Ryū Seiki (Dragon Century), directed by Kiyoshi Fukugawa. Two 25-minute episodes. October 26 – December 25, 1988.
Dragon Century was a strange OAV, or pair of OAVs. They were very cheaply produced, by AIC, with extremely limited animation. The English subtitling wasn’t any better; Riko’s schoolgirl friend Harumi is never identified by name, and signs are not translated. The two came out in Japan in 1988, and were released on VHS and Pioneer laser discs. They were based on the Dragon Breeder manga by Ryukihei (Ryūsen Sugita). The story was never continued. They weren’t released in the U.S. until October 1, 1996, on one U.S. Renditions VHS video. It’s uncertain whether there was ever an English dub. One was recorded but it doesn’t seem to have been produced.
The first 25-minute OAV, “God Chapter A.D. 1990 Riko”, is set in what was then two years in the future, in “Hokkaido” – which is a large island, the northernmost of Japan; not a city. Teenagers partying are killed by a monster, as dragons appear around the world. A Japanese Self Defence Force gunship shoots a dragon down over the East China Sea. Humanity asks, “Where’d they come from? What are they?”
Cut to a high school in “Hokkaido”. The only important characters are two students, dark-haired Harumi and red-haired Riko. Riko is established as “a strange girl”, a loner. When the other students discuss the dragons, Riko hopes they do come. She sneaks out to an adjoining abandoned building, where she hopes the dragons destroy the school.
In a military office, SDF air force Lieutenant(?) Sagara protests that they should be better-prepared for the dragons. He is given permission to form a Special Dragon Unit of 20 men to kill them. (Other reviews call him Sergeant Sagara, but would the SDF really put a special unit under the commend of a non-com? Besides, he appears to be wearing an officer’s uniform.)
In the city one evening, Harumi sees Riko dressed as a hooker. Harumi follows her into a building closed for the evening, up to the penthouse. Riko expresses her hatred for the whole city and “everything”. The OAV doesn’t say so, but it strongly implies that she hates herself and has a strong death wish.
When a dragon appears over the city, the SDU attacks it, forcing it to crash and drop the egg that it is holding. Riko, in the crowd, grabs the egg and takes it to the abandoned building. She names the baby dragon Carmine, for its red coloring. She feeds it (it’s a vegetarian?) so it will grow to destroy everything.
Sagara, watching a video of the SDU’s killing of the mother dragon, discovers Riko’s sneaking off with the egg. He personally enters the abandoned building to kill Carmine. Carmine immediately grows up (to an adolescent?), “remembers how to talk”, and escapes with Riko on his back. He says, “They are coming. We have to get away quickly.”
It turns out that the real monsters are demons from another dimension led by their Demon King. The dragons are trying to protect humanity. If they can’t, he tells Riko, “The world you wished for will come true,” and it will end. The demons invade in force as ethereal beings who invade human bodies and become physical, bursting out of people and killing them. Riko changes her mind and begs Carmine to save humanity. He says that humans have killed the dragons including his mother, but for Riko he’ll use his powers.
Sagara, who has realized that demons are the true enemy, helps Carmine and Riko to get airborne. Carmine breaks off one of his horns and gives it to Riko. Demons hate dragons’ horns; as long as she holds it, she’ll be all right. The Demon King is still materializing; they must defeat him before he finishes. The Demon King, feeding on the fear of humans, changes his appearance to look like Riko. (I don’t know if this is just because Riko is an immediate threat, or it symbolizes Riko’s hatred of humanity and herself.) Riko leaps off Carmine, sacrificing herself, and stabs the Demon King with Carmine’s horn. The Demon King dissipates, and Riko falls to Earth. Dying, she begs Carmine to remain as Earth’s protector.
This OAV left many questions, but it was memorable as one of the first, if not the first, anime productions with a strong and charismatic non-human character. Carmine was not a simple imitation human.
The second OAV, “Devil Chapter R.C. 297 Rulishia”, is completely different. It is set about 300 years later, in “R.C. 297”. A blue-haired girl, identified later as 15-year-old Rulishia, climbs a tall tower with the help of a baby Booster Dragon wearing a jet-pak. The tower is the home of Carmine, now an elderly adult. She has come to cut off one of his horns, making her his master and forcing him to do whatever she tells him. This is to come with her to the Ryuto stadium in the City.
During this, Carmine talks to her as a grandfather to a child. The viewer sees that the City (and by implication the whole Earth) has become very green, with the cities separated by forests. Man has rejected technology (note the broken buildings and discarded cars) and is living in symbiosis with nature. Also with the dragons; the city is inhabited equally with humans and dragons. Carmine remarks, “It’s been 200 years since I’ve talked to a human being.” The main sport is gladiatorial teams of humans and dragon warriors fighting in the Ryuto stadiums. Rulishia needs Carmine (whose name she doesn’t know; she names him Vermillion) to form such a team.
Their first match is against Onchaji and Odd Eye. (The limited animation is painfully obvious in the stadium audience shots. Note at about 34.15 that the shells fired by Onchadi’s gun still have the bullets in their cases.) Everyone is against Rulishia as too young. She protests that she’s the daughter of Dragon Master Baldof, who was the most popular Dragon Warrior with his Dragon partner Meist. They were killed by an invincible black dragon and his cloaked human partner. Rulishia has become a Ryuto warrior to avenge them. She and Vermillion rise in the ratings.
All of the fighting is done by Vermillion, who becomes the real leader of the team. He seems particularly honor-bound to the dragon law that whichever humans cut off their horns are their masters and must be obeyed, even though the dragons are obviously stronger. The strongest dragon warriors are Commandos.
The demons attack Earth again, this time as giant ferocious Demon Beetles. Two people, Keel and Arus, escape their fallen city and Arus runs to warn the next city; Rulishia’s & Vermillion’s. (Presumably Tokyo, from its “Tokyo Dome” Ryuto arena). Rulishia is ready to give up her quest for vengeance and retire to Vermillion’s tower, but Arus runs into the dome pursued by a Demon Beetle, which Rulishia shoots. Vermillion asks why the dragons didn’t save Arus’ city, but she says they had all been killed in Ryuto battles with the black dragon. The black dragon and its cloaked partner are revealed to be demons who came ahead to kill all the dragon commandos before the horde arrives. They capture Vermillion and Rulishia, but she is saved by her little dragon. In the epilogue, Rulishia begs Vermillion (now revealed to be Carmine) to stay with her, but he flies off to join the other dragon commandos fighting the demons.
That’s it. The story ends there. Was there any more in Ryukihei’s Dragon Breeder manga? Presumably not; according to one index, Dragon Breeder was only one book of 166 pages.
In fact, there may have been an American comic book reprint. Steve Bennett’s short-lived Studio Ironcat, created in 1998 to publish Japanese manga in American comic-book form, published eleven monthly issues of Dragon Wars by Ryukihei between April 1998 and February 1999. I haven’t been able to compare the two to see if Dragon Breeder is Dragon Wars.
Dragon Century was a very minor OAV, but there were several things that I liked about it, especially the equality between humans and dragons shown in the second chapter. I wished that Rulishia’s little “booster” dragon had been used more. I liked the deep voice used for Vermillion, credited to voice actor Seizō Katō. I wanted to know more about the dragons’ “fire”, which looked more like a pale blue mist. Too bad there wasn’t more to it.
Next week: “Forgotten” OAVs #37.