Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dragon Half — A 20 Year Late Review

Dragon Half! An anime made when I was 8.

Mink flying wallpaper

I remember child-me scouring the Internet for anime related things in the wake of being exposed to Sailor Moon and coming across the 80s style drawn Dragon Half and being attracted to it both for being ostensibly fantasy and because, well, dragons. (The fact that the girl was cute was mitigated both by my youth and her nearly constant portrayal in super-deformed chibi style).

Then that ridiculously awesome ending song set to Beethoven's 7th Symphony, 4th Movement. At the time, my Japanese was even worse than it is now, so all I heard was glorious high-paced awesomeness (in midi form no less—it was a different era back then kids). Now knowing that the entire thing is about her omelet? Well, I'm in love with it even more.

The anime parody video "Kenny: Death and More Death" is another instance in my youth (albeit substantially later) where I was exposed to Dragon Half.

Still, I never saw Dragon Half, and I didn't ever really think I would.

Then it shows up on Crunchyroll like it's no biggie.

What? 20 year old anime showing up in the updated anime queue? WHAT IS THIS???

I had to watch it.

The art style is . . . there. It's strange. In one frame, it will look gorgeous (although unmistakably 80s style), and in the next it will be super-deformed and not even cute super-deformed, and then in the next it will be cute super-deformed. Seriously, what's up with that? Searching Google for images returns a ton of seriously beautiful images from the manga.

Dragon Half Manga Style Cover of a CD-ROM game

Are you seeing these? Seriously 80s, but seriously gorgeous art also. If the anime had kept style half this beautiful for 50% of the show, it would have gone down in history as one of the greatest anime based on the art alone.

I read an article suggesting that the super-deformed characters was part of the humor, in that they were making fun of anime genres over-reliance on chibis. It seemed more absurd than amusing in practice, but is part of the style of the show.

At first, I tried the dub so I could multitask—the shrieking characterized by a lot of American animation back then was wayyyy terrible. Checked out the sub for the second episode and it was representative of the sort of quality you expect from Japanese voice actors and actresses no matter the decade.

And this show was funny. Like, still funny 20 years later funny. Like, wow-I'm-all-of-a-sudden-really-looking-forward-to-seeing-more-of-the-episodes-WHAT-DO-YOU-MEAN-THEY-ONLY-MADE-TWO?!?!?!? funny.

Yes, two OVA that are more the start of a series than anything else with no real conclusion to them either. And the manga's never been given an official translation for us in the states so you're stuck with illegal fan translations if you want to explore more of this classic work.

The show follows the half-dragon/half-human Mink as she searches for a potion that will turn her 100% human since she's in love with an idol dragon-slayer. It's initial conflict is primarily motivated by the actions that brought about her existence in the first place; namely, her dragon slayer father was sent to kill her dragon mother, but fell in love with her instead (which the king is not too happy about).

Even though it's only two episodes and the manga is all but nonexistent on this continent, I'd say that if you're a fan of the fantasy genre (especially video games and anime), or if you like anime like Excel Saga or Gintama, then Dragon Half is well worth the hour or so of your time it takes to watch. Alternatively, if you want to be well-versed in anime, I'd say it is definitely considered a classic, so you might want to take a Citizen Kane style approach to watching it even if it's not your particular cup of tea. 

So, have you seen Dragon Half? Was it 20 years ago or sometime this decade? What did you think? Comment below.

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