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Hey guys, Spaceman here. I know you’re probably wondering where my Favorite Christmas Songs video is by now, or where really any content whatsoever is. Well, the truth is that I spent the first part of this month and most of last month preparing for an entrance audition for a particular music college, whose name I can’t currently disclose (I want to be sure I get in before I talk about it), hence the lack of new content. But that’s all over now, so I’m prepared to get back to work on videos, art, and possibly even music! Yeah, remember when I did music? Anyway, while I’m working on that, I thought I’d write something to keep you guys interested.
Many of you may be aware of this, but from August to September of last year, I really got into Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s my current obsession and even took the title of my favorite animated series of all time from the previous holder, Gargoyles, which was no small feat. It got to the point where after I finished watching it, I felt a bit of a hole in my life and needed to find something else to replace it. This is when I heard about Netflix’s series The Dragon Prince, which was described as being similar to Avatar, as well as being created by Avatar’s director Aaron Ehasz and featuring the involvement of some of Avatar’s cast and crew. I watched it and… thought it was okay? Just okay, but not great. This month, however, news was released that it was getting a second season, and I was interested, so I figured I might as well watch it again and type out my thoughts. How was it? Let’s take a look.
The Story The Dragon Prince is set in a world where humans and elves are in conflict. There’s a lengthy explanation for this, which the show thankfully provides at the start of the first episode.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to watch this in every episode. Anyway, the egg of the dragon king is presumed destroyed, and is imminent war between the elves and humans. As both sides prepare for the war, the elves attempt to assassinate the human King Harrow and his heir, the young Prince Ezran; however, during the attack, fifteen-year-old elf Rayla discovers that the egg was not destroyed, but rather stolen. Rayla teams up with Ezran and his half-brother, Callum, to deliver the egg back to the dragons. Meanwhile, Harrow’s advisor, the mage Lord Viren, is intent on war, and sends his own children Claudia and Soren after our heroes.
That’s just the really condensed version of the plot. During the nine episodes in season one, there is a lot of exposition and a lot of other things happen that I haven’t even mentioned. I would do an episode-by-episode recap for this show, but honestly, they all kind of blend together. Unlike with other animated shows I’ve watched recently, there aren’t really any standalone episodes I can think of. Each one kind of just moves straight into the next, which I guess makes sense for a series on Netflix, a service notorious for encouraging binge-watching.
The very first thing I noticed about The Dragon Prince was that it doesn’t really have any true antagonist on either side (at first). Like, you can’t really say, “Oh, the elves are evil,” or “Oh, the humans are evil.” I was super skeptical when the intro described that the humans were to blame for a lot of the problems, including discovering dark magic and slaying the Dragon King, but the intro also pits the elves in the wrong, showing them banishing all the humans instead of just banishing the few who discovered dark magic.
That leads me into discussing a major theme that’s prevalent at least in season one, the theme of prejudice and tolerance. From the few things that the humans know about the elves, they are painted as horrific killers. Humans think of elves as being bloodthirsty killers—literally and figuratively—and the elves are similarly shown holding stereotypes about humans. The fact that Callum and Ezran teamed up with Rayla was only due to the circumstances; it takes several episodes before they are able to fully trust one another. This is a theme that I’ve also seen done well in another favorite fantasy show of mine, Gargoyles.
Admittedly, a few parts of this story seem rather derivative, such as the six primal sources of magic being reminiscent of the Four Elements from Avatar, which leads me to the next topic…
The World I will admit that it’s not entirely fair to judge a TV show based on its first nine episodes. Granted, I usually hold the policy that if a show’s first five episodes don’t get you hooked, then you should not be required to keep watching (take note, Steven Universe fans). The thing is, this show did get me interested, and I want to see it continue to develop, because what we have so far isn’t much. It kind of just feels like a standard fantasy world, with elves, dragons, castles, and assorted monsters, which, okay, is a tried and true formula by Tolkien and others, but after the world of Avatar, with its focus on Asian culture, its unique animals, and its nearly steampunk technology, I can’t help but feel like this is a slight step down.
That’s not to say that it’s bad, of course. There are a few things that make it really pop out and feel real. The background art, for one, is incredible. Some of the monsters feel unique, too, like those on the Cursed Caldera—one of them even kind of looks like a graboid from Tremors. Also, I like what they did with the elves’ design here. They could have easily just made them pale humans with pointy ears, but instead they put a lot of detail into it, giving the different groups of elves different skin colors, horns, and having them have only four fingers instead of five. Those are some nice touches.
