Dragon Drive Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 7.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1421311878
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Dragon Drive Vol. #01

By Patricia Beard     May 03, 2007
Release Date: April 03, 2007

Dragon Drive Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Ken-ichi Sakura
Translated by:Lucy Craft, Corinne and Kohei Takada, Honyaku Center Inc.
Adapted by:Ian Read, Honyaku Center Inc.

What They Say
Reiji Oozora thinks he's no good at anything - especially schoolwork! Then one day he's introduced to a game called Dragon Drive and gets his very own virtual dragon and names it Chibi. Small and weak, Chibi appears to be as big a loser as Reiji! But after their first battle, Reiji realizes there may be more to his tiny friend than meets the eye.

Reiji and his best friend Maiko are in for the fight of their lives when they take on an experienced Dragon Drive player who boasts that he'll win the match in just 10 minutes! Once the game begins, Reiji and Maiko are quickly cornered in a construction site. Forced up a giant crane, the two friends are about to become pancakes when a tiny dragon pulls off an unbelievable feat!

The Review
Familiar genre with promise.

The cover artwork and layout are the same as the Japanese version, the only real difference is in the style and size of title font. Reiji and Chibi are in an action pose on an eye-catching red cover with Reiji and the "leveled-up" Chibi on the back cover. Chapter separations show a card of an individual dragon with partner and characteristics listed. There are two pages of "Saken Playhouse", short adventures of the author in getting his comic published, and the usual pages of advertisement.

Sakura sensei has a somewhat rough and unfinished style that lends his art a sense of quickness and energy, very suitable for this type of tournament manga and for the intended audience of younger males. It avoids the excesses of exaggerated character design and develops good visual shorthand for action. This title eschews anything shoujo, but girls will find nothing to keep them from enjoying this title.

All SFX are translated as is appropriate for a title that is intended for younger readers. However, this is one instance where translating SFX does affect the art. SFX are usually well integrated into picture they are accompanying. The overlays on many of the graphics in this volume "popped" and this destroyed the balance of the drawing. One did get the feeling of looking at two different layers and some disjointed art. This is not to say that the overlays are not well done. Most people would not notice this. The translation reads well and is peppered with jargon designed to connect with the group for which this manga is intended. In a work for older readers this would be a flaw, but not here.

Let's note here that chain-smoking Agent S maintains his habit, no artwork has been changed.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dragon Drive opens with Reiji Ozora arriving late to school. He has been sick, but his slacker reputation is such that no one wants to believe him, not even his good friend Maiko Yukino. In exchange for her class notes, Maiko makes Reiji go with her to a new game hangout, one that has a game she knows Reiji is sure to like - battling virtual dragons.

Reiji, impressed with the dragons other players have been assigned, readily takes up the mobile set and game card. Instead of getting the fearsome dragon he was sure to get, he gets a small, cute, sleepy little dragon which he names Chibi. In no time, Reiji and Maiko (with her dragon, Gorau) are whisked into the game against Daisuke and his dragon, Kanpa. Daisuke's got it out for Reiji because of Maiko's friendship with Reiji. Reiji and Chibi, overwhelmed by the powerful Kanpa, start to run, but Reiji realizes that Chibi wants to fight and he decides to back up his little partner. To the surprise of the viewing gamers and Agent L in the control booth, Chibi temporarily levels up to take action to defeat Kanpa.

But Agent L has been able to notice more - that Reiji and Chibi have synchronicity of emotion and action. And, no surprise here, she wonders if Reiji is the special player for whom she has been looking. After Reiji and Chibi defeat the second-ranked, sadistic Ichiro Sumishiba, Agent L decides to set up a test for Reiji and Chiba.

The games continue. Reiji, who in spite of having two miracle wins against much stronger opponents, now has an accumulated thirty losses in a row. Now, Hikaru Himuro, the number one player comes looking for Reiji and Chibi with explosive surprises as a result. Will Reiji's new found sense of perseverance allow him to prevail against such a formidable opponent?

Reiji and the other gamers are well depicted and seem like kids we already know, consider Reiji's braggadocio and the nascent love triangle. The start may be formulaic, but there are there more than hints that this game is not all that it seems and offers the promise of more diverse adventure.

Dragon Drive #1 doesn't break any new ground and readers experienced with this type of story may get the feeling that this is a bit of the "same old thing". This is an "All Ages" title and the target audience of younger readers (4th to 8th grades) will find the initial familiarity comfortable rather than cliché. Readers younger than ten haven't been well served by manga offerings, so it's nice to see something that this age group can read. Dragon Drive is a good series for the school library that can bridge the gap for those readers who find Pokemon "too baby" but aren't ready for the younger teen material. However, don't let the emphasis on the young reader deter you. In spite of the familiar beginnings, this story is entertaining and holds promise.


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