Manga Review: Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai Volume One

Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai is a manga series that began its serialization in Japan in 1989. It’s based on the Dragon Quest video games, which had character designs done by Akira Toriyama.

Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai Volume One
Written by: Riku Sajno
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 1, 2022

In the world of the series, the Dark Lord was taken down, and his minions were released from his clutches. These monsters left humanity behind to live in a faraway place in peace. That place is Dermline Island, and our main character, a human named Dai, has been raised by these monsters after a ship he was on as a baby was shipwrecked and he washed up on shore. Dai dreams of becoming a hero, but a monster called Brass (who has essentially raised Dai) wants him to become a mage.

One day, a group of phony heroes come to the island, in the hopes of finding a certain monster and killing the rest in order to get monetary rewards. Poor Dai doesn’t realize that they’re not acting like heroes, and he summons the monsters together. When these “heroes” show their true colors and capture the certain monster (who happens to be Dai’s best friend), Brass gives Dai magic cylinders to use against them. Dai catches up to the phony heroes when they’ve met with the king, and through the use of the magic cylinders, he’s able to defeat them and to expose them to the king as the frauds they are. Dai makes an impression on the king, which leads to the start of Dai’s adventures.

The king starts spreading the word about Dai, and a group of sages arrives on the island with Princess Leona. She has to perform a ceremony to receive the Earth God’s blessing, which they are planning to do on the island. Dai is asked to accompany the group. It turns out that some of the sages aren’t what they appear to be, and they try to kill Leona and Dai. The robot that the sages use is quite… interesting. But during the fight, Dai has a dragon symbol appear on his forehead, and he’s suddenly able to use high level magic that he normally isn’t able to master, which he uses to take down the robot and the sage using it. By the end of this story, Dai and Leona become friends, which now gives Dai a second ally in the series. It also seems to be hinted that Dai finds Leona attractive, so perhaps this could lead to her becoming a love interest for him in the future.

The bulk of this volume, though, sees the return of the Dark Lord. At the same time, two new characters appear on Dermline Island: a “hero tutor” named Avan and his disciple, Popp. Avan takes Dai on as his disciple and intends to train him to be a hero within seven days so he can take on the Dark Lord. Thanks to Dai’s determination and his heart of gold, he starts learning and excelling at what he’s being taught faster than expected. Unfortunately, before they can reach the seven days, the Dark Lord makes an appearance on the island. There ends up being a twist as to who Avan is, and it turns out there’s more to the Dark Lord and his powers as well. While Avan puts up a good fight, it’s up to Dai to try to finish things after his teacher makes the ultimate sacrifice. The dragon symbol makes another appearance, and Dai once again easily uses magic that he normally isn’t able to do. While this doesn’t outright defeat the Dark Lord, it injures the enemy enough that he has to flee in order to fight another day. Right at the end of the volume, Dai sets out on a journey in order to take on the new menace that the world now faces.

After I read this volume, it hit me that Dai comes across a lot like the young Goku in the original Dragon Ball manga. While it can kind of be seen in his character design, I get that sense if of his character from the way Dai’s personality is depicted.

For the story itself, the manga uses its roughly 330-page length to effectively establish the world of the series, as well as the character of Dai. The volume ends at the perfect spot, which is when Dai leaves Dermline Island and heads out on his journey. Volume One spent its time establishing the hero, and it seems that future volumes of the series will follow him as he goes on his “Hero’s Journey.” I’m curious to see how Dai’s adventures are going to continue in the next volume.

When it comes to the art in this volume, you can easily tell that it’s a shonen manga from the late 1980’s. It has a strong Dragon Ball feel to its style. In part, this is due to the fact that the manga artist (who wasn’t Akira Toriyama) was drawing characters that were designed by Toriyama for the Dragon Quest game series. But even outside of that, there are ways that the panels are done and the use of sound effects that bear an uncanny resemblance to Dragon Ball. In some respects, this made reading this volume a little disconcerting for me at times, because I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t reading Dragon Ball and that the art in the volume wasn’t drawn by Akira Toriyama himself.

Even with that issue, I think that Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai will have an appeal to readers who are familiar with the Dragon Quest video game franchise. It will also likely appeal to fans of the Dragon Ball manga or other shonen manga titles from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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