In the past year, manga publisher Seven Seas have made a big effort to re-release, or simply release for the first time, many classic manga from the early 1980-1990s. The latest series to get this treatment is fantastical comedy Dragon Half. Today I’m here to check out Seven Seas’ first omnibus volume to find out whether this series has stood the test of time.
Our story follows Mink, the half-dragon, half-human daughter of the skilled swordsman Rouce the Red Lightning and his dragon wife, Mana. Up until now Mink has lived her life peacefully with her parents and friends Lufa and Pia, but at the age of 15 she gets the chance to meet her idol: Dick Saucer. Dick is a popular popstar, but also happens to be a famous dragon slayer – and his first reaction to meeting Mink is not a good one! Unwilling to give up on her love, Mink (and her friends) set out on a quest to obtain the legendary People Potion, which would allow her to turn fully into a human and then hopefully have a happily ever after romance with Dick.
The journey ahead is a difficult one for Mink, especially when her rival in love, Vina, is the daughter of the king! King Siva wishes to kill Rouce and Mink in order take Mink’s mother for himself. In an attempt to do this, he sends all manner of hateful creatures to end Mink’s life. To make matters worse, Vina often challenges Mink to battle, too (despite always losing)! With the world against her, the road ahead isn’t an easy one for our young protagonist.
Admittedly, Dragon Half’s plot doesn’t really expand beyond this, even with the two volumes in this omnibus. If anything, it quickly dives into a ‘monster of the week’ formula rather than moving the story along. That said, this doesn’t hurt it too much as the charm lies with the cast and their silly antics.
Mink, Pia and Lufa are incredibly lucky in their battles. Whenever they’re about to lose, they’re almost always bailed out by a whim of fate that’s genuinely entertaining to watch unfold. Their interactions and back and forths are funny and a kind of humour that doesn’t really exist in modern manga series. It’s very much a product of its time – for better and worse.
I only started reading manga in the last decade and I’ve not read the vast majority of classics that Seven Seas has been rescuing, so reviewing Dragon Half was something of a new experience for me – namely down to the art style. I was initially concerned that I wouldn’t get on with the artwork, given how far manga has come since then, but I surprisingly got on with Dragon Half okay.
Drawn by Ryusuke Mita, the art has aged well and it’s charming in the same way many series from the late 1980s and early 1990s are. However, I do have some complaints. The first issue is that there are a lot of inconsistencies in how Rouce is drawn page to page, as well as some often off-model shots of Mink and her friends – but these can be generally overlooked as part of the series’ charm. The bigger problem for me is that I found the paneling difficult to follow, and there were a couple of incidents where I was reading speech bubbles (or looking at whole panels!) in the wrong order. I’m not really sure what caused this, but I think it’s due to the panels all being quite cramped and similar sizes compared to paneling from the more modern manga I’m used to, where panels are usually vastly different sizes, page to page.
This release comes West thanks to Seven Seas, who have collected the series into three omnibus volumes. This first volume includes Volumes 1-2 of the Japanese release and includes a variety of coloured pages, illustrations and comments from the mangaka on the series and art. The translation has been handled by Andrew Cunningham and it reads well but feels oddly dated. I’m not sure if they were too literal in the references they used instead of updating the text for the current age, if it’s meant to be part of the charm, or I’m just really not the audience for it, but either way it threw me out of the story quite often. However, translation aside, this is a nice release and I’m sure any existing Dragon Half fan would be incredibly happy with it.
Overall, Dragon Half was an enjoyable read despite me having no real incentive to continue reading it beyond this release. While this style of comedy isn’t for me, I think those who like classic comedy manga will really enjoy Seven Seas’ release. The series being three omnibus volumes also helps cut down on the cost of collecting it all!
Dragon Half ©1998 Ryusuke Mita