Let’s move on to the characters, starting with Rayla, who is easily my favorite character of the group. She admittedly has a bit of a Zuko thing going on, as she was assigned to hunt down the main characters but turns against her original group to help join the main characters on her mission. Other subtle details are similar, too, like her long-lasting inner conflict with her past and her use of dual swords. That said, her journey is a little different; for one thing, Zuko took nearly the entire run of Avatar to fully go through his heel-face turn, only switching sides halfway through the show’s final season. With Rayla, she joins the heroes in the third episode, which cuts out much of the emotional journey but also lends itself to more interactions with the human characters. She’s much funnier, for another thing, giving her share of snide remarks but also scoring a bunch of laughs when she goes undercover disguised as a human in one of the episodes—can you say, “How do you do, fellow kids humans?” Paula Burrows delivers a great vocal performance, which adds to the character.
Next up is Callum, the main human lead. Now, it’s incredibly easy to draw comparisons between his character and Sokka: Both are goofy, “normal” teenage boys in a world filled with magic, not very adept with fighting but good at planning things. More importantly, of course, is the fact that Callum is literally voiced by Sokka’s voice actor, Jack DeSena. Comparisons… were gonna pop up, is what I’m saying. And I’ll admit that the first time I watched The Dragon Prince, it was super jarring to hear Sokka’s voice coming out of Callum every time he talked. But there are some differences. While in Avatar, Sokka is the most responsible member of the group and the only one with any real degree of survival training, Callum is more inexperienced and callow, not good with a sword and only starting to learn magic. He’s also noticeably more chill and less panicky than the Sokka of season one of Avatar and shows that he can actually draw much better. Though considering Sokka’s drawing ability…
…that’s not really saying much.
Now to move on to Ezran, Callum’s half-brother. I have to admit, of the main characters, he’s probably the weakest, at least to me. I don’t know, he kind of feels a bit flat as a character. All I remember about him is the fact that he can understand animals, which is unique, but he doesn’t really have much of a personality aside from just being your typical kid. I know, it’s not easy to characterize a small child whilst making them believable… though again, Avatar managed to do so well. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t keep comparing these two shows, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t super easy.
Not helping is Ezran’s pet, a glow toad named Bait. As far as animal sidekicks go, I definitely prefer Appa from Avatar; hell, even Momo managed to get a few asskicking moments. Bait kind of just lies around and eats stuff. Several times, he manages to get the main characters into trouble, which I found a little bothersome. The one good thing about him is that his glowing abilities do come in handy a few times to temporarily blind enemies, though… I’ll get back to that later.
The trip is pursued by siblings Soren and Claudia. Soren is a young knight and a bit of a dumb jock but has a heart of gold. Claudia, meanwhile, is a nerdy mage who comes off as a bit awkward. They are always fun when they are on screen and have a believable relationship. It’s also worth noting that early on, Callum is revealed to have a crush on Claudia, which… oh boy, let’s hope the shipping discourse in The Dragon Prince’s fandom doesn’t get as bad as the Avatar fandom. I can already see a potential clash between the Claudia/Callum and Rayla/Callum crowds. (Full disclosure: I’m on the Rayla/Callum side.)
The other characters were cool, too. For as little time as we got to know him, I liked King Harrow, Ezran’s father. Even for his cringey dad humor, he was an intriguing character. It’s hinted that there was a lot of stuff in his past that we don’t know about, like his involvement with dark magic. Also intriguing was Lord Viren, Soren and Claudia’s father. It’s easy to see that he was once good and still has some good in him, as shown by his friendship with Harrow, but he has been corrupted by his use of dark magic and is too far gone. Finally, Aunt Amaya, Callum and Ezran’s deaf aunt who’s a solder on the frontlines, was another character I wound up loving. It’s rare that we see people with disabilities get good representation in animated series (another thing I loved about Avatar with the blind character Toph).
But okay, if we’re going to talk about this show, then I might as well bring up the one criticism that every other critic has already made about it. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
The Animation Yes, among all the mixed reviews of this show, one consistent criticism was the animation. It seems to be CGI, but is going for a 2D, hand-drawn look; unfortunately, the way the pull it off is not necessarily the greatest. Take a look at the trailer for an example of what I’m talking about.
No, your computer is not glitching out; that is the framerate they went with. And this choppiness is something that seems to be a trend with certain CGI shows outside of this one, with Rooster Teeth being the most notorious offender. If they really wanted to make it look 2D, they should have actually animated it hand-drawn. Doing this just pulls me out of the moment. (Oddly enough, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse does something very similar with its framerate, yet I don’t have any problem with that movie doing it.)
To be entirely fair, this is something that Aaron Ehasz has acknowledged. Apparently, season one was given a very low budget, and he has promised that season two will have a steadier framerate. Judging by the trailers I’ve seen for season two… yeah, it already looks way better. Also, with my second watch of season one, I found it much easier to look past. Maybe I was just used to it by then?
