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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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07/02/2007 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Dragon Drive, Vol. 2"

Dragon Drive, Vol. 2
By Ken-ichi Sakura
VIZ

Review by Tom Good

It's amazing how Japanese schoolboys have any time to study, given all the spectacular fighting tournaments they must constantly compete in, with the fate of one or more worlds hanging in the balance. Yes, Dragon Drive employs the popular fighting tournament theme, with the twist that it takes place within a virtual-reality game where kids like Reiji Ozora do battle using dragons. Our hero's dragon is an adorable but tiny and weak-looking creature named Chibi, who luckily can transform into a giant, powerful monster in combat.

Stories about virtual worlds have to find a way to bring real-world consequences to bear, or else fail to create enough dramatic tension. Let's face it, readers won't care enough about how many points some kid scores in a video game. So we soon learn that a parallel world of dragons really exists, and the game serves as a testing and recruiting tool to identify the most promising, talented young people who will fight in real dragon battles.

This "game as military recruitment tool" idea resembles the plots of The Last Starfighter and Ender's Game. And in fact, a lot of Dragon Drive seems like a vaguely familiar collection of ideas from elsewhere. The dialogue is full of generic stuff like, "Dragon masters from around the world fight in a fierce competition to become champion!" None of these lines are terrible, but the effect is more bland than inspiring.

The parts of Dragon Drive I like best are the sound effects and art. Characters turn their heads with a FWIP, and dragons maneuver around with FWOOP, SHOOP, and SHUU noises. Chibi, in his small form, makes a timid GII sound, but transforms into battle form with a SHABAM. These sounds bring the action to life. Sakura's art also held my interest. Chibi's small form looks cute perched on Reiji's shoulder, and his large dragon form is suitably heroic. Reiji and his friends are visually appealing characters with a wide range of facial expressions, especially Maiko, the plucky girl-next-door type. The art makes up for some of the shortcomings of the writing, and gives the characters more personality than the script alone can supply. Overall, Dragon Drive is a pretty fun read.

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