Dragon Quest is one of the most popular role-playing games in Japan, having been a major influence on the genre since the release of its first game in 1986. The game series established many conventions in JRPGs, including the concept of heroes and demon kings, and its character and monster designs, created by Dragon Ball mangaka Akira Toriyama, are some of the most easily recognizable designs in Japan.
As with any popular franchise, Dragon Quest has received several anime adaptations. While the adaptations do base some of the worldbuilding on concepts established in the games, such as spell names and monsters, most of these series are generally original stories.
3 Dragon Quest: Legend Of The Hero Abel (1989-1991)
Dragon Quest: Legend of the Hero Abel is the very first attempt at an anime adaptation, done by Studio Comet and aired from 1989 to 1991. The series was based on the incredibly successful Dragon Quest III, though it still featured original characters and an original story. Like the games, the anime featured original character designs from Akira Toriyama. The main characters are Abel and Tiala, childhood friends from the same village. On her birthday, Tiala receives a Red Stone with special powers that can revive a powerful Dragon. This prompts the evil Baramos to kidnap her in order to use her stone for his own benefit. Abel decides to embark on a journey to rescue her, gaining friends and allies along the way. He is also given the Blue Stone, which is the only thing that can seal away the Dragon once it has been summoned.
Dragon Quest: Legend of the Hero Abel ran for a total of 43 episodes split into two parts, due to its run being temporarily discontinued. The first 13 episodes were brought over to the West under the title of Dragon Warrior. A lack of success in the States and a lawsuit filed by Toriyama due to not being credited meant that the series was never renewed, leaving the remaining 30 episodes unlocalized. While the anime was never as well-received or as popular as the video game series, it is still a fun fantasy story for those who enjoy the games.
2 Dragon Quest: The Adventure Of Dai (1991)
The Dragon Quest series has had several manga adaptations, but the most famous manga based on Dragon Quest is Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, a manga that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1989 to 1996. The manga is written by Riku Sanjo and illustrated by Koji Inada, and it was extremely successful, eventually reaching 37 volumes upon completion. The manga is currently one of the best-selling manga of all time and features an original story that incorporates elements from the games. The story revolves around the adventures of the young Dai, a boy raised by monsters and trained by the former Hero Avan. When a legendary demon lord from the past reappears and defeats Avan, Dai takes up the mantle after awakening a strange power from within himself. On his way, Dai meets and befriends several people who become his allies, such as the cowardly mage Popp, the tomboyish healer Maam, and many other characters.
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Daireceived its first anime adaptation in 1991, created by Toei Animation. The first season ran for a total of 46 episodes and was slated to run for more, but issues with the broadcasting company forced the series to end prematurely. Since the anime did not cover the entire manga’s story, the anime featured an original ending written by the manga’s author Riku Sanjo. Despite not being able to adapt the entire series, the 1991 anime is still a great watch, and worth experiencing for fans of the series and the games. The anime was used to create three short theatrical movies, which were eventually released with the entire anime in a Blu-ray box set.
1 Dragon Quest: The Adventure Of Dai (2020)
With both the first anime series and the original manga having ended over twenty years ago, most fans were probably not expecting Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai to ever return. However, in 2020, a brand new anime series was announced in Jump Festa 2020, with Toei Animation standing at the helm once again. The anime was created using a mix of 2D animation and CG animation, and it premiered soon after its announcement in Fall 2020. The announcement was a happy surprise for fans of the series who were disappointed that the series never managed to receive a full adaptation. Much like the original 1991 series, the 2020 series aims to be a faithful adaptation of the original manga.
The 2020 series is set to run for 100 episodes, giving it more than enough time to adapt the entire original manga. The new anime has spurred a resurrection of interest in the series, with the manga finally receiving an English localization due to the anime’s success. This particular series has yet to end, especially thanks to delays caused by Toei’s servers being hacked earlier this year, though it is reaching its conclusion soon. The series is available in its entirety on Crunchyroll, as well as on Hulu.
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