Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Anime Review 46-Dragon Half

A Great, Wonderful Joke: Dragon Half (1993 OVA)

Hi, I am the Eclectic Dude and I review it for the lolz.

Well, It’s Holiday Break and you know what time is it? Why, yes, to look at another wacky fantasy OVA from the 90s. Last December, I looked at Detatoko Princess, which involved the wacky adventures of a magical princess and her band of friends. This year, well, is Dragon Half.
DVD cover
Dragon Half is based off of a manga created by Ryusuke Mita, who has done other stuff but none of that ended up in the States, sad to say. The manga ran from 1988 to 1994, making this the second series that’s as old as I am. Good dear Haruhi, I am getting old. In 1993, a 2 episode OVA came out, quickly licensed in North America by once-old reliable ADV Films soon after. This review will have details of the plot in it, so if you don’t like spoilers, to put it bluntly: oh well.
Mink and her two friends, blonde elf Luffa and little girl Pia with her pet 
The first episode is titled “Mink’s Journey”. This serves as an introduction to Mink and the world she lives. Mink is a Halfling, result of a marriage by a once famous knight and a red dragon (the most dangerous kind it appears). She is terrifyingly obsessed with Dick Saucer (heh), the kingdom’s male idol singer and dragon hunter. Her titular journey is get to his recent concert in the big city, since she lives out in the boonies.  A subplot emerges as the king and his sorcerer scheme to kill Mink’s dad, then later Mink, so they can get the female red dragon. But it doesn’t amount to much, so nothing else will mention on that.

Anyway, Mink goes to the big city, which is a mix of medieval fantasy and some extraneous elements, like an airport and TV and other such things. There, she runs into Princess Vina, daughter to the king who also has a crush on Dick Saucer. A scuffle ensues, with Mink crashing into a window and kissing Dick Saucer by accident. OF course, then Vina points out that Mink would never get Dick Saucer’s affections since he is a dragon hunter and she is a half-dragon: “You would end up on his wall then in his bed” as Vina puts it. So, Mink goes on a journey with her two friends to get the famed ‘people potion’ when can turn the user into a full human. It turns out, through flashback, that Vina is a half-slime who learned dark magic to be human. However, Mink’s journey is sidelined until the next and last episode.

Mink during the low point of the tournament
The second episode is “The Brutal Killer Martial Arts Tournament”. Mink and her friends run into Dick Saucer (his mic is also a dagger as well-must make concerts where he would throw his mic into the crowd rather dicey affairs). A rather one-sided fight ensues and doesn’t really resolve. The rest of the episode turns into a tournament episode, much like how much one entire arc of YuYu Hakusho devoted to this. It features not just Mink, Dick Saucer, Princess Vina and some other monsters with bad-ass fighting skills. Though, Mink has to go through an initial Test-fight against Minotaurus, which is easy won despite Minotaurus looking like a scary dark RPG reject. There is one hilarious bit with the king’s sorcerer accidentally giving ex-lax to Dick Saucer and other failing schemes. The various matches are short and sweet, thank goodness. Though, I suppose if this show got full series, they could have stretched out each fight per episode. Mink, of course, ends up beating all of her enemies (totally pawning Princess Vina). Her final match is against the prince of a Warlock. Much wanton destruction ensues. But at the end, Mink wins the tournament. And there was much rejoicing (and fan service lol).  

Now, here are the good things about the Dragon Half. Like most fantasy OVAs of the decade, it shares many traits with those titles: Simple plotting, Humor aplenty, goofy monsters and characters, cheap looking yet charming. The plot is as simple as it gets. Much like Rune Explorers, simple is often best. There are plenty of humor, both in the visual imagery and in the script. Humorous images include Ye King’s Anger being a giant rock, the sorcerer carrying around bucket of ice, Princess Vina being really OTT, Damamaru the stupid knight of the king (any scene will do) the warlock prince timing out the match against Mink to watch the first episode on VHS (oh wow that makes this OVA show its age). The script is loaded with lots of funny lines. Here is just a sampling:
“Love has overcome my common sense”
“Well, I’m the product of very strange circumstances”
“A demon doesn’t consider story continuity”

The characters are goofy as are the monsters. Then again, medieval fantasy by necessity is inherently ridiculous anyway. But, that’s what I like about it. Again, the main cast of characters is just a step up from being caricatures. However, the humor more than makes up for the deficiencies in character or plot in this OVA.

One of many chibi moments (kawaii xD)
Finally, this OVA is cheap looking yet charming. Even on the DVD that I watched this on, it still looks cheap. The animation also has a tendency to shift from semi-competent animation to full-blown chibi/SD and then back again, even within seconds. Yet, it has a certain endearing charm to it. It’s like the production team was like ‘Well, we only got 2 episodes and the budget of next to Nil, but dang it we will make it fun and entertaining’. This applies to the ending song nicely. It is a wacky adaptation of Beethoven’s Ninth, written by Kohei Tanaka (really amusing), with completely nonsensical song lyrics of course.

On a final note, the dub is pretty fecking hilarious. Granted, it is another 90s ADV dub, featuring Jessica Calvello, Amanda Winn Lee, Aaron Krohn, etc. The English dub goes above and beyond with the humor that is in the original Japanese.

This leads into the only real downside: There are only the 2 episodes of this series animated. Originally, it was slated to be a 4 episode OVA but since the first 2 episodes bombed in Japan upon original release, the other 2 never got made. ADV Films bought the license and distributed it, where it has gained quite a cult following in the anime community. They were hoping of continuing the series, but that got dragged into production hell. Now, since ADV went under, I doubt that will ever happen.

That is quite frankly a shame. I once showed this OVA at the local anime club meeting a few months ago. The other members were laughing their pants off, as was I (and I’ve seen it before). Then the end of the second episode came, and some of them asked me “Is that it?” and I replied flatly, “Sadly yes.” Granted, there is still the manga which is lurking on the web somewhere I’m sure.

In short, Dragon Half is funny and hilarious, yet cheap looking and too short. If you got a hour to kill, then this is a suitable use of that time I’m sure. If you like wacky fantasy anime, then you’ll enjoy it a lot. Well worth the look.

Next Up:
Christmas Special (TBA), released on Wednesday December 26 2012


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