WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Dragon Quest: Adventure of Dai Episode 1, "DAI, THE TINY HERO," now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai first began as a manga written by Riku Sanjo and Koji Inada, serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1989 to 1996. To adapt one of Japan's best-selling and most beloved video game franchises into a shonen battle manga seemed like a logical next step. It received a 46 episode anime adaption by Toei in 1991, but now, in 2020, Toei returns to Dai with a brand new anime adaptation.
Dai's story begins with a baby in a boat washing ashore on an island inhabited by monsters, called Dermline Island. Fast forward 12 years later and the child, Dai, is a bright-eyed energetic youth who loves to spend every day with the monsters of the island, playing hero. Something that immediately apparent is the level of detail gone into translating Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama's original Dragon Quest monster designs into both 2D and 3D animation. There's a playful energy to the way the monsters pop on screen that no other RPG franchise really captures in the way Dragon Quest does, and the anime nearly captures that same feeling.
As Dai and his monster friends sprint through the forest, they're halted by Dai's adoptive monster grandfather, Brass, who's annoyed by Dai choosing to play hero over continuing his magic training to become a mage like himself. Although he ain't too shabby with a sword, Dai has no aptitude for magic, as every spell he casts only manages to fizzle out. But Dai's more interested in becoming a great Hero, emulating the same one of years past who put a stop to the Dark Lord's wicked deeds and saved the monsters of Dermline Island.
As Dai and his Golden Metal Slime friend, Gomechan, talk by the cliffside of the island, they catch a glimpse of a ship approaching the island. A boat ferries off from it carrying a party comprising a hero, mage, cleric and fighter, who've come to Dermline in search of the rare Golden Slime that Dai has befriended. The naïve Dai agrees to help the party, believing that no hero would come to the island with malicious intent.
Unfortunately, Dai's decision to trust the party leads to grave misfortune. As he calls all the island monsters to greet them and leaves to track down Gomechan, the party begins their attack on the island monsters. Dai realizes these people anything but heroes, but before he can stop them, the cleric takes Gomechan and uses a wind spell on Dai to stop him as they make their getaway.
With his friends injured and Gomechan kidnapped, the boy is determined to go after the party returning to the ship, but before he does, Grandpa Brass gives him tools that could prove useful: Magic Cylinders. These capsules act similar to Pokemon's PokeBalls, as they're able to capture and release monsters with the corresponding command word. Dai was even able to capture Grandpa Brass using it with little effort. Dai uses the cylinders to bring along any of the island monsters still able to fight, along with two Golden Cylinders given to Brass by the Dark Lord, and takes off for the ship.
As the party is about to receive their reward from King Romos for retrieving the Golden Slime, Dai and his team of monster friends attack the ship from land, sea and air. It's a chaotic fight as we see how each monster uses its unique strengths, like the Merman and Kraken trying to capsize the ship or the Golem tossing soldiers overboard. However, the party eventually manages to turn the tables, forcing Dai to rely on his Golden Capsules. The first capsule seems like some kind of joke as it releases a mob of slimes, but the second takes everyone off guard as a dragon pops out. It seems Dai's won, but the cleric uses Gomechan as a hostage to force Dai to return the dragon. Dai is forced to surrender, but with their backs turned, the slimes all fuse together into a King Slime, trapping the dastardly party under its weight.
After seeing the party's dishonorable actions, King Romos apologizes to Dai and Brass for his clouded judgment. Dai is then rewarded by the king with the Crown of Champions, declaring the young boy as the true future hero.
With its first episode, the series falls into a traditional shonen category but who knows where Dai's journey will lead. With the closing remarks of Princess Leona calling him "tiny and undependable," Dai certainly has a long road ahead of him to become a hero worthy of the Crown.