While Netflix did have a selection of anime before, recent years have seen a much bigger push into new anime licensing and production. It's a completely different kind of world these days for anime fans with Netflix, and it's crossed into a whole new medium with a string of video game adaptations. Taking on Valve's massively popular DOTA 2 franchise, DOTA: Dragon's Blood has a lot of pressure on it to stick the landing. Not only does it have the attention of anime fans, but the attention of gaming fans as well. Fans who have a hit or miss relationship with adaptations.
Even with all of this pressure, DOTA: Dragon's Blood sticks the landing to an impressive degree. Although the series is full of nods to the lore and characters from the world of DOTA 2, it's not entirely necessary to be as invested or even aware of this world as previously established fans of the franchise to jump. DOTA: Dragon's Blood is built from the ground up to kick off a new fantasy anime franchise for Netflix.
Right away fans of the original DOTA 2 will notice how many of the central characters and idea are pulled right from the source material. At the center of DOTA: Dragon's Blood is Davion the Dragon Knight, for example, a skilled dragon slayer (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) who soon comes across an Eldwurm, an ancient and powerful dragon known as Slyrak (voiced by Tony Todd). Following some unexpected events, the two of them end up trapped in a single body.
Davion's on a quest to free himself from this affliction, but it's not the only running character arc through the series. Showrunner Ashley Edward Miller has a portfolio full of successful adaptation-based projects, and it's clear that the expertise crafted from that previous work is in full effect here. The eight-episode series is paced well as each new episode expands the central roster of characters.
Each one also slowly introduces its massive world and various factions therein. With multiple universes, eight powerful dragons representing multiple elements and forces, and numerous sides and perspectives, it's a lot of ground covered, in retrospect. With a central cast that's compelling in their own ways who also grow and change, the entire experience then feels like a natural progression that builds on itself in multiple facets at the same time.
Enhancing the experience is the animation provided by Studio Mir. Ki Hyun Ryu, who also worked on The Legend of Korra and Voltron: Legendary Defender, oversees a team that delivers the same quality of action animation fans of their works have become accustomed to. The CG animation all fits, but it does have a small impact on the way blood splatter looks. Either way, fans of slick-looking action full of bloody consequence will undoubtedly have a good time.
If there's one main thing that's clear about DOTA: Dragon's Blood, it's just a fun time. It's full of fun fantasy lore that an inexperienced DOTA 2 fan like me enjoyed while offering breezy episodes full of wit, charm, and great-looking fights. Here's hoping for more.
Rating: 4 out of 5
DOTA: Dragon's Blood is now streaming on Netflix.