This book is utterly shameless and I write this in the most positive manner possible. There is no joke so low it won’t go to, no gag too dumb for it to try, and it delivers them in the steady pace of a M134 Minigun. A lot of them are groaners, several would probably make you feel a bit like a creep just for reading them, but the fact is that every single page of this book tries its hardest to make you laugh and many of them succeed.
Written, Illustrated and Colored by Ryusuke Mita
Translated by Andrew Cunningham and David Lumsdom
English Lettering by Laura Heo
Mink has fallen for the dreamy idol, Dick Saucer, but there’s a problem: Dick’s not just an idol–he’s a dragon slayer, too…and Mink is half dragon! Now Mink and her friends must set out on a quest to destroy the Demon Lord Azetodeth and gain a potion that will make Mink human! Will Mink find true love or is this doomed to be a fetch quest failure?
“I may disapprove of a movie for going too far, and yet have a sneaky regard for a movie that goes much, much farther than merely too far.”
– Roger Ebert
There are over 300 pages in this volume, the first of three, and every single one them is drawn and written in the maniac glee of a class clown that just had a gallon full of sugar-infused caffeine dropped down his throat. It starts of at top speed, in the first five pages we get a fight scene, some violent slapstick and a suggestive scene of our (still teenaged) heroine, and just keeps gathering pace. The plot does not so much “breathes” as it moves with lightning speed from event to event, from gag to gag; and the book is all the stronger for it.
Humor is a notoriously poor traveler. This is especially true when you have to cross both a cultural and lingual and temporal barrier. After all, the original manga is almost 30-year-old by this point, and so many of its reference points (and there are a lot of references here) are not based on concepts I’m unfamiliar with. Kudos than to Ryusuke Mita, and the team at Seven Seas responsible for the localization and translation, for making me smile at least once par page. While I have no doubt that many of jokes are radically different in the original tongue, there’s a gag based on the “hail HYDRA” I doubt the original mangaka intended, none of them feel out of place: mostly because “Dragon Half” feels like a world of pure nonsense, everything can happen and at some point it probably will.
The world of this manga may start of as Dungeons and Dragons pastiche, down to enemies cribbed wholesale from an early 1980s Monster’s Manual, but the creator has fun adding modernistic elements: idol-singers, televisions, charted flights. Thankfully while the author is obviously self-aware the manga itself mostly avoid winking at the reader, rather than pointing out its own absurdity it just lets it be.
Ryusuke Mita’s pencils are the true stars of the show: while he starts off a bit awkward you can see his storytelling advancing in leaps and bounds as the manga continues, honing his ability to deliver gags. His biggest asset is, I believe, his unwillingness to confine himself to a particular style of illustration: characters can shift mood and presentation, several times in the same page, which helps sell the idea of a world that is unmoored from the normal conventions of adventure story. Mita masters, in particular, the use of the wild reaction shot which both sells the previous gag while becoming a joke by itself.
This manga is also a lesson in artistic development: compare the rather oddly told first chapter, in which the energetic nature of his causes him to run through the choreography of the action so quickly one is not really sure what is going on (we start with a panel of Mink threatening a monster with a punch but the location of the monster and the position of her hands makes it really unclear how she reached over to it) to the last third of the book in which the page build becomes more flowing and self-assured.Continued below
Reading “Dragon Half: Omnibus Edition 1” is like watching a stand-up comedian going from his first five-minute spot on amateur night to headlining a Netflix special in one go. Do note- being that I am neophyte in the world of manga it could just be me growing used to the particular rhythms of this type of storytelling and that more experienced readers will manage to go with the flow from page one.
On the negative side I will mention, once more, that this book is often very sexualized, with much of the focus on the various teenaged protagonists losing cloths and being just-nearly showing off breasts and asses. I was not disturbed too much, the over the top tone of the book allowed me to take pretty much everything it threw at me in stride as part of the gag atmosphere, but some readers might want to take note.
Yet despite “Dragon Half” being story with an obvious young-male-reader in mind, and despite the plot being centered around achieving the affection of an older man, there is something honest about the comradery of the girls. They fight and bicker and use each other and yet remain true friends; they all end up with rounded personalities (more or less) – with characters that feel bigger than limitations of the plot; they might be used as pin-ups every once in a while, but they never end up as just that.