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The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Chaos Dragon


How would you rate episode 1 of
Chaos Dragon ?
Community score: 2.1



Nick Creamer

Rating: 1

Chaos Dragon is garbage.

It's not even the kind of garbage I normally assign the rating “garbage.” Normally when we get down to the one-stars, it requires something like a “please scold me, big brother,” or being friggin’ Cross Ange. But Chaos Dragon isn't exactly the most trashy show… it's just absolutely, one hundred percent terrible.

The story opens in the Imperial Era year 3015, where the kingdom of Nil Kamui has been divided up by rival larger nations and terrorized by its own guardian dragon. You learn that, along with much else, across this first episode's bountiful digressions into exposition. The show opens with exposition from our first protagonist, Ibuki, the former king of Nil Kamui's son. There's exposition from the villains, and exposition in the ad break (in the former of some hilariously text-stuffed eyecatch images). There's exposition in brackets above the dialogue when the dialogue can't hold all the exposition. There's even exposition in one character's dying breath, when she explains the mechanics of a blood ritual as she is being sacrificed for that ritual.

So yeah. The storytelling problems begin with the exposition, but they certainly don't end there. Chaos Dragon is actually based on the D&D sessions between a number of famous and semi-famous creators, including Gen Urobuchi and Nasu, and this glut of writers shows in how confoundingly and tediously busy this first episode is. There are too many characters, and you don't care about any of them. In spite of all the voices present, nothing congeals into an actual story - what's there comes across as hackneyed and dull, full of fantasy terminology nonsense and overwrought one-liners (“Forgive me, Ibuki. I will be plummeting you into battle”). This episode ends with the aforementioned blood ritual, involving the sacrifice of a character who might as well have had “Marked For Death” written on their forehead and whose tearful end is accompanied by a giant splash of blood and metal guitar riffs.

This pattern of “too much, and all of it bad” also applies to Chaos Dragon's aesthetic. This show has some of the most hideously overdesigned characters I've ever seen - every costume is garish and absurd (see my screenshot for a fine example), silly clown outfits draped over fundamental features that aren't particularly expressive. The animation is extremely limited, the characters frequently off-model. There's also a lousy CG dragon, as you would expect in a show called Chaos Dragon. This first episode was chaos and it featured a dragon. Truth in advertising.

Chaos Dragon is available streaming at Funimation.com


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 1.5

I like dragons. I'm not averse to chaos. I can't say either thing about the first episode of Chaos Dragon. I was, however, unsurprised to learn that the show is a collaboration between five people, based on a table-top RPG that they played. This is because there is very little that feels cohesive about this first episode, instead throwing a little world-building (the game scenario) at us before immersing viewers in a veritable flood of named characters. It feels like the kind of pretend game I used to play with my sisters: everyone comes up with a character who morphs into another character until all three of us were roughly seven people at once and basically playing our own games side-by-side, occasionally interacting. The result is a story that feels utterly confusing until almost the end, where it pulls itself together for about five minutes before throwing another named character at you.

Nominally the story seems to be following Ibuki, the only surviving member of the Nil Kamui royal family when two neighboring countries invaded the island nation. He thinks that if he dons the crown – which may or may not entail a bargain with a dragon – the wars will never end, but when a couple of bad guys show up in town on market day and immediately begin picking on him before going on a violent rampage, he changes his mind. There's a lot of stuff about dragon eyes and pacts and sacrifices and a scene that is clearly meant to be moving (and it might have been, had we known the characters better), and then the plot sort of wanders off. That was the general impression I had throughout the episode: like a game was ambling along and sometimes stumbled onto a bit of plot before getting distracted.

It doesn't help that the animation feels very uninspired and features the most boring fight scenes I've seen in a long time. You thought that fight in Gangsta. was dull? Check out Chaos Dragon's fight where guys just sort of bang their swords together. Even the start of what is supposed to be an epic battle between Ibuki and the bad man is kind of lame, and really the only remarkable thing about the visuals is the terrible, terrible outfits. Whoever did the character designs clearly did not know how pants (or hakama, for that matter) function, and the female villain has some weird leg armor that for some reason I found disturbing. As a final strike against it, the subtitles were riddled with grammatical errors, which is very unusual for Funimation. I assume it was the rush that was the problem (goodness knows I can make some pretty bad mistakes when I'm not paying attention), but it just added to the problems this show already had.

Chaos Dragon feels too much like a vanity project and not enough like a coherent, cohesive show. It just drives home the lesson that no matter how exciting your games of pretend or your RPG campaign is to you and your playmates, to other people, it's just something that doesn't quite make sense and perhaps is best kept to yourself.


Hope Chapman

Rating:

I was really excited for Chaos Dragon. This show is based on a tabletop campaign by three wacky creatives (Kinoko Nasu, Gen Urobuchi, and Ryohgo Narita) in supporting party roles and their two artist friends who play the lead heroes. It was adapted into a light novel first, and now re-interpreted into anime by another strong creative voice, Shou Aikawa. That's an insane amount of cooks in the kitchen, and I was pretty eager to see just what the hell the final product would even look like.

I was excited for Chaos Dragon, but I was not ready for Chaos Dragon. I don't think anyone was ready for this.

