Jun Tendo (Kensho Ono) is a generally good natured middle schooler, but like most people, is sorting through some confidence issues. His life gets quite a bit more complicated when he encounters an Oni, a mythic and evil demon of Japanese folklore. He is rescued by Gen’Un (Nakamura Shidou) a monk from Japan’s ancient Heian period and sent back in time over 1000 years ago. Discovering that he is descended from a bloodline that has the power to control the legendary Orochi, a powerful dragon with 8 heads. The ancient Heian people and the Oni are at war and Gen’Un believes that Jun is the key to victory. Navigating this unfamiliar world, Jun comes to discover the truth behind the conflict and master Orochi to end the bloody battles.
With production by the legendary Studio Pierrot, this is a spectacular looking animation. Character designs are unique and the backgrounds are detailed and painterly. Action is very well done with a smoothness to the choreography and easy to comprehend flow of movement. The CG utilized is top notch and blends quite well with the hand drawn segments. What I found most telling, as to the caliber of animation, were the multiple panning and change of perspective shots that must have been a scant minute each but were intricate and beautiful.
While the film boasts some well-known names for character voices (Satomi Ishihara and Nakamura Shidou), their experience can’t help a plot that is bogged down by unusual plot developments and a lack of focus. The main character of Jun is more than a bit annoying with his wishy-washy attitude, though he is playing his archetype. Ishihara’s character, an important one at that, doesn’t even make an appearance until around the midpoint of the picture and has nil time with the viewer before you are supposed to accept her. Nakamura is as good as he can be with his turn as warrior monk Gen’Un; he’s got range and offers more than a few good character choices. The supporting cast is adequate, but their are too many to even remember character names and no one really makes much of an impact. A major surprise was the score; it uses various modern genres during the period sequences that I felt fit oddly well. Funk, some Japanese hip-hop, and a bit of rock all found their way into the production. The ending theme song, STARLIGHT, by Miho Fukuhara is a better than average JPOP single and was a decent introduction to the previously unknown singer.
In the end, Legend of the Millennium Dragon is an incredibly beautiful anime that gives a grand and epic scale to the action, but suffers greatly in its lack of a cohesive story and fully formed plot structure. While not totally nonsensical, the film does have a habit of introducing characters that have little purpose or development. Plot points are handed out as a given instead of being earned. Those looking for some sharp animation will have a lot to appreciate here, but it will be fairly obvious where this film’s strengths lay.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Onmyouji, Agito, and/or Brave Story