This Week in Anime
Does Dragon Quest Your Story Live Up to Its Legacy?

by Michelle Liu & Nicholas Dupree,

The stunning anime film adaptation of the beloved game franchise is out on Netflix, but does it live up to its legacy? Nick and Micchy try to make sense of the Slime-filled film and that out of left field plot twist.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Nick
Well Micchy, after the rollercoaster ride that was Paranoia Agent I think we need something lighter to recover. How about breezy family movie based on a beloved and classic 90s video game?
That's right, this week in anime we're covering Sonic the Hedgehog.
Micchy
Well, for all my experience with either, Dragon Quest 5 may as well be Sonic! Frankly, the extent of my knowledge of DQ is that Hero's down special in Smash is extremely broken and possibly the worst thing to play against that isn't Byleth's entire arsenal.
Alright yeah, we're covering Dragon Quest Your Story. The CG animated movie Netflix just kinda dropped on our laps like so many dead lizards my cat keeps catching somewhere. Though like Sonic, this movie still features anthropomorphic animals that people are bound to get weirdly horny over.
It's okay though, the movie also enjoys its fair share of weird thirst for its characters, like when the villain goes all "nerd at WonFes" on Luca.
So I'm not exactly familiar with Dragon Quest either. I have friends who love the franchise, but all I've ever known about it was the Akira Toriyama designs and that it really pissed off Smash fans. But I'm always open to entryways into new franchises so I was hoping Your Story would be that. It uh, was not. Like 30 seconds in I was already lost.
I sure hope you like popping in on somebody halfway through an NES game, because for some inexplicable reason this movie opens up with a context-free gameplay montage.
I mean, it's kind of a cute idea to open the movie with what looks like an actual in-game cutscene. But then they speed through like 5 key plot points during it and from there I was just kind of keeping the narrative thread by sheer inertia.
Turns out when you try to compress the story of a huge generation-spanning RPG into 90 minutes, a lot gets cut! But like, Dragon Quest is supposed to be the template that every subsequent JRPG and fantasy novel draws inspiration from, so we should be able to get the gist of it even without going all-in on lore and stuff. With only 90 minutes to work with, you have to be smart with what you skip and what to keep. Worry not though, DQYS makes sure to spend at least a quarter of its runtime on the question "so who does Luca fuck?"
I mean, the story is archetypical enough that even a newbie can follow the general beats. But the biggest problem with the Your Story's compressing of its plot is that following along is all you can really do. When our hero's dad dies 5 minutes in it's not shocking or heartbreaking so much as it's just confusing.

What should be a pivotal scene speeds by so fast it almost plays as parody, and then BAM awkward time jump to 10 years later where Luca has apparently spent 2/3 of his life as a slave. Not that we see any of that.
See, I think the movie could've started with his escape from slavery while alluding to his backstory, rather than cramming it all into a few minutes just for the sake of covering the whole timeline. It's pretty hard to do justice to a sprawling RPG in an hour and a half, but if you narrow the focus a lot you might be able to get a coherent story out of it. On the other hand, we do get to watch Luca get owned while level grinding with slimes, so I suppose that's a plus of the movie's commitment to starting at the beginning-beginning.
For as flawed as the thing feels as a whole, I should say I don't think the movie is over all a bad viewing experience. At least some of the charm of the game series makes it through, even with the drastically different art style. Like just look at Gootrude. I would die for this slime.
Luca's just ungrateful.
The boy's just got other things on his mind. And by that I don't mean the whole "mom held prisoner by the evil wizard overlord" thing. He's gotta worry about which girl to make kissy faces at.
Tfw your childhood friend/partner in crime acts as your wingman but then you have a weird sex dream about her and decide proposals come with take-backsies.
From what I gather "Nera or Bianca" is kind of the pivotal choice in the game that players remember and argue about to this day. So it makes sense to feature that heavily in an adaptation. But with it being so dang compressed it really doesn't come off as much of a choice when Nera has all of 4 lines shared with Luca in the whole thing.
Now I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure it takes more than 3 scenes in the game for Luca to jump between love interests? Here I had to check the timestamp to make sure I wasn't at the end of the movie: it takes like 20 minutes for this boy to go from "I'm crushing real bad on the princess" to "I told myself as a kid to marry the buff girl." And here I thought I was bad at commitment.
I imagine the dilemma works better in the game, since there you'd have an actual mechanical connection with the characters instead of just "hey this one's the one I had the most off-screen bonding time with." Like part of why I love Hilda in Fire Emblem: Three Houses is because she's cute and funny, but it's mainly because she can clear half a level of enemies by herself with just a steel axe.
See that's where you and I differ; I've always chosen and classed my party based on which characters are cutest, so I can totally get behind the Nera/Bianca triangle without the additional promise of gameplay.

