I’ve read Dragon Kid on and off, thus in a very bad random order, over the years, wherein I honestly did not understand what was going on. Also, this was the time in my life when I would not give manga-style a fair hearing. Therefore, having the first 5 issues in correct order, now with a better mindset, is a welcome thing.
The adventurous draca (female dragon) Keiko Shoda mischievously goes into the lair where Lord Kuronaga, enemy of the Dragon Haven, is imprisoned. Her tail gets caught in the chain. When she pulls away her tail, she breaks the chain…and releases Kuronaga back to cause havoc in the Dragon Haven and the Mortal Realms. Keiko is banished to the Mortal Realm as punishment and for her safety. But Kuronaga’s 12 Nights are on her tail, and her only other protection besides her raw hidden potential is the ordinary human, school fighter Bayani.
This is the thing, aside from the great manga-style art with impeccable inking and very coherent paneling and pacing, that makes this series stand out among the manga-style komiks. It openly admits its country of origin. This is a story from the Philippines, set in the Philippines, and steeped in its culture, making no qualms or apologies about it.
Bayani is solidly the boy who gets in trouble with the law for all the right protecting-the-peace reasons. Bayani has a lolo. Keiko and Bayani get into an arnis school, led by a Mr. Suave lookalike. Bayani goes to a typical Pinoy school. Yes there are plenty of manga-type tricks, like sweatdrops, large eyes, and head veins. There are also plenty of Chinese and Japanese names sprinkled throughout the work. The use of the Chinese zodiac derivatives has been done before, but is done nicely here. However, never do you feel that this story is trying to be something it is not. It uses the manga style, but it will never be manga, it will be Pinoy komiks.
So while Dragon Kid does follow the standard patterns (a spunky girl rubbing a nice but hotheaded boy the wrong way; characters that want to get stronger to better fight evil; a simple thing starting a terrible big thing; bad guys who grandstand; etcetera), the way it’s done here does not feel awkward, even if derivative. It feels familiar, but not foreign. It’s very likeable and fun that way. It definitely helps that all the characters are relatable, imperfect, spunky, and fun. It shows the families of both Keiko and Bayani, which makes you realize how much family is a big thing in our culture, and how important they are to making the person.
All in all, Lady Storykeeper is one of the best practitioners of the manga style (I may have said that before), and it shows in this compilation. She is one of the best because she knows she’s a Pinoy first of all, and proud of it.