© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara

Most media with dragons in the title sound really cool. Dragonheart, Dragon Age, Dragonslayer… And then, there’s The Dragon Dentist. Try saying the title again. The Dragon Dentist. Doesn’t sound like a very interesting adventure at all, does it? Just from the title, it sounds like a fantasy work comedy in which a bunch of dental hygienists help save a dragon from the horrible dangers of plaque. The EXCITEMENT!

But, as it turns out, The Dragon Dentist manages to build its world that depends on these dentists as its savior of sorts from all kinds of evil creatures in a fairly short amount of time. Originating as an eight-minute short from Neon Genesis Evangelion director Hideaki Anno’s animation studio Khara in 2014, this story is currently being expanded as a two-part special, with each part lasting approximately 45 minutes.

© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara

The story of The Dragon Dentist takes place in a world that is currently in the midst of a raging war. In this world, there is a flying dragon on which dentists ride and live. This is because the dragon’s teeth need constant care. Why? Because it’s not plaque that infest the behemoth’s teeth—it’s monsters. The various spirits of the dead from all over the world manifest as various types of “mushi” (lit. bugs) that come out from the dragon’s teeth. While these monsters manifest themselves as bugs, the word “mushi” is also a nod to the similar word “mushiba,” which means “cavity.”

© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara

Once in a while, though, the teeth decide to take one of the spirits, give it back its life, and spit it out. Such is the case of Bell, a soldier for the enemy country. Although the elder dragon dentists say that they should let him be sucked back into the teeth of the dragon to die because these beings—called Yomigaeri (lit. Revived)—are a bad omen, heroine and young dentist Nonoko takes Bell under her wing.

© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara

Although most of the dentists’ time is spent getting rid of small fry mushi—and there are a huge variety of them, I might add, each with their own unique attributes. In times of war, the number of these mushi increase exponentially and the bugs also get more dangerous. The most hazardous of these mushi is the “Tengumushi,” which unlike the other types of mushi, eat humans.

© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara

In the first episode, we see the dangers of Tengumushi attack firsthand when one of the dragon’s teeth gets a massive injury. Each dentist doesn’t just have mops to clean their scaly patient’s teeth, they also have their very own weapon to “purify” the enemy. So—as the best fighters among the dentists deal with the Tengumushi—Nonoko, Bell, and some others are entrusted with the life-threatening task of fixing the broken tooth to stop the overflow of mushi that are pouring out from the wound. In an instant, the anime takes a turn from a fairly slow-paced story about dentists taking care of a dragon to a heart-throbbing, fast-paced action show filled with suspense.

© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara

And the stakes are real in The Dragon Dentist. When dentists get eaten by the Tengumushi, they’re dead. There’s no “Oh, as long as we rip the Tengumushi corpse open fast enough, I’m sure they’ll be fine” nonsense. And to make things even grimmer, every single dragon dentist knows the moment that they’re going to die, which is made apparent to them during their test to become a dragon dentist. But this anime with a seemingly silly premise about dentists asks a very deep question: is it really worth it to live simply waiting for the moment of your death? Each character that is faced with this question has their own answer. Those battles with the Tengumushi mean just a little more when you know that it is probably this Tengumushi that leads you to your end.

We’ll have to watch the second and final episode to find out where those paths will lead the characters, but The Dragon Dentist has certainly surprised me with its focus on action and emotion. My only fear is that after seeing all this violence from dentists, that I’ll be too afraid to ever get my teeth cleaned ever again.

Anime Basics: The Dragon Dentist

The Dragon Dentist is available streaming on Crunchyroll in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. The specials will be aired outside of Japan on NHK World TV. You can check our Anime Basics page for more information on the show.

Comments (4)
  1. This was actually good I didn’t expect it to be this dark

    • Me neither! Definitely was thinking it’d be more of an upbeat “hahaha isn’t it funny we’re cleaning a dragon’s teeth, and sometimes we fight bugs” anime. Surprised at its deep themes.

  2. So, the important question – *when* will the specials be aired. I really don’t want to have to resort to fansubs!

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