Dragon Quest: One Of The Best Anime That No One’s Watching

It's one of the best anime currently airing, so why is no one watching it?

Every season of anime, there are always going to few shows that fall underneath people’s radar; sometimes the promotional material doesn’t leave a good impression on people, and other times, it’s just simply that there are too many anime airing for everything to get an equal amount of attention.

No anime is immune to this effect, no matter how high-profile it might try to come across as, but it’s always a shame when something that had the potential to truly be a hit never quite catches on with people, and the latest show to fall into that something that truly had potential to be the next big thing: Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai.

Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai
Credit to TV Tropes

How Dragon Quest Was Geared For Success

Dragon Quest is one of the most, if not the most, recognizable JRPG franchise of all time, what with its classic stories of good versus evil and character designs by Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball. The Adventure of Dai is a manga spinoff of the series written by Riku Sanjo and illustrated by Koji Inada.

The story is essentially your average Dragon Quest game in the form of a manga, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It hits a lot of cliches of its genre, but it did it with such earnestness that it all circled back around to being endearing. Not only that, but Inada’s art was able to perfectly mirror Toriyama’s aesthetic while still remaining visually appealing in its own right.

All of this led to the series running for over seven years in Weekly Shonen Jump and becoming one of the best-selling manga of all time with over fifty million volumes sold around the world. With a new anime announced for 2020 nearly twenty years after the first one, which only covered about a third of the series, ended, it seemed like it would be easy for the show to become a major hit, yet nothing of the sort ended up happening.

Why Dragon Quest Never Caught On

It’s a bit strange that The Adventure of Dai never caught on, but it’s not as unbelievable as one might think. For starters, the show airs on Saturday mornings in Japan, meaning that it goes to streaming late Friday night in Western territories.

At that point in time, most people are either out doing something with their friends or fast asleep, so they probably wouldn’t get to watching anime until the following day, at which point a bevy of shows will have new episodes out, and in the process of watching everything that just came out, something that came out the night before will end up falling to the wayside.

Not only that, but the lack of any sort of licensed material making its way to most western territories made it hard for the series to build up a fanbase over the years outside of Japan; countries in Europe managed to get the rights to it back in the day, but beyond that, the most people have gotten is characters making appearances in the occasional video game, which doesn’t do a whole lot to create a fanbase.

Finally, and this is most likely the most damning, but as endearing as the straightforward nature of the story may be, it doesn’t change the fact that it does utilize a lot of cliches of its genre, so a lot of people might look at it and see nothing more than your average fantasy series, never giving it a chance to see that it’s much more than that. In the end, it was a perfect storm of giving people reasons not to watch.   

Dragon Quest: Forever An Unnoticed Gem

It truly is a shame that Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai hasn’t caught on with people outside of Japan. The characters are all endearing in their own right, the art and animation are on point more often than not, and as cut-and-paste as it might be in regards to tropes and genre conventions, the fact that it plays everything so straight gives it a bit of charm in an era where stories are always trying to be subversive or deconstructive.

It seemed like it had everything going for it, but thanks to a lack of a pre-established fanbase, a bad air time, and the same writing techniques that make it endearing also making it seem boring to some, at the same time, it also had everything going against it. It doesn’t look like the show will be a big hit outside of Japan anytime soon, but at the very least, there are some people watching it now, and with any luck, that number will get even bigger in the future.

A freelance writer with a love of pop culture, Japanese culture, and anything with a weird aesthetic to it.

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