By Leroy Douresseaux
April 12, 2007 - 17:09
Created by Ken-ichi Sakura, Dragon Drive focuses on Reiji Ozora, a teenager who isn't good at anything. His best pal, a teenaged girl named Maiko Yukino, introduces Reiji to the virtual reality game entitled "Dragon Drive." Each player plugs into the game (think The Matrix film series), and before he (or she) knows it, he's in a world (usually an unknown city) that feels quite real. Right from the beginning, Reiji is sure that he's found his "thing" in this game.
Each player is assigned a virtual dragon that reflects his personality, so Reiji gets a small and seemingly weak dragon he names "Chibi." All the other players have gigantic, monstrous dragons capable of a variety of awesome powers (produce blizzards, create illusions, manipulate lightning, etc.). Reiji, however, is about to find out that there's more fight in Chibi and himself than he ever realized, and he's also drawn the attention of a Dragon Drive official, Agent L, and maybe even the notice of the #1 player, Hikaru Himuro.
In his introduction to Dragon Drive, Vol. 1, manga-ka Ken-ichi Sakura describes Dragon Drive as a "card-game manga" (Yu-Gi-Oh is probably the best current example.), but it's simply a fun to read fight comic. Sakura is rather straightforward in his portrayal of his characters. Reiji is a loser determined to earn the respect of his pal, Maiko. Maiko is spunky, and she doesn't mind criticizing Reiji or encouraging him - whichever is needed at the time.
The fight scenes are… well, awesome - the kind of big battle scenes with super-powered beings duking it out that the late Jack Kirby drew so well in his 1960's and 70's comics. Sakura has also designed a suite of scary-looking dragons that are more creatures of horror than the beautiful monsters that inhabit fantasy illustration. Reiji's rivals are also good characters; brimming with the arrogance of youth and high game scores, they make an excellent contrast to Reiji the burgeoning hero. With its videogame pace and setting, Dragon Drive, part of Viz Media's "Shonen Jump Manga" line, is the perfect manga with which to introduce 'tween and early teen boys to comics.
Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the images.