By Paul Browne.
If there’s one holiday destination to avoid this year, it’s the island state of Nil Kamui. Having lost its independence during the conflict between neighbouring countries Donatia and Kouran, the people of Nil Kamui find themselves beneath the heel of the occupying forces. Just to keep things interesting, Red Dragon – the guardian god of Nil Kamui, has also gone berserk.
In the midst of all this is Ibuki, heir to the throne of Nil Kamui but unwilling to pick up arms. For Ibuki, violence solves nothing and he’s more concerned with leading a peaceful life. It would probably be the shortest and dullest anime on record if Ibuki managed to pursue his dream, but events take a dramatic – and ultimately tragic – turn forcing Ibuki to look at reclaiming his throne and fight for Nil Kamui’s independence.
The roots of Chaos Dragon lie in the role-playing game Red Dragon – a joint effort by five seasoned creative talents, including Kinoko Nasu, Izuki Kougyoku, Simadoriru, Gen Urobuchi (best known for titles such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass and Fate/Zero) and Ryohgo Narita (creator of Baccano! and Durarara!!).
Originally, Red Dragon began as a table-top game established between the five creatives, with the results of their gameplay adopted into a narrative. This method of adopting RPGs to act as a springboard for a multi-genre franchise is, of course, nothing new. It’s a system that brought us the likes of Record of Lodoss War in the past for example.
Each of the main characters in Chaos Dragon has also been designed by the five creators. This offers up an intriguing combination of character traits and abilities. Ibuki (created by Simadoriru) has a mysterious connection with the Red Dragon (apparently part of his royal heritage). Eiha (created by Izuki Kougyoku) is Ibuki’s guardian, who is also fused with a demon companion. Meanwhile, Lou Zhenhua (created by Gen Urobuchi) is part of a religious assassin’s guild from Kouran.
The first episode of Chaos Dragon wastes little time in establishing its world and characters – and then introduces some surprisingly dark and shocking turns. When Ibuki’s colleague Fugaku suggests to a reluctant Ibuki that he strap on a sword for a trip to the market, it’s probably no spoiler to deduce that the would-be king isn’t going to be ending the day slicing potatoes.
The story also swiftly establishes the connection between Ibuki and the Red Dragon itself. Apparently one of seven, the presence of the creature becomes a prime motivation for several plot points. The Kouran occupying forces want to destroy it, while Ibuki is compelled to make a contract with the Red Dragon – a decision that has tragic consequences.
The series is book-ended with some suitably energetic music, including the dynamic rock of Natsumi Kon’s lively opening theme. Meanwhile, the ending tune delivers a surprisingly effective slice of pop rock – aided by vocal turns care of Miyuki Sawashiro (who plays Eiha in the series), Haruka Terui (who voices Meryl) and Maaya Uchida (who voices Lou).
Chaos Dragon manages to deliver an efficient, gripping adventure that will have you cheering for the heroes one minute – and reaching for the hankies the next.
Paul Browne is the owner of Japanese music website J-Pop Go. Chaos Dragon is released in the UK by Funimation.