Mild Spoilers Ahead
It’s been a while since the last Netflix video game adaptation I watched (for reference, Castlevania S3 came out RIGHT before this whole COVID thing kicked off. Also, as I say in every single post ever, It’s been a while since my last post.
However, it’s time to stretch the ol’ writing muscles to talk about DOTA: Dragon’s Blood.
DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is a Netflix animated series by Studio Mir, who you may know from their work on Legend of Korra, and headed by Ashley Edward Miller who worked on X-Men: First Class. It tells the story of Davion, the Dragon Knight and his fateful encounter with Mirana, the Princess of the Moon. There’s magic, dragons, intrigue, and a LOT of murder.
Let’s cut to the chase and talk about what makes this series so engaging. First off, the characters:
They aren’t the deepest characters, but they’re certainly fun and fleshed out from their video game counterparts whose backstories were only relegated via bios and in-game quotes. I like the fleshing out of local Tutorial Man Davion Dragon Knight, by making him a reckless and brave folk hero who spends a bit too much of his screen time buck-naked (and surprisingly not for sex reasons).
Mirana, on the other hand, is a haughty type with a bit of a tsundere side to her this time around.
But my favorite character from our main party of heroes has got to be newcomer to the DOTA world, Marci, Mirana’s handmaiden, seen above completely done with Mirana’s tsundere act.
Marci is a mute, but her expressiveness really shows off that ATLA energy Studio Mir has been known for. Who needs dialogue when a face says a thousand words?
Of course, the biggest reason she’s my favorite is because she’s catch-all of the show’s greatest assets. Expressiveness, charm, and of course, action scenes.
But we’ll get to that later.
The characters being so likeable is a big part of what makes the series fun to watch. They aren’t very deep, but they have believable motivations and the seeds of their conflicts are sown quite well. I like that our two main leads have a similar struggle in terms of their identity, and how they deal with this crisis throughout the story’s progression.
We also have our main “not-the-heroes” characters from the game that may look familiar, Invoker and Luna, who are just as brutal as their in-game personalities.
These two characters have their strengths shown the most throughout the series. As a Luna main, seeing her skills being used in brutal fashion was amazing. It almost makes me feel bad for the things I do to the enemy team in pub games.
While the characters are all well and good, the real connective tissue of the series is the fantastic action scenes and awesome synth score by Dino Meneghin, whose work I’ve never heard before but I’m probably downloading once this show’s OST comes out. The action scenes, will feel very familiar to those who have seen Legend of Korra, only this time, they are unrestrained by the limitations of a kids show.
For those who have been missing a solid action animated romp, Dragon’s Blood has your back. From street fights to dragon duels, this series has it in spades. It’s great to see the dynamic action scenes from Korra make the switch to full R-rated glory.
The heavy synth soundtrack really accentuates these scenes, but they are also fantastic for some of the more surreal scenes in the series which I won’t spoil but will tease.
Overall, these aspects alone make me give the series a definite recommendation. I even watched the Filipino dub because DOTA has to count as our country’s national sport at this point.
However, it is not without its flaws.
I won’t say “The Bad” because I don’t think this show has any genuinely bad things, just meh things that could have been good had it been explored a bit further. While I appreciate that the show went in on how much of an ass the cosmic beings are in DOTA, good and bad, it doesn’t quite dive into the weirder aspects of DOTA lore that I really like. Heck, they don’t even delve into the other not-as-weird fantasy aspects of the world, and it honestly felt a bit too narrow in scope overall. I liked the characters, but the lore of the dragons and the moon goddess are honestly one of the blander aspects of the lore. Luna works overtime in carrying the Dark Moon part of the story for me with her rippling muscles.
The flaws of Dragon’s Blood lies less in what’s in the story and more on what they DIDN’T include. Not having any plot presence for races such as the Keen (Gnome/Dwarves) and the beast races, or heck, any hero unrelated to the main plot, was kinda meh. DOTA lore has a lot of potential, and honestly, I’d have actually preferred if DOTA was an anthology of short one-shots that focus on different heroes. I’d watch an episode of Timbersaw’s pure hateboner for trees and all wooden life.
Most other reviews I’ve read of the show have the same feelings as I do in regards to the lack of MORE DOTA cool stuff. In a way, Dragon’s Blood being accessible to newbies is bit of a double-edged sword. Hopefully, the action and intriguing cast are enough to get them the push they need, because personally, I think this adaptation of the lore needs to bite down harder on the wacky and confusing nerd lore that DOTA 2 is well-known for by the fans.
This show is fantastic. The action scenes are dynamic and brutal, the score is a bop, the characters are likeable and the plot does get intriguing once it gets going. On just those three aspects alone, this show is already a must-watch for any DOTA Fan, especially if your main appears.
However, it’s definitely not selling the DOTA lore as hard as it should be. Honestly, there’s a lot being done here that can very easily be fixed with a 2nd season. By itself, it’s a pretty standard fantasy which is a bit of an issue for something that gets to the weird places DOTA lore gets. It’s a fun show with a lot of fun ideas, and generally well executed, but the REALLY weird DOTA lore is missing here. I’m hoping for more representation from the wackier side of DOTA now that the “relatable normie main characters” have been established.
TL;DR Where’s my Juggy, Valve?!