In a way, I almost feel bad for a little movie like Legend Of The Millenium Dragon. It’s a perfectly adequate little movie and should please kids and undemanding fans of anime but it’s nothing special. Not everything has to be special, of course, but it certainly helps when competing in a market that features more familiar names, including the superb Studio Ghibli.
The story is a fun, fantastical one. A young schoolboy is transported back in time and asked to help out in the midst of an ongoing battle between humans and monsters. All seems clear cut and the boy just has to start having faith in himself and believing that he is indeed the saviour that others believe him to be. Then things get a bit complicated. Just who is fighting who and what are the reasons behind the ongoing war?
Director Hirotsugu Kawasaki (who also co-wrote the screenplay) has provided viewers with something that feels nicely like an introduction to the possibilities of anime. That may be damning the film with faint praise (and I have to admit that it often felt like the pilot episode of some TV show I wouldn’t necessarily keep watching) but it also means that this is an action-packed fantasy with monsters and villains that will impress younger audience members without scaring or traumatising them. It’s a “gateway” anime, if I can get away with saying that.
The animation and artwork may not be on a par with the best of the genre but there is some nice stuff on display and a lot of the best work is invested in the backgrounds and scenery, many of which could just be framed as individual works of goregousness (highlighted in the main extra feature on the Blu-ray that allows you to scroll through a gallery of concept art). The vocal work is just fine, too. Ryuji Aigase, Satomi Ishihara, Kentaro Ito, etc. If, like me, you don’t recognise the names then don’t worry about it – just be happy to hear that they’re absolutely suited to their voice roles.
For people curious about the movie, I certainly wouldn’t suggest just blindly buying the thing. There’s a lot of stuff that appears on TV every now and again that’s pitched at the same level. But I would recommend giving it a watch anyway, if you like the animation of Japan, and keeping an eye out for whenever it appears at a bargain price.
DIRECTOR: HIROTSUGU KAWASAKI
WRITER: NARUHISA ARAKAWA, HIROTSUGU KAWASAKI (BASED ON THE NOVEL BY TAKAFUMI TAKADA)
STARS: RYUJI AIGASE, SATOMI ISHIHARA, KENTARO ITO, YASUYUKI KASE, SOSUKE KOMORI, TAKASHI KONDO
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX