Top Ten Dragon Anime
If you think that a fascination with dragons is very much a western phenomenon, then think again - make your way across the water to Japan and you'll find an equally enduring interest in dragons as a staple part of ancient legend, fantasy story-telling and beyond. More specifically, the world of Japanese animation (anime as it's more widely known) is chock-full of series where dragons feature heavily in some shape or form, providing some entertaining and fascinating tales for dragon lovers no matter where you live.
If this prospect leaves you sorely tempted to see what animated, dragon-centric fare the land of the rising sun might be able to bring you, here's our top ten dragon anime that you simply won't want to miss.
10. Blue Dragon
Kicking off our list is Blue Dragon, a franchise that actually began its life as a role-playing game on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console before making the leap to anime in 2007. The show's story concerns a world where purple clouds mysteriously appear over the skies every year, bringing with them disaster and a terrifying beast known as the Land Shark.
The only way to protect the world from such horrors is to seek out and find the mythical Blue Dragon to fight on their behalf, and thus a duo of young warriors set out to seek this power... a quest to which the solution is surprisingly close to home.
Cue our titular Blue Dragon fighting against various nasties every episode.
Blue Dragon is available to own on DVD from Viz Media in North America, and from Manga Entertainment in the UK.
9. Demon King Daimao
One of the more recent series to make our list is Demon King Daimao, a franchise which began (and indeed continues) its life as a series of novels before making the leap to an animated adaptation in 2010. The show stars a boy named Akuto Sai, who wants to become a high priest and spend his days helping society - a noble principle that sees him joining a Magical Academy, only for a spirit to predict that he is in fact destined to become a demon king in the future.
Of course, such a prediction makes him far from popular amongst the academy's students, yet Akuto still tries his best to prove that his ultimate goal is to help not destroy. Ironically, on one occasion this desire to aid others leaves him in possession of a previous demon king's secret treasure - a huge dragon that goes by the name of Peterhausen, who later proves to be a powerful ally as Akuto's troubles become ever-more threatening.
Demon King Daimao is soon to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in North America by Sentai Filmworks, and can be viewed legally online at Crunchyroll.
8. Record of Lodoss War
Record of Lodoss War is an interesting beast in that it began as nothing more than a description of a session playing the well-known role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, before branching out into a series of fantasy novels in its own right. During the course of the 1990s, Record of Lodoss War was granted a number of anime series animated by different studios and covering different parts of the Lodoss War story.
Needless to say, dragons feature prominently within the franchise's fantasy setting, with the books and anime featuring five major, named dragons from an ancient white dragon named Bramd, a golden dragon named Mycen and a red dragon called Shooting Star. Each of these dragons has their own role to play and their own treasures to protect, with Shooting Star in particular notable for serving as the protector of The Scepter of Domination, the world's most powerful artefact - needless to say, he's also the series most powerful dragon to suit his role.
Much of the Record of Lodoss War was released in the US by Central Park Media and ADV Films, all of which is now out of print.
7. Tales from Earthsea
Perhaps the most well-known entry in our list is Tales from Earthsea, a 2006 anime movie produced by Studio Ghibli, best known for works such as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro.
The film begins as a crew member of a ship in distress in the midst of a storm spots two dragons fighting it out in the clouds above them - a strange omen in a land where tales tell of a world where dragons and men were once united until the former chose freedom and liberty while the latter became obsessed with wealth and possessions; an imbalance which is seen by many as the cause of the drought and famine spreading across the world.
From there, the story moves on to the son of the land's king as he kills his father and goes on the run, leading to a chain of events that eventually gives hope to a new era of co-operation and understanding between dragons and humans.
Tales from Earthsea is available on DVD in North America via Walt Disney Pictures, and from Optimum Releasing in the UK.
6. Dragonaut: The Resonance
When it comes to anime, dragons don't have to come from Earth or whatever world a series is set it - in the case of Dragonaut: The Resonance, the biggest threat is dragons from space!
This particular tale is kicked off by an asteroid bound for Earth destroying Pluto, leaving humankind scrambling to create a response to any similar future threats. Their research to this end centres on a dragon's egg found deep beneath the ocean which they use to create powerful weapons - not a smart idea as it turns out that the asteroid which destroyed Pluto was inhabited by dragons of its own, and needless to say they aren't best pleased to see their kin being used as research!
With a teenaged boy and girl getting involved in this battle for the Earth's future, dragons start popping up in some surprising places as numerous friends and enemies soon make themselves known to the pair of main characters.
This series is available to buy on DVD in North America from FUNimation Entertainment.
