And you thought your adolescence was rough...
What's “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”?
Before setting off on a quest, it's a good idea to have a destination in mind. If anime is the modern day adventure and Crunchyroll is a wilderness filled with a daunting number of titles to choose from, consider “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” your map to hidden treasures. The goal of this column is to provide Level 1 otaku with guidance on which unknown anime titles they might like to take for a test-drive.
What's Dragon Half?
Dragon Half is a 2-part OAV series from 1993 that is based on the manga of the same name by Ryūsuke Mita that was serialized in Fujimi Shobo's Dragon Magazine from 1988 until 1994. Crunchyroll describes the series as follows:
“Knights and Dragons are mortal enemies, right? And everyone knows what happens when a Knight meets a Dragon, right? Wrong! When a Knight and a Dragon meet and fall in love, the result is Mink, a precocious young female who’s half human, half dragon and all trouble! Exactly how much trouble? Having vestigial wings and a tail isn’t a problem most teenage girls have to bear. However, when Mink insists on compounding her difficulties to infinite proportions by falling in love with handsome pop star and professional Dragon Slayer, Dick Saucer, she really has put her heart before her head!”
That's the premise of the show, but this summary alone may not give a complete impression of what Dragon Half is all about, so here are some other aspects that fans of comic fantasy may enjoy:
The Universal Language of Slapstick.
Let's face it, not every facet of Japanese comedy survives the localization process, not only because of the slippery nature of translation but also because foreign viewers won't have the same cultural context as Japanese ones. However, I find that one form of comedy tends to transcend these barriers: slapstick.
Whether it's the King expressing his anger with a 10 ton crushing press or Mink's mother walloping her errant husband with an enormous cartoon mallet, slapstick is universal. Dragon Half's humor relies less on wordplay and more on physical comedy, prat-falls, and extreme exaggeration, so the (sometimes literal) punchlines don't get lost in translation.
Also, "Dick Saucer" is a lot of fun to say aloud.
[A] Dragon [on a] Quest.
There's no denying that Dragon Half likes to poke fun at certain famous Japanese video game franchises, the most obvious one being Dragon Quest. Both Vina and her mother Venus in their natural forms bear more than a passing resemblance to the the ubiquitous smiling slime monsters from that series, and sharp-eyed fans may spot a group of background characters in Episode 1 that bear a certain cosmetic similarity to Dragon Quest heroes.
The video game references are even more overt in the original Dragon Half manga, where the parents of Lufa (a magic-wielding elf) are named Zelda and Link, and the parents of Pia (a heavily armored young lady) are named Mario and Peach. Subtlety is not Ryūsuke Mita's strong point.
A Fast-Paced Blast from the Past?
The Dragon Half OAVs were originally released in North America on VHS in 2000, with a dual-language DVD release following in 2002. Because the series is relatively short and easily accessible, it was often included as part of the programming for college anime clubs and for the video rooms of anime fan conventions. At the time, Dragon Half had a reputation for being a mile-a-minute, non-stop parade of gags, but compared to modern shows like Teekyu, its pacing seems positively sedate.
In retrospect, the 2002 English dub starring Jessica Calvello as Mink holds up surprisingly well. It captures the same off-the-cuff zaniness as the original Japanese version, which features Kotono Mitsuishi (Usagi Tsukino / Sailor Moon in Sailor Moon Crystal) as the eponymous love-struck, fire-breathing damsel.
If you're in the mood for some light entertainment with a lot of broad physical comedy, numerous chibi transformations, and a dash of fan service of the chain mail bikini variety, both the subbed version and the dubbed version of Dragon Half are available for your viewing pleasure on Crunchyroll, and if you like what you see, Dragon Half has also been re-released on DVD by Discotek Media.
Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.