Dragon Sister volume 1 manga review

I didn’t even finish Dragon Sister volume 1, but I’m going to “review” it anyway. It’s the only way to get relief from my suffering. I know near the end Tokyopop was licensing anything that looked even slightly like a manga, but I didn’t know the problem was this bad. When I think of all the delightful little series, maybe a little average but certainly not as bad as Dragon Sister, that could have been licensed instead, well it brings a little tear to my eye.

As usual, the blurb:

The classic Chinese tale of The Three Kingdoms–with all your favorite historical figures cast as cute girls! As the Han Dynasty collapses, two mighty warriors–Zhang Fei and Guan Yu–stand strong against the tide of rebellion. But because these fighters are female, their dreams of fighting in the Imperial army are nothing but dreams… until they find a patron and like-minded brother in Liu Bei, an idealistic descendant of royalty with dreams of his own. Forging a pact, the three form a volunteer army dedicated to restoring peace, which means first defeating three deceptively adorable sisters who oppose them, and who have their own, definitely cuter, plan for China’s future… One thing’s for sure–history’s about to get a makeover!

Dragon-sister-v1-p050The first line is the beginning of my troubles – I have never been able to keep all the characters and plot twists of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms straight. Dragon Sister is probably the closest I’ve come to understanding all the different factions and which character belongs where, which they manage by keeping the main cast down to 6, 9 if you count a few extras. That’s a good start.

What’s not so good is that the mangaka (nini?) assumes that everyone is completely familiar with the plot, so s/he just jumps straight from important event to important event without any explanation. First the heroes/heroines meet up and decide to fight together. Next chapter they’re already in the middle of a battle, then suddenly the battle is over. Suddenly they meet Cao Cao, then just as suddenly he disappears. Next battle they’re already in the loyalist camp kicking up a fuss over something inconsequential. Is that how the original story went? I don’t know, but it’s hard enough to follow all the different factions without any smooth transitions from Point A to B to help keep things straight.

Dragon-sister-v1-p058That wasn’t the worst of it, though. The worst was the waste of the premise. The idea is that due to a curse, all the heroes of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms have been reborn as women. It’s not the first time a writer has recast historical characters as different genders and it won’t be the last. In Dragon Sister though, the problems are threefold.

  1. If all heroes are women, why are Liu Bei and Cao Cao still male? Aren’t they heroes? Or will there be a reveal later that they were women all along?
  2. Zhang Fei and Guan Yu spend time kvetching because being women keeps them from fighting for the loyalist army. Then it turns out Dong Zhuo, leader of said army, is a woman as well. So being a woman isn’t the barrier it was set up to be, Why bother having that gimmick in the first place?
  3. Turns out the gimmick exists for the sake of cheap titillation, nothing more. I should have known as much when I saw that cover. Dong Zhuo almost always comes across poorly in RotK adaptations, and this time she’s a sneaky lesbian who lusts after the heroines and dresses them in revealing clothing (that’s actually less revealing than Guan Yu’s standard outfit) so they can trip and show off body parts. What happened to telling a story?

It’s a shame the series is so sub-part because I quite liked the clean art style. It just screams “modern shounen,” like Naruto meets Full Metal Alchemist kind of art. Still good art will only take you so far without good writing. No wonder even Tokyopop dropped it after two volumes. If you’re that hung up on seeing your favorite RotK heroes redrawn as women, or if you’re such a big fan that you’ll buy anything set in that era, then I guess you might get something out of Dragon Sister. Otherwise it’s not something to go out of your way to read.


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