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Tuesday, 05 April 2011 00:00

Dragon Crisis

Without wanting to give too much away, the titular Dragon Crisis! in this one isn't so much an event as a thing - and if that doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, get used to it, as that's par for the course here. What is does have, though, is an ability to be charming...

High school student Ryuji's older cousin Eriko returns from abroad to drag him to the scene of an underground transaction where he gets caught up in a shoot out and car chase. While they thought they had stolen a miraculous Lost Precious from the criminal brokers, they instead ended up with a mysterious young girl, who happily latches on to Ryuji even though they have never met. With the ability to shoot fire from her arm that rivals any dragon's breath, though, she's clearly no normal girl...

The young girl - named Rose, as it turns out - is actually a dragon. They're not as rare as you might think, and with the ability to take on human form they've been living fairly comfortably with humans for a while now. Ryuji first encountered Rose a few years earlier, although he needs prompting to remember the occasion (Rose was just an egg at the time), but he made enough of an impression on the young dragon that a human-dragon relationship is right at the top of her list of things to do. Wanting to put a stop to this, though, are black dragon Onyx and his group, Fang; while against them stand Eriko and Ryuji with the backing of the Society, a secretive organisation that specialises in finding and cataloguing Lost Preciouses - artefacts endowed with magical powers.

Sounds quite exciting when you describe it like that, and it does have its moments. But at heart it's more of a coming-of-age story, with Ryuji and Rose coming to terms with their feelings for each other; Ryuji accepting that, as a level-10 "Breaker" (someone with a natural ability to use and control Lost Preciouses - with level-10 naturally being the most powerful), he's not exactly what you'd call "normal"; and the other girls in Ryuji's life having to live with the realisation that he's definitely taken. Where dragons and other mythical creatures come into play - including the cutest wolf-girl you ever did see - it's more to spin the relationship side of things, and whether human and dragon can really life in peace. Onyx and Fang are mostly relegated to two arcs at the beginning and end of the series, but even then his plans for world domination are more presented as getting in the way of true love than being a real threat.

It's the shame, then, that the two characters at the centre of such a relationship are about as bland as you can get. Both Ryuji and Rose seem to have donated their personalities to other worthy causes, and left themselves with none of their own - Ryuji is simply unfailingly nice, while Rose is unfailingly all over Ryuji, and very little ever gets in the way of that dynamic. I'm used to male leads being personality-lite these days (makes it easier to insert yourself in a little bit of wish-fulfillment, don't'cha know), but the female leads should have something about them that makes you want to know them more - and apart from a half-decent character design, Rose has nothing.

Fortuntely there are other female leads to pick up the slack in that department. Big sis Eriko is loud and proud, a bounty hunter of some note and suitably skilled in a fight; Ryuji's classmate Misaki is completely head-over-heels for him and is trying to har to make an impression on him, but - bless her - she's failing hard, and in the most adorable fashion that I name her my definition of "moe" for the season; while wolf-girl Ai is the tomboy you wished lived next door - strong, determined, and yet not without her softer side, and a character that it's a real shame we don't see more of.

Which leaves us in the strange situation where most of the supporting cast are more entertaining than the leads, which isn't quite right. You soo get used to it, though, and for the periods of the series where it's just having fun with the characters that's no real problem - and those are the parts where Dragon Crisis! is most enjoyable. It's light & fluffy romantic comedy - dip in, enjoy, put it aside and forget about it, and on that level it works just fine. Add a more serious slant, though, and expect you to root for Ryuji and Rose, and it doesn't really work so well as they're so bland a predictable that I couldn't raise enough enthusiasm to care about what they were up to.

Something of a mixed bag, then. There's some good stuff here, mostly from the supporting cast, but if you're looking for some epic dragon fantasy then this isn't it. Disposable romantic comedy, and even more disposable lead characters, make it some throwaway fun to watch once and then forget about - the sort of series streaming was almost made for.

Rating - ***