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Manga / Dragon Drive

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The cast of Dragon Drive, featuring hero Oozora Reiji and his dragon Chibisuke in the center

Dragon Drive is a shonen manga by Kenichi Sakura, which ran in Monthly Shonen Jump from 2001 to 2006. A 38-episode anime adaptation aired from 2002 to 2003.

The story is about a boy named Oozora Reiji, and his adventures in a virtual world. No, not The Matrix, this world is where children go in secret away from the adults, to play a game called Dragon Drive. Each child gets his or her own dragon, hand picked by his or her own personality. Reiji goes to check this place out and finds himself with the weakest dragon there: a tiny squirt, which he names Chibisuke. But what he didn't know was that inside Chibi was a power stronger than he thought.

The manga and anime provide examples of:

  • The Ace: Anime-only Tachibana Kyoji is seen as this at school. Subverted in that Himuro soundly thrashes him at Dragon Drive within seconds.
  • Adaptation Expansion: To compensate for some things being Adapted Out from the manga, other things were added in the anime:
    • Sun Wols is given much more screen time than he gets in the manga, joining up with the main characters more or less permanently instead of just being a recurring ally of theirs.
    • The task of finding the shrine of Shinryu is fairly simplistic in the manga, but in the anime it's expanded into its own subplot that spans multiple episodes. As well, the dragons guarding the shrine were long dead in the manga and only appear as crystalized corpses, while in the anime they're still alive and have to be fought before anyone can access the shrine.
    • Rokkaku's backstory is fleshed out a bit more, namely with the addition of Mahiru to serve as a rival for him and also the younger brother of his dead companion Yako, who blames Rokkaku for his brother's death and wants revenge.
    • Meguru never fights in the manga, mostly because Jigen Jouka can only be active for short periods of time. In the anime she at the very least gets to use Jigen Jouka to help fight in the final battle against Shinryu.
  • Adapted Out: Either due to the manga being incomplete during its production or just because of diverging plot, the anime leaves out some things that were in the manga:
    • Sun Wols's master Kaishu is never mentioned, leaving his backstory largely unexplored.
    • Silver and her entire subplot are gone, as well as Hysteric Rose and the auction for Shinsaber.
    • Gwonku's role is reduced and most of the details about him were removed, meaning he never has his Heel–Face Turn and is killed off rather unceremoniously by the heroes instead.
    • Ensui is strictly a non-combatant in the anime, whereas in the manga she does step up and fight at least once in order to stop Kohei from releasing Shinryu, leading to her death.
    • The entire second half of the manga was left unadapted.
  • Alliterative Title: Dragon Drive.
  • Always Someone Better: Himuro Hikaru, for both Reiji and Sumishiba. He motivates Reiji and infuriates Sumishiba. Once Reiji learns how to use Chibi's true power he actually becomes this for Hikaru however, which is what drives Hikaru to be such a Blood Knight around Reiji.
  • Amusing Injuries: Reiji, in every episode's eyecatch where he receives Ash Face, or even Harmless Freezing, from a dragon's elemental breath.
  • Anti-Hero: Himuro Hikaru and Sumishiba Ichiro after parting ways with Toki. Both go down a level (Himuro from V to IV, Sumishiba from IV to III), but Sumishiba is more mentally balanced to begin with, and Himuro remains a much darker character.
  • Artificial Human: Hideaki is an artificial intelligence given physical form through the link between Earth and Rikyu, created by Saizo to assist in his plans.
  • Ash Face: Each episode of the anime features an eyecatch where Chibi blasts Reiji with a burst of flames.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Reiji, Maiko, Hagiwara, Towa and Tachibana in the final battle in the anime. Also, Himuro does this twice. Once when Reiji is about to get eaten by a dragon, and Hikaru shows up on his new dragon and fries it; and another time in the anime when Reiji is fighting and losing against one of the Shishinryu.
  • Bittersweet Ending: They defeat the Big Bad, but only by merging the two worlds, which causes the dragons to disappear. However, we do see that Future!Takumi revives Dragon Drive 17 years later, so they get to see the dragons again.
  • Blank White Eyes: Toki when possessed by Shinryu in the anime.
  • Blindfolded Vision: Himuro after the Time Skip.
