#1 A fantasy comedy manga
Half-human, half-dragon, all-trouble, that is Mink in a nutshell. Born from the love between a red dragon and the royal knight once tasked with slaying her, Mink lives a tumultuous life of hunting monsters to sustain her family now that her dad is “retired” and her mother has become a housewife.
Dragon Half is an action-comedy series that often feels like it’s a gag manga, but has enough to offer to be coherent. It follows Mink’s adventure as she sets out on a quest that will see her take on the king of the land, still mad at her father’s betrayal, as well as demon lords, fantastical monsters, a jealous princess, and the popular idol Dick Saucer, who has a side-gig in dragon hunting. During all this she is backed up (read: held back) by the Elf mage Lufa who doesn’t actually know magic and the Dwarf toddler Pia, whose overprotective parents force her to wear a magic armor at all times.
It tells a proper fantasy story, but the tone is always comedic and it rarely takes itself seriously, with even the most dire moments affording it opportunities to crack jokes. The characters are also enjoyable and see enough development to stay interesting.
#2 Evolving character-design
I am really fond of Ryusuke Mita’s character designs and Dragon Half would run for 6 years, allowing you to really see the man’s style and skill develop over time.
Even at the start, the designs for the main cast are imaginative and very appealing. Mink is a great-looking protagonist, with her enormous hairstyle being particularly eye-catching, which is supplemented by her horns and the very obvious tail. It’s a nice balance between human and monster, keeping her looking feminine and sexy while also making her stand out. The other characters look great as well, and it’s surprising to see how frequently the story introduces new side-characters that all feel very at-home in its world thanks to detailed designs, even if they only exist for just 1 chapter.
I do wish the art was a little more consistent. Mink is often drawn in comedic chibi forms for jokes, only to then stay in that deformed style for several more panels or even pages. It’s cute, but it gives the impression that this was a time-saving measure first and foremost. Probably would have been worth thinking about before making such a complex character-design.
#3 Expanding on the OVA
The Dragon Half OVA is a fantastic way to be introduced to the story, but there is no denying that its very brief with just 2 episodes. It’s a great time, but it rushes through the bare essentials of the first 2 volumes and leaves out many of its best moments.
This has the fortunate effect that reading these volumes is still worth your time, even if you have already seen the OVA. Some scenes will already be familiar to you, such as the entirety of the short tournament arc, but the OVA left out the entire storyline about the demon lord and Mink’s hunt for the sacred artifacts. Entire characters like Lufa and Pia’s Nintendo-inspired parents are missing, and nearly half the chapters of volume 2 are skipped.
It was a shame we never got a full animated series out of Dragon Half, but it’s still a great OVA and people can then get the additional details from the manga before seeing the story continue onward for another 5 volumes.
#4 A quest for love
Mink is in love with the idol singer Dick Saucer, which isn’t exactly unique as every (straight) girl her age feels the same. Everybody is in love with the man. After getting into a scuffle with the leader of his fan club, Mink accidentally kisses Saucer as he breaks her fall. Understandably giddy, Mink’s rival is then quick to remind her that Saucer is also a dragonslayer and would never love a half-human creature like her.
This motivates Mink to set out on a quest for a legendary potion said to turn any monster species into a person, which turns awkward when the king and princess convince Saucer that Mink is an evil creature merely pretending to be an overjoyed fangirl. Though often easy to distract, Saucer dedicates himself to slaying Mink and restoring peace to the kingdom.
The relationship between Mink and Saucer is an interesting one, as it causes Mink to become uncomfortable with her own body. She is willing to journey the land and risk her life just to change herself into a form Saucer might find appealing. Several chapters also deal with Mink encountering other interspecies couples, not to mention her own mother & father, putting even more question marks over whether or not this whole ordeal is a good idea or not.
Either way, encounters between the two are always some of the most interesting moments in the story and I was constantly looking forward to the next development.
I am generally not a fan of epilogue chapters or episodes, but I feel that Dragon Half does them exceptionally well. Following the final battle, we get two bonus chapters to round things off. One is set 2 years later, while the final one jumps several years further and shows us the characters as adults.
These are brief and satisfyingly complete the story, with a few final jokes tossed in there that caught me totally by surprise. Especially the last chapter was fun, as we get to see how the rebellious teenagers are fairing now that they themselves are retired adventurers with snotty brats running around who think their parents are totally lame.