If there were a dragon I’d want to avoid at all costs, it wouldn’t be Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It’d be a komodo dragon. Thankfully, I’ll probably never visit the Indonesian islands where komodo dragons live.
The mid-2000s saw a growth in the production of anime series. Though not all of the series made during that time period became a hit, a handful were certainly more memorable than others, enough so their manga counterparts saw a rise in popularity as well. But, there were many other manga series that never found a large following. One such manga adaptation of an anime series that never rose to prominence was Satoshi Kinoshita’s 2007 one-volume series Dragonaught: The Resonance (ドラゴノーツ The Resonance). While not the most exciting manga series or even the best manga adaptation, the series certainly fit into the shonen genre of manga quite well and was a good addition to the initial lineup that appeared in the monthly magazine published by Shueisha, Jump Square. True, fans of the anime source material will instantly find the manga’s story vastly different from the anime series and possibly disagree with the author’s vision of the material, but the new storyline gave the manga a unique flavor. However, the short length of the series removed much of the tension required to create a gripping narrative, let alone interesting characters, as a result of which, much like its anime counterpart, the manga didn’t leave a lasting impression.
When reading the shonen genre of manga, one will quickly find many series, particularly the action-oriented ones, are conceptually very similar. While the formula most likely differs between publishing companies, the mantra of friendship, hard work, and victory at Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump has become well known among fans of the medium. True, it can become tiresome seeing many of the series published in the magazine follow this mantra, but, surprisingly, giving the authors a prescribed blueprint for their series can help them create a narrative. On top of this, it’s more of a guideline for creating a series and is very rarely maintained throughout the publication. For example, when we look at a series like Fist of the North Star, it’s not as though the protagonist, Kenshiro, had many friends or accomplished his tasks through hard work, but rather triumphed over his opponents through sheer force of will and bludgeoning them to death with his fists and feet. One could make the argument victory through sheer force of will is similar to hard work, but it’s also a matter of how one chooses to interpret the original Japanese expression. Either interpretation is fine with me, though I decided on the more literal translation for this article.
While published by the same company, the monthly publication Jump Square doesn’t have the same mantra as its weekly counterpart. Yet, when examining many of the series published in Jump Square, they have similar qualities as the weekly series. In fact, two series currently syndicated in Jump Square, To Love-ru Darkness and The New Prince of Tennis, were formerly published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Thus, it’s clear the two magazines don’t have the same mantra, but series published in each display very similar characteristics. Again, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this as it clearly allows authors to follow a prescribed narrative while finding an audience for their work.
In this regard, Dragonaught: The Resonance was an ideal series for Jump Square during its infancy in 2007. True, the publication brought over a handful of the more popular series from the now defunct Monthly Shonen Jump, such as Rosario and Vampire and Claymore, but as a series to launch the magazine, Dragonaught: The Resonance was a perfect fit. It had many of the qualities we find in far more recognized works but in a story targeted for an older audience. What I mean by this is, for example, in a series like One Piece the overarching narrative in any story arc is almost always centered on the protagonist, Luffy, protecting his companions. In Dragonaught: The Resonance, though, there were undertones of vengeance in the actions of the protagonist, Jin Kamishima, and the antagonist, Belurum. I admit, many shonen series also have undercurrents of vengeance, but they generally don’t crop up until a series has become well established. Thus, by ultimately using many of the tropes seen in a Weekly Shonen Jump series but adding themes for a more mature audience, Dragonaught: The Resonance was a nice fit for Jump Square’s initial lineup of syndicated series.
However, as the series was only meant as a method to generate early readership for the magazine, it suffered from a myriad of issues. The author mentioned one such issue in the afterwards stating, “…for those who thought my artwork was not uniform…” when he was thanking the readership. Honestly, while there were some discrepancies in his character designs, they weren’t as large an issue as he made them out to be. Considering many authors don’t have a uniform art style when they start publication, seeing a handful of discrepancies in his artwork was not as distracting as one would think. Were there times when say, Belurum or Jin’s respective facial structures weren’t consistent? Yes, but with only Satoshi Kinoshita and a few assistant artists working on the series, this was understandable and forgivable.
