Training your Dragon and Beast Lord: a short discussion

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.

16 responses to “Training your Dragon and Beast Lord: a short discussion

  1. I’ve seen both and you’re right that they have a lot of similarities. To me, the main story of Kemono no Souja Erin is Erin’s “coming of age” as she grows from a child to an adult and develops the gift of communicating with Beast Lords. How To Train Your Dragon is more about the dragons specifically. Kemono no Souja Erin is like a deeper and more complex version of How To Train Your Dragon.

    • One can easily blame it on the length of the show. Erin is insanely long and rarely focuses on the action. But on the other hand, it has more chance of idea exploration.

  2. aquabluesweater

    Have only seen How to Train Your Dragon and thought it’s an excellent animation movie, one of the better Western one I have seen in a while I have to say. I guess I really did not expect it to be any good until it started getting pretty good review all-round.

    Given the movie format and the fact that it cannot be too complex for fear of ‘alienating’ the children and their parents, I can understand why it does not (or cannot) delve into the darker nuance of the Vikings-Dragon relationship. I have never actually thought beyond and you are so right that with the dragons at their disposals, the Vikings really will conquer all! That’s the subtext that they really just gloss over or maybe they might do something with that idea for a sequel…

    Erin, being a tv series 50-episode long I’m sure has more scope to explore deeper meaning of this…

    • It was a very good movie with 98% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. I might seem a little too serious about all this but I actually enjoyed it, really :)

  3. I’ve been looking around and really am impressed by the awesome content material here. I work the nightshift at my job and it really gets boring. I’ve been coming here for the past couple nights and reading. I just needed to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I’ve seen and I look ahead to reading more.

  4. I feel like I don’t see many “deep” works of media intended for children in America. For the most part, movies and TV shows are all shallow, and EVERYTHING for audiences younger than 15 has a “feel good” vibe.

    So, basically, I’m in no way surprised about the the premise and plot of How to Train your Dragon. You wouldn’t tell a little kid that the cutesy dragon on the screen despises him, would you?

    To be fair, most children of a young age wouldn’t really understand deeper messages and they want to watch movies for a good time. However, I think exposing children to more serious themes will at least instill a certain subconscious respect for power, or whatever the theme happens to be. Teach them young!

    • You are right. Children deserve some light and happy times every now and then but not always. Many shows manage to add depth and lessons for children while maintain the enjoyment level. That’s the real challenge.

  5. I actually thought Toothless resembled a cat more then a dog.

  6. I have plans to watch both at some point :) but I’ll be waiting until I can rent How To Train Your Dragon.

  7. Interesting comparison. I’m not too surprised that How to Train Your Dragon does not go deeper into the real politics involved, sine that will probably just fly over children’s heads. Still, it was nice to read a further and more realistic look into that.

    Now that I think about it, it really is a disaster. Wars will now be waged with higher costs. It is akin to a shift from bows and arrows to guns and nuclear weapons. :(

    • I watched How to Train your Dragon with the same critical/analytical mind like when I watched anime. I guess I just could not help it :)

  8. Pingback: Kemono no Souja Erin: anime review part 2/2 – When Beast Lords fly and the gods descend | Canne's anime review blog

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