Netflix’s ‘DOTA: Dragon’s Blood’ Delivers a Dazzling and Fast-Paced Fantasy Ride – Review
Netflix has been on a mission these last few years to tap into the anime audience with their own original work. They intend to offer a wide range of anime to cover the plethora of interests, thus far they have proven to nail the more adult variety. Anime with sprawling stories, massive battle sequences and tons of blood and gore. Enter DOTA: Dragon’s Blood.
With this latest entry, their strategy was to take a popular video game IP and create a new series based on that story–with plenty of creative liberties. The best, and one of the first, examples of this strategy was Castlevania, based on the classic video game. Castlevania was able to find a massive audience with the tried and true formula of vampires and witches. That proven blueprint has been brought back, yet again, with the new Netflix animated series, DOTA: Dragon’s Blood.
Based on one of the most popular Esports games of all time, DOTA 2, the anime series loosely adapts the broad idea of the story. The story is as follows: Dragon Knights protect mankind from the fearsome, unstoppable creatures known as eldwurms or, as everyone else calls them, dragons. From here the creative team is able to add a myriad of subplots, side-quests and colourful characters in order for the show to find its own voice. This creates amazing moments but there might be too many storylines for audiences to balance.
The show follows Davion (Yuri Lowenthal), a renowned Dragon Knight, who remains level headed, even when he’s constantly bathed in glory and fame from every townsfolk he encounters. His kind-hearted nature is put to the test when he witnesses an ancient demon take on an especially powerful eldwurm. In the heat of the moment, Davion chooses to help the almighty dragon, Slyrak (Tony Todd), fight off a terrifying demon and in return is imbued with a piece of his soul. This turns Davion into a vessel for this primeval being who appears anytime Davion’s life is threatened. This sets up the most appealing part of the show. How does Davion come to terms with the fact that the species he spent his entire life trying to eliminate is now a part of him? The moments we get of Davion learning about dragon culture and doubting the intentions of his Dragon Knight mentor, deliver the most dynamic story beats.
The only downside is, there are so many conflicts that are set-up for future seasons, that some of the truly great moments get a little lost in the swarm of subplots. Throughout Davion’s journey, he is introduced to former princess Mirana (Lara Pulver), who is dealing with being exiled by her goddess Selemene (Alix Wilton Regan) and the loss of her title as the princess of the moon and sun. The longer she remains away from home, the more she is drawn back to it, which leads her right to the middle of an elvish civil war. This, also, connects to the introduction of the Invoker (Troy Baker), who is an all-powerful sorcerer dealing with powerful forces. There is also the story that follows a young elf named Fymryn (Freya Tingley), who is set up to play a larger part in everyone’s story.
As enjoyable as these characters were, their stories seemed to run out of runway by the end of the season. Countless scenes with these likable characters teased at a more expansive storyline, but, eventually, felt like the creators were cramming quite a bit of the story into a small number of episodes.
Although, the quantity of story and characters becomes overwhelming at times, what we did get from this world has a lot of potentials. The legendary dragon slayer, Kaden (Anson Mount), delivers a promising story arc where Davion is challenged in his beliefs. Plus, his fight sequences offer some spectacular action to showcase his famed skills in battle. The Invoker is also an opportunity for Studio MIR to show off their expertise with dazzling animated sequences. In the blink of an eye, the Invoker can teleport people and create a number of situations that flaunts his magical abilities in some truly epic ways.
DOTA is the definition of a strong foundation. Each character’s backstory is packed with a wealth of conflict and appeal, that the little we do get from them, is well worth the watch. The fantasy setting is, likewise, undeniably an engaging genre. Plenty of anime fans are craving for a magical medieval story with all the ingredients for an epic journey; DOTA: Dragon’s Blood offers that in full. From extraordinary action to compelling character introductions, the series sets up a remarkable new adventure. Although at times, you might feel like too much is going on, there is still so much to be excited about in this new Netflix series.
DOTA: Dragon’s Blood premieres on Netflix March 25
DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is to brought us by animation studio Studio MIR, in collaboration with VALVE. Ashley Edward Miller served as showrunner and executive producer, with Ryu Ki Hyun co-executive producing. Thank you to Netflix for providing all 8 episodes to screen for this review.