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Dragons: Riders of Berk – “How To Start A Dragon Academy” Recap

by on August 10, 2012

All seemed to be going well in the town of Berk after Hiccup secured peace between the dragons and the vikings. However, while the dragons are no longer the menace that they used to be, they are still quite the nuisance, with many villagers distraught over the damage that routinely befalls their village. One viking in particular, Mildew, uses it as an opportunity to rally anti-dragon sentiment in order to demand that something be done. Hiccup volunteers to deal with the problem, an act that Stoick reluctantly agrees to, but Hiccup soon finds himself to be overwhelmed by the sole responsibility. Despite it being his first day, his failure is inexcusable, as the dragons raided the town’s food storage and depleted the supplies that they had been saving for winter. Seizing the opportunity, Mildew convinces Stoick to lock up the dragons and cast them off the island, as dragons can’t change their nature – a truth which dawns upon Hiccup and convinces him that instead of trying to change the dragons, they should embrace them and have them help their village with their individual gifts. He and his friends fly off, helping to catch fish, herd warthogs and tend to farms, saving the village from a harsh winter with no supplies. Their success is rewarded by the creation of Berk’s Dragon Training Academy, where Hiccup and his friends will continue to learn to co-exist with their dragons and improve the lives of everyone.

As I said in a recent blog, I had high hopes for this show. It had the potential to be everything that Kung Fu Panda: Legends Of Awesomeness failed to be. Well, after having watched it, I am impressed. It wasn’t perfect, and I’ll get to why in a little bit, but it picked up where the movie left off and it depicted a realistic problem that would occur if dragons were suddenly semi-domesticated. I’ve seen some comments online that disrespected its animation, but nobody should have realistically expected theatrical quality and I think they did a far better job then they probably needed to. Some of the shots are gorgeous, although the dragons themselves are a lot less impressive than their human counterparts. It’s easier to render humans, I know, but hopefully season two will allow them to return a bit of the luster to the dragons’ scales and other prominent features.

The episode itself was enjoyable. I could have gone without the toilet humor – with dragons literally defecating all over the village every day at 3:00 PM – but at least that played a part in the plot towards the end and I doubt too many future episodes are going to try to use that gag. I like how the show is continuing to grow the relationships between the characters and their dragons, with Astrid, Fishlegs, Snotlout, Ruffnut and Tuffnut all acting as you would expect when their dragons were going to be sent away. It’s also nice to see Hiccup and Toothless continue to bond. The formation of the Dragon Academy also sets the foundation for future episodes, but I sincerely hope that not every episode is about dragons misbehaving and then figuring out what’s wrong with them. It wouldn’t help the show to be that formulaic.

What I didn’t like about this episode were mostly small things. Stoick’s comment that Hiccup wasn’t yet a man struck me as off, as in the movie, he saved everybody’s life and proved that he was arguably the bravest viking in the village. Through the course of the movie, Stoick accepted his son in full and was proud that he grew up on his own, yet Hiccup had to argue in this episode that he’ll never be allowed to become a man if Stoick never lets him do things. I think when you save everybody by killing an evil dragon, you’ve more or less earned manhood. It also would have been nice if Hiccup, you know, brought up that fact. I know he’s not a braggart, but how many of the villagers who were upset with him in this episode would be dead if he hadn’t rescued them all at the end of the movie? Things like that shouldn’t be ignored. Speaking of ignoring things, Mildew rallied the entire village against the dragons, and everything suddenly went back to normal just because the dragons brought them food – never mind the fact that nothing was done in the episode to stop the dragons from doing that damage all over again.

I suppose that’s why the Dragon Training Academy was formed, but it seemed like a cheap resolution and all of that anger that the characters had about the dragons dissipated without so much of a fuss. Hopefully more will come from it in future episodes, as I don’t think Mildew can do much as an antagonist if he’s a lone curmudgeon who angrily yells at dragons to get off of his lawn.

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