An Anime OVA
When I first got into anime, the anime boom was in full effect and there was nothing more popular at an anime club meeting (I was in an anime club throughout college) than a weird comedy anime, with stuff like Excel Saga or Dragon Half becoming solid hits. Twenty years on, it seems like shows like this don’t come out as much as they used to, but then again I largely avoid overt comedy stuff anymore. I mentioned Excel Saga above because these two shows are almost the same sort of show for the most part. They parody anime tropes, over-use sight gags, have ridiculous plots, and even share most of the same English voice cast in the ADV version. Anyone just getting into anime might be baffled by Dragon Half, as it’s definitely a product of it’s time.
“Dragon Half set contains OVA episodes 1-2 of the anime directed by Shinya Sadamitsu. Knights and Dragons are mortal enemies, right? And everyone knows what happens when a Knight meets a Dragon, right? Wrong! When a Knight and a Dragon meet and fall in love, the result is Mink, a precocious young female who’s half human, half dragon and all trouble! Exactly how much trouble? Well, in consideration of the fact that having vestigial wings and a tail isn’t a problem most teenage girls have to bear, one can perhaps cut our heroine a little slack. However, when Mink insists on compounding her difficulties to infinite proportions by falling in love with handsome pop star – and professional Dragon Slayer – Dick Saucer, she really has put her heart before her head! Talk about problem dates! Will this turn out to be a love story where the hero really does get the girl… on the end of his sword? “
The humor in this is halfway parody stuff for late 80’s early 90’s anime and videogames, but thankfully they are so broad that they still are funny. You always take a risk with stuff like this wherein you could easily date the show and render it almost unwatchable a few years later. Thankfully anime and RPG tropes are largely the same now. I watched this in the ADV English dub which is generally well-written, but can be annoying sometimes. Just like with Excel Saga, they had their voice cast shriek and act spastic at almost all times. Some will see this as bad voice acting, but I’m sure the original had crazy voices as well.
One of my favorite parts was when the son of Azatodeth is monologuing towards Mink in the martial arts tournament, and talks about how he is getting revenge for her wrongs to his family. She has no idea what he’s talking about, which drives him crazy. He double checks the VHS copy of episode one, only to discover that they cut all of his scenes out! Things like this remind me of Spaceballs, and I’m all for it!
The character designs are typical of the time period, especially for less serious shows. It’s not a typical style nowadays, but in the early 90s everything from Dragonball to Yu Yu Hakusho looked vaguely similar. It does have the running joke that characters constantly swap body proportions at the drop of a hat, it’s weird at first, but once you see what vibe the show is going for it works. Even almost 30 years later, the animation looks somewhat decent, especially watching the DVD from Discotek Media.
The biggest let-down with this animation, and perhaps for many of these direct-to-video OVA productions, is that the two episodes here are not the full series. In the manga, there is an entirely separate villain named Azatodeth. With this ending during the tournament arc, we never get to see him. The manga has about 5 more volumes of story, so if you like this, I’d seek that out and see how it ends.
Overall, This mostly holds up, but seems more dated than a lot of other classic anime I’ve been watching lately. The absurd voice acting was something ADV did a lot in the early 2000’s on comedy shows and it seemed funny back then, but is mildly distracting now. I honestly think they realized they had a popular formula with this, then tossed the format onto everything from Excel Saga to Super Milk Chan. This constant yelling and such actually ruined the voice of the original voice actress, Jessica Calvello, who also does the voice of Mink here. If anything, watching Dragon Half is an interesting time capsule into a time when anime was at it’s peak for many people. Sometimes I yearn for those simpler times in the same way older folks might do with TV westerns or some such. Shows like this give me comfort in nostalgia, and on some days that’s all I need.