That phrase, "too many cooks," has never ever ever seemed more fitting to me than it did watching this premiere episode. Some shows crumble under the weight of their own ambition over time, but Chaos Dragon collapsed violently in the first episode via jaw-dropping supernova. The opening shot yields an uneasy "uh oh" all by itself. SILVER LINK is a fine little animation studio that has put out several great shows in the past, but they've all been humble and minimally animated affairs. Chaos Dragon is SILVER LINK trying to be ufotable, and they do not have the assets to carry out this pipe dream. That opening shot is arguably the most well-animated shot in the entire episode, and it's still a trainwreck. The camera swoops in 360 degree arcs around our party members at a painfully low framerate, with the characters poorly composited into the background. Then the cherry on top arrives when the story's titular dragon of chaos appears, in sub-Toei quality CG, and your expectations crash down into your intestines.

The rest of the episode is hideously animated. Every fight scene is speedlined stills. Every walk cycle is stiff and jagged. If it's not in an extreme close-up, it's probably off-model. Getting past the animation, every character seems overdesigned within an inch of their lives, and their wardrobes clash with one another and the various settings so hard that the end result is an atmosphere-deaf jumble with no cohesive flavor. Everything is falling apart.

But what about the story? Well, how fast can you read? (That gif is not sped up. It is the exact speed of Funimation's subtitles for the eyecatch.)

The execution here is head-spinning. Barrels of infodumps come rolling down the assembly line, and it's all you can do to keep up with one group of characters before the show jumps to a different one entirely. (This episode should have been spent exclusively with our leading man, Ibuki, but SILVER LINK probably thought fans would want to see Nasu, Booch, and Narita's characters right away. They're not wrong. This just wasn't the way to do it.) Even if you do successfully piece the story together, it's kind of an eyeroll. Here's a confusion-free sumup: the prosperous island of Nil Kamui has been conquered by a warrior society called the Kouran. A young boy named Ibuki is meant to become king, having been chosen by a prophesied sword and the island's dark deity, the "Red Dragon," but he's a gentle soul and would rather suffer under Kouran's invasion than turn the tide to war without being prepared. Unfortunately, once he runs into Kouran troops parading Nil Kamui's national treasure through town, the "Dragon Eye," the magatama-shaped artifact leaps out and burns itself into his chest, forcing him into his regal destiny. He's forced to take the life of the girl he loves as a sacrifice for the Red Dragon's power (in a hilariously overwrought scene) and now the onus is on him to gather party members for the rebellion!

This could have been a good show, but it seems like absolutely everything is working against it from the graceless writing to the penniless production. At worst, you'll find it boring and incomprehensible. At best, you'll find it so bad it's fabulous. I'm in the latter camp, and even though it's the biggest trainwreck of the season so far, it made some twisted part of me really happy in its beautiful incompetence. If you're a fan of the many writers involved, and feel an urge to peer into the void and see how this giant clump of creative voices compete in an overstuffed story, I'd recommend checking it out. I can't imagine watching it for any other reason, though. It's an anime disaster.


Theron Martin

Rating: 2

Review: Chaos Dragon has an unusual pedigree: it is a multimedia franchise based on the RPG Red Dragon, which (if I understand correctly) is based on a series of role-play sessions by five notable character designers, including Gen Urobochi. The franchise also has board game and smart phone app components, and a light novel series may also be forthcoming, but for now this anime seems to be the main storytelling vehicle.

That it is based on a Japanese RPG is no surprise, as everything about the characters and their overly-elaborate costumes practically screams “game adaptation.” In fact, the costuming and colorful (literally!) nature of the characters gets so ridiculous – especially the one evil woman who has a title of Leader of Five Thousand or something like that – that taking anything seriously here is very difficult. Clearly the budget was focused more on the designs than the dull action scenes or the unimpressive CG of the male lead talking to the essence of the Red Dragon, although it does find space for a bit of entirely pointless fan service, too. (Really, the scene in the cave grotto seems to exist only for the purpose of showing the one girl naked while she's still around. I don't normally mind such things, but at least put a slight bit of effort into finding a reason for it, man!) In fact, the spirit of not really trying too hard seems to pervade everything about the project except for the character designs and one certain scene.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story is set on Nil Kamui, a large island nation which, according to copious eyecatch notes (really, you'll have to be quite nimble with the Pause button to catch them all on Funimation's stream) is both a major crossroads and regarded as a curse land. It also has a tradition of its ruling family being superhuman beings called Imperials who make pacts with the Red Dragon, but that didn't apparently help Nil Kamui when it lost a third of its land to invasion from Kouran and has another third being overseen and “protected” by supposed ally D'natia. Ibuki, the last surviving royal family member, now lives and helps out at an orphanage run by priestess-like friend Mashiro, where he has eschewed fighting and believes that rising up in revolution will only create more bloodshed. Others have other ideas about that, though. He unwittingly gets caught up in a revolt, and when civilians start dying, Mashiro gets gravely injured, and he encounters a mystical item intended to fight the Red Dragon, he instead winds up bonded with it and making a contract with the Red Dragon to save everyone. The price, though, is Mashiro's life, which she is happy to give to the cause, much to Ibuki's dismay.

The tension and build-up for the one scene where Ibuki unwillingly sacrifices Mashiro is the one thing that the first episode does right, thanks in large part to the musical score, which is the episode's best feature. Otherwise this is the weakest and least compelling fantasy series to debut so far this season.


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