The Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Dragonar Academy

Apr 5th 2014

Hope Chapman

Rating: 3

Review:
One of the most frustrating (and least rewarding) parts of trying to construct a good review is coming up with the numerical score. Numbers are the least effective tools for discussing art, but they're the part people are most likely to gravitate towards and obsess over. Thankfully, shows like Dragonar Academy make choosing a rating easy, by presenting us with the most anime thing to ever anime, competent and comfortable in every way, while excelling and innovating at absolutely nothing. It's as middle of the road and expected a creation for its time that anyone can hope for: fantasy, teen protagonists, pretty buxom girls, fantasy world high school setting with a simple story told mostly through hackneyed dialogue, and decent-to-good animation of completely generic art assets to carry the whole package.

Our protagonist Ash goes to a dragon-riding school for dragon riders, as we learn through several rounds of "as you know" dialogue from familiar faces like the mischievous best friend, capricious valedictorian, and standoffish female rival/potential love interest. He's an oddball though, because a dragon rider's special dragon should be born to them before age 16, but his dragon hasn't shown up yet, so he's made fun of as a problem child. Ash takes it reasonably in stride while still reacting with a little temper, so he seems likable, but not like a pushover, and can be maximally relatable to any teen out there who feels a little misunderstood. Little does he know that his chosen dragon is right around the corner, but she's different/better from all the other dragons and appears in human form, so she can be his other love interest and save the world alongside him after they embrace in a swirl of magic particles or some nonsense. It's not ineffective storytelling, but you can definitely write the rest without trying very hard.

Duller execution would drag this tired premise down below average, but Dragonar Academy is paced and directed well alongside a pleasant soundtrack and acting, so the uninspired writing doesn't drag and you're never really given a good reason to stop watching. If you want a shrug-worthy way to pass 20 minutes with dragons and spunky youths in a fantasy land, you can do a lot worse than Dragonar Academy. Don't expect anything special, though, this one's gonna be telegraphing all its boilerplate beats from start to finish.

Dragonar Academy
is available streaming at Funimation.com.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 1.5

Review: Hey everybody! It's that time again! What time? Why, time to play Anime Mad Libs of course! You know the drill: we give you a paragraph with select words missing; you supply the missing words, creating your own wacky anime scenario! Without further ado, let's begin!

In his youth, Ash Blake was mortally wounded while (verb)ing a (noun). He is revived by a glowing green (noun), and given a special (noun) that marks him as a (capitalized mildly misused English term)—a human bonded with a (noun) from (a place). Now an (adjective)teenagerenrolled in a schoolfor (capitalized mildly misused English term)s, he is derided as a (supposedly negative but actually kind of badass noun) because of his (socially unacceptable but actually kind of badass action)s and because, at the ripe old age of sixteen, his (noun) still hasn't (verb)ed. One day he runs afoul of his class's resident (female stereotype), who insults his (noun). He challenges her to a (kind of competition), during which a (mysterious male adjective) man's (sexy female adjective) sidekick tries to (verb) him. Which prompts his (noun) to (verb). But much to his shock, instead of a (noun), out pops a beautiful pink-haired girl.

Honest, anything you've written into those blanks is more interesting than what Dragonar’s writers put in. The show is a photocopy of a photocopy, a bland, featureless simulacrum of anime entertainment. It could almost be the Mad Lib without anything written into the blanks at all: just a generic anime template, a lump of wet anime clay that has been sculpted into an exacting portrait of wet anime clay. It has no personality, no spark of creativity or inspiration. Its mechanics are pretty good—director Shunsuke Tada has several reasonably polished entertainments under his belt—but despite the occasional pretty picture you'll have forgotten the whole mess before the episode is even over.

Dragonar Academy is available streaming at Funimation.com.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

Review:

You could be forgiven for thinking you'd wandered into The Familiar of Zero on your way to Dragonar Academy. Taking place in a very similar world and populated by some familiar looking girls, Dragonar Academy is also based on a series of light novels with a manga version available in English. This story, however, takes place in Ansullivan, a country where people are given dragon eggs to raise inside their bodies in order to tame the animals. These dragons are known as “parrs,” and by the time you hit sixteen, your parr is supposed to be hatched and ready. This is not the case for our hero, Ash Blake, who, due a mysterious encounter in his childhood that he presumably does not remember, has yet to produce a dragon. Luckily for him he has the rare ability to ride someone else's, so he's at least able to progress with his schooling. Then one day he runs afoul of a ninja wearing lingerie and falls off a cliff. On his way down, Ash's parr finally appears...only she looks like a pink-haired human girl.

While this show feels fairly basic, if not downright familiar, in its plot, it mostly suffers from not really being interesting enough. Part of this problem lies with the character of Silvia, a girl who is supposed to be tsundere but comes off as just plain mean without that softer core. Other female characters also fit into prescribed types but feel just a little off – the student body president, Rebecca, doesn't appear to have anything going for her but her oversexualized body, there's that girl with the sausage curls who holds her hand up to her mouth while she laughs, and Ash's token male friend. Actually, to be fair, Ash and Raymond look like they have a genuine friendship, and Raymond is a lot less annoying than he is in the manga.

