While the Dragon Quest series is only moderately popular here in the United States, it’s huge in Japan, so it’s not too surprising that there would be spin-offs. Occasionally there are official translations of these as well, but most of the time it’s left up to fans. The Dai no Dobouken (roughly translated “Dai’s Great Adventure”) manga, which ran from 1989 through 1996, has received a fan translation.
There are a LOT of issues, and I’ve been reading it on and off for years, often forgetting exactly where I was. It includes a lot of elements from the games, like many of the same monsters, spells, and character classes. There are also battles with several boss monsters and finally the Demon Lord, some of them being quite long. I don’t think I’m even exaggerating when I say the final showdown takes place over about one hundred issues. The story begins with the twelve-year-old Dai living on an island inhabited by friendly monsters. When the trainer of heroes named Avan, who had earlier defeated a powerful demon, arrives there, he trains Dai in combat.
I think Avan might be the first DQ character to wear glasses, although Nevan in DQ6 later does as well.
They’re sort of a Clark Kent thing for Avan, not actually disguising his identity, but making him appear to be less of a threat. The boy teams up with two of Avan’s other students: a cowardly and rude mage named Pop, and a girl named Marm who’s equipped with a magic gun that fires bullets imbued with spells. This is a cool invention that I wish had shown up in the games. When the gun is broken, she learns martial arts, effectively undergoing a class change.
Pop has a perpetual crush on Marm, and the comic later introduces an oracle named Merle who is interested in Pop. Dai has his own love interest in Leona, Princess of Papunika, who is skilled in magic.
While I don’t think anyone would be surprised that there are a fair number of dirty jokes and sexy fanservice in the manga, it’s a little disturbing when you find out how young these characters are. The oldest is Marm at sixteen, while Pop is fifteen and Leona fourteen. I think they get a little older during the course of the story, but still.
One thing I appreciate is how several of the villains end up switching sides. I have a fondness for Crocodine, one of the Demon Lord Vearn’s officers, who becomes a good guy; and I was a little disappointed that his role decreased in later issues.
Another friendly monster character is Chiu, a mouse who’s weak in combat, but comes into his strength as a leader.
There are multiple heroic sacrifices, although most of the time the characters turn out to not really be dead, which is also pretty true to the games. The world isn’t one from any of the games, but its locations are ones you could totally imagine appearing in them.
I’m also taking a quick look at the Abel Yuusha anime from 1989 through 1991. The first thirteen of forty-six episodes were dubbed into English and broadcast as simply Dragon Warrior, but unfortunately it didn’t last beyond that in this country. I found versions of the next few episodes with fan-made English subtitles on YouTube, but most of them remain only in Japanese (and, strangely enough, French). Since Akira Toriyama, the guy who did a lot of the designs for the DQ series, also worked on Dragon Ball Z, the look is pretty similar. My brother used to watch DBZ, and I thought it looked rather too over-the-top. Some of the human designs in the series come across as a little too silly for my tastes, but the monsters are pretty cool and faithful to the games. Borrowing much of its story from DQ3 but going in some quite different directions, it concerns the Demon Lord Baramos’ quest to revive an ancient dragon and drink of its blood, hence attaining immortality. To this end, he kidnaps a girl from Aliahan named Tiala, who bears a magical red stone. Master Yogi sends out Tiala’s friends Abel and Moko to save her. The former is a noble sort who just needs to develop his skills, while the latter is a goofy fat guy who’s always hungry. They’re soon joined by two others: the lecherous and frequently drunk but also formidable wizard Janack (I think Japan has some kind of old charter saying that every series produced there needs at least one pervert character), and the tough bounty hunter Daisy.
In the episodes I’ve seen, DQ monsters that appeared included chimeras, orcs, stone men, a giant anteater (I’ve always kind of wondered how they could possibly pose a threat), a horned demon similar to Belial/Zarlox from DQ2, and an upright wolf. This last is Dodonga (I don’t know if there’s any connection between his name and the triceratops-like monsters in the Zelda games), a lovable but not-too-bright guard who is doing his best to obey Baramos’ orders while being friendly with his charge Tiala.
Zoma has been mentioned but hasn’t yet appeared in person (in demon?), although it did show the automatic torch-lighting for when you reach Zoma’s lair in the game. Baramos looks pretty much nothing like he does in-game, appearing rather less silly.
The most recent episode I watched had a monster who was pretty much exactly the Marquis de Leon from DQ4, a four-armed lion-man who is impersonating a king. I wonder if he was written into the show or the game first. While I don’t know of a complete synopsis of the rest of the series, the list of episode titles indicate that the Phoenix Ramia appears, as do Hargon and Malroth/Sidoh from DQ2.
The characters visit several locations from DQ3, including Aliahan, Reeve (called Leebe in the translation), and Greenlad. The world map doesn’t look quite the same, however, and some of the places don’t match ones in the game at all. There’s actually a character named Baharata, which is the Indian town in DQ3. An early episode contains a mention of ancient Greece, which I thought was kind of out of place, but then the DQ3 world does parallel our own. Another episode I haven’t seen apparently takes place in the ruined town of Domdora, also known as Hauksness, which is part of the DQ3 underworld. And Estark, which in the anime appears to be the name of the monsters’ homeland, is that of a powerful sleeping demon in DQ4.