Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan is everything that’s good in this world
It’s pretty easy for most of us to rattle off a list of things we hate in anime, but how many of us can truly say that we know for sure the exact elements that make us enjoy a series? I don’t think I can. Quality is unspoken. Like admiring a painting we never actively sit and consider the positives, whatever the aesthetic is that lays beneath the surface, it rises up and hits us unexpectedly without provocation.
For this reason I can’t tell you definitively the things that make Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan (Japanese: Hisone to Masotan) such a great show, all I know is that after only a single episode I instantly knew that it embodied everything that is inherently good about top shelf anime.
One of its strengths is its instantly loveable main protagonist, Hisone Amakasu. Not knowing what to do with her life after high school, Hisone makes an impulse decision to join the Japanese Air Self Defense Force and quickly finds herself as a junior cadet quietly pushing papers in a boring administrative office.
One day a superior officer tasks her with delivering important documents in person over to Hangar 8. While there, she unknowingly discovers a dragon living in the hangar space and unwittingly becomes the next candidate in a secret dragon related military program.
Enter Masotan, the adorable blue dragon.
Dragons are real you see and there’s been a long running classified government program to both suppress this knowledge and perform the appropriate ceremonial rights that keep the raw, dark nature of dragons at bay and prevent them from destroying the world.
But don’t let that fool you – right off the bat, there’s no combat to resolve or evil antagonist in this anime. It reminds me instantly of Gainax’s classic movie “Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise” (a personal favourite of mine), in that the drama isn’t driven by outside forces, instead its derived from watching a group of unlikely heroes accomplish a herculean task and rise from socially awkward nobodies to national treasures. If you’re expecting giant robots and aerial dragon dogfights, you’ve come to the wrong address.
While the art style may initially unsettle seasoned anime veterans, it’s not an indicator of a child-like or youth orientated story line. Quite the opposite in fact, the story is packed with a decent amount of curse words, alcohol and a few adult situations. It pulls no punches; in the end that may be its biggest redeeming quality.
You see, both Toshinao Aoki who wrote the Manga and series writer Mari Okada (Aquarion, Kiznaiver, Black Butler) kind of tapped into something special; while Hisone to Masotan may on the surface be a show about dragons, deep down it’s about humans. Most important of all, how we think of ourselves and our self worth. Don’t expect a life changing revelation, far from it, it’s just refreshing to know that sometimes a series doesn’t need to get itself lost in the over populated universe of fan service and unnecessary exposition or pageantry. For instance, being set on a military airbase every character wears the exact same outfit – there’s no emphasis on styling or aesthetics. The characteristics that differentiate each character are forced to go beyond being skin deep. As a result, the characters are wonderfully different and well rounded.
It may seem like I’m fanboying out over this series and in a weird way I guess I kind of am. 2018 has been a weird ride for anime, producing one of the most unpredictable season’s we’ve seen in years. There’s been a lot more series’ that I’ve started and left unfinished than ever before. Certainty in the quality of a new show is critically at its lowest point ever.
In many ways it’s great to find something that shines brightly within the dark realm of uncertainty and I hope both writers and producers are taking notes on the elements that make Hisone to Masotan so effective.
For all our sakes.
- Andrew Archer