really bad. There are moments of good animation however. Fleeting moments of regular, hand-drawn 2D animation. And it’s a shame that these are such brief moments, because those instances look amazing. But overall, the animation here isn’t great.

This show’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a critic rating of 100%, but an audience rating of 50%. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.3/10.

While it has a lot of potential for greatness, Netflix’s “Dragon’s Dogma” sadly doesn’t live up to the potential. It has a mediocre plot, okay characters, good acting, great music, and bad animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dragon’s Dogma” is a 4.89/10. So sadly I’d have to recommend skipping it.

My review of “Dragon’s Dogma” is now completed.

Hopefully the game’s better…

Series Review: Castlevania – Season 3 (2020)

Took me a bit longer to get around to this than I originally wanted. But now we’re finally here. So let’s talk about this show for a bit. Oh, and there will be some spoilers for season 2… so you have been warned.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Castlevania” season 3!

A few months have passed since Dracula’s demise, and everyone’s kind of gone their separate ways. The peace isn’t kept for long however, as the various characters all run into their own share of problems. Trying to break down the narrative of this season in a well-written and concise way without getting into too many spoilers is difficult, as there are about as many threads as a season of “Game of Thrones”. But I’ll do my best. First off we have Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) who find themselves visiting a mysterious village that seemingly holds more secrets than they at first let on. Then you have Alucard (James Callis) adjusting to the solitude of living in Dracula’s castle. Then there’s Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her fellow vampires scheming to take over the world. And then there’s Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack), building his army of night creatures and traveling across the world. But then there’s also the mysterious newcomer Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) and his schemes. Like I said, there’s a lot, and I didn’t even touch on all of them, either due to spoilers or fear of overextending this section. But believe me when I say that the ten episodes of this season cover A LOT of shit. But despite covering so much, it never gets confusing. This doesn’t mean that all aspects get treated with an equal amount of care and devotion, which at times can make this feel like a little bit of a middle chapter, but I do still find the narrative very engrossing. You get this epic fantasy tale, which also mixes in clever mystery, some gruesomely dark horror, a lot of heart and humor, and even a bit of enjoyable human drama. It’s great stuff, yo.

The characters in this, both old and new are colorful, flawed, layered, fascinating, and highly entertaining. The older ones get a little development, and newer ones do too. All of them are highly interesting and I loved seeing them. And the voice cast is fucking phenomenal, featuring such talented folks as Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, James Callis, Jaime Murray, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Theo James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jason Isaacs, Navid Negahban, Ivana Milisevic, Rila Fukushima, Toro Uchikado, Bill god damn Nighy, and more.

As with the previous two seasons, the score here was composed by Trevor Morris. And he absolutely knocked it out of the god damn park. He manages to cover so much ground with the various tracks in the show. From big bombastic brass, to more subtle strings, to even a bit of really intense synth, the dude did a fantastic job.

All episodes of “Castlevania” season 3 were written by Warren Ellis, with direction being handled by brother Sam and Adam Deats. And not that previous seasons were slouches in the animation department, but fuckin’ hell, the animation this season is the best it’s ever been. In quieter moments it looks really good, but it’s really in action scenes where it shines. Really captures the intensity and insanity that would happen from these battles. The final two episodes especially show this, as they have some of the best battles I’ve seen in animation. It’s one of the most well animated shows I’ve ever watched.

This show/season has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 7.2/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

Season 3 is another winning batch of episodes for “Castlevania”, giving us more of what I’ve come to love from the show. It has a great story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Castlevania” season 3 is a 9.92/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Castlevania” season 3 is now completed

This remains the best video game adaptation.