As a fan of visual novels, I have a pretty big list of titles that I want to read, but lack a necessary English translation Among them are three in particular that I really, really want to read: Kanojo wa Sora ni Inoranai -quantum girlfriend-, Ore no Tsure wa Hito de nashi, and Dra+Koi. They have all been on my list for at least two years or more, with Dra+Koi acting as the oldest. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a translation patch had been released for Dra+Koi (okay, I admit I did know about the project, but the whole thing just sort of died for a long time, as it often happens with these translation projects). Now, finally able to scratch a name off my list of visual novels, I have decided to write about the experience.
Dra+Koi is a visual novel made by the studio Nitroplus that came in a fandisk (like a videogame developer equivalent of a music EP) of their’s called Sabbat-Nabe (something along those lines as the name is fairly difficult to Romanize). It was written by Hagenaya Jin, the main writer for Deus Machina Demonbane, which is actually readily available at J-list or directly through JastUSA.
Dra+Koi is an unusual visual novel in many ways: it has no voice acting, none of its characters have names with their mostly three (well, maybe four) important characters, and only takes about two or three hours to finish even in its longest path. Because of these changes from the norm, the rest of this review will be a little more disjointed than I would like.
The story of Dra+Koi is placed somewhere in a modern setting, and follows an unnamed and ordinary boy as he has an encounter with a rampaging white dragon, saved by knight in black armor. Later, the boy encounters that same dragon in the form of human girl…quite fixated on eating him. A short fight ensues and thanks to a glorious cross-counter, the protagonist manages to escape alive, but his dealings with this dragon girl are far from over. From there, the main protagonist still has to deal with the his military-commander mother as well as the black knight.
The characters themselves are quite amusing, and they have to be, considering they essentially carry the whole weight of the plot by themselves. We have our protagonist, a silver-haired boy with a bad attitude and even worse mouth, he teeters at the line between tsundere and asshole to a ludicrous degree, but given what he is put through, I can hardly blame him. Then we have the dragon, a humorous, cocky, fourth-wall breaking machine shaped like a curvaceous pink-haired girl. She is constantly talking about eating the protagonist (in any number of ways) or guilt-tripping him into spending time with her. There is also the protagonist’s mother, mentioned earlier, whom I will not talk about because spoiling her would take away half of the fun from Dra+Koi. Let it suffice to say she looks like a little girl, and has the funniest music theme I heard in many years. Finally we have the dragon slayer, a mysterious man clad in utter silence and a black suit of armor who will stop at nothing to kill the titular dragon.
As I mentioned before, Hagenaya Jin was the writer for Dra+Koi, where having read another title of his, Demonbane, I have my share of experience with Hagenaya’s writing style. The writing’s most distinctive feature is its versatility and ability to quickly change gears, evident in Demonbane but is nowhere near the level found in Dra+Koi. Hagenaya goes from mythical to metafiction, to urban fantasy, to love comedy, to plain comedy, all in the blink of an eye, and he does it quite well. But the constant changes in pace and mood can be enough to disorient a player. this is further exacerbated by the fact that Dra+Koi is so short, though I believe I fared reasonably well myself.
The greatest strength Dra+Koi has is its nature as metafiction, blending various story elements within its own narrative. It does become a difficult concept to explain, but I can only summarize it as the story breaking the fourth wall, sometimes for entertainment, but sometimes to further its own narrative. Fantasy isn’t something that can be destroyed by men hiding smugly behind their superior weaponry, it is guided by romance, only the dreams and hopes of men, their fantasies, can stand up to fantasy, in such a way only a hero with a sword can defeat a dragon even in an age where we can wipe each other out in less than a day using nuclear weapons. It has such a surreal nature that idealism looks like cynicism and cynicism looks idealism and you have to ask yourself whether being faithful to the script is the right way to carry out the story.
While I heap praise on Dra+Koi, it does have its own share of flaws. As previously mentioned, it is only a part of a fandisk. Just one third of it to be exact, which means its flaws are mostly technical with its lack of voice acting, so the sprites and backgrounds are quite well done, but are limited in number, all the backgrounds and some sprites are done with CG, so they don’t mesh together quite so smoothly as they could, but then again, lots of CG’s are the modus operandi for plenty of works from Nitroplus, so fans probably won’t mind at all.
Pros: Lots of energy and movement with amusing characters and a narrative that completely twists the clichés of love, comedies, and heroic fantasy. Visual novel veterans will love its metafictional nature. A limited, but powerful soundtrack keeps things interesting, and the novel is too short for them to get old. Subtle details make the story deeper than it first seems.
Cons: The work is woefully short. Translation is a bit more profane than your usual stuff from Japan. The romance is probably a weakness, as the “lovebirds” are fairly abusive to each other, it is just not the healthiest of relationships.
I cannot call Dra+Koi a sweeping, groundbreaking work, because it is too small in scale. While it may not be a gold bar (more like a big nugget), it is still high enough quality though to recommend to anyone who can spare the admittedly small time requirements to play through it.
Ah, forgot to mention, this is an 18+ work made for only those old enough to consent to such sexy-filled content.