+1 to Joy

+1 to Joy: The Dragon Prince

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If there is a hobby I love as much as video games it is reading, and fantasy has always been my favorite genre. So when it comes to the Netflix original The Dragon Prince, I didn’t stand a chance.

When I was young one of the first books I recall reading by myself was The Hobbit, but the first series I recall falling madly in love with was The Dragonlance Chronicles. Looking back on them they were full of fantastically cliché fantasy tropes, but I didn’t (and still don’t) care—I loved them deeply.

I’ve always felt drawn to larger than life heroics, fantastical creatures, brave and awesome heroes, and worlds not our own. Today I still read a lot of fantasy, but so much of it has gotten so grim and dark that I’ve started to read a lot more young adult fantasy just to take a break from the constant morose worlds. So it was the absolutely perfect time for The Dragon Prince to come along and make me the happiest little fantasy nerd ever.

One of my favorite animated shows of all time is Avatar The Last Airbender, and this new show is from the main writer of that series. Alongside two others he helped co-found Wonderstorm in order to create the world of The Dragon Prince: a spiritual successor of sorts to Avatar.

The show itself released on Friday the 14th, and I’ve already binged the entire season. In fact, I’ve watched some episodes multiple times. It masterfully channels the spirit of the Last Airbender by recreating the wonder and playfulness of the world in which it exists, and takes us on this journey with charming characters we can’t wait to get to know better.

And, well, Moon Elves are cool.

The Dragon Prince takes place in the land of Xaidia, where magic runs wild and free. This magic is governed by six sources and all of its power derives from them: the stars, the moon, the sun, the ocean, the sky, and the earth itself. Elves and man lived in harmony with nature and its magical creatures, until mankind saw fit to discover dark magic—a magic that is fueled by using the bodies of magical creatures.

Elven people were disgusted by this new, twisted magic and drove man out of their land. The divide between the lands was then guarded by the most elder dragon, king of his species, Thunder. Eventually mankind made a daring attack against the King of Dragons and killed him, then destroyed his egg. This has placed the two species on the brink of all-out war and the series begins as elvish assassins are sent to strike down the human’s king. All of this backstory is told in the first few minutes of the show, while we watch gorgeous illustrations of enormous dragons, and impeccably designed elves.

As an audience we view this world originally through the eyes of the sons of the king, half-brothers and princes both. On the eve of a suspected attack King Harrow means to send his sons away to a safe place, but instead they run into one of the assassins who has an odd quirk: she doesn’t like to kill and hasn’t done so before. Rayla, the moon elf, determined to prove herself chases down the two boys and the three of them stumble into a jaw dropping revelation: the egg of the Dragon Prince is still alive.

The adults of course know the politics are more nuanced than the children expect, but the three of them think if they can get the egg back to the mother dragon that war can be avoided. Against both of their peoples’ wishes they set out on a journey to do just that, tested and chased by both sides.

The characters of the show are wonderfully dorky and are all very likable. For the kids you have this weird frog-lizard creature named Bait that burps and does other slapstick types of humor, the wonderfully dorky mage Callum, and the brave, clever young Ezran. Of course, the star of the show is Reyla, who flips about with dual swords that can transform to daggers, swords, climbing hooks, and even a bow. I watched the show with my twelve year old boy and six year old girl, and we all were able to find things to enjoy.

Most importantly the world is extremely diverse, from the African American King Harrow, to his badass sister-in-law general who is deaf/mute, this is a world filled with all types of people. As the children journey together they discover that all of the things they heard about Rayla isn’t true, and it embraces the idea that just because someone is different from you, doesn’t mean you can’t find common ground.

If I have to give you one criticism it is that the animation needs a lot of work. The artwork itself is gorgeous, but while action sequences usually look pretty fluid, the 2D and 3D mix can almost look like slideshows on some of the slower moments. Though it is a small thing it certainly detracts from the overall quality of the show, but the premise and art easily make up for it.

But wait, it gets better! Even more exciting to me is the idea that one of the co-founders is a game developer who worked on Uncharted 3 with naughty dog, and worked on League of Legends with Riot Games. There is a video game currently being developed that is set in this world that should be hitting in the next couple of years, and I couldn’t be more stoked.

The Dragon Prince has amazing potential to be something really special, and I hope we get a second season. If you love fantasy, I suggest you go binge the whole thing right now.

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