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Drifting Dragons Manga Volume 1 Review

Drifting Dragons Manga Volume 1 Review

-Written by: Quinn & Will

Quinn

You know when you think you know what to expect, but what you read didn’t quite pan out to be what you were expecting? That’s the feeling I had after reading Drifting Dragons. Not that it was bad, mind you. What I was expecting was highflying adventures exploring an epic fantasy world full of dragons! What I got instead was a slice of life tale following the crew of a draking ship who hunt dragons because they apparently make tasty meals. Uh…okay? I guess that works.

First, let’s talk about the artwork. It is downright gorgeous. Taku Kuwabara hit a great balance between including small details while not overly embellishing things.As examples, the uniforms of the crew are quite detailed in a simplistic way and Kuwabara’s use of integrating what I’ll term “Jetstream lines” within billowing clouds all add a little bit of extra oomph to scenes. The art is simplistic yet intricate, and each panel is wonderful to explore. The art also exudes a sense of individuality from all the Quin Zaza draking ship crewmembers. Everyone has their own posture, hairstyle, and idiosyncrasies. Manga might be composed of nothing but still images, yet there’s a good sense of movement within each panel.

The dragons themselves are also a work of the imagination. Many of them look nothing like dragons found in common mythology – both western and eastern! One looks like a cross between a sea anemone and an octopus, while another is reminiscent of a smaller lizard-like parrot. Each dragon is visually unique, and each has its own fighting tactics which challenge the draking crew. All the dragons pose a challenge, and it’s up to the crew to figure out how to take them down as a team.

Which brings me to my next point: the crew. They are an interesting bunch of characters. You can tell many of them have their own reasons for working as part of this vagabond crew. Yet there’s not much character depth in this first volume, which I really hope changes as the story progresses. For now we do get some insight as to why Vanbelle and Jiro are onboard, but for many of the others they’re just playing their part on deck. Thus far most of the focus has been on Mika and his ravenous appetite for dragon meat. Mika’s personality is a bit hard to get a firm grasp on. He’s easygoing, but when push comes to shove, he’s got the skills to be a badass which hint at having a hidden past; however, his most identifiable trait right now is his insatiable appetite for dragon meat. Which I felt left him to quickly become a one-trick-pony. That’s not the case for the variety of tasty dragon meat dishes he serves up though. At the end of each chapter there is even a “recipe” for the featured dish, and if you substitute in some meat for the dragon meat those recipes could become reality. Which is cool, but I wish more attention was placed on character development instead.

One thing I noticed is a bit of an elephant in the room…or should I say whale? For all intents and purposes, the story takes place on a whaling ship as far as I’m concerned. The similarities are way too uncanny. Instead of hunting whales, the crew hunts dragons. I could not help but see the similarities, from the hunting tactics with harpoons to the interaction between the ship and its prey. I could not help but see the similarities. The crew renders fat for oil and processes the dragon carcass into sellable wares. While I don’t find the comparison a terrible detraction to the story Drifting Dragons tells, once I realized the similarities, I couldn’t unsee them.

So aside from the aforementioned bit of possible real-world friction for some readers, and the lack of diving into the characters themselves for me Drifting Dragons is a pleasant enough read. I did enjoy the variety of personalities which inhabit its pages, and maybe the focus will shift from the dragon dishes to the crew in later volumes? Usually I’d have to wait and see, but Volume 2 is also available now – it released the same day as Volume 1 – so we’re off for more adventures…I hope!

Will

This was definitely a surprising read. The cover promises some unique and thrilling action. You do get that, but you mostly just get to learn how to make a sky-pirate-style dragon pastrami.

The setup for this book about being a whaling dragon-hunting ship is super cool. I love the look of the airship, the Quin Zaza. The author clearly saw The Castle in the Sky and took extensive notes. The dragons are also well done, sizzling with personality and presenting unique challenges for our heroes. This is thanks to the detailed art, one that is able to distinguish foreground and background for appropriately epic scale. I enjoyed the characters shown in this book, though as of now they don’t stray far off from their roles such as “perky greenhorn” or “the captain.” Mika, the quirky and listless badass, should be interesting, but he is focused on only one thing, the thing that also stops the story in its tracks: cooking and eating dragon meat.

For me the cooking sections weren’t so much a “I didn’t sign up for this,” but rather “Cool, but why?” Since the book is in a fantasy setting, can I really use these recipes? Can I substitute dragon meat for the meat of my choice? The art is detailed, but nothing looks salivating. All it did for me was to stop all the more interesting stuff for things I just glossed over so I can get back to the stuff I enjoyed. Golden Kamuy is able to use food as a way to bridge the cultural gap between characters, but there's no thematic reason for cooking in Drifting Dragons. What I ended up with is a series that could (and should) be a great adventure but is being held back by a lack of focus.

Drifting Dragons Manga Volume 1

Mika is a draker on the airship Quin Zaza. He earns his livelihood hunting the whales of the sky—dragons! The beautiful beasts are flying treasure troves, providing food and materials, and the Quin Zaza is among the last draking vessels. Mika’s not just a talented hunter; he’s also a gourmand with a refined palette and a taste for the exotic. Between his duties aboard the ship, his ambitions as an eater, and his new job training the rookie dragon hunter Takita, Mika’s days are never boring. But even with the lively crew of the Quin Zaza as his family, the nomadic life of a draker can be lonely and dangerous…

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