  • Bond Creatures: Analyzing a teenager's genetic code reveals the dragon they are destined to partner with.
  • Bound and Gagged: Maiko is kidnapped at one point to use as leverage on Reiji and this trope happens.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy:
    • Otohime Taro, from the second half of the manga. Will fall asleep if nothing "interesting" is happening, and won't fight unless he thinks it will be exciting. He is also the best Dragon Drive player around.
    • Himuro might also count, in the beginning. He's a high school dropout because he simply got bored with it, and only rarely shows up at the Dragon Drive center to kick the asses of everyone in the place before going home.
  • Broken Ace: Himuro. Originally seen as perfect and the unmatched champion of Dragon Drive, he loses it when Reiji manages to catch him off-guard and nearly defeats him. Clearly has a serious inferiority complex, and actually breaks down into Manly Tears at one point when Reiji refuses to fight him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Reiji takes plenty of abuse in the eyecatch of every episode.
  • Canon Foreigner: Several characters were added into the anime to compensate for the manga being incomplete at the time and not having its full cast to adapt from. Major ones include Kyoji, Sayaka, Mukai, Mahiru, and Hideaki, as well as their respective dragons.
  • Catchphrase: Sumishiba's assertions that he will win "in ten minutes".
  • Competence Zone: Only children of a certain age range are able to enter Rikyu. Or so it seems, as the middle-aged Saizo Toki enters into Rikyu just fine to gain control of Shinryu later on, at least in the manga.
  • Death Glare: Himuro has a very effective one. Somehow, he even manages to pull one off without opening his eyes after the Time Skip.
  • Disability Superpower: Subverted with Himuro after the Time Skip; his eyes are always closed, not because he can't see (presumably), but because he stopped using his eyes in order to sharpen his other senses and gain power.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: RI-ON's base of operations, which is also the facility where the Dragon Drive game is played, is an underground base hidden underneath a small Japanese traditional store.
  • Evil Laugh: Toki after being assimilated into Shinryu and beating the hell out of Reiji and the rest of the cast.
  • Evil Plan: Toki's plan to take over Earth and Rikyu.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Post- Time Skip Himuro. Possibly subverted in that he actually doesn't see and never opens them.
  • Eye Scream: Rokkaku and his dragon, Thunderbolt. Each had his right eye ruined in a fight with Kohei.
  • Gecko Ending: Because the anime was produced before the manga was finished, it wound up diverging from the way the first half of the manga ended. The final confrontation with Shinryu happens in the D-Zone instead of in Rikyu, Chibi never unlocks his full power and instead relies on Shinsaber and The Power of Friendship, and Kohei fuses with Shinryu to be sealed away along with it after killing his father, while in the manga it's Kohei who dies and Saizo who controls Shinryu instead.
  • Genre Shift: The story starts as a fairly standard virtual reality battle series with Reiji as the promising underdog rising in the ranks, then shifts into a fantasy-based Trapped in Another World plot once he, Maiko and Daisuke are transported to Rikyu. The second half of the manga has a similar shift, except there the perspective is flipped with the dragons coming into our world.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Reiji starts drooling when Hysteric Rose flirts with Silver.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Played with concerning Himuro after the Time Skip. He has very obvious scars on his face and hands, and probably more. Considering he's a fairly dark Anti-Hero, they're not quite as jarring as they could be.
  • Harmless Freezing: Another amusing injury for Reiji featured in the eyecatch of the anime, where Kanpa breathes snow all over him and freezes him.
  • I Choose to Stay: Himuro stays in Ri-Kyuu rather than return with the others at the end of the first half of the manga.
  • It Was with You All Along: In second part Agent A asked Takumi to find Raikou-oh Edea, the only dragon that can defeat Genryuu. The very first Raikou-oh card Takumi retrieves from Agent A, the Raikou-oh that was always with him IS Edea.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Himuro. In the anime, he even has a speech about it. He literally does not understand the concept of friends, and wants to figure out what the difference is between Reiji and him by fighting. Even more so after the time skip, when he has been alone in Ri-Kyuu for ten years. Reiji tells the others that Hikaru has spent too much time there and will be useless to them.
