Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dragon's House Hunting, vol. 4 comments

(Image from Used for review purposes only.)

Doragon ie wo kau (Dragon House Hunting), vol. 4, by Kawo Tanuki (writing) and Choco Aya (art), Grade A
I don't really have all that much interest in Hunting, although I think the artwork is well-executed and the story is funny in a silly way. I got the first three volumes back at the end of August when I was on a trip and needed something to read, and after that I'd occasionally wonder when volume 4 would come out, though I wasn't actively following the serialized stories in Blade magazine, or going on Amazon to find out if there was going to be an upcoming release soon. However, there were a lot of other new releases in June (Q.E.D. iff, C.M.B, Ajin), and that got me to wondering about Hunting. I went to Amazon, and was surprised to see that vol. 4 had come out back in April (I do check out the new releases shelves at Kinokuniya and Junkudo bookstores, and I hadn't noticed it there at the time). So, I decided to get it now.

The volume starts with Letty taking a post-lunch nap, and his adopted "son" (Pii-chan, the Hraesvelgr snowbird chick) runs off to have adventures (protecting gnomes from a band of heroes that threw their shoe house into a river). Letty wakes up and goes into a blind panic at finding Pii-chan missing. When the prodigal child returns, Letty weeps with relief, and in a non sequitur, asks his real estate agent/Magic King elf Dearia what his childhood was like. Elves and dragons are both long-lived, so it wasn't that "long ago" (only 1,000 years) that he was a kid.

We then get a flashback that uses up the entire volume. Dearia had been a snotnosed child living in a hidden elven village, always stealing forbidden magic books and blowing stuff up when he got the spells wrong. His elders tried to get him to act more properly, but he had no interest in anyone that couldn't answer his questions (such as, "what are goblin loin cloths made of?") Eventually, the elders talked him into going on a quest to search out the answers to these queries and all. He leaves and gets up to the northern countries, where he encounters Jormungandr, the world snake. Jormungandr agrees to take the boy on as a pupil, and the boy's first task is to make himself a house. Unfortunately, Jormungandr keeps on knocking it down when he rolls over in his sleep. The two of them settle on having a wigwam set up on the snake's head, like a tiny hat.

One day, Dearia is wandering through a village on the hunt for a rare book, and is told to try his hand at a lottery wheel (a rotatable wooden box that contains colored marbles, mostly white). The main prize is a package of tissue, which the elf could use. He spins the wheel box, and a gold ball falls out. The ultra-rare prize is to be named the new Magic King. Dearia can't be bothered, and evades his new followers, escaping back to Jormungandr. However, he's soon visited by Varney, the Black Dragon Lord. Varney wants a new home to replace the one invaded by heroes and adventurers. He claims that only the Magic King can help him. Dearia refuses, but Jormungandr says that a true student of the world snake would never turn down a customer.

So, Dearia ends up spending the next 100 years touring the world, evaluating castles, dungeons, caves, and huts for Varney in order to determine what a black dragon wanting to start a family would require. In the end, Varney introduces the elf to his fiance, a white dragon, and says that he doesn't really need a house if the two of them are just happy with each other together. This kicks Dearia over the edge, and he discovers how to raise an ancient, forgotten sunken island in the middle of the ocean. Varney builds his own castle using the plans Dearia draws up, and then says that since they're friends, Dearia shouldn't charge him for the job. Dearia just clenches his teeth and grins, but follows this up by saying that because of everything he's learned, and his new desire to help the weak (everyone the heroes and adventurers keep beating up), he's gotten his real estate agent license and will now become a professional agent (charging serious money for it, of course).

The two of them harass each other a bit more, and then Varney admits that he's had fun during this trip, and will miss the elf. Dearia tells him to take care, and they go their separate ways. Back in the present, Letty and Pii-chan are both crying their eyes out at the sad ending. Letty asks if Dearia had ever talked with Varney since then, and the elf says "no, not in the last 100 years." Mainly, it's because the Magic King is constantly being followed by enemies, and he doesn't want to give away the location of the island. That night, he sits and stares up at the stars, while Varney and his family (his wife and at least six other dragons of various shades and sizes) do the same thing from the ramparts of their castle. In the omake section, Dearia hints to Letty how he'd kept people from finding the island afterward. He'd join up with parties of adventurers looking for new members, but the details after that are best left unsaid.

Summary: At its heart, Hunting is a brilliant parody of Japanese dungeoning RPGs. We get weird spells, strange power-ups, and a look at the lives of the monsters that are upended by the hordes of heroes that keep trampling through their lands. The artwork is exquisite, and the story is silly. My favorite parts are where Pii-chan learns the new skill of dropping caterpillars on people, and when Jormungandr blushes with pride at something his student does well. Highly recommended if you like RPG video games.

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