Funimation came to SXSW to showcase their Bioware partnership. This being Bioware and Funimation’s backyard, they showed up with many great previews of their Dragon Age and Mass Effect anime. The highlight of their showing was the first 20 minutes of Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker.
I will get in to many specific details of the first moments of the movie, so a SPOILER alert is in full effect for those reading on.
The story of Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker revolves around Cassandra Pentaghast of Dragon Age II. She is mostly known for her interrogation of Varric in the game. The anime looks to establish a much richer characterization by throwing her in to a political conspiracy involving the Templars and the Circle of Magi.
It opens with a group of blood mages gathered around a Dragon. The one eyed leader of this group, Brother Frenic, restrains the Dragon and proceeds to use his staff to plunge in to the Dragon, draining the beast’s blood like a syringe. The goal of these men in black robes is to feed the blood to a young elf girl Avexis they have taken prisoner. They succeed.
Cassandra and a group of Templars she is paired with, then show up and violently attack the group. Cassandra seems to be a bit of a loose cannon. Byron, the eldest of the Templars, assumes the role of mentor and tries to cool her down before the battle but his words seem to fall on deaf ears. Predictably, she snaps and kills a good number of Blood Mages in gruesome fashion.
Frenic is forced to escape by using his magic to transform in to a crow and the Templars are left with a ticked off Dragon to deal with. Byron proceeds to distract the beast as Cassandra jumps behind it and stabs her sword through the top of the monster’s skull.
The moment is won and the girl is brought to cells of the Andrastian Chantry. The Circle of Magi make claims to protect her, but the templars refuse. A stalemate is reached as the politics surrounding her capture are argued, the reasons surrounding this girl is revealed. She is able to control wild beasts. The High Seeker views this ability as a great threat to everyone.
After the meeting we get to a chance to see why Cassandra has so much rage. At a younger point in her life, she bore witness to a young man who was chased down and beheaded in front of her. The man’s relation to her was not revealed, but they were close.
Her troubled dream awakens her and she goes exploring through the castle. Upon reaching the cells, she finds a number of unconscious knights and Byron with the elven child over his shoulder. Not understanding what’s going on, she follows him in an attempt to get the truth behind this traitorous act.
The three escape to the woods where a group of Blood Mages swoop down and attack. This is where our preview ended.
Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker is a gorgeous bit of CG work. The animations in the characters are fantastic as battle sequences pay off with solid movements and lots of dynamic action moments. There is still the prevalent issue with the CG work that affects all animation of this style. Their is a noticeable dip in quality in animation from scene to scene.
Main characters look fantastic, no doubt about that. When it comes to ancillary characters however, they all use the same bland models. Templar knight A is the exact same as B, C, D, and E. Backgrounds range for very well done to boring. It’s unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be as much of a payoff in every other element as there was in the lead characters. At the highest of the highs, it’s excellent. Yet, there are bland assets that are used to fill everything else in.
The voice acting was top notch as to be expected of Funimation. There wasn’t any cringe worthy moments or noticeable lack of quality in talent from what I heard. All the roles seemed to fit and the characters worked well in ensemble with each other.
The story does seem to be a bit bland for me personally. Cassandra is the troubled youth a bit too good at what she does for someone so out of control. Byron is the father figure whose true mission will be finished by the one person he didn’t want to get involved. There is a shadowy figure that Frenic answers to that will be a persistent thorn in Cassandra’s mission. The trailers reveal that at some point a young man will join Cassandra’s quest.
It is fairly obvious where this is all going.
Fortunately, the strength of the action will carry most of you through the movie. It’s fun to watch. I don’t think it will be as brilliant or as deep as many of the things Bioware is capable, but that can throw a few people off. This is a high action film with lots of great choreography and should be approached as such.
Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker will release on May 29th.