That's actually the highest praise I can offer this episode – it is way less annoying than the manga, which takes all of the characters to extremes and ups the fanservice to ridiculous levels. That's not to say that there isn't any here, but it is, for a change, kept mostly clothed, which is an interesting choice. The major exception is the pink-haired dragon woman who rubs herself all over Ash in his dream; it seems safe to assume that she'll be explained (and appearing) later.

Dragonar Academy's first episode isn't groundbreaking, and it's moderately interesting. It looks decent and does some interesting things with what the dragons look like. If you're looking for a basic fantasy, this isn't as good as The World Is Still Beautiful, but it's decent enough.

Dragonar Academy is available streaming at Funimation.


Theron Martin

Rating: 3 (of 5)

Review:
Ash Blake has a reputation as the problem child of Ansullivan Dragonar Academy, a special school for those who have Brands which allow them to control dragon partners, called parrs, that magically grow from within them. Part of it stems from his parr having yet to emerge, something he is very sensitive about (and which is rare for someone his age), although he also has the seemingly unique ability to control the parrs of others. (Normally parrs do not tolerate even the touch of someone who is not their bonded partner.) Naturally that has something to do with the unusually large brand which runs down his left arm, an arm which we see in an initial flashback was severed during an incident in his youth but restored by a mysterious woman. That has little to do with him getting into a challenge with the country's standoffish princess over a bumping incident during practice, a challenge which is carried out during the upcoming festival race. While resting his borrowed mount he comes across a masked individual who seems to be a soldier from a country with which his has a tenuous cease-fire, and is attacked by the solider's female bodyguard, although she for unknown reasons hesitates to kill him when she has the chance. When circumstances lead to him falling off a cliff, his parr finally emerges, but she, like her master, is also highly unusual, in that she isn't a dragon at all but a girl instead.

That's a pretty big ending hook that the series throws out, one almost assured to intrigue viewers enough to watch at least one more episode to find out just how unusual it is. Of course, mysterious girls mysteriously appearing in/falling into in the hero's arms during a first episode is an anime staple, but a girl appearing when she should be something else that's not even humanoid puts a potentially different twist on the common concept. The dynamic involving the princess, who is apparently standoffish for reasons other than being stuck up, also has some potential, as does the mystery behind Ash's peculiar nature.

That has to be enough to entice one to watch the series, because the “dragons” are nothing special; the ground-based ones are more giant lizards than what one normally thinks of as dragons. Character designs and clothing prominently emphasize the breasts of female characters, though beyond that and one early scene featuring a nearly nude woman the series otherwise lacks fan service. Neither the artistry nor the animation offers anything special, either. In fact, the only other unusual factor is that the naming conventions are purely Western ones; “Ash Blake” is pretty typical as character names go.

Dragonar Academy
is unlikely to wow anyone, but it doesn't make any major misstep, either. So far it looks like a standard middle-road fantasy title.

Dragonar Academy is currently streaming on Funimation.com.


Zac Bertschy

Rating: 1.5

Ash Blake is a brash young superstar at Dragonar Academy, a magic school for magic kids who bear a special kinship with dragons. He's a Senios now (it sounds like 'Senior' but he has 3 years left) and he has special markings that link him to his "parr", a dragon he can summon. The problem: Ash's parr hasn't erupted from wherever dragons erupt from yet so he winds up riding other people's dragons, kinda like the guy who can't afford his own ride and keeps asking to borrow your car so he can go on a beer run, man.

Ruling the school (at least from the student side) is Princess Silvia, a tightly-wound aristocrat who wants to take hotshot Ash down a peg. She winds up challenging him to defeat her in an upcoming dragon race thing that everyone participates in, but he doesn't stand much of a chance, and winds up taking a breather halfway through wherein he's confronted by a mysterious dude with dumb hair and also a dumb Char Aznable mask who sees the "unborn dragon" inside him. He has a loli sidekick wearing dime store lingere who tosses Ash off a cliff, which is where the series would've mercifully ended had doing so not awakened Ash's parr, which turns out to be a naked pink-haired girl (DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING) with that awful shiny red elbows 'n tits thing going on that someone in Japan is convinced everyone finds really sexy.

So Dragonar Academy is a lame Chosen One in Magic Boobs School show based on what I've heard is a particularly lame Chosen One in Magic Boobs School manga, and it isn't really worth anyone's time. This is the sort of Magic Boobs School where the uniforms are all designed with giant boob windows so everyone's oversized racks can bounce around in tight pinstripe tops and a busty student council president offers up a date with herself as the prize for winning the dragon race. Everything about this is mediocre and uninteresting, not the least of which is the art design. Here you have a show about kids summoning dragons and rather than do any kind of even remotely imaginative creature design, you copy-paste the generic beefy anime dragon that pops up in every little kids' card-battling show a dozen times and apply different color filters to it to differentiate between them. The animation is serviceable, I guess, but there isn't a single ounce of imagination here. The show takes itself deadly serious, the lead character's personality is as interesting as a bag of concrete mix and the rest of the show is just about inconsistently-drawn huge anime tits bobbing around. You can do better than this.

Dragonar Academy is available streaming at Funimation.com.



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