Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Mar 4th 2011
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Gathering items with magical power is a lucrative business, controlled mainly by the Society, an organization devoted to the scientific study of unscientific objects. But like any business, there are other interested parties, some legitimate, some not. Ryuji Kisaragi gets up close and personal with some of the latter when his cousin decides to rob some black marketeers to get her hands on their "Lost Preciouses." Why his cousin Eriko brings him along is because Ryuji is a powerful Breaker, as individuals who can use Lost Preciouses are called. Not that that's much use. During their escape the box containing the artifact breaks open to reveal...a girl. Soon to be dubbed Rose, the girl is no simple kidnap victim though; she's a powerful red dragon. And boy does she like Ryuji. So much so that she sticks with him through attacks by other dragons, convoluted conflicts involving frosty swords and medieval legends, and even his unwitting flirtation with a cat-burgling wolf-girl. Which is just as well for Ryuji. A flame-spewing girlfriend can be mighty useful in such situations.
Like stories in any medium, those in light novels are variable in quality. Some series based on them are quite brilliant, some unique, others merely better planned. And some are cliché-peddling genre-slaves as empty as the calories in a Pop-Tart. Of course, sometimes a toasted slab of sugar is what you're looking for. At times like those, you could do worse than Dragon Crisis.
About the only thing that separates Dragon Crisis from your average lump of romantic comedy clichés is its light-novel-derived short-story structure. And maybe a little extra depth in its setting. Ryuji is exactly that too-nice, personality-impaired guy we've come to expect from harem romances. He's too bland to really like, too kind to really hate, too weak-willed to resist being dragged into whatever adventure the series feels like staging at a particular time, and, not incidentally, too considerate to stomp on the feelings of women looking to join his harem. The girl-in-a-suitcase gimmick is a classic way of getting that started, and of course she absolutely has to be a superpowered beauty with the body of a thirteen-year-old, the mentality of a four-year-old, and the vocabulary of a two-year-old. And because it's what girls in suitcases do, she's got to imprint on Ryuji and move in with him, whereupon the bathing hijinks and naked glomming can begin. Future arcs introduce another dragon beauty and a feisty wolf-girl with two-tone eyes, both of whom succumb to Ryuji's magnetic personality while he's manfully protecting them. They also keep up the cutesy bonding between Ryuji and Rose, whose hearts, when joined, unleash untold magical powers.
Don't head to the garage and swallow a shotgun just yet. Crisis is just as efficient and harmless as it is creatively bankrupt. That light-novel-derived short-story structure serves the series in good stead; its arcs are short, to-the-point, and briskly-paced enough that their immense predictability doesn't have the time to really piss you off. The extra depth of the setting does its part by providing secret societies, leveled enemies, evil crime families, and a handful of mysteries (the most interesting involving Ryuji's past) to distract from the plot's cliché-constructs. Ryuji's chaste relationship with Rose takes the potentially icky sting out of their romance, while his strictly platonic relations with the remainder of the female cast blunts the series' harem intent enough that it's unlikely to raise the hackles of even the most sensitive of anti-harem-ites. In fact, there's little of anything to offend anyone. Crisis is the kind of show where racist dragon-haters turn out to be nice guys with a few ingrained misconceptions, where hardened artifact thieves turn out to be cuddly lovelorn teens and cruelly manipulative boyfriends are simply guys too driven by trauma to care who their actions hurt. The only real villain is arc one's black dragon, and likely as not he's got his own set of extenuating circumstances. You can almost feel the series bending over backwards to be nice. Heck, even the fan-service goes out of its way to be inoffensive.
Crisis's world also offers many opportunities for action, which the series seizes with zeal uncharacteristic of a romantic comedy. The series kicks off with an episode that has Ryuji and Eriko in a running gun-battle punctuated by Rose torching a city block; by episode three it has knocked a skyscraper in half X-style and instigated a flame-shrouded dragon death-match. Later arcs are less spectacular, but solid animation—particularly of fluid, textured flames, but also of Ai the wolf girl's athletic burgling and other less spectacular magical effects—keep the action interesting, and occasionally intense. The action scenes' biggest foes are Masashi Ishihama's character designs, whose irregular chipmunk cheeks and wide-eyed innocence just don't lend themselves to ass-kicking coolness. A score that functions as a kind of blinking applause light for your emotions isn't exactly beneficial either, especially as it's at its most unsubtle when trying to goose up the action. Both the score and the designs, which are cute if not cool, work better with the series' lighter content, which also showcases Studio DEEN's subtler character animation without the interference of the shortcuts necessitated by involved action sequences. Studio Tulip does its usual job with the backgrounds, as does Yui Horie with the interesting start-and-stop opening theme.
Of course, Dragon Crisis's action is no more imaginative than the rest of it. You'd need to excavate a goodly portion of your brain and stow it between the frozen peas and double-fudge ice-cream not to see the conclusion of every fight even before they begin. But hey, that's why they put the word dumb in dumb fun. Keep your expectations in check and the show won't hurt you...too bad.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : C-
+ Sleekly packaged romantic action-comedy that is too nice to be easily despised; some solid magical action.
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