Dota: Dragon’s Blood review: Incestuous orgies and gratuitous violence beset an otherwise tokenistic adaptation
Chances are, if you’re a hardcore Dota 2 player like me, you’d probably be excited and anticipating the upcoming anime adaptation, Dota: Dragon’s Blood, which unleashes its flame upon Netflix this Thursday the 25th.
If you don’t know already, Dota or Defense of the Ancients has been around for a long time. Starting out as a customised game from Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft 3 world editor in 2003, Dota was initially called Three Corridors, before morphing into subsequent versions like Dota Allstars and slowly trialled and perfected by developers Guinsoo and Icefrog, before Valve acquired it in 2009.
Now, 11 million players from all over the world compete in 10 man matches to control the three lanes in every Dota map leading to each team’s Ancient. It is famed for The International (TI), the Dota 2 e-sports competition which has the second highest earnings in the world, boasting a haul of $50 million in 2019 alone.
I myself have played four thousand hours of the game (if not more) over the last two decades, and my in-game guild Good Boy Cute (shout-out to mah homies!) is one of the top 10 guilds in Singapore. Now that my eminent geek credentials have been established, we move on to the review proper.
The adaptation’s art style is reminiscent of Netflix’s Castlevania, but unfortunately nowhere close in terms of execution, dialogue and plot. The characters and themes are surprisingly adult with an M18 rating, which I wonder why was even necessary or related to the game at all.
Characters drop casual f-bombs, the Coedwig elves (light-skinned elves, who also have the strangest Australian accents) live in incestuous pods where family orgies are the norm (Davion at one point scratches his head like me in confusion), and the Scottish-accented Dark Moon Goddess Selemene (PRAISE THE MOON OF MENE) confers upon her virginal female followers lesbian kisses which result in a patchy, pink leprosy on their skins.
One also wonders, of all the amazingly diverse 120 characters in Dota 2, why showrunner Ashley Edward Miller had to choose the blandest characters in all the game to do an anime adaptation on. I have since demanded an explanation from him in an e-mail interview.
Davion the Dragonknight (voice by Yuri Lowenthal) is a boring offlaner (the lane in Dota that nobody wants to be in) with a stun skill and cookie-cutter skills if you want to go into technical game-speak. In the anime, he is an angsty, womanising and over-muscled youth who can’t remember the names of the chicks he sleeps with.
Together with the aloof Mirana (Lara Pulver), Princess of the Moon and peerless archer that would shame Katniss and Legolas, the duo journey to escape his persistent puberty and irrational hate of dragons, to recover the lost lotuses (not to be confused with the game’s Lotus Orb item) which were stolen from the elf Goddess Selemene’s sacred pond in Nightsilver Woods, the source of her divine energies.
Apart from being constantly naked and swearing at random intervals, there honestly isn’t very much surprising development to Davion’s story. The action although skilfully executed, is needlessly embellished with gratuitous gore and spraying blood.
However, if you do listen closely, the soundtrack is haunting at times and does add a surreal dimension to an otherwise hasty and token-ish adaptation. For players familiar with the game, you’d appreciate the almost omnipotent portrayal of the Invoker (Troy Baker) and the ever-baleful shadow of the Foulfell demon Terroblade (JB Blanc).
Yet in my heart of hearts, I wonder if showrunner Ashley Edward Miller and the delightful producers of Korean anime production house Studio Mir have actually played the game or explored the rich lore of Dota 2.
If the adaptation’s intention was to appease the fans and players of the Dota 2 game, it is woefully short on Easter eggs and cameo appearances from other characters which could’ve heightened the blood pressure levels of even the most sedentary and jaded Dota player.
Admittedly, Davion’s senior at the Dragonslayer’s Hold, Kaden (Anson Mount), did elevate my heart rate somewhat, clad in iron grey Ionic dragon armour, wielding a giant, glowing, purple claymore made from the corpse of a Chaos dragon and doing some impressive aerial combat stunts with his enchanted wind-stepping boots.
Dragons are definitely cool, but apart from these creatures, there are hopes that a more diverse and colourful universe (with more characters and items) will be opened up to hungry fans in the upcoming seasons. In Selemene’s Moon we praise.