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Anime / Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan

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Left to right: Liliko, Mayumi, Hisone, Nao, El

Hisone Amakasu has always been a little too honest. Fresh out of high school, she decides to join the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force in hopes of distancing herself from others, keeping them away from her sharp tongue. But of course, this position comes with its own problems, such as sudden errands assigned to her by her superior, or the gigantic dragon in the hangar that decides to eat her.

As Hisone's commander helpfully explains (after she's been safely puked out), that dragon is actually an "Organic Transformed Flyer," one of a race of legendary dragons who have only allied themselves to a select few groups of humans. The strength of the dragons have made them targets by other humans, so their human allies have disguised them throughout history, and presently, Japan's dragons are being disguised as fighter planes in the JASDF, who fight alongside specially selected "D-Pilots." And Hisone has just been selected.

Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan is a 12 episode Spring 2018 original anime produced by Studio Bones. It is directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi (Kiznaiver) and written by Mari Okada (Ano Hana, The Anthem of the Heart), with Shinji Higuchi (Shin Godzilla) acting as executive director. Toshinao Aoki is responsible for the original character designs, Yoshiyuki Ito serves as the animation character designer, and Taisei Iwasaki is serving as composer.

The series has been picked up by Netflix as an 'Original' and released worldwide on September 21, 2018. Their English page gives it the Market-Based Title "Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan."

