I am far from a big anime fan, although I must admit to being intrigued by it. It is a great style and leads itself to all manner of stories. That said, it suffers some of the same things that afflict all genres. One of those problems is that it can be incredibly difficult to weed out to quality stuff from the junk. How often have you turned on a movie only to discover that it really isn’t that good? I know I have had that happen to me, more often now that I have been using Netflix. In any case, I like anime but am often discouraged by the high volume of stuff that I just flat out don’t care for. Now, along comes Legend of the Millennium Dragon, a coming-of-age story that more often than not delivers.
The movie opens in the past and there is a big battle going on between a human battalion and the oncoming Oni. What are the Oni? They are these demon things and they do not get along with the humans. This opening sequence is a visual feast, an exciting look at what is to come. The Oni, in particular, are rather interesting creations, dark and partially translucent, moving lightly through the environment. This is the kind of opening that gets you a little excited for the rest of the film.
The time shifts to the present day and we are introduced to Jun Tendo. He is a shy, clumsy kid who doesn’t feel as if he fits in anywhere. Well, on is way home, he discovers a monster is following him (it looks to be an Oni, like what we saw during the opening battle). Jun ducks into a temple, where a monk welcomes him and beckons him to stay and ensure the monster is not just waiting for him outside.
When Jun awakens, he discovers he has traveled back in time some 1200 years and the monk from the temple is a wizard named Gen’un. Jun learns that is the savior of humanity, with the ability to awaken and control Orochi, a magical dragon. Gen’un wishes to harness Orochi’s power against the Oni. Jun is not sure what to make of this, with the shock of traveling through time, being called the savior, and the presence of mystical creatures and demons, it is a bit much for him.
Before too long he crosses paths with Mizuha, an injured Oni. Through her we learn the Oni are actually humans who use magic to disguise their appearance. We also learn that they are trying to protect the planet from Gen’un and his followers. It would seem that everything is not quite as it seems for Jun. This causes him to reconsider his stance and chooses to fight alongside the Oni, with the help of the awakened Orochi. This leads to a rather spectacular battle the gets larger than life when the Four Heavenly Kings are brought into the fight with Orochi. Who these Kings are, I am not sure exactly sure, but it makes for a pretty cool battle.
Legend of the Millennium Dragon is a good film. However, I cannot help but think that I like it more for what it looks like than for its story. It is a good story that is about courage and finding what it takes to find said courage as Jun seeks to find the person he is deep down in order to do what needs to be done. It feels familiar and the familiarity does not help my enjoyment of it. Again, it is not a bad story, it is just one that feels awfully familiar and considering the great looking animation, I would have liked a story that came closer to matching it.
Audio/Video. The movie is presented in a 2.4:1 aspect ratio and looks fantastic. The colors are all bright and sharp with a good level of detail. The is no evidence of artifacts or other digital issues. The backgrounds show incredible amounts of detail, the trees, to windblown statues; it just looks great. If there is any actual issue, it is with the faces, they are rather plain and lack in much detail, compared to everything else. This is a minor nitpick and has nothing to do with the excellent transfer. The transfer is shown off best during the climactic battle.
The audio is DTS-HD 5.1 and is available in Japanese and English. I listened to the English track and the voice acting is all quite good, as is the track in general. It is nice and crisp, but doesn’t seem to have a lot of power behind it. The dialogue is nicely represented, always clear and emanates from the center. The ambiance is there, but a little light, and the score sounds pretty good. May not be the best I have heard, but it still does a good job.
Extras. The only thing to find here is a concept art gallery. Nice, but nothing special.
Bottomline. This is certainly a quality film, but it seems to be overly simplified in part and painfully straightforward. I did like it and will likely watch it again, but it does not seem to have the substance of a Hayao Miyazaki film like Spirited Away.