Really, my complaint is that it happens so damn fast. Look away for two seconds and BAM they have kids.
I mean sure, we go from proposal to pregnant in 2 minutes, but you can't say there wasn't build up when the entire 2nd act is about Luca figuring out who he wanted to knock up, right?
Wait, I thought the point of the second act was to clown on Luca as often as possible?
Well that too. It was pretty damn funny when he gets his big boy magical sword and finds out in two seconds he's not the destined hero to save the world and blah blah blah whatever.

In fact, I do think I should praise the animation in the movie some. It's cartoony and slapsticky as all hell, and that works to add a lot more personality to the characters even as the script sprints through their narrative arcs. It's easily the strongest aspect of this whole thing and I hope the team behind it can keep getting to do stuff like this.
It's very charming! Adds a lot of that Disney/Pixar polish when the characterization is otherwise lacking. The team deserves props for taking the quirky character acting of Nyanbo! and bringing it to a bigger project.
I especially love the freaky as hell design for the bad guy. Though did they HAVE to make his chin look like a scrotum?
Oh yeah, about that "beat the evil lord who kidnapped my mom" thing that we put on hold while Luca was off getting laid and not doing any adventuring. That's right, we're putting it on hold again so Luca can turn into a rock and get out of diaper-changing duties!
Luca's dad, looking down on him from heaven: "You had one job son. One job." But yeah this is another one of those parts that probably works better in the game. Here it amounts to a 30 second montage of Evil Things happening before whoops, 8 years is past and now your son's an adventurer.

And then they go off to fight robots! Wait, robots?
Hey now, don't get ahead of yourself, he's got to fight robots so he can find some faeries.

Why are they guarded by robots, you ask? Don't. Don't ask.
Anyway, they go to fight a bunch of robots, pull some timey-wimey nonsense, reach the evil lord's castle, and are about to end the villain doom whatever plot once and for all. Just when you think the movie's about to end exactly the way every other fantasy hero thing does, it goes and pulls the nuttiest thing it could possibly do.
You thought you were watching Dragon Quest, but it was really me, Sword Art Online the whole time!


Now I haven't played Dragon Quest V, but I feel confident saying this wasn't in the original. Because it is immensely, painfully stupid and if it had been there never would have been a Dragon Quest VI.
I have to respect the balls it takes to stop in the last 10 minutes of your movie to say, "actually, none of what you just watched matters, and also you suck."

Is it a clever or thematically sound twist? Nah. But it's something to keep me engaged, for better or for worse. Though seriously what.
It's just a bizarre choice. It simultaneously destroy any sense of denouement for the movie we just watched because Luca's entire character is just erased and replaced with the player character. But since we never met this guy outside of his role as The Hero, HIS conclusion doesn't matter to us. Like hey this is a nice message in a vacuum but it is categorically not what the preceding 110 minutes was about at all.

If we want to go truly galaxy brain, we could always point out that DQYS is a movie, so the villain accusing the player character of indulging in nostalgia therefore isn't real and can't hurt you.
Listen guys, I loved the ending to Danganronpa V3 too, but you can't just do that in your straightforward fantasy movie and expect it to mean something. Anyway after that total cul-de-sac of a finale the movie just ends. And if it weren't for that conclusion I'd have said this was an alright time. Now all I can say is at least it's no Ni no Kuni.
I went into the movie expecting a pleasant time with a classic fantasy narrative. I came out of it just confused why it decided to try being challenging for about 2 minutes before reaching out and patting the audience on the back for being huge dweebs.
It feels like the people making this wanted to make a love letter to a game and franchise they care about. But that final twist is so confused and out of place that it sucks the air out entirely. Honestly I wish they'd have just made a fun movie adapting the game instead of...whatever this is.
At least it's memorable? It's like when Dr. Agon the dragon recognizes Luca (name pending) by the smell of raw sewage that clings to him. It's not thoroughly explored enough a twist to be an interesting discussion on its own, but I do kind of respect the attempt, even if it is pretty dang stupid.
Oh my god I was so distracted by all that nonsense I forgot about the best line in the whole movie.

Can't wait for Luca and his video game family to visit the DLC town of Nilbog and fight Dr. Acula

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