Taku Kuwabara’s Drifting Dragons is an eclectic experience, one that offers a wide cast of characters and a variety of experiences. The first volume wastes no time introducing us to the world that the sailors of the Draking ship Quin Zaza fly through on a daily basis. First and foremost, when one opens the first few pages of the book, they are struck by a few gorgeous full page spreads and some large panels depicting wide shots of the land. These instill a sense of wonder at the vast expanses of the sky, the size of the dragons, and a sense of fantasy even with the sailors pelting the Dragons with harpoons and gunfire. Not to mention the way Kuwabara draws his characters, instilling equal parts style and life into each one.
The world of Drifting Dragons is one of Dieselpunk fantasy, wherein the skies above play host to large, almost alien monsters. The story deals with a draking ship, a ship that flies the ocean of clouds on the hunt for these monsters to seek profit and food, akin to the whalers of our world, but hunting more dangerous prey. Their tools of the trade are harpoon cannons, various rifles and muskets, along with lances capable of stunning the great beasts. Their aim is of course to take every useful and valuable piece from the carcass of the great beast to sell off to those who need it on land. From the meat on its bones and tail to the oils and greases and fats of the Dragon, every part is used to keep their livelihoods running. This leads to the to focuses of the book as a whole. The first is to give a detailed cross section of certain crew members and their daily lives aboard the ship, while the second deals with the various ways the bodies of dragons can be prepared to create delicious meals.
As for the actual bulk of the story itself, it may not be for everyone. There is no overarching plot to be heard of in the first volume, instead leaving readers with five chapters about living on an airship and making a living by hunting down dangerous beasts, connected superficially by mentioning the events of the previous chapter as “the day before.” After the introductory chapter is named after its topic of focus and the dish being made with the spoils of the day’s hunt. Those who don’t mind this form of storytelling will be treated to intimate looks at the lives of a greenhorn draker and her dragon-crazy shipmate, along with some of the others they spend their lives in the skies with. Readers will also be treated to sections of the process involved with taking the meat from an animal into the kitchen, then transforming it into a near gourmet dish.