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This is an almost verbatim translation of the review of a major online film review website, and may provide the Western audience with an insight about the Japanese reception of the film.
NOTE: The translator, in no way, endorses or negates the film, the writer of the review, or the affiliated staff.
Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker
Released February 11th, 2012, at Maru-no-uchi Picadilly, Shinjuku Picadilly, and others. National release.
2012/Japan/Colour/89 minutes. Distributor: TO Books
Director Fumihiko, Sori
Original story: Bioware/Electronic Arts
Script: Jeffrey Scott
Character Design: Daisuke Nakayama
Music: Tetsuya Takahashi
Actors: Chiaki Kuriyama, Sho-suke Tanihara, GACKT
Written by: Yuichi Maeda
Translated by: GabrielleduVent
Reverse Import Genuine Sword Action
The PIXAR animation is noted to be the first in the world of CG animation, producing a vast amount of quality products.
In any age, the pioneer of a genre is respected and remains in people's minds for a very long time. It is not an easy task to go beyond that accomplishment and overturn people's fixed concepts. And it is undeniable that in the world of CG animation, Japan had a big disadvantage starting off.
But in the genre that seems dominated by the US, there is a man who has pioneered a new frontier. His name is the director Fumihiko Sori, and his use of technology used in 3D Live animation, which can be termed as his trademark, is so impressive it borders on a new genre. His technique is to trace the actor's movements by motion capture then cartoon-render it, but the appeal is in the fact that the overall finish is somewhat in Japanese Anime tone, and its sophisticated looks impressed the anime fans worldwide.
By purposefully doing the same direction as a live-action, one can create visuals that look far more interesting than the live-action itself without spending as much cost. This win-win idea is a blessing for the film industry in Japan, which cannot expend such a large budget.
Ever since Appleseed released in '04, the quality of this method is progressing by the day and the newest film, Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker has successfully reached the zenith at this point.
The world of blades, magic and dragons. Cassandra (Chiaki Kuriyama), the woman warrior of the elitest unit that the Chantry offers, becomes a wanted figure from both the Blood Mages and the Templars led by the Knight-Commander (voiced by GACKT) when she becomes involved in the conflict regarding a mysterious girl. On a run with her master's friend, the mage Galian (Sho-suke Tanihara), she goes on a quest for the truth...
The original game, Dragon Age: Origins is a very popular game in the US, but it is not as famous here in Japan. This film was originally planned in the US, and the Japanese director Sori was selected as the finest to turn the product into animation. Therefore, this film is a work that was produced for English by Director Sori who received an offer for that reason, using his own brand of methods. This means that the Japanese release is actually a Japanes voiceover.
One would think that because this is targetted toward the American Market, it would be bloody and macho as the Americans would like. But it is not so. Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is certainly an animation of a foreign game, but the product most definitely retained an identity originating in JAPAN.
For example, the character design for the heroine would have been a character with no sensuality with lots of muscles that might even sport a beard like the female characters from an American comic if this was 100% US produced, but the heroine of this film, while looking Caucasian, has the cuteness inherent in Japanese anime.
In the beauteous action shot where she runs up the wall, flips, and cuts into the enemies, there is a moment shot of the depth beyond the slender thighs and it startles us. Their idea is a very raw eroticism focusing on reality but this one is a refreshing "chirarism"(1). Upon a glance the movie is a very good-looking, live-action-esque film, but it also lets us feel the sense of moe(2), which is charming. To be able to empathise that much is also the proof that the live-anime methods have progressed that much. Either way, the heroine's thigh is irresistible. I sincerely pray that the motion actor is not a male.
Next, about the world view. Although the basic picture is the conflict between the church and the outside forces, it is not a simple comparison of good and evil; for example, the church itself has corruption and has power struggles. The realistic setting is probably an allusion to the major religions in reality, but the film version does not have raw realism of it. For good or bad, Japanese anime has no nationality or religion, and therefore will not be bound by such taboos. This can, at times, be a shortcoming, but since this work is aimed at the global market, perhaps this neutrality will work positively.
The expressions of the characters became even richer compared to To (2009), and one can feel the progress of the live animation as a technique. The film also expresses the texture of the skin of the bluish whitish dead bodies in this film, and its horror even makes one feel that this technology might be oddly suited to the horror genre. It would be nice to see that happen.
For those who are used to the world of the European fantasy with swords and magic, there would be no problem enjoying the film but for those who have no interest in such it might be a bit of a struggle to follow. Because the explanation of the worldview is given at the beginning compactly and in high-tempo narration, the film requires a full action of the brain for those who haven't played the game. But once the actual story begins, there is no such difficulty in understanding and a well-organised story spreads out, so there is no need to worry. It is a story that can be easily watched, but if one might be greedy, there might have been a possibility for for an extra twist such as utilising the subplot of defeating the enemy using the shield.
The good part about the film is that it didn't turn pedantic despite having a western game as its original. There is action that can be easily understood and enjoyed by any, characters one can empathise with, and a clean story, as well as the confident style that is walking forward the path of the royal road of action films, such as the eye-opening action and the epic battle at the climax that is even more exciting than the opening.
It requires courage to go down the royal road of anything, but if it succeeds, nothing bests it. In that sense, Director Sori probably has the confidence earned by his many works in the past in Dragon Age: the Dawn of the Seeker.
I believe that if this genre spreads and evolves, it will be able to have content that will rival the 3DCG animation developed by PIXAR. And yet the genre will continue to develop films with a budget that is not even comparable in size to PIXAR. I want to greatly appreciate that effort.
The film Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is not a "curve ball" thrown for the fans. This is a strongly confident "straightball" thrown to show that it is possible to please audience from all countries.
Wherever the origin is from, one would make it into a product that pumps Japanese blood. This is an extremely important talent and a policy for a film director who is active worldwide, and it should also be encourage. I would like to recommend this film as the royal road of entertainment that can be recommended with confidence for even those who have not played the game.
1. Chirarism: the sensuality that is exhibited by a brief, flashing glance of chance, as opposed to an obvious approach such as nude.
2. Moe: a strong sense of affection and love for a character.