Review by: Kiki Van de Kamp
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $34.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack), $24.98 US (DVD)
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: May 29, 2012
No controller needed to enjoy this Dragon Age.
Some things just go together perfectly like chocolate and peanut butter or actor Jason Statham and me (note to Jason Statham: if you’re reading this, I am so available) and the same can be said about gaming and anime. We have seen our share of anime inspired by gaming franchises before with some we fondly remember to others we hope to wipe from our memories but thanks to the collaboration between the amazing gaming geniuses at Bioware and the talented folks at FUNimation, Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker has turned out to be a memorable and entertaining jaunt in the Dragon Age world.
If you’re not familiar the role-playing game series from Bioware and EA that’s Ok because Dawn of the Seeker doesn’t feature familiar characters from the original game or its sequel but rather it takes place in the same universe as the Dragon Age series. It is a world with magic and monsters that range from orcs to dragons. We are introduced to the age of the evil Blood Mages and the Templar knights that fight them and – more specifically – a branch of the Templar known as the Seekers.
This is the Dragon Age where the faithful follow the ways of the Chantry of Andraste led by her holiness, the Divine. However, the Blood Mages have turned their attention on the Divine and her followers and this, of course, concerns the Templar knights as well as the Seekers who will stop at nothing to fight for the good of the Chantry. That is why, in the opening scene, a group of Seekers interrupts a ritual being performed by Blood Mages who are using a little girl named Avexis who happens to be an Elf and a captured dragon they have in chains.
Among the Seekers is the beautiful Cassandra Pentaghast who slaughters every Blood Mage that crosses her path and even slays the dragon In fact, she tears into them with her sword in a way that goes beyond hatred. As the Seekers manage to save the Elf child, the Blood Mage behind the ritual, who is a bandaged freak by the name of Frenic, escapes. With the child safely secured, the Seekers bring her before the Divine and her trusted clerics in order to figure out what the girl belonged to peaceful order of mages known as the Circle of Magi.
However, in the middle of the night, Cassandra manages to catch her beloved mentor – Byron – escaping the Chantry’s main temple with Avexis. While this is a very suspicious act, Cassandra trusts her elder who tells her that he does not trust the Templars with Avexis or the Knight Commander who seems to have a grudge with the Seekers. As they go to meet Byron’s trusted contact in the woods, they are attacked by Blood Mages led by Frenic who gets the upper hand on Byron. By the end of this little skirmish, Cassandra finds herself being accused of conspiring with the Blood Mages by the Knight Commander who is eager to pin the blame on her.
Fortunately for her, a handsome young mage named Galyan appears and helps Cassandra escape. While she clearly has a hatred for all types of mages, Galyan tells the Seeker that he was Byron’s contact within the Circle of Magi. With no other choice but to trust him, Cassandra accepts Galyan’s help and the pair set off on a quest to get Avexis back. Of course, this isn’t going to be easy and the fact that Cassandra has her own demons she must makes the pair’s journey an even more difficult one.
Predictably enough, Cassandra comes to realize that Galyan is not only a talented mage who helps her take on a group of orcs that Frenic sends to attack them but he’s also a likable fellow who is not like any mage she has ever known. In fact, at one point, she even comes to trust him enough that she reveals a big part of her past with him that explains why she hates mages.
Meanwhile, the Knight Commander and his men chase after the two as little by little the truth about the ritual as well as those behind it come to light. As thousands of pilgrims head for the Orlaisian Empire to pray for peace with the Divine, Cassandra and Galyan race to stop the enemy’s real agenda that will lead them to a final battle against evil and monsters of unimaginable power.
Heads will fly and blood will flow in this movie, certainly earning its TV MA rating and the action in the movie looks good. In fact, there are moments that the computer-generated animation looks breath-taking, especially when it comes to dragons and other monsters. The backgrounds range from stunning to simply adequate, although there are times when the character models look a bit awkward. Frenic, for example, is suppose to come off as menacing and freakish but instead looks almost comical.
The story also doesn’t start off with a bang despite the fact that there’s a major battler between the Seekers and the Blood Mages. In fact, the story begins rather predictably but quickly becomes exciting and fun enough that you will find yourself enjoying the action and its exhilarating finale. Although, personally, I wish the movie spent some more time fleshing out Cassandra and Galyan or allowing us to enjoy their growing relationship a little more, the two characters are fun to watch.
Then there’s the voice acting in the series that is actually has some great performances from the Japanese voice cast and the English dub actors. Yes, Chiaki Kuriyama is believable as Cassandra but Colleen Clinkenbeard injects even more emotion to the role and the always-stellar J. Michael Tatum is a lot more charming as Galyan. Add the talents of Brina Palencia, John Swasey, Christopher R. Sabat and Chuck Huber to name just a few voice actors and you have a movie with a solid cast.
Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is a genuine blast and the perfect companion piece for loyal fans of the Dragon Age games. As a fan of fantasy stories, Dawn of the Seeker doesn’t have a strong beginning or a unique plot but – like the games – it knows how to show you a really good time and, in the end, will not disappoint in the very least. Even if you don’t know anything about the Dragon Age games, this animated film is a good introduction to a good fantasy universe.
BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In an age of monsters and magic, a group of knights loyal to the Chantry of Andraste interrupts a ritual involving the evil Blood Mages. However, when the Elf child they rescued is reclaimed by the sinister Frenic, a Seeker named Cassandra and a good mage named Galyan join forces to rescue the child and stop a dangerous conspiracy that threats the Chantry’s spiritual leader, the Divine.
VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The computer-generated animation is actually handled well throughout the film with the visual effects and the dragons stealing the show in the best way especially in the finale. It’s too bad there are some weak visuals as well, especially when it comes to characters like Frenic that look a tad generic but there’s plenty of bloody action in this series for those who like it. Also, the Blu-ray version is the way you should watch this movie.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The music in the film will bring to mind the Dragon Age games and that is a very good thing and the sound effects are awesome. Add the great English dub voice cast that includes Colleen Clinkenbeard and J. Michael Tatum just to name a few as well as a stellar Japanese voice cast. There are also two rocking closing songs.
The movie comes with both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film but the real extras come in the form of a quick tour of the Bioware Studio offices with Mike Laidlaw, Creative Director of Bioware, which is actually something of a rare treat especially for gamers. There’s also some movie production art as well as a “behind-the-scenes”-like featurette called Dawn of the Seeker Backstage Pass that is worth watching. On top of that there are a few FUNimation trailers, including one for the much-anticipated Mass Effect anime.
You’ll also be able to download a digital Dragon Age comic with the redeem code found inside the packaging.
What starts off as a by-the-numbers adventure quickly turns into a wildly entertaining and rewarding feature film that makes Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker a real blast to watch whether you’re a fan of the games or not. If you’ve been waiting for a good fantasy tale with dragons, swords and plenty of magic then you should definitely pick this one up.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment