Review

by Mike Crandol, Sep 18th 2002

Dragon Half

DVD

Synopsis:
Dragon Half DVD
Human dragon-slayer Ruth falls in love with the dragon he was sent to slay. They get married, settle down, and have a dragon-half daughter, Mink. Mink really digs pop-idol Dick Saucer, but Dick Saucer really hates dragons. So Mink, her elf friend Luffa, some annoying kid named Pia, and Mappy (a cute-but-deadly ball of fuzz who'd eat Pokemon for breakfast) set off in search of the People Potion to make Mink fully human. But the evil King Civa has other plans. Then there's this slime-half princess and some kind of Brutal-Killer-Martial-Arts Tournament and Mecha-Roshi and a bottle of Ex-Lax….oh, and Mink sings this really hilarious song during the end credits….something about beer and an octopus…
Review:
I have this theory that the Japanese created Dragon Half as some kind of practical joke to play on the rest of the world. You can almost envision the creators sitting around a table and laughing hysterically, "Hey! Let's make this really random, insane piece of nonsense, sell it to an overseas distributor, and Americans will think this is what anime is really like!" And that's exactly what makes it so disturbingly hilarious: we may say to ourselves “only the Japanese could come up with something so strange,”….but are the Japanese snickering “only an American would watch it,”?

You'll never forget the first time you watch Dragon Half. I have never before or since experienced such profound disbelief coupled with uncontrollable spasms of laughter. In the first five seconds I was shouting "What the f---?!"....and an hour later I was still asking myself that question from my spot on the floor where I had collapsed in a fit of giggles. I still remember my then-roommate walking in during the closing credits, seeing Mink bouncing around to the tune of "My Omelette", and demanding to know what the hell I was watching. "I can't explain it," I told her, and her face scrunched up in confusion and disappointment. "But...I like it!" she said, as Mink continued to hypnotically chant "Pappara funi-funi, Pappara hoe-hoe….".

The show shares Excel Saga's comedic mentality, but without Excel's concerns for parody and satire Dragon Half goes for straight-up comedy and general weirdness. It also doesn't bother itself with character or plot development, which means it is free to cut loose for a sidesplitting sixty minutes of joke after joke after joke. The token attempt at a story ends abruptly after only two episodes, but no one watches Dragon Half for the plot, and it would have never worked as a full-length series anyway. Mink's “quest” is a frail skeleton on which to hang all manner of random comedy routines involving ridiculous slapstick battles, a lengthy flashback to the “slime village” (think Dragon Warrior), Evil Court Wizard Rosarios's “Snow White Strategy”, the warrior Damamaru (who can survive a stab wound to the head because his brain is very small), and a final foe who's main gripe is being written out of the first episode. The intellectual high point of the show is Luffa's observation that since Mink was hatched from an egg, she shouldn't have a belly button. As dumb as it may be, Dragon Half is smart enough not to outstay its welcome, and signs off before the audience can become numb to the sheer ridiculousness of it all, keeping them in stitches 'til the very end.

If Dragon Half's story is sociopathic, its art design is downright schizophrenic. Veteran anime viewers are no doubt familiar with “super-deforming”, the anime equivalent of a Wild Take in which the character briefly morphs into a crudely drawn self-caricature with an enormous head and tiny body. This is often done at the punchline of a joke for an extra comedic oomph, and usually only lasts for a few seconds. But the denizens of Dragon Half seem to get stuck in SD mode for five or ten minutes a stretch….to the point where the action appears to be taking place in two parallel universes. I've no doubt that two completely different sets of model sheets had to be drawn for every character. It's visually jarring at first but in the end only adds to Dragon Half's “what the hell?” appeal.

As can be expected the music is about as goofy as everything else in show. There is no opening theme but “My Omelette”, which Mink performs during the closing credits, is surely one of the great masterpieces of musical entertainment. A nonsensical string of words and phrases sung to no less than Beethoven, Mink hops around in the left corner of the screen at two frames a second while singing of her love of eggs and dislike of octopus, begging to keep the tomato and reminding the audience that as long as you don't boil it, it's still Draft Beer. This is something that simply has to be seen to be believed.

Inviting further comparisons to Excel Saga, Mink and Excel not only share the same Japanese seiyuu but the same American voice actress as well. Crazy but more restrained than Excel, Mink can be seen as a sort of dry-run for both Kotono Mitsuishi's and Jessica Calvello's later tour-de-farce performances as a certain ACROSS agent. Calvello and the rest of the English cast turn in fine performances, but to truly appreciate Dragon Half you have to watch it in its original language. The American voices negate the show's utter foreign weirdness, which is the source of its appeal. Besides, lines like “B*t#h! You dare challenge the Red Lightning!” deserve to be subtitled.

Dragon Half represents the latest effort by ADV to get their remaining backlist of older titles out on DVD format. The lone extra on the disc is a creditless closing, an unnecessary feature since the credits do not obscure the animation (the creators no doubt realized this was the best part of the show!). Since this is a “catalogue” release the lack of extra material is not surprising. Not that there's likely any extras available for this series: though it enjoys a strong cult following in America Dragon Half is a largely forgotten OVA series in Japan. Where we can laugh at the bizarre Japanese-ness of the whole thing, the Japanese themselves probably found this Just Plain Stupid.

You haven't seen Anime until you've seen Dragon Half. Akira may represent Anime's visual splendor, Princess Mononoke it's epic grandeur and Evangelion it's intellectual depths, but Dragon Half is Anime at it's most bizarre and hilarious. Sure, it may also be Anime at it's dumbest, but that's half the fun. I defy anyone to not crack a smile during the closing credits. “Ran rararan…yan yayayan…”
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : A

+ nonsensical parade of ridiculous comedy only the Japanese could concoct
nonsensical parade of ridiculous comedy only the Japanese could concoct

Director:Shinya Sadamitsu
Screenplay:Shinya Sadamitsu
Music:Kouhei Tanaka
Original creator:Ryuusuke Mita
Character Design:Masahiro Koyama
Art Director:
Takahiro Kishida
Masahiro Koyama
Sound Director:Yasunori Honda
Producer:
Mitsuhisa Ishikawa
Shiro Sasaki

Full encyclopedia details about
Dragon Half (OAV)

Release information about
Dragon Half (DVD)

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