Time-travel and dragons – it sounds like the perfect combination. Hirotsugu Kawasaki’s 2011 Japanese anime Legend of the Millennium Dragon – adapted from the novel Onigamiden by Takafumi Takada – features that exact combination. The film’s opening sequence showcases the beautiful animation which comprises the entirety of the movie – if only the story could live up to it.
A boy named Jun Tendo is taken back in time by a wizard of some kind because he is the supposed saviour who will defeat the demonic Oni. It turns out that 1,200 years ago, a war between some people and some other people happened for some reason. It’s hard to make out exactly why they were fighting; there was some vague environmentalist cause, perhaps. It certainly was neither as clear nor as nuanced as Hayao Miyazaki’s legendary Princess Mononoke (1997), a film with a similar setting and themes.
The simple ‘cowardly boy finds bravery to end conflict’ plot is one that has been over done in all fields of narrative, and Legend of the Millennium Dragon does not bring anything new to this old formula. The insufferable protagonist whimpers and squeals as he continually tries to avoid picking sides and the responsibility placed on him by the tribes of the past, insisting that he doesn’t want to fight.
In the end, Jun fails entirely to prevent bloodshed on a massive scale before engaging in battle himself. Everyone celebrates the death of the villain, although most of those on the villain’s side were fighting in the belief that he was a good man doing the right thing.
Characters and come and go, with little or no way of distinguishing them or identifying what role – if any – they play in the narrative. Incidentally, there are only two female characters in the movie. One is Jun’s mother, who appears in only one scene, and the other is an Oni warrior who helps him see that the bad guys aren’t so bad after all.
The Legend of the Millennium Dragon Blu-ray features a number of audio options, yet neither the press kit nor IMDb have any credits for the localisation team or voice talent listed; it is kindest to say that the English dialogue is clunky at best, while the cast compete to out-do each other at the most awkward delivery possible.