Dragonar Academy was not one of the stand-out anime of last season. In fact, it ranges from mediocre to terrible in just about every aspect. Yet from the moment I learned of its existence, I knew I'd have to watch it: It's an anime about a dragon riding academy, you guys.
I've talked about guilty-pleasure anime before and, if anything, this is a far more egregious example than Walkure Romanze. Am I embarrassed I watched this? Yes. Would I have hated it if not for one specific feature? Absolutely. Would I watch it again knowing what I was in for? Indeed I would. If that doesn't define a guilty pleasure, I don't know what does.
So let's get down to it. Dragonar Academy is set in a country where dragons are numerous. When young, a select few children of this land receive a magical brand, marking them as someone who will one day receive a dragon companion. Most commonly these brands are about the size of a fist. Our main lead Ash Blake, however, has a brand that takes up his entire left arm — marking him for greatness. ...Which makes it all the more troubling that his dragon never appears to him. However, he does seem to have a power that makes him unique from all of mankind. He can ride any dragon while everyone else can only ride their partner dragon. Then, one day, his dragon finally appears — though in the form of a human instead of a giant, fire-breathing lizard.
So, the setup is actually pretty decent classic fantasy fare: boy with special powers, magical academy, dragons galore. Unfortunately, it's pretty much all downhill from here.
This is very much an "ecchi" anime — meaning sexual fanservice is the name of the game. Thus the majority of the cast is not only female but unbelievably busty as well. Though, of course, there are the non-busty child-like girls (because you have to cover all your fetishes in an anime like this). The females of the series fall into the standard anime trope personalities — i.e., Tsundere, Kuudere, and Dandere — though I will admit Ash's dragon, Eco, and the princess of the realm, Silvia, get more than enough character development to make them interesting and emotionally engaging characters.
There is a lot of nudity in Dragonar Academy. Of course, there are no nipple or vagina shots (as it was shown on TV), but all the females have a penchant for losing most, if not all, of their clothing each episode — in fact, several major conflicts can only be resolved by nudity. Then, near the end of the series, the show just gives up any pretense and breaks out the tentacles.
The plot of the series is nothing special. For the most part, it is watchable though it is so predictable that it practically writes itself — e.g., it has a missing prince AND a masked bad guy? Gee, I wonder if the two are related.
But, as I stated at the start of this review, this anime had me from the get-go: I love dragons. As a kid, I rented and watched The Flight of Dragons so many times I wore out the tape and they had to buy another copy. If you make dragons a central part of your TV show, anime, or movie, then I am there and happy.
And as much sexual fanservice as there is in Dragonar Academy, it has dragon fanservice to match. It has wingless dragons that run on land, water dragons that can swim the rivers, seas, and underground reservoirs, and, of course, the great winged dragons that fly through the sky. Much of the character building is watching the cast bond with their specific dragons — especially in the case of Ash and Eco.
There are massive dragon battles, dragon knights, and zombie dragons. And as it is set in a dragon riding academy, there are numerous dragon-related sports. We see dragon duels, dragon races, and even dragon quidditch — DRAGON QUIDDITCH!
But when it comes down to it, guilty pleasure or no, even I can see Dragonar Academy is little more than fanservice and fluff. I would, in good conscience, recommend this anime to no one.
Though, on the other hand, it does have dragons. And besides, it's not like watching this anime is going to make you dumber.
...Yeah, it's totally going to make you dumber.
Dragonar Academy aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It is currently available in the US for free and with English subtitles on Funimation.