Source: Wikipedia

Dragon Pilot (aka Hisone to Masotan) is an engaging series with oddly rough character designs that work really well in context. NB: I recommend avoiding the Wikipedia link for the series until you’ve seen it. Most of the spoilers below are confined to episode 1 or made as cryptic as possible. 🙂 

Hisone Amakasu was a loner at high school, partly because she has no mental filter at all. Hisone will speak her mind without restraint which causes her, and those around her, difficulties[1]. Bereft of any real ambition or friends, Hisone picks the Air Self Defence Force as her career option out of a desire to cherish and protect what’s dear to her.

Of course, having anything to protect, or knowing what those things[2] are is an entirely different matter.

In the opening episode Hisone is sent on a mission to a mysterious Hangar 8 where she runs into a dragon… which promptly swallows her. Of course, the dragons have long been concealed[3] from the outside world by Japan and are euphemistically referred to as Organically Transformed Fliers or OTFs.

Congratulations Hisone, you have now been voluntold to be a dragon pilot. Oh, and to actually pilot the dragon, you have to do it from inside the stomach. Better have a gastric acid resistant flight suit, and be able to trigger the vomit reflex.

As for the primary dragon himself, Masotan, well, he’s a giant goofball really. This is where the somewhat odd visual aesthetic of HisoMaso really starts to work. A more “traditional” look for the characters and the dragons would have placed more focus on the body horror aspects of the set up.

This would have distracted the viewer from what the creators clearly saw as the important elements of HisoMaso: the characters and the story. As it is Masotan and the other dragons are mostly adorable, and this leaves you free to focus on what matters.

The apparent dissonance between the body horror of the premise and emphasis on the characters is showcased by the well-chosen OP where arguably the song is more important than the visuals.

By the way Masotan is probably chewing on flip-phones[4] in the OP.

Getting back to the story I don’t want to say too much but it calls on Japanese mythology in some fascinating (and occasionally disturbing) ways. The character interactions are generally solid, no surprise from a series with heavy input from Mari Okada, and are extremely good at calling out casual sexism in the workplace.

It’s been known since the days of The Right Stuff that fighter pilots are often dicks, and apparently Japanese fighter pilots aren’t any different. This lot do have hearts of gold though, even if particularly dickish[5] orders from above occasionally prevent them from showing said hearts of gold.

There’s also some deeper messages running through HisoMaso on the topic of women in the workplace, and the implications of romance in the workplace. But, again, I don’t want to go into too many details and will let you discover these for yourselves.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed HisoMaso and recommend braving the terrible, no-good, horrible, very bad Netflix UX to watch it. However do make sure to disable Autoplay as a) the French ED is adorable[6] and b) the next episode trailers feature some animated sketchworks that are really clever. Netflix Autoplay will skip both of these, and you really want to see them.

Speaking of the ED:

It’s also worth saying that I’m still very much in comfort anime mode[7], and despite having some serious subject matter, HisoMaso was just fun to watch from start to finish.

[1] Her directness causes difficulties even, or arguably especially, when she means well…

[2] Or people. Or dragons.

[3] In Masotan’s case, by disguising him as an F15J.

[4] Flip phone’s are Masotan’s favourite snack. He doesn’t like smartphones, too much plastic. Hisone switches to a smart phone fairly quickly…

[5] OK, those orders were probably justified given the stakes but a) still dickish and b) a little too close to “ends justify the means” for me to like the individual giving the orders.

[6] The fact that the ED is a French song is arguably a shout-out to a plot point that plays a major part in inspiring Hisone in the finale.

[7] Second half of ARIA the NATURAL incoming.