Where Dragonaught: The Resonance truly had issues, though, was in the lack of tension in the narrative and the very little time given to fleshing out the characters. This is not to say the story lacked any tension or the characters were not interesting, but rather because the series was so short, at one volume, there was never enough time to fully explore both aspects of the series. So, when examining Jin’s story, for example, we had a general idea of what motivated him, the death of his family, but we never fully saw how it affected his psyche. One would think this would be a traumatic experience for him, and that being partnered with the person who was indirectly responsible for the death of Jin’s parents, Toa, would have generated some tension between the two characters. Instead, much of this was absent from the story or was quickly glossed over when it was included.
But, the short length of the series was actually far more of an issue with the minor characters than with the major characters. While there were only a handful of minor characters to begin with, they seemed to be included not as way to push the narrative forward, but more to emphasize the Jump mantra. Therefore, the sole purpose for the introduction of characters such as Akira Soya and Machina wasn’t to create more characters for Jin and Toa to interact with, but rather to serve as a means to explain the process of actuation—the process by which the human characters activated their partner’s dragon form. While Akira and Machina appeared later in the series, they played second fiddle to Jin and Toa’s partnership. I felt if Shueisha hadn’t limited the number of chapters Satoshi Kinoshita wrote, the lack of character development would have resolved itself. Unfortunately, this was not the case and as such we were left with rather weak characters and a familiar story.
Granted, because there was only one volume in the series, one could expect little semblance of character development or narrative tension. However, I have seen other one-volume series and even short series that had more depth than what I saw in Dragonaught: The Resonance. Those short series tend to throw readers into the fray within the first couple of pages, and over the course of the first chapter inform them of the major themes, plot points, and characters. From there, the series will quickly expand on the characters and build the conflict. Though following this method would have resulted in action scenes being far less prominent in Dragonaught: The Resonance, it would have greatly benefited the narrative of the final few chapters, especially considering how Belurum was thrust into prominence in the second to last chapter of the series. Introducing him earlier would have also helped flesh out Jin’s backstory and his relationship with Toa, but more importantly it would have given the minor characters a chance receive their proper character development.
While I can’t say the anime source material had proper development of the characters and themes as it’s been over eight years since I’ve watched the series, I definitively recall there were major differences between the anime and manga series. Some may find this abhorrent, and to a degree the departure from the source material is a bit much, but I actually felt it gave the manga a distinctive flavor. Granted, the manga had many issues, too, but had Dragonaught: The Resonance been an exact rendition of the anime series, there would have been little need to delve into the minute details of either series. While I would have liked some overlap other than the characters, there’s something satisfying about an author or a director adjusting aspects of the theme and narrative to tell their unique story. Take many of the current Marvel Studio’s films, for example. None of the films adapts one story from the company’s seventy-nine year history, but rather they take some of the more interesting stories and modify them into a film that is appealing to a wide audience. Thus, in the same way the Marvel Studio’s films take certain liberties with the source material, I happened to enjoy how Satoshi Kinoshita adapted Dragonaught: The Resonance into a manga series.
Dragonaught: The Resonance is not the best one-volume series I’ve read, but it’s truly unique in comparison to other series that have been adapted from anime. The issues it had in terms of narrative pacing and bland characters didn’t help make the series memorable. However, as an initial title for Shueisha’s Jump Square magazine it was reasonable. It’s also not the epitome of Weekly Shonen Jump’s mantra, but it was a good representation of it. Had it not been for my interest in and memory of the anime series, I would not have bothered with the manga adaptation. However, curiosity got the better of me and while I was not disappointed with the manga Dragonaught: The Resonance, I was not all that amused by it either. This is not a series I highly suggest for fans of the medium, but if you are inclined to read a very short series, this will certainly satiate that need. Be forewarned, though, it is very difficult to come by.
Title: Dragonaught: The Resonance (ドラゴノーツ The Resonance)
By: Satoshi Kinoshita
Under: Shueisha, Jump Square
Official Site: http://www.nasinc.co.jp/jp/dragonaut/
More Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonaut:_The_Resonance