Invisible Dragon was Invisible Dragon Because He was Invisible Dragon
by Admiral Fartmore
Book Assigner’s Note (Peartree): I wonder if ol’ Invisible D. could best Squirrel Girl… I doubt it.
This week we are covering something a little different: the tale of Invisible Dragon, a disastrously-written “webnovel” that appeared on a semi-anonymous Korean message board around 2002. It is one of the 7 Forbidden Texts in Korea’s online community: a collection fantasy and fan fic tripe so shit it’s disrespectful to even mention them by name. Posted over the course of several days in the form of simple but barely comprehensible messages, Invisible Dragon tells the story of Invisible Dragon – a dragon that is invisible. This invisible dragon named Invisible Dragon is super-duper powerful, and over the course of his lifetime manages to defeat all of the other super-duper powerful forces in this and all other universes.
Before I continue, I just want to clarify that I did not read the original Korean version. I can’t read Hangul, (the script famous both for its incredible versatility and also for looking like little exploded stickmen lying dead on a battlefield.) Instead, I read an English translation from Ensj Translations, a blog dedicated to this kind of stuff. From what I understand, it’s a very meticulous translation and preserves all the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that made the original so unique. I wonder sometimes why people dedicate themselves to documenting this kind of shit™, but I appreciate their work nonetheless.
Anyway, we don’t really know anything about the author, so it could be anyone from a 3rd grade child struggling to write out his first badass story about invisible dragons (we’ve all been there), or an adult writing a more pointed parody of the “overpowered-protagonist-fantasy-fighting” genre (we’ve all been there too). I am ruling out Koko the Gorilla this time as I’ve heard she’s just not the fantasy type.
The first “chapter” of the webnovel sets up a basic episodic formula that is repeated ad nauseam for the rest of the story:
- the invisible dragon finds a new challenger
- the invisible dragon bests that challenger
- the invisible dragon gets bored
- the invisible dragon goes off the find another challenger
Sound familiar? This is the part where it really seems like parody of that Dragon Ball Z-type storytelling, where the protagonist’s external threats and internal strength just kind of snowball forever with no real purpose. But at the same time it almost feels too surreal to be parody, because it is written like this:
To really preserve the epic nature of this battle, I reached out to Peter (UK Accent 1) from a text-to-voice service and requested a reading. I have to say, Peter (UK Accent 1) does a fantastic job:
So as I said, the plot is quite simple. Invisible Dragon fights and defeats a series of opponents for no real reason. There are about a dozen battles over the course of the 50 chapter, 50 paragraph work. For your convenience, I’ve listed the opponents Invisible Dragon faces below:
- All of the World’s Gods and Demons (an ambitious start)
- The United States of America (circa 2000)
- The Zerg
- Super Hyper Ultra Dragon
- Demon King Dragon Master
- Invisi-visi-ble dragon (Invisible Dragon’s older brother, who self-destructs and destroys the first universe)
- Gods and Demons of the second universe (identical but stronger than those of first universe)
- Gods and Demons of the next 300 universes (each stronger than the last)
- A human called Luchopa (father of Duike, who swears revenge on Invisible Dragon)
- Gods and Demons in 100 more universes
- Ultimate Demon King God the Master Dragon (real name: Colbob)
- Duike (who in fact defeats the Invisible Dragon)
Invisible Dragon grows stronger as each battle grows more difficult, and so listing the contests in chronological order also tells us the power level of his various opponents. Personally, I felt it was a bold choice to make The United States of America more powerful than All the Gods and Demons but less powerful than the Zerg. I was also surprised that a random human called Luchopa in about the 300th universe was stronger than all the gods and demons that preceded him. And the real name of the Ultimate Demon King God The Master Dragon (Colbob) made me kind of hungry. Mmm… lamb colbob.
There’s some practical elements that make the world feel real. For example, when the Modern Earth dimension is invaded by the Zerg, the Invisible Dragon (now in the form of a human) strategically kills all the Overlords first in order to protect his invisibility. (In Starcraft, Overlords can detect invisible players.) Unfortunately, that’s the only time you see any kind of limitations or rules in the world of invisible dragon. In the bit about Starcraft. Yep.
Peter (UK Accent 1) recounts the Zerg invasion of the modern Earth universe.
Otherwise, the story is nonsense. The author can’t even keep track of how many universes the invisible dragon is traveling through and gets confused about the character’s own abilities. He bickers with other people on the message board about plot inconsistencies, such as how many days make up a year:
Not that it really matters, but “Duikes” is a man who swore vengeance against Invisible Dragon for killing his father.
There are a lot of great one-liners in this story, like when “the invisible dragon was sweating like shit,” or when “the invisible dragon saw shit with his minds-eye it was super awesome,” or when the final boss introduces himself by saying “Im seriously 4390814980413098123409831249801498023410989239080000 stronger than you i’m introduce myself the lord of the lord of the universe yeah my name’s colbob hehehe.” But I don’t want this review to be purely quotes, so I encourage you to skim through the “webnovel” yourself if you have a few moments to spare.
In the end, Invisible Dragon actually tells a very sad story about the loneliness of supreme power. The dominant theme is really Invisible Dragon’s boredom and dissatisfaction; it is the only thing that drives him to kill. And perhaps even the Invisible Dragon’s invisibility is a blatant nod to the character’s lack of substance – a reminder that there’s actually nothing here to experience. When the author says “tey couldn’t see him cuz he was invisible cuz he was invisible dragon,” what does he really mean? Regardless, the futility of the exercise is revealed in the Invisible Dragon’s death, where he is clearly at his happiest (and most coherent):
It’s not clear in the end whether Invisible Dragon is enlightened or if he’s just a dumb fucking character. But whether accidentally or deliberately, the best parallel in the story is actually between the reader and Invisible Dragon’s love interest; Shang’a.
Shang’A is a minor character in the story. She is Duike’s ex-girlfriend – I think – and one day she happens to find Invisible Dragon on the verge of death after a battle. She also conveniently happens to be “awsome at healing.” This naive young woