Yes, I’m late to the party but a good friend of mine pointed me to this series and even though I was aware of it, I had yet to watch it. My friend had asked for my take and here it is.
A bit of background: The Dragon Prince is an animated fantasy series that is exclusive to Netflix. It tells the story of two brothers and a moon elf companion that are trying to take a dragon egg, the titular prince, back to its mother in a land called Xadia. The King of Katolis is killed and his sons must work with a former enemy to fight for peace. Both sides will present obstacles but also allies in surprising places. Dark themes will be presented but there is always an air of hope around them and a theme of strength shines.
For over a thousand years humans, who use dark magic to perform magical feats, having been warring with the different races of elves and dragons. Humans rule five separate kingdoms on one side of the breach while the elves and dragons live with other magical creatures on the other side. A somewhat botched assassination attempt by a group of moon elves sets into motion a journey from the human kingdoms back into Xadia to try and bring peace to the two continent halves.
First off for this review I will look at the story and the production.
For the story, I’d say that it is done well for the most part, with only a few times that see it drag on over the three seasons. The writing was excellent and the dialogue felt much more real than other animated series. There is a style of recording dialogue where the actors and actresses will engage behind the microphones with one another and act out their lines. This felt like that style because the dialogue sounded more natural than people simply reading lines and trying to have emotions attached to them. It was also nice to see that many of the voice actors were relative newcomers. I did enjoy the different accents as well. The moon elves sounding Scottish was a great nod to old school fantasy and the Sunfire elves have distinct African accents and cultural references was awesome. The human kingdoms also have some of that distinction with each kingdom looking very different; one seeming Norse in style, another more Middle Eastern and one perhaps Burmese.
The creators put a lot of points of diversity into the show. Same-sex couples, multicultural nations and multiracial couples. This is a bit of a breath of fresh air. As some of the barriers began to break down during the show’s progression it was great to see many of the former enemies working together to be stronger in their unity. One point that is tremendous is the inclusion of sign language in the form of General Amaya and those that understood her, including a Sunfire elf. Women in the series had very strong and prominent leadership roles as well which is a big plus for more modern fantasy. History has shown us that women played great roles in ancient and former nations and in roles of power, so as writers there needs to be that representation and here you can find it!
There were many references to other shows or films and that did start to get a bit cheesy but most were one liners so it did not slow up the show. Some of the writing did make me feel that they could have gone in another direction at times but that is to be expected as you get into the show and start to feel immersion into it. That would actually be the mark of great storytelling because the reader, or viewer in this case, want to be a part of the story.
The magic system was done well. Basic breakdown was simple, which is a good thing for casual viewers. Primal magic is in the form of six sources; the Sun, moon, stars, the Earth, sky and oceans. Humans found a way to tap into a seventh, dark magic. Traditionally this would be evil magic and at first we get the sense that it is not but as the series progress viewers might not be so sure. It does seem that dark magic utilizes life, maybe sacrificed, to work but that’s been shown only a couple times so the future might emphasize more of the origins of dark magic and how it works. The art around the magic helps to paint the picture of how it works and the spells look cool which helps as well because it gives us an image that sticks in our minds.
The animation was pretty good and very colorful. I enjoy a more vibrant look and even in the more bleak landscapes, such as the breach, there was a vibrancy in the artwork. The motion work of the drawings were awesome, even included Rayla doing the Naruto run. As stated before, the magical scenes had a brilliant look to them and gave a mystical feel to the scenes. There were many intricate details for many characters, runic symbols and the like which might point to insider info for fans to figure out or translate. The battle scenes had a great look but felt much too short. Given that each episode was thirty minutes, it is understandably but I’d love to see more of the larger scale art being done in the future.
I’m excited to see where the series will go next. I loved the story telling and the art. There are times that the writing might not seen the most original but maybe that’s part of the charm.
In all I give The Dragon Prince 4.5 out of 5 Stars!