While we might have a while to wait to watch the Drifting Dragons anime thanks to it being licensed by Netflix, manga fans can still dive into the series this month as Kodansha Comics bring the series to print in the West. Is this fantasy series worth your time? Let’s find out!
The story follows Mika who is a ‘draker’ on the airship Quin Zaza. As a draker, he and the ship’s crew earn their living by hunting dragons either for riches or to help out people and towns terrorised by them. The Quin Zaza has just been joined by new dragon hunter Takita and Mika is in charge of showing her the ropes.
Dragon hunting is a dangerous business and only the best drakers stay alive. Mika is reckless and driven by his desire to eat dragon meat, but he’s also incredibly talented. Takita is left in awe of his abilities while simultaneously fearing for his life every time they encounter a dragon!
One day Mika teaches Takita a saying the Quin Zaza team have, explaining that if they’re prepared to take the life of a beast they should be prepared to lose their own. With these words in their hearts, they fly on, chasing their dreams and ever more exciting encounters.
The premise of Drifting Dragons might be a simple one, but it’s brought together by an interesting cast and gorgeous artwork. The crew aboard the Quin Zaza are all varied, with interesting histories and reasons for being on the ship. This volume spends most of its time focused on Mika and Takita, but it also spends a chapter with Vannie – one of the older girls who become close to Takita.
One day Takita asks Vannie why she’s on the team, to which she answers there was nothing left for her on the ground so she learnt to fly. Despite such a firm answer, the discussion leaves Vannie wondering if she truly belongs here and what her dreams are. When Mika suddenly finds a difficult dragon to hunt, Vannie is about to rediscover why she chose this way of life.
I touched on it briefly, but let’s talk about mangaka Taku Kuwabora’s artwork. Drifting Dragons style is quite similar to Witch Hat Atelier (although less Western in its character designs). The series doesn’t use a lot of dark colours, instead, it utilises lighter tones of grey. It clearly is inked but gives off the impression of being pencil sketches. The pages are clean and detailed, while the action scenes are easy to follow and given bigger panels to emphasise the fights against dragons. It’s a style you don’t see all that often in recent manga and Kuwabora does a fantastic job with it.
I also like how well Kuwabora incorporates the food angle into the series. Mika is always hunting dragons to find tasty meat and the series often focuses on how best to prepare it to give yourself a delicious meal if you lived in their world. There are even recipes between chapters, which I thought was a fun touch. Even though we’re unable to sample the dishes ourselves, they still look mouthwatering which is a testament to Kuwabora’s artwork.
As previously mentioned, Drifting Dragons comes to the West thanks to Kodansha Comics. Some of you reading this may already be familiar with this manga thanks to the series being simultaneously published on Crunchyroll alongside its Japanese release. Kodansha has also been releasing the volumes digitally since 2017.
The series is translated by Adam Hirsch and the translation reads well with no obvious problems. This release also includes some colour pages at the beginning, one of which depicts the whole Quin Zaza crew which is a real treat as an exciting fan whose quite attached to the cast.
Overall Drifting Dragons Volume 1 offers a fascinating read, which captures the majestic nature of both dragons and those brave enough to chase after them. With the anime due for release later in the year, there is no better time to jump aboard this series!
A free sample of the series can be found on Kodansha’s website here.