Dragon's Heaven

Jean Giraud is known throughout the world by a pen name: Moebius. The Frenchman who contributed to the artistic design and concepts on notable films such as Blade Runner, Alien, The Fifth Element, and Heavy Metal has also created a variety of worlds in comic book form. English readers are probably most familiar with his work through the release of the graphic novel series The Incal. His distinctive style is hard to define and even harder to duplicate. However, there is one unique anime that attempted to do so and did it quite well: Dragon's Heaven. Although its plot and action is somewhat stilted by its short running time, the uniquely definitive artwork is something worth seeing. Although just inspired by Moebius' work and not actually linked to any of his creations, this 1988 piece is the closest that animation has ever come to doing his penmanship justice.

In the show, a young woman named Ikooru happens across an ancient mecha that is reawakened when she stumbled into the area. Turns out the mecha is sentient, and it has a name, Shaian. In the year 3195, there was a war between an army of robots and the humans, who used certain mecha like Shaian along with human counterparts who rode inside. When Shaian's companion was killed in battle, he shut down until he recognized a human in the area. It's now almost a 1000 years later. However, Shaian's greatest enemy is still alive and doing battle in Brazil, leading a small robotic army. With Ikooru's help, Shaian may be able to stop this evil force before another war rages over the continent.

Now honestly, this isn't a huge big deal of a show. Ikooru is cute, the mecha designs are awesome, but there's not much of a plot. Pretty much, it's about firing big guns and blowing stuff up. Been there done that, right? Not like this you haven't. The artwork here is so incredibly different that you'll wonder if you're even watching anime. (And don't worry, you are--it's an AIC production as well as the directorial debut of Kobayashi Makoto, mecha designer for Zeta Gundam.) Everything takes on the Moebius flavor, from the cities and clouds to the level of detailing on each and every object. The only thing in the show that strays from that concept is Ikooru, who doesn't look exactly like a typical anime character, but certainly doesn't look like any of Moebius' elongated females.

Now I have run across a few people who absolutely despise the artwork in Dragon's Heaven, including one of my nephews. If you don't like the way it looks, you're not going to like some other things too. The music is constant, and it's passé. Despite the action, the final showdown is unfulfilling. And at 25 minutes, you blink and you miss it.

Nevertheless, I think Dragon's Heaven is certainly one of the better one-shot OVAs I've ever seen, and I'm truly sorry the show never continued. It's been all but forgotten in the US, even though it was released in Japan on DVD in August of 2002. If you're looking for something a little bit different to add to your collection of mecha shows, though, this is a smart pick.

Dragon's Heaven -- violence, brief nudity -- B+