First Look: Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai

Alternative title(s): Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken
Manga Adaptation by Toei Animation
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Dai is a young boy raised by monsters who dreams of becoming a Hero. After a surprise encounter with a band of crooks and a princess, he just might get his chance.

Iro’s verdict: Major 1991 Energy

Jujutsu Kaisen had me going “yep, this sure is Weekly Jump”. Adventure of Dai provokes the exact same reaction, but thirty years in the past. Everything about it screams late-80s/early-90s. Plucky wild child protagonist, a team of goofballs, comical violence; it’s all there. More modern are the cheap special effects: the hordes of CG monsters and the accompanying low-framerate tracking shots look atrocious. And look, I get Dragon Quest is huge in Japan and has deep ties to Shonen Jump in particular, but I gotta ask: does this anime plan on adapting the entire manga, which is almost as long as Dragon Ball itself? The first Adventure of Dai anime was 46 episodes and apparently adapted around a third of the manga. I enjoyed this 2020 premiere – this is a show I might be willing to watch twenty-four episodes of – but I simply don’t think I could handle one hundred and twenty-four. But hey, maybe that’s exactly what you’re into.

Zigg’s verdict: Grind Session

There’s a rough, low key charm to Adventure of Dai, which as Iro says strongly invokes the time and place of its creation. Consequently, I think that how much you get out of this will strongly depends on how much nostalgia you have for that era of shonen storytelling. Personally, I didn’t find too much appeal beyond the obvious novelty, but I do appreciate the how refreshingly unpretentious and honest the whole thing is. It doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t and, of course, if you’re a big Dragon Quest fan, the parade of cameos is probably worth the price of entry alone. I’m unfamiliar with the manga but writer Riku Sanjo has considerable cachet in the tokusatsu world (he wrote the much loved Kamen Rider Double) and it’s sort of fascinating to see his early, embryonic attempts at storytelling. I don’t think I’ll be following along but I get the appeal, and it’s a refreshing throwback as we increasingly drown in isekai hell.

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