The animated film Dragon Quest: Your Story has just premiered on Netflix, finally landing in the west after being released first in Japan last year. As the name oh-so-subtly implies, it's based on Dragon Quest, the popular RPG saga by Square Enix. Now, the film - which tells an adventure as magical as the game itself - is finally available to stream all around the world.
The film is directed by Takashi Yamazaki, who genre fans may already know from other works such as Eien no 0 or Parasyte, where he was helped by Ryûchi Yagi and Makoto Hanafusa. The animation here is executed in 3D, and so the characters lose some of the charm and personality of Akira Toriyama's hand-drawn style from the manga or anime - something that ultimately also happens in the Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball games. However, one of the strengths of this new movie is that it uses the original score of the game, which helps it make an instant connection.
The story in Your Story is based on the plot of Super Nintendo classic Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. It begins with Luca, a fearless and curious young man who follows his father through a medieval fantasy world. Luca's goal is to rescue his mother, who was kidnapped years before by the evil Bishop Ladja. In order to complete his mission, the only hope of the group is to find the celestial hero, the one who has the power to defeat the dark forces using the Zenithian Sword.
Thus a colourful adventure quickly unfolds; it's full of action and we're taken on a journey full of surprises. Since Your Story tries to go one step further than being a mere adaptation of The Heavenly Bride, it has some plot twists that not only differentiate it from the game, but that also bring the story to life. It doesn't always work, however.
Generally speaking, we think this animated adaptation will just about convince fans. It includes a lot of nods to the RPG saga that those in the know will appreciate. What's more, the characters are faithful to those of the original game, and no part of their personalities was left on the cutting room floor. That said, although the film tries to connect with the sentimentality of veteran gamers, they won't find anything particularly new here. It serves its purpose and gives us a dose of nostalgia, which is no mean feat, but it never really takes off either.
What about those people who aren't familiar with the Dragon Quest universe? They'll also enjoy it, as long as they go in understanding that the film isn't a masterpiece. Instead, it's a decent slice of entertainment with exquisite and meticulous animation, fairytale-inspired landscapes, and snappy pacing that stops the story from losing its way. Still, if you don't know the game you won't be able to fully savour the story. Furthermore, wanting to tell the full story without leaving anything important out results in flat characters that enjoy little personal growth, and the majority of them feel irrelevant. In other words, it's hard to squeeze a story of 40 hours into 1 hour and 42 minutes.
Dragon Quest: Your Story is an audio-visual tribute to the ongoing fantasy saga. For the most part we had a good time in its company and we enjoyed some unexpected twists along the way, however, not everyone will be fond of its childish message. Thus, we think it falls short of fulfilling its true potential - with a bit more care it could have been an essential watch for all the family.
Having said that, if you do watch the movie and thereafter want to take up adventuring in this RPG universe, we'd recommend that you start off with Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition. It's the best version of the eleventh game of the saga and a great place to begin your adventure.