ADV Went out of Business Over This

Images courtesy of animecritic.com

Here’s a question for the gamers who read (occasionally, I assume) my blog: remember playing Dragon Knight on the PC-88 or MSX? No? Well that figures. What about Knights of Xentar? That one at least got an English translation and a DOS port. No? Okay, well, how about you anime fans – remember the Dragon Knight OVA? Any of them? There are at least three…

I could do that all day. And by all day, I mean at least another full paragraph. No, it does not take me a whole day to write a paragraph (damn literalists!); I’m making a heavy handed point about the breadth of video game and anime products produced by Japan back-in-the-day. You see, there’s a whole eff’n lot. Some of it even made it over here, and certain examples are, as best I can tell, absolutely senseless.

The Dragon Knight OVA I will be reviewing in a moment is a good example. Given that the only game from developer ELF’s popular series to see American IBMs was an obscure and mostly forgotten release, it ought not to have been an obvious decision for Texas based ADV to put out an original video animation in 1998, a good nine years after the game that never came to America or Europe was released in its home country, and three years after the Americanized Knights of Xentar quietly made its way to American PCs. I even recall reading about Dragon Knight in Gamer’s Republic anime review section, and the reviewer being none too kind.

I bought the VHS tape long after the fact, paid a couple of dollars for it at Half Price Books, failing to watch it until recently. It starts off looking like a fairly serious early nineties anime feature with its big-spiky-haired protagonist and his improbably large sword and its equally improbable flimsy handle. He’s Yamato Takeru, presumably of no relation to the legendary Japanese prince, and he’s hungry. He wanders into a castle in a kingdom called Strawberry Fields, and chows down on their foodstuffs. Caught and captured, he’s brought before the queen, to whom he makes a lascivious comment or two, and while Takeru ogles the bevy of beautiful women surrounding him, Luna, a pink-haired bishoujo character in a tiny tunic, mentions that he might be the prophesied warrior who will save Strawberry Fields from the Dragon Knights who kidnap the kingdoms young women and turned their goddess into a stone statue.

When shown the stone relief of the nude goddess, Takeru gets horny. Queen Neina figures that if he is the warrior, he’ll free her kingdom, and if not, he’ll die, so she sends him into the Dragon Knights’ tower to retrieve magic orbs that will restore the goddess and etc. So he heads off with Luna.

Upon entering the tower, he immediately finds a young woman being tortured by lizard-monsters. She’s tied to a chair, naked, and the monsters are whipping her boobs. After saving her, Takeru takes out a Polaroid camera to get some pics, much to Luna’s displeasure. This scene basically repeats itself until the end of the animation, where the kingdom is saved, and Takeru and Luna realize their feelings and etc.

There’s plenty of “and etc.” to Dragon Knight, as much the result of being based on a video game as the video game being based on a simple, adolescent sexual fantasy. The camera gag was kinda funny once, but by the third time, I was ready and hoping for Luna to smash it or for it to turn into a camcorder so some real naughtiness could finally happen. But then, I thought that this was a hentai. Aside from a few visible nipples, though, there’s little in Dragon Knight that one could not see in a televised animation serial or mainstream anime feature from the same period. By current standards, what with Seikon no Qwasar and Queen’s Blade, this is hardly worth the trouble to fap over.

Dragon Knight does make a reference or two to its origins as an adaptation of a game, as when Takeru accidently opens the wrong door and is sent back to town. But for the most part, the humor is fairly juvenile, and not in a humorous way. Compare to something genuinely hilarious, like Golden Boy (another ADV release from around the same time) and the writing seems even more flat and uninspired. If you’re not going to have lots of visually compelling sex, you’ve at least got to have some good banter. Dragon Knight is just corny.

There’s two other Dragon Knight OVAs. Dragon Knight: The Wheel of Time takes itself rather seriously, if I understand correctly. I don’t imagine that that’s an improvement. But I do have The Wheel of Time, so I’ll watch, and regret, and I do it all for you. That Gamer's Republic review certainly is telling; when you can't please anime fans from back in the day...

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