Assorted Other Stuff Warning: This section goes into minor spoiler territory. I would highly advise not reading past this if you want to remain spoiler-free when you go into season one. Got it? Alright.
One other complaint I have had is the comedy, which is really hit-or-miss in a lot of places. As I mentioned before, the scenes where Rayla is disguised as a human are hilarious, and some of the snarky dialogue is also witty as hell, but there are other moments with awkward puns and some potty humor that just feel forced to me. There’s one scene in episode six where Callum is obviously having an erotic dream about Claudia, which seemed unfitting for this show… though to be fair, Avatar also had its share of adult humor.
Another awkward tidbit is that twice, when Ezran is about to use Bait’s ability to blind his enemies, he says the line, “Say hello to my little friend,” an obvious shout-out to the classic 1983 gangster film Scarface. My question is, why is that line thrown in there? Are most kids going to catch that reference? Call me strange, but regardless of what adult fanbase this show will capture (which, let’s be honest, it will), I highly doubt its target audience is watching Brian De Palma films.
Though maybe they should be.
Speaking of strange homages… well… take a look.
Your eyes don’t deceive you. Rayla is doing the infamous Naruto run, where you extend your arms out behind you as you run forward. And she and the other elves do this run multiple times during the show, too. It is neither practical nor particularly cool-looking, so I don’t know why this was done in the original show, and I genuinely hope this was only meant as an homage, because… again, it’s really damn silly.
The soundtrack of this show is rather nice, I will say. It’s not as memorable as Avatar or Gargoyles’, but I did find myself humming the end credits theme song after finishing watching. Speaking of which, during the credits, we get some cute drawings of the characters, some of which connect to the episode, others are apparently meant as foreshadowing for later episodes and plot points. If you watch this show, definitely do not skip the credits.
Now, as for stuff that I hope for the new season. I would like to know more about the cube that Callum and Rayla found at the winter lodge. It seems to have some kind of connection with the Primal Sources. Also, the mysterious magical mirror, I hope we can find out something about that. It was foreshadowed pretty heavily in episode eight, so I doubt they won’t do anything with it. Speaking of magic, I’d love to see Callum do more magic in the new season. It probably won’t be more wind magic, since he destroyed the sphere to birth the dragon, but Callum clearly has potential to become a great mage. Also, I would love to find out more about King Harrow’s past, as well as more about Callum and Ezran’s deceased mother, the Queen. We see Viren and Amaya mourning her by her gravesite in one scene, and Callum drawing her in another. How did she die? What was she like? These are all worthwhile questions for season two, or for future seasons after season two depending on how long the show goes for.
Conclusion The Dragon Prince is a worthwhile watch. It’s nowhere near as great as Avatar or Gargoyles yet, and it is still clearly paving its own identity, but I still find it enjoyable enough and feel that it has potential for greatness. My main criticisms would be to up the animation quality and to develop the characters more, though my guess is that both will already happen in season two, which will be dropping later tomorrow, February 15.
But yeah, you have my attention, show. Don’t screw it up.
Hunter Daniel "Dan" Bruton
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
Name: Hunter Daniel "Dan" Bruton Age: 22 Religion: Atheist Current Residence: Charlottesville, VA Favorite genre of music: Rock Motto: NO AUTO-TUNE! ------------- To-Do List Eight-Layer Inferno page 5
= Haven't started yet. = Started with the lineart. = Finished with the lineart. = Started with the coloring. = Finished with the coloring. = Started with the shading. = Finished, ready to upload.
Status on requests: Closed Status on art trades: Open Status on point commissions: Open
Commission Prices 5 for a sketch 10 for a traditionally colored drawing (Note: This is on hiatus for now, as my pencils are back at my parents' house three hours away) 15 for a digitally inked drawing 20 for a digitally colored drawing (no shading) 25 for a digitally colored drawing with shading 30 for a digitally colored drawing with shading and a background ------------- YouTube Reviews Account Tumblr DarkMatter.mu
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Favorite visual artistDon't knowFavorite moviesCasablanca, Citizen Kane, Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar, anything by Mel Brooks, and the rest won't fit.Favorite TV showsToo many to list. O_oFavorite bands / musical artistsQueenFavorite booksAnything by Carl Hiassen, MAD magazine, A Briefer History of Time, millions others.Favorite writersCarl HiassenFavorite gamesI don't game. :oFavorite gaming platformDidn't you read what I said above?! :xOther InterestsLEGOs, superheroes, aliens and peanut butter.
//flops// One day you will receive free art. one day.
Sat Jan 10, 2015, 11:56 PM
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