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

The Dragon Dentist isn’t just action-packed. It has us face our own mortality and accept that fact.

Dragons Make Dentistry Action-Packed

In a world filled with war, one nation uses a dragon to quell its enemies. This dragon gets its powers from its teeth. So, it’s up to a crew of “Dragon Dentists” to keep the dragons teeth clean of bacteria and cavities. But, one day our hero Nonoko Kishii finds an enemy soldier named Bellnard “Bell” Octavius on one of the dragons teeth. It’s suggested Bell is an ill omen, but Nonoko takes him under her wing and trains him as a Dragon Dentist. Why, because only those who’ve faced their mortality can become Dragon Dentists.

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

One of the underlying themes of the series is how we have to accept our death. It’s never an easy subject to broach since we generally don’t think about it. It’s because, while we fundamentally understand we’ll eventually die, we see out death as some far off event that doesn’t affect us now. Yet, the series makes sure we face our mortality and does so in one very fantastic way.

It’s how every Dragon Dentist knows how he or she will die and accepts it. It’s a morbid thought, especially through Bell’s eyes, since goes against our want to keep living. Yet, this isn’t the case for Nonoko and her colleagues. In fact, it’s far from it. Nonoko even say she’d rather keep living and eat good food, but ponders if the point of living is to live a long life. That perhaps it’s better to live a fulfilling life instead. It’s this understanding of life and death the Dentist have that allows them to accept their deaths and experience life to it’s fullest. It’s an enlightened thought, too, because it releases them from the fear of death and when his or her time comes they can go in peace.

We even see this with one of the Dentist’s as he’s about the meet his maker. In one moment he’s frightened he’s going to die. Yet, because understands this is his time he’s able to let go of that fear. He lived his life the way he wanted and now his time has come. And in his death he is able to save those around him. It’s beautiful and reinforces the idea we should be accepting of death as a natural process.

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

However, this doesn’t create a conflict within the series. All it tells us is the Dentists are a bit more enlightened than most other people. So, the series asks us another two other important questions regarding morality. When and how do we accept the death of loved ones? This comes from one character named Shibana Natsume in particular. She’s actually an interesting character because on the one hand she recognizes everyone dies—if she didn’t she wouldn’t be a Dragon Dentist. But, on the other hand she can’t accept the fact her lover died in an incident 12 years prior to the series. She holds on to this memory and harbors a certain amount of resentment of the fact nobody can escape their mortality. It’s as if she’s saying, “Was there anything I could have done to prevent it?” While Shibana will never know this, the contradiction of acceptance and denial forces Shibana into drastic action, reviving her lover.

What makes this great, though, is in trying to revive her lover Shibana also wants to liberate every Dentist from their fate. She’s in essence saying, “We don’t have to accept death. We can transcend it.” But, there in lies a problem, once a person dies they don’t come back to life and it’s up to the Dentists to recognize this truism. It’s very Zen Buddhist in that we have to let go of out attachments. But, by denying this truism and Zen philosophy, Shibana is forgoing everything she’s supposedly understand and replaces it with raw emotions. Even when she’s met with the hard truth again near the end of the series she can’t accept it and decides to continue the struggle. And in the words of the Dentists it’s both beautiful and brave since she’s fighting against fate.

In the end, though, it’s accepting the fate of death that allows the Dentists to face their and their colleague’s mortality and not have an existential crisis. They’re able fully understand why we need to recognize our lives are fleeting. But, rather than be consumed by emotions, to let go and appreciate what we have and what those we loved brought to their lives.

The Dragon Dentist is currently streaming on Crunchyroll in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It is also available on Blu-ray through Amazon.

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