Of the tropes which feature heavily in the entertainment I enjoy most, such as “magical girls” and “superheroes” and “giant robots,” one particular important element has yet to appear during this project: Dragons.
(No, Yona doesn’t really count: Her dragons are humans with magical blood in them. No, GATE doesn’t really count either: Only the one dragon and it’s purely an antagonist.)
What is it?
How To Train Your Dragon is, for our purposes, an animated feature film ever-so-loosely based upon a children’s book. It spawned sequels and specials and TV series. We’re sticking to the first movie (mostly) in this entry, however.
What kind of story is it?
It’s a lot of “the hero’s journey” blended with fantastical elements with a strong undercurrent of “can’t we all just get along.” Young Hiccup wants to prove his worth to his father and to the village of Berk in general. Because one particular attempt to do so goes spectacularly awry, he’s set on the path to greatness by way of solving Berk’s ongoing dragon problem.
Why do you like it?
The writing is snappy, the story is engaging… but let’s be honest, mostly it’s the dragons. Everything else is just a bonus.
Also, this movie features one of my favorite lines of sardonic dialog in all of cinema: “Thank you for nothing, you useless reptile.”
What might one not like about it?
Being structured as a hero’s journey plot, let alone a modern animated movie aimed at children, HTTYD is fairly predictable in trajectory. The surprises you’re in for aren’t of the “what happens next” variety.
Other thoughts about it?
At the risk of spoiling a wholly unsurprising plot point of barely-medium-level importance, the boy gets the girl in the end. But here’s something I like: In the second movie, they don’t reset the relationship and force the boy to re-get the girl. They’re a pair, the relationship is portrayed as “here are two people who like each other and have learned each other’s quirks,” and that is amazing. So many sequels want to reset the relationship from the last movie so they can recycle the relationship drama. That HTTYD2 doesn’t is just so damned refreshing. (Oh yeah, I recommend the second movie. It’s still a sequel, but it’s a fairly good one.)
Where can I watch it?
As of this writing, it’s available as a streaming rental from most of the usual suspects. You should just buy it on Blu-Ray though, really. Would I steer you wrong?