Tropes found in the series

  • Ass Shove: Futumomo is charged with carrying a passenger capsule. It's loaded via the rear ramp area. He does not seem pleased with this, but he is a transport plane after all.
  • Better than Sex: According to in-universe rumor, being sacrificed to Mitatsu-sama has this quality; although it's unclear where this idea came from, since anyone who's experienced it is, y'know, dead.
  • Book Ends: The prologue sees Hisone in a high school classroom filling out a career survey, where she decides to enlist in the JASDF. The epilogue begins in a classroom where the miko are trying to decide their future careers, with Natsume choosing to become a florist. The chalkboard message in both scenes is identical, in fact.
    • In Masotan's first on-screen appearance, he suddenly appears behind Hisone, much to her surprise, then swallows her whole. In his last appearance during the epilogue, Masotan suddenly comes charging down the mountain at Okonogi, much to his surprise, then swallows him whole.
  • A Boy and His X: Four girls and their dragons.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The Latin American Spanish dub suffers of this quite a bit, due of the translator's likely ignorance on military terminology:
    • Kakiyasu is addressed in Spanish as Jefe de Escuadrilla (Squadron Leader). While technically the name is correct, due to likely to either the translator used the same script used for the European Spanish dub or also because the translator maybe assumed the Latin American dub would be used there, the term "escuadrilla" is used almost exclusively in Spain, while Latin America uses "escuadrón" instead.
    • The Latin American Spanish name of the series suffers of this, as it was named as Pilotos de Dragon: Hisone & Masotannote . Since the name is written in plural tense (assuming, of course, it was refering to Hisone exclusively), the correct translation should be "Pilotos de Dragones " instead, or "La Piloto del Dragon" when talking about both Hisone and Masotan. On the other hand, this was avoided in the European Spanish dub, since the show was renamed as Hisone y Masotan: A lomos del dragón (Hisone & Masotan: At The Back of a Dragon).
  • Break Her Heart to Save Her: Yutaka makes a total ass of himself towards El after she falls in love with him, so she can keep flying with Norma. Once the Ritual is over, El is informed of this and they make up.
  • Brutal Honesty: Hisone readily admits to this being her biggest flaw, to the point that she chose her career with the JASDF because she knew she'd have less opportunities to interact with other people and hurt them with her words. She ends up getting a taste of her own medicine when she meets Natsume.
  • Campfire Character Exploration: Hisone, Mayumi, and Liliko share this kind of moment during their time on the island. Hisone laments on how useless she feels despite her hard work, Mayumi reveals that she's a Stepford Smiler who secretly dislikes herself, and Liliko admits that she deeply cherishes the bond between her and Akemi (her OTF) because she's too socially awkward to form that kind of relationship with people.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Natsume, one of the miko involved with the Ritual, is this towards Okonogi; she literally clings to him when possible, and is openly jealous of his apparent feelings for Hisone.
  • Close on Title: The title card for Episode 12 isn't shown until the very end. Even the preview at the end of Episode 11 obscures the title.
  • Code Name: Because the dragons have to be kept a secret, they are instead referred to as "Organic Transforming Fliers", or "OTFs."
  • The Conspiracy: Administrative Vice-Minister Iiboshi, the higher-ups of the Gifu base and the Japanese Cabinet are a part of a conspiracy to perform an unknown, extremely important and obscenely expensive (148.5 billion yen) Ritual with the dragons and their pilots: The exercise on the uninhabited island (a training site for OTF pilots) was done to, according to Iiboshi, recover the memories of the dragons and strengthen the bonds of the dragons with their pilots and the pilots also must, according to Iiboshi, have an personality profile he called "White Lover": Girls with no self-confidence and a "blank heart" that is devoted to her OTF and to her OTF alone. If she would develop love for someone else, such as an lover or a child (Hisone's predecessor as pilot did the former (fell in love with a man) and the latter (got pregnant) and was rejected by her dragon), her dragon would reject her as a pilot. Iiboshi had Liliko spy on the others and tried to disrupt romances such as the one between Hisone and Haruto to cause heart-break and the strengthening of the "White Lover" personality.
    • In episode #8, further details are revealed: The Ritual is supposed to guide a giant dragon called Mitatsu-sama to a "throne". The Ritual will continue for 3 days and 4 nights, so the pilots would have to pilot their dragons even while asleep. Actually, the "uninhabited island" they were training on IS Mitatsu-sama and awakens every 74 years. If not steered to the "throne" by the dragons and their pilots, it will go off-course and lay waste to the unlucky lands it comes by.
  • Crush Blush: Exaggerated when Hisone realizes she likes Okonogi; she not only turns completely red, but also starts emitting steam and making cartoonish train-whistle noises.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Sort of inverted; there's clearly something suspicious about the old lady who wanders around distributing snack food, and her importance is foreshadowed, but no one could have guessed that she's actually the last surviving pilot from the previous Ritual 74 years ago. This reveal happens almost simultaneously with the reveal that the Ritual happens cyclically.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The ending song is a reprise of the song "Le Temps de la rentrée" from France Gallnote , sung (in French!) by the voice actresses.
  • Dragon Rider: With the added twist that the D-Pilots ride inside the dragons' stomachs instead of on their backs. From there, the pilot can touch certain areas of the stomach to control the dragon's flight, transform it into a plane, or force it to vomit the pilot back out.
  • Dragons Are Divine: Haruto, the head priest of The Ritual, is seen praying to some unnamed dragon gods, possibly to Mitatsu-sama, the dragon The Ritual must guide to a safe location called "throne" every 74 years.
  • Eat the Camera: Both Masotan and Norma do this when they swallow Hisone and El, respectively, for the first time (with the latter happening during a flashback).
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: What was left of the human sacrifice to Mitatsu-sama.
  • Excited Title! Two-Part Episode Name!: Episode 8 is gloriously titled "Limited time offer! Spicy granny flavor" (for context, this is the episode where the old yakult lady is revealed to be a respected, tough-as-nails veteran pilot).
  • Evolving Credits: In episode 8, the chorus segment of the opening changes—not just the visuals, featuring the newly-introduced characters, but also the song itself—because of The Reveal about the Ritual and the show taking a more serious turn.
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: As long as the D-Pilots are wearing their high-tech headpieces and acid-resistant suits, they can be inside their dragon's stomach for several hours (or even days or months) and not experience any ill effects, unless anastomosis occurs. And this was completely subverted in some instances where the dragons were stressed by the pilot in some way, too; Anastomosis could simply be considered an extreme level of pilot-related stress.
