Anime Movie Review: "The Dragon Dentist"


I found this film when looking through HIDIVE’s movielibrary, not really knowing anything about it. I had heard of it, probably through advertising when it came out, but didn’t know anything regarding the content and I had long forgotten anything I saw in the trailers (if I had actually seen them in the first place). This certainly isn’t a movie that comes up in weeb discourse on social media, so I was interested to see if it was a hidden gem, and I think it kind of is.

First, let me say, if you were hoping for a cute story where a moe girl takes care of an adorable dragon’s oral hygiene, ala Dragon Maid, you’re going to be very disappointed. Prepare yourself for “Princess Mononoke”, not “My Neighbor Totoro”. So, definitely not a kid flick.

This two-part film is an adaptation of an 8 minute ONA from novelist Ōtarō Maijō, someone who writes proper literature. It’s executive producer, Hideaki Anno, is best known as the creator of “Evangelion”, and with that knowledge, you can probably guess that this is going to be quite a ride.

I’ll start by saying that art, animation, sound, music (basically all the technical elements) of this were great on par with things you’d see out of a Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai films. Maybe not quite as good, but honestly, excellent. Highly theatrical.

Now, getting into the content, story, etc.

The setting resembles something like an alternate history WWII era world. In the opening we see period battleships. We learn vaguely that there is a war going on, and one of the nations involved in that war has had a long-time pact with colossal god-like dragons, that function as floating fortresses (people live on them), which they use in battle. The dragon’s themselves remind me of something you’d see in “Dr. Who”. They’re these massive flying beasts, reminiscent of iconic Asian dragons. The plot of the story revolves around the titular dentists, who serve a sacred purpose in caring for the teeth of the dragon – and dealing with all the cavity-monsters that dwell there. Their job carries heavy, religious weight, but explaining it would be too spoilery.

If this sounds confusing, or complex, I would say you’re right. I don’t want to get into much more plot detailing, because honestly, I’m not sure I could properly summarize it without just straight up ripping off someone else’s review (or wikipedia). And for the most part, that is where my primary complaint with the movies lie. The setting, world building, plot, characters, etc. were all incredibly original and well-crafted, but because it’s all compacted into just two movies, it felt very hard to understand it all, and hard to remember exactly what’s what. The setting is rife with culture, but because we’re only given a glimpse of it, it’s hard to give it much value. I would have liked to have had more, much more of it. This could easily have been a two-cour seasonal show, but they did it in a two-part film format instead. But, considering all of this is coming from just an 8 minute ONA, I guess that’s actually pretty impressive.

My other main complaint with the films was that I felt like I’d seen parts of it before. I try to keep in my the phrase, “there’s nothing new under the son,” when watching anime, because there’s only so many ways you can arrange anime and stay original, but when certain story beats, play out almost exactly like another, very famous, and very specific film, it kind detracts from the originality factor that I had been praising the anime for. In the end though, that’s a nitpick, not a deal breaker, and I would still recommend the movie, despite some of it feeling familiar.

At the end of the day, is this worth watching? Absolutely. Is it worth rewatching, to try and break down, and understand, all the setting and world building? Ehhhh…. maybe?

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