WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of DOTA: Dragon's Blood, now streaming on Netflix.
DOTA: Dragon's Blood is the newest Netflix anime to adapt a video game to animation. The fantasy anime has fared better than many others when it comes to balancing action, drama and characterization. However, the eight episodes come so densely packed that the plot and characters can feel constrained.
Some key elements -- such as Davion's blood curse and Terrorblade -- are pushed to the side in favor of detailing the secret plots between the Invoker and Selemene, as well as Coedwig and the Dark Moon Order. With all the world-building needed to establish these separate threads, did DOTA: Dragon's Blood bite off more than it could chew?
The Plot and Characters Are Almost Entirely Separate
DOTA: Dragon's Blood's central conflict deals with Selemene's flowers being stolen and war breaking out as a result. Despite that, the core characters don't actually interact with said war until the final two episodes, resulting in the battles feeling very separate from what the characters are dealing with.
The Elven thief Fymryn, whose actions essentially caused the war to break out, remains on the outskirts of the actual conflict. Princess Mirana spends the series' opening half looking for the lotus flowers while remaining uninvolved, and even unaware, that a war is going on between her people's Dark Moon Order and the otherwise innocent elves of Coedwig.
As a result, DOTA: Dragon's Blood struggles to balance Mirana and Fymryn's arc with the story's greater conflict. The two wrestle for time, with both halves feeling detached. We don't really see how either of their actions affect the war until the end, nor do we fully understand the characters involved in the war, since they aren't given concrete development. For example, what is Luna's deal? The story establishes that she's loyal to Selemene and was once a terribly frightening mercenary, but little else is revealed about her. Luna is a DOTA 2 character, but in the context of Book 1, she's just some bloodthirsty fighter.
Davion Barely Factors Into Anything
The main character of DOTA: Dragon's Blood is Davion, the Dragon Knight who ends up with the soul of an actual dragon in his heart. Thanks to the Invoker, we know that this curse will one day kill Davion. We also know that Terrorblade factors into the Invoker's vengeance and his schemes against Selemene. However, despite being the main character, Davion does nothing that ends up affecting the primary conflict.
The first episode introduces Davion as an incredible dragon slayer. That talent doesn't come up again until the seventh episode, and even then, it only factors into stabilizing the unsteady alliance between Mirana and Fymryn. Almost immediately after Davion is cursed, the topic is sidelined. Three episodes focus on Davion's conflict, but none of them factor directly into the core conflict of the civil war.
It feels as though Davion's plot, while compelling and critical to the world's stability, feels completely detached from anything happening with the war. His only role in the finale is allowing Mirana and Fymryn to escape. Then he's captured by fellow Dragon Knights. While this will clearly feed into the greater conflict of DOTA 2, it feels like Davion was a non-entity throughout this first season.
What's The Solution?
Ultimately, DOTA: Dragon's Blood's well-rounded characters barely factor into the plot, while the plot barely factors into its characters. This gets increasingly worse when considering how little the main character is incorporated into it all. So what's the fix?
In theory, Book 1 should have focused on one plot while setting the groundwork for the other. Hint at the curse surrounding Davion while centering on the war between the Dark Moon Order and Coedwig. Alternatively, it could've leaned on Davion's pursuit for his curse while hinting at the growing war. While the first arc of DOTA: Dragon's Blood is compelling fantasy, a greater focus might've helped balance the lore with its plot development.