5. Panzer Dragoon
Those of you old enough to remember the Sega Saturn games console might also remember one of its more popular titles - shoot-em-up Panzer Dragoon. What you may not be aware of is that this game also received an anime adaptation of its story set in a distant future where humans have been suppressed by the very biological weapons they had created.
In the midst of humanity's battle to regain their rightful place in the world comes a wounded blue dragon which makes a psychic connection with the story's protagonist Keil, thus allowing him to being a quest which involves preventing a black dragon from reaching its destination at all costs.
Panzer Dragoon was released in North America by ADV Films and is now out of print.
4. Dragon Half
Dragon Half is so dragon-focused that it even made its debut as a manga (Japanese comic book series) in a magazine named Monthly Dragon Magazine, a publication that well-known for filling its pages with fantasy-based stories.
In 1993, Dragon Half received an anime adaptation to tell part of its story regarding a girl named Mink whose father was a swordsman and whose mother was a red dragon. Come her teenage years, this part-human part-dragon girl has fallen in... the trouble is that the object of her affection is himself a dragon slayer. Rather than give up on the love of her life, Mink sets out to retrieve the one potion that can turn her into a pure human - a potion currently in the hands of the land's most powerful demon lord. Can she succeed in her quest? Well, that would be telling now, wouldn't it?
Dragon Half was released in North America by ADV Films, but is now out of print.
3. The Vision of Escaflowne
1996's The Vision of Escaflowne was, and remains, an enduringly popular fantasy franchise in Japan that was produced and worked on by some of the industry's biggest names, both present and future at the time of its production.
dragons feature heavily throughout this series, and indeed it's the slaying of a dragon which kicks off the anime as a whole, with normal schoolgirl Hitomi encountering a boy from a strange land who has been teleported to Earth for some reason, only for both of them to be transported back to the world of Gaea. With dragon slayers playing a major part in the series as it develops, and attacks from dragons underpinning the entirety of one of its later episodes, there's certainly no shortage of dragon-related action within the world of Escaflowne.
Escaflowne is available on DVD in the UK from Beez Entertainment.
If Escaflowne can be measured by its critical popularity, it still pales into comparison to the Slayers franchise, which remains to this data the de facto standard for fantasy anime that is often copied but rarely bettered. Slayers primary existence is actually as a huge body of literature, comprising of fifty-two novels written between 1989 and 2005, and that mass of work has spun off into countless manga series and numerous anime TV series and movies.
Given the large fantasy world and the various other dimensions the show occupies, it's hardly surprising that dragons turn up with some regularity - indeed, one of the most powerful spells afforded the diminutive yet powerful young magician Lina Inverse (the star of the show) is called the Dragon Slave, and it's a spell she rarely hesitates to cast with little care for the damage it causes, often with humorous consequences.
One particular dragon has a central role in one of the franchise's TV anime series, called Slayers TRY. The dragon in question is named Filia, a golden dragon who can change between her blonde-haired but rather klutzy human and far more imperious (ignoring the pink bow tied around her tail) dragon forms with ease. As befitting of her place as a priestess to the Fire Dragon King of the series, she wields some decidedly powerful magic that can be used in a number of forms. Come the end of Slayers TRY Filia plays a pivotal role in resolving the crisis at hand regarding the sole survivor from a "rival" clan of dragons named Valgaav, and the antagonism borne of a previous attempt by the Golden Dragons to wipe out his Ancient Dragon kind.
Some of Slayers' animated series are available in North America from FUNimation Entertainment, while all of its TV anime incarnations can be found in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment.
1. Dragon Crisis!
Finally, we come the newest anime series of the bunch - Dragon Crisis, an adaptation of an on-going series of novels that has literally only just finished airing in Japan.
This anime introduces us to Ryuuji Kisaragi, a seemingly normal school boy who turns out to be anything but, with vague memories of someone (or rather something) saving him in his past and the ability to serve as a high level "Breaker" - a person capable of using and finding often powerful items known as "Lost Precious".
This power becomes all-important as he finds himself dragged into a mission to snatch a particularly important Lost Precious - an item which turns out to be none other than a dragon in human form named Rose by Ryuuji. With Rose strangely bonding with Ryuuji straight away (for reasons which become clear as the series progresses), the pair end up dragged into all sorts of peril, including a black dragon called Onyx who wants Rose for his wife amongst their more pressing concerns.
Although all of the dragons in this series can take on a human outer form, don't be fooled, as underneath that normal exterior they also carry the trademark wings, fire-breathing abilities and more besides to mark them out as anything but human!
Dragon Crisis can be viewed online in streaming form via Crunchyroll.
image copyright New Line Cinema/MGM/WingNut Films
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