  • Human Sacrifice: According to Sada, one of the miko has to be sacrificed to Mitatsu-sama to complete The Ritual. Subverted, though, as it turns out this isn't strictly necessary, it's just more dangerous to attempt "sleep-turning" Mitatsu-sama without a sacrifice.
  • I Know Your True Name: Hisone is the only D-Pilot to call her dragon by its real name instead of a nickname—she found it on a mysterious plaque in its stomach—and comments from Iiboshi imply that this makes her particularly important. The significance of this is ultimately left unexplained, although Hisone does bring about the first completion of the Ritual without the traditional sacrifice, and survives this risky strategy due to her unique bond with Masotan.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Downplayed; all "D-Pilots" are women and no one really has an explanation for this, since they have only a vague understanding of how the dragons choose their partners. However, aside from the "D-Pilots", most of the characters at the airbase are male, which is keeping in line with how it would be in real life.
  • Interspecies Friendship: All of the D-Pilots have a strong bond with their respective dragons. This is actually a requirement, because the dragons can only be piloted by humans who are completely devoted to them; anyone else is incompatible.
  • Intimacy Via Horror: Subverted; Okonogi takes Hisone to see a gruesome zombie movie, but instead of getting scared, she inexplicably starts crying. She later explains she wasn't even paying attention to the movie, and was having Tears of Joy over finally getting to go out and do things with a friend.
  • Kaiju: Mitatsu-sama is huge. So much so that he leaves typhoons in he wake when he flies.
  • Latex Space Suit: Early in the series, the pilots gain special suits designed to be resistant to the Dragons' stomach acid.
  • Love Chart: Unusually, one of these appears in-universe when Akishima, the self-proclaimed "love expert," diagrams the entire cast's Love Dodecahedron as part of the plan to ensure none of the D-Pilots fall in love with anyone. Parodied when she determines—wrongly—that none of them have any potential love interests.
  • Miko: The Ritual, a Shinto ceremony needs them to put Mitatsu-sama to sleep… and sacrifice the Miko-in-chief to it.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: The Yogurt Lady aka Sada Hinomoto.
  • Nightmare Face: Masotan normally is normally as cute as can be, but when under the influence of anastomosis, he gets Hypnotic Eyes - and suddenly reveals that underneath the cute exterior he's still a dragon with a whole lot of razor sharp teeth.
  • No Antagonist: There is no explicit villain in this story. The focus is put on the D-Pilots' relationships with their OTFs and whether or not they're willing to dedicate themselves entirely to the Dragons, even at the cost of their other relationships. While Iiboshi seems like the closest thing to a human antagonist he has very good reasons to want the D-Pilots to do their job thoroughly, as the safety of Japan depends on it.
  • The Nose Knows: Dragons can scent-track people, as seen when Masotan locates Nao by the smell of her boot.
  • The Noseless: With few exceptions, none of the characters has a visible nose. Or if they do, it's just the merest indication of a shape (or nostrils, in Sosoda's case). Even in profile.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: In this universe, they've lived among humans throughout history and have had to be disguised to keep safe from those seeking their power. In the case of modern-day Japan, not only can they be disguised as fighter jets, but they can also be "flown" just like a plane by pilots who ride in their stomachs.
  • Product Placement: Joie is an actual yogurt drink, and the bottles are not only shown prominently each episode, but are often plot pointers as well.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: Where Hisone and Hoshino have a very weird conversation about Hoshino's attitude towards her dragon, with Hoshino basically monologuing and Hisone reacting in her mind… except not.
  • Punny Name: Moriyama gave the TAC name "Hisone", "Hisō" written as "悲愴" (Kanji) meaning "dreary, sad, pathetic". The "ne" is like the exclamation "ね" meaning "isn't it?", or "Dreary, isn't it?" Hisone's name is written as "ひそね" in Hiragana. Moriyama, whose TAC name is a pun, gives Amakasu a pun TAC name.
  • Running Gag: Hisone's habit of frantically licking Masotan, and occasionally other dragons.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A movie poster shows up in episode 7 that is clearly intended to be one of the posters from Gattaca, albeit with some changes (no double helix over the cast's faces; each person on the poster has an arm crossed over their chest).
    • Liliko is a huge fan of the manga Kingdom and even makes reference to Young Jump, the magazine the series runs in. Iiboshi exploits this by bribing her with unreleased pages of the manga in order to get information from her.
    • Hisone takes the severed head of the pilot puppet she made with her to the uninhabited training island and starts a conversation with it, just like Chuck in Cast Away does with a volleyball. Complete with Hisone screaming "Nao-san"'s name in tears when it drifts away during a storm. Rule of Funny applies heavily here since, of course, Chuck did this because he was alone and needed someone/thing to talk to so he wouldn't go crazy, while Hisone had three people and four dragons to keep her company.
  • Shoe Slap: Nao threw her army boot at Hisone to show her disapproval of her attempt to have "Masotan" accept her as a pilot. Later, Masotan threw the same shoe at Hisone (although not as hard as Nao did) to show his disapproval of her attitude towards piloting him (so in this case, it also counts as a Get a Hold of Yourself, Woman! moment).
  • Shown Their Work: The writers of the show sure did their homework regarding the Japanese Self Defense Forces. Even the OTFs serial numbers are plausible for their respective types. the WWII versions of the OTF armors are correct equivalents to their modern-day counterparts as well
  • Sleepwalking: Since The Ritual will go on for 3 days and 4 nights, the pilots have to pilot their dragons even while asleep!
  • Spit Take: Okonogi's reaction to Natsume suddenly asking him to kiss her.
  • Swallowed Whole: A D-Pilot can only fly a dragon from within its stomach, meaning it has to eat the pilot first. In addition, a dragon will only swallow someone whom it deems to be acceptable as a pilot in the first place (with the possible exception of Okonogi, who gets swallowed in the epilogue).
  • Tempting Fate: In the first episode, Hisone laments that she wishes she could indulge in her cat's warm belly. Cue A dragon popping up and indulging her in his warm belly.
  • Toilet Humour: Episode 1: The D-Pilots are usually swallowed, then vomited out. Kakiyasu says "Emergencies may require you to take the lower route."
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Iiboshi leaves a trail of Kingdom pages to lure Liliko into a private conversation. She lampshades how suspicious it is, but falls for it anyway.
  • Turtle Island: The "uninhabited island" is actually a giant sleeping dragon called "Mitatsu-sama" and The Ritual shall guide him safely to his "throne".
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The pilots getting puked out is often shown onscreen. Hisone ends up covered in vomit every time Masotan spits her out, much to her disgust, while the other dragons are capable of spitting their pilots out cleanly (and with flair, in Futomomo's case).
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of episode 10:
      Hisone: "I'll quit both D-piloting and the Air Force!"
    • At the end of episode 11:
      Sada: "For the Ritual to be completed, a sacrifice is required."

Alternative Title(s): Hisone And Masotan