The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Legend of the Millennium Dragon

Title: Legend of the Millennium Dragon aka Onigamiden
Genre: Action
Company: Studio Pierrot
Format: Movie; 98 minutes.
Dates: 29 Apr 2011

Synopsis: Hundreds of years ago, man was at war with terrifying, mystical beings called oni. The power of the one creature that could end the war – an eight-headed dragon – can only be harnessed by members of a certain family. Most them were killed in the war, but some remained in hiding to carry on the powerful line. That heritage has now manifest itself in the modern day middle-schooler Tendo Jun, who is suddenly recalled to the past to end the battle once and for all.

The Highlights
Story set-up: Familiar.
Visuals: Stunning.
Characters: Need to be more fleshed out.

Most anime fans will immediately recognize this set-up, where an average kid is transported to a new world or a new time, only to end up playing a key role in the fate of that world. In this case, our hero Tendo Jun is a pacifist thrown into the middle of a war. He is quickly overwhelmed by his new surroundings and the great task he is expected to perform. A great warrior he is not, but he is a smart and kind youth who wants to understand the conflict going on around him. He is pressured by the monk Gen’un to summon the great dragon, but resists. As the battle grows larger and he soon realizes that he will have to take sides, but which side he chooses is not assumed. Jun’s efforts to meet and understand the oni add a new element to this recycled story which could have transformed it into a more complex and engaging story, but falls flat in the end.

Where the story falters is in developing key relationships. Jun must make his decision based on his interactions with people on both sides, but not enough time is allotted for Jun to really get to know them. Early in the film, Jun meets Raiko, whom he learns is a talented fighter. They share one good conversation and less than 24 hours together, so later when several of Jun’s actions are motivated by his great desire to help Raiko, it seems hollow. The same could be said for Mizuha, a girl of the oni that Jun meets and befriends, as well as four followers of Raiko. The latter group seem to follow Raiko for no other reason than that they admire his fighting and feel sorry for him. The motivations of the characters and even of the two sides of the war don’t feel genuine. The villain’s goal is nothing more specific than a desire to control the world. This isn’t helped by the poor pacing of the story. The second half feels very rushed and several key story elements, including Raiko’s back story and a secret hidden sword, were thrown is as if an afterthought to enhance the impact of the final battle.

The redeeming factor here is the absolutely outstanding artwork. The background art is gorgeous, with intricate detail and well incorporated CGI elements; the sets and spaces feel huge and the lighting and colouring give a strong sense of realism. Throughout the movie, the camera is rarely still, instead following the action or panning across and around the characters. The many battle scenes are well choreographed and generate an atmosphere of chaos and danger. The animation also shines especially during the flying scenes with the dragon and in the depiction of the oni as dark, misty beings. This film really is nice to look at and the art adds a wow factor to several important scenes that I couldn’t help but admire.

Considering the effort put into the visuals, it’s a shame the story is nothing more than a mediocre rehashing of something that has been done many times before. It’s worth a watch for anyone looking for a simple action flick and some pretty pictures, but the characters are forgettable and the plot seems thrown together. This could have been much better than it turned out.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Kaikyaku

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