Last week I finally finished watching Kemono no Souja Erin. While I was in the process of reviewing the series, I stumbled upon an animated feature released in theater earlier this year. It was How to Train Your Dragon. It occurred to me that both shows were very similar yet very different. In this post, I share my thoughts on this matter with you. Please be warned that there are major spoilers for both titles ahead.
Dragons are your best friends despite all the cruel deeds you did to them.
Both Erin and Dragon are animated features aiming for children audiences that revolves around a child and his/her fantastical beast. In How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccups lives in a viking village which considers dragons as disturbers of peace. Instead of hunting and slaying dragons like his people, Hiccups creates an unlikely friendship with a young dragon, Toothless. In the end, Hiccups and Toothless helps safe his people from total annihilation and the viking starts training the dragons as their pets. The dragons in this animation are displayed as docile and friendly. Despite the fact that the villagers has killed truck loads of dragons and captured many for combat training, the dragons unconditionally bow their heads to the vikings. The final scene in which human rides on the dragons with smiles on their faces and the air filled with laughter is totally unbelievable. And before any of you think I hate this movie, yes, I actually like it…most of it anyway.
Beast Lords are not your pet and will never be.
On the opposite, we have Kemono no Souja Erin which also focuses on human-beast relationship. Erin spends half of her childhood and teenage years on taking care of one particular Beast Lord, Lilan. In the process, she learns that the bond between human and Beast Lord has never been like those between friends but rather like master-slave relationships. Even the bond between Erin and Lilan is so fragile that one misstep could be the end of her. Kemono no Souja Erin is far more realistic than How to Train Your Dragon. Great wild winged beasts like dragons or Beast Lords can never be happy serving human. This is where the two titles differs the most; Erin understands the true nature of the beasts while Hiccups treats his magnificent dragon as a pet dog.
Kemono no Souja Erin is literally a realistic sequel to How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon ends with the beginning of a new era where Vikings starts training dragons to serve them. It seems like a happy ending but when I give it some more thoughts, it is actually the beginning of a disaster. With the powerful fire breathing dragons under their commands, what would the Vikings do? Will they just use the dragons to plow the field or to transport them between islands? I don’t think so. The dragons will be used as weapons of war and the lands will burn. Now, I guess you know where I am going to. Kemono no Souja Erin emphasizes this matter very clearly in the flashback scenes; the golden eyed people used to control Beast Lords but they got involved in the politics. The Beast Lords became weapons of war and brought the kingdom to a tragic end. In Erin’s time, the knowledge of how to train the Beast Lords are forbidden to prevent such disaster.
I am not implying that anime in general is more thoughtful than other animated media but in kemono no Souja Erin’s case, it definitely goes beyond simple entertainment (such as a boy finding fantastic creature and keeping it as a pet). Erin teaches children the importance of understanding beasts in the way they really are, not the way you expect them to be. Erin also reminds us to be more responsible for the power in our hands and to regard nature with respect.
Note1: My two part review on Kemono Souja Erin will be published soon.
Note2: I also want to thank Kitsune for the last screen-cap of flying Beast Lord. Please visit his post for more stunning pictures.
Note3: I have not read the book version of How to train Your Dragon so my opinion is entirely based on the movie.