  • Made of Iron: Reiji is the most prominent, but many characters suffer through injuries, explosions, and fights without the bat of an eye.
  • Magikarp Power: Chibi seems utterly useless until, out of nowhere, he transforms into a monstrous dragon.
  • Olympus Mons: Senkoukura, Shin Saber (although Shin Saber is more like of Infinity +1 Sword as it can be used as sword literally by Senkoukura), Raikou-oh Edea, Shinryuu, and Genryuu. And in case you think Shinryuu and Genryuu isn't strong enough, they can fuse into stronger dragon. Ergh.
  • Punch Catch: Manga-only, chapter 22 When Reiji and Hikaru go in search of Shinsaber, one of the last trials was a test of strength. Hikaru challenges Reiji to a fight to the death, but Reiji refuses, Then Hikaru begins to attack Reiji with punches and kicks. When Hikaru takes one last punch, Reiji holds it with his hand and says he will not fight, at least not at that moment.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Before his introduction in the present, Mahiru isn't shown or mentioned in the first series of flashbacks explaining Rokkaku's backstory despite said backstory being the whole reason for his vendetta against Rokkaku.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Ensui never fights Kohei in the anime, and thus never dies after failing to defeat him.
    • Kohei is sealed away with Shinryu after fusing with it in the anime, whereas in the manga he explicitly dies from overexerting himself battling Chibi.
  • Spell My Name With An S: An inevitable result of the anime and manga being localized separately from each other. For example, Daisuke's and Maiko's dragons are respectively called Kanpa and Gorao in the manga, but in the anime they're called Kanper and Golao. In general the manga's localization sticks closer to the original Japanese.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
  • Trapped in Another World: The heroes are trapped in Ri-Kyuu and must defeat Toki's plans before they can go home.
  • Tsundere: Maiko but its downplayed. Her tsun-tsun amounts to giving Reiji grief about always giving up on things. Otherwise she's pretty nice. Type B.
  • Twin Tails: Maiko sports two pigtails to go with her tsundere-tude.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: In the manga there's nothing to imply that Kohei and Saizo aren't biologically father and son, but in the anime Kohei surmises that Saizo adopted him to use for his own ends.
  • The Vamp: Anime-only character Sayaka Towa. Called out by Maiko.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Anime-only character Shiro Kurosawa, another human from Earth who was transported to Rikyu by unspecified means. Despite being in a similar predicament to the main characters, being sought out by them as a potential ally, and even implying he'll return after making amends with his dragon, he never does so and simply drops from the plot completely after being in one episode.
    • While Darx is implied to have died along with Kohei in the manga, in the anime he's simply gone for no apparent reason after Kohei uses him to hijack the Dragonic Heaven tournament.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Himuro's fear of ghosts in the manga.
  • The Worf Effect: Hagiwara, a couple of times. Sumishiba in episode 4, when he is utterly curb-stomped by Himuro.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Reiji's plan to defeat a local Villain with Good Publicity. See the village is threatened by a dragon and leaves gifts to appease it. Its actually the villain's pet and he's using the gifts to pay off his gambling debts, but no one will believe Reiji and Himuro because they're outsiders who actidentally broke the dragon's shrine. The villagers want to sacrifice him to appease the dragon. The gambit is thus: "We'll defeat the dragon for you. If we fail, then the dragon gets its sacrifice. If we succeed than your village is safe from the dragon without the need of sacrifices".
  • Your Eyes Can Deceive You: Himuro essentially says this to the Raikoo users when one of them asks why his eyes are always shut.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real:
    • Agent S mentions that a serious fall within the game world could result in brain damage for the player.
    • There's a moment in Reiji's first game with Himuro where Reiji crushes his phone in fear and his hand is actually bleeding when he gets out of the simulation. The resulting in-game explosion also left Himuro with a cut on his cheek.