In the year 3195, there was a war between an army of robots and the humans. When Shaian, a sentient combat armor, lost his companion in battle, he shut down until his internal systems spotted a new human. It's now almost a 1000 years later, and Shaian's greatest enemy is still alive and doing battle in Brazil. With a new friend`s help, Shaian may be able to stop this evil force before another war rages over the continent.
If you love that style of gritty, garage, 80's mecha anime, this lost, unpolished gem might be right up your alley.
It's clear that they only had the production budget for a short one-shot, so the story seems to be very condensed. Still, I love this kind of stuff.
The live-action opening breaks the animation fourth wall, but years later it still sticks in my mind.
Dragon's Heaven is a junkyard, sci-fi mecha with some interesting art. It's from the the late 80's, but it honestly looks much older than it truly is. As it's junkyard sci-fi, a lot of the design-work revolves around designs that are much like the "Space Hulk" in "Warhammer". It's a style of sci-fi setting that generally isn't used too often, but it works fine here. Although it's quite different, the art as a whole has some pleasant charm that one might slowly get accustomed to. It doesn't last for long though, as the animation section of Dragon's Heaven is actually less than the entire 30-minute
The OVA starts off with a live-action opening of some, at least attempted, creative filming using models of the actual leading mechs that are seen in the OVA. The after-credits shows the process of them creating the model-replicas that seem to actually be almost the size of a person. It was interesting, but it was clear that this was still an anime studio as the filming equipment was pretty low quality and the camera movement felt a tad amateur. That might add to the experience for some people though, so that'll end up being a subjective call.
I would actually say that the junkyard aspect of this OVA does come with the expected result of having designs that wouldn't work in reality, even though the models seem to be able to stand. The villain mech would clearly never have been able to stand if translated to real-life as it was shown in the animation. It can be noticed in the animation counterpart that the torso is basically a twig, while the model-version has a much thicker torso which allows it to barely stand while almost tipping forward (which you can notice from the model's head not being able to lift properly). My claim doesn't direct only at the main mechs though, but everything as a whole. The design-work is impractical, but that doesn't need to be a negative as it should basically be expected when going into junkyard sci-fi.
The art is, again, pleasant with an old looking style that's a tad colorful with a good amount of detail lines. The detail lines added are in large numbers and give everything a rough feeling, making the clear-cut characters feel very contrasted to the world around them. There is also some fair animation and some consistent proportions to basically everything. There wasn't much cool moments of fighting, but there was action to a somewhat small extent.
The story is pretty bare-bones with there being an evil, imperialistic nation that wants to take over the world, while a girl finds a machine and simultaneously protects her city. It never was clear to me whether her goal was to protect her city or to simply fight with what she discovered, however. The other character is actually the mech she finds which has built-in A.I. There wasn't exactly engaging dialogue between the two characters, but the characters fit the setting in its pleasant atmosphere making it easy to enjoy the company of the characters. There's also a lacking amount of human faces shown here, mainly only the girl being shown. The human girl brings some relief in that aspect to serving as the contrast to the metal and war-torn world around her. The ending to this story isn't really an ending to everything, but to a single issue that was occurring in the character's pasts. The conclusion to that element is pretty anti-climactic and also makes the final words that were spoken quite comical and cheesy. Even so, the story wasn't really the driver and wasn't really required to do much in such a small run-time.
Dragon's Heaven is a junkyard, sci-fi short that is based around mecha. There isn't much cool fighting moments to be had though, while there certainly are a few times where shots are fired and explosions are made. The story is a bit basic and dry, but the setting makes up for it with being a tad refreshing in its simple goals. It also adds to the enjoyment knowing that so much work and passion went into this little OVA down to the creation of the models. Even if one isn't too impressed with the designs present here, it's hard to not feel a little joyed to see how the people behind this OVA felt very highly of it. The soundtrack is also orchestrated and done wonderfully. It all totaled into an atmosphere similar to something like "Dragon Heart" while being an anime in a junkyard sci-fi setting. Dragon's Heaven is so short that it shouldn't require too much risk to give it a shot, but the visual style might look "dated" to some who can't handle older titles. If that isn't a problem, try this one out.
There's really only one reason you would want to watch this one-shot OVA: The artwork. It's like nothing else you are going to see anywhere else in anime or manga (with, maybe the exception of some of the ancient tech of Hayao Miyazaki in the Nausicaa manga). The art style is much more reminiscent of eighties European comics. More in the tradition of Heavy Metal or Epic Illustrated, heavily leaning on Jean Giraud or Pepe Moreno.
All of the artwork, that is, except for the main female character. Which is designed in a much more standard stereotypical
anime design. The juxtaposition between the two is very, very jarring, and because the running length of this is less than 30 minutes, you never have the time to get over it. It's annoying all the way through.
The story is nothing worth writing home about - a post apocalyptic grudge match between two sentient giant mecha in the far, far distant future. But really, forget the story, it's meaningless anyway. Just soak in the gritty art instead.
Dragons Heaven is a movie that I would recommend only if you are looking for an anime purely for it's art style. The style is amazing and should be your reason to see it, with its gritty texture and feel. The story starts off very interesting but when it gets going, the story becomes very bare. The character interactions fell real but the villain fells a little over the top and not enough explanation for his motivation besides just wanting to take over the world and being evil. I fell that if it had another thirty minutes, it would benefit a lot with being able
to flesh out the characters and world to get more invested in what is happening. Overall would recommend and implore you to make up your own mind on this interesting OVA.