Is new animated show The Dragon Prince Avatar: The Last Airbender’s spiritual successor?
September seems to be the month of Avatar alumni, as not only was it a live action series helmed by original show creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino announced, but former producer Aaron Ehasz and former director Giancarlo Volpe also released their new show The Dragon Prince on Netflix.
They’re not the only tie to the classic animated series either, as Jack de Sena, who voiced Sokka in Avatar also returns as main character Callum.
So, as comparisons to what is arguably one of the best children’s animated series of the 21st century are inevitable, how does it hold up?
So far, there are only 9 episodes, but it’s plenty to go on. The Dragon Prince is definitely stunning, with a blend of 3D and 2D animation that’s a little reminiscent of web series RWBY, or video game Ni No Kuni, which blends the unique style of Studio Ghibli with 3D models. But while the animation style might not be for everyone, it helps to flesh the characters out into something a little more tangible than some 2D shows. The backgrounds are also gorgeous, giving the high fantasy world depth and colour.
The characters are also, for the most part fun and enjoyable to watch. The main trio of Callum, his half brother Ezran and their elf ally Rayla have good chemistry as they bicker their way towards their goal, and the other characters are just as fun to watch, especially when the roles of ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’ aren’t as clear cut as they might be in another show.
One clear fan favourite already is the princes’ Aunt Amaya, a seriously badass soldier, who also happens to be deaf, relying on her second-in-command to be her voice in the world. She’s funny, clever, and in command of a large part of their country’s army, and clearly cares about her nephews deeply. The only criticism I have is that she isn’t in the series enough.
Of course, the series isn’t perfect. While the world building is definitely fresh, including the character design of the elves and dragons in the world, some elements do fall a little into generic high fantasy tropes, in places they didn’t have to. Also, the choice of giving the elves English and Scottish accents, and then casting a Canadian to play a main character seemed questionable. It certainly wasn’t the worst accent I’ve ever heard, and it did improve later on, but it did draw some of the tension out of earlier dramatic scenes.
The number of episodes also didn’t help the series. Perhaps it’s because so many of us have grown used to classic 13 episode series, at least for the first seasons, but the choice of nine episodes made it feel a little truncated, as although the build up took place over a few episodes, the resolution seemed to happen very abruptly. But then, perhaps this is where its Avatar similarities also count as a drawback; it’s hard to match up to the high stakes Siege of the North finale of Avatar’s season one.
But Dragon Prince is without a doubt an enjoyable show for anyone that enjoys fantasy and adventure. And while the nine episode run did seem a little abrupt, it also left me wanting more.