Dragon’s Heaven is an eccentric anime directed by Makoto Hashimoto that —after hearing about it— I instantly dropped everything to watch it. It’s a giant robot mech anime with a Mœbius-”inspired” aesthetic. Actually, it’s a 100% rip-off of Mœbius, but it’s so well executed it stands on its own as something uniquely original (in a “great artists steal” kind of way). All the sand blowing and dimpled grunge effects that characterize Mœbius’s work were done by hand frame by frame… it’s a stunning work of art.

The sci-fi stands on its own as well. It’s the story of Ikuru, a girl in the year 3195 who awakens a robot named Shaian who has been dormant for 1,000 years. Shaian deactivated itself after a battle when its human copilot was killed in action. Shaian soon discovers his nemesis is still operational and doing battle in Brazil. It’s a Machines vs. Machines+Humans story with an assertive female protagonist. It makes you think about the relationships between humans and machines; will it be symbiotic or authoritarian? Also the notion that machines will outlive their human counterparts by millennia and hold on to centuries-long beef is interesting to think about as we feed machines with our biases in the present day.

But that’s not all! It gets weirder (beyond the awkward robot-human innuendo). The film is sandwiched between a poorly shot, ultra-smokey practical effects title sequence on the frontside and a documentary of how the director himself made the title sequence on the backside. It has the vibe of a gritty 1980s behind-the-scenes (like Alien or Star Wars) but also the air that no one could tell Hashimoto “No, this model thing isn’t good.” Some human quirks wrapped up in a film about two embattled robots.

If you’re curious about something called “Dragon’s Heaven” but has very little to do with actual dragons, I recommend it on the artwork alone. Feel free to skip all the non-anime parts.