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Dragon’s Heaven

Every now and then an anime will come along that gets a pass thanks largely to having a unique art style. Dragon’s Heaven is one such example. Compared to other shows, it had an almost grimy look to it. If anything, the visuals appear to be heavily influenced by French artist Jean Giraud, whose comics of the 50s, 60s, and 70s often had such a very unique style to them. What’s present in this short OVA tries to recreate the feel of his art while throwing in the inspirations of a Japanese studio. What came of this was a truly unique visual experience. That being said, the story is not nearly as good.

Dragon’s Heaven takes place in the distant future in a time where sentient robots exist. At some point, a group of these things decided to rebel and a massive war ensued. Towards the end of it, a robot named Shaian was in a battle, finishing up destroying a bunch of the machines. However, his human partner was killed, and because of how societal rules of the time worked, it meant he would not be allowed to return home. As such, Shaian decided to power down and sleep until humans came for him. Unfortunately, 1,000 years passed before another human would cross his path.

By this time, the area of his battle was a vast desert. However, there was a large city not too far off, and it’s guardian, a young girl named Ikuru, happened upon the forgotten robot by chance. With that, Shaian’s censors reactivated him, and he met the girl. From there, they decide to partner up in order to protect Ikuru’s city. Normally, all she had to worry about was the occasional bandit. That was about to change, as an assault force from the Brazilian Empire was approaching led by Elmedain, another sentient robot from the war of 1,000 years ago. With that, Ikuru and Shaian must gear up for a battle against this small army.

As one can see, there isn’t a whole lot to Dragon’s Heaven’s plot. That being said, it’s still reasonably enjoyable. Everything is easy to take in, and is surprisingly relaxing. If anything, the simplified plot does a good job of complimenting what is happening on screen, as it doesn’t overcomplicate things and distract from the gorgeous artwork.

There are very few anime with an art style similar to what is present here. There might be some minor overlaps with what one can find in something like Nausicaa, but even that is a stretch. It’s still a safer bet to compare the underlying approach in Dragon’s Heaven to Western animation of the late 70s. Ikuru herself has a fairly traditional anime-like style to her, but after that, most everything else is very unique. Buildings have a very rounded, stone-like appearance despite being technological, robots are very different from the mechs that dominated anime of the 80s, and there are bizarre animals wandering about in the background. Meanwhile, everything has a very hand-drawn look to it with rough outlines and quite a lot of hand drawn shading.

On top of this, there are a handful of live action scenes largely involving models of Shaian and Elmedain. They don’t do much but clearly a lot of work went into making these things given all of they detail put in, as well as the fact that Shaian’s model is about the size of a person.

Meanwhile, the show’s music is a mish-mash of genres. It has everything from orchestral pieces, to jazzy, funky pop numbers. The soundtrack is consistently good, though, especially the orchestral parts at the beginning when the historical backdrop of the show is being laid out. There's also some pretty decent 80s Japanese pop during the end credits that stood out.

People who want to soak in a very pretty anime should really consider checking out Dragon’s Heaven. It’s not often that one comes across art like this, even, and arguably especially, today. It’s story may not be anything special, but its art certainly is.

- IroIro
November 21, 2019

More Post-Apocolyptic Anime We've Discussed:

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- The Weathering Continent Anime Review

Directed by: Makoto Kobayashi
Studio: AIC / Artmic
Released: 1988
Episodes: 1

Dragon's Heaven Image 1
Promo Art

Dragon's Heaven Image 2
Shaian and Ikuru meet

Dragon's Heaven Image 3
Elmedain at his headquarters

Dragon's Heaven Image 4
Looking at the townspeople on can see Giraud's influence on character design