Netflix is known for being the home of numerous different big anime titles: Attack On Titan, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Devilman Crybaby, Beastars, and that’s just a few of them. They are also known for hosting some series that people might not have expected to ever get an anime — the newest case of this being Dota: Dragon’s Blood, an animated series based on Valve’s popular MOBA.
I am a massive Dota 2 fan and I have been playing the game for roughly eight years; I have a number of hours in the game that honestly, I would not like to admit to. Regardless of the unhealthy amount of time I have poured into the game, I want to talk about the recent anime and how it now only surpassed my expectations (massively) but was just generally a great series.
What is Dota and its lore?
For the benefit of those of who have never heard of Dota — or specifically Dota 2 — it is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, or MOBA for short. This genre of game pits two teams of five players against each other in a battle over their main structures, the Ancients. Players ban and pick from a massive pool of characters, farm gold, build up their strength, and eventually fight to push the objectives of the game.
Since 2011 Dota 2 has been continuously gaining popularity, and even if you aren’t super familiar with the game itself, those with an awareness of the competitive scene for esports have doubtless heard of “The International”. This is one of the biggest events in competitive gaming, with a prize pool that somehow manages to grow every single year. Starting back in 2011 with a $1 million prize, by 2019 the winners were claiming a prize pool of $15 million — even crazier is the fact that teams placing up to 6th place still took home winnings of over $1 million.
Each of the heroes in the game has a backstory which tends to be something very simple, and a lot of these backstories somewhat overlap. So it’s more than fair to say that the lore regarding the characters of Dota is more or less a blank canvas. Originally this is where my uneasiness regarding an anime series stemmed from, but this turned out to be one of the strongest points of the anime.
Studio Mir — an animation studio based in Seoul, South Korea, best known for their work on Avatar: The Legend of Korra — was most definitely granted some creative freedom when it came to writing the stories of the heroes they were going to have the series focus on.
So how was Dota: Dragon’s Blood?
The story features numerous characters from the world of Dota 2 but has two main focus characters: Davion and Mirana. Davion is a young Dragon Knight, a branch of knights whose only purpose is to protect people from dragons. Mirana, meanwhile, is the Princess of the Moon — her duty is to prowl the Nightsilver Woods and protect Selemene’s lotuses.
The story is set into motion when some of the lotuses are stolen, leading Mirana to venture outside of the Nightsilver Woods to track down the thief and retrieve what was stolen. Meanwhile, Davion is hunting a dragon that appeared in the same town that Mirana is currently staying in — and after an encounter with an Elder Dragon and the Demon Terrorblade, everything starts to get crazy.
As a fan of the game and someone who knew how simple the lore was, I was originally very skeptical of this series. I thought that this was a somewhat knee-jerk reaction to seeing how popular and well-received K/DA (a virtual K-pop-inspired girl group) and other such League Of Legends-based creations were. How foolish I was — I can confidently say that the Dota anime blew me away and completely defied my expectations.
The characters are all extremely likeable — except for a certain Goddess — and have fun and unique personalities that mix well with one another. The story hits upon some serious notes along the way, too; for example, it explores Mirana’s faith in her Goddess Selemene after having learned the truth behind her ascension to godhood. Davion’s encounter with the Elder Dragon, meanwhile, leaves him in a unique state which he eventually comes to accept, despite his feelings of hatred.
Character motivations are incredibly well developed and written as well, with the Invoker being an absolute standout example. In the game of Dota 2, Invoker is kind of a pompous, holier-than-thou asshole, but the backstory that has been given to him is heart-wrenching and displays a part of his character that no one could have imagined.
If you’re a fan of Dota, or you’ve ever been even slightly interested in the game, please give the series a watch.
Hell, if you like fantasy settings filled with elves, dragons, magic, a cute girl called Marci who is mega-strong and communicates solely through whistles, and even a wonderful budding romance between the lead characters, you need to give the series a chance. It’s 8 episodes long with each episode being around 25 minutes long and it is currently available on Netflix in a variety of languages — I have watched it in both Japanese and English and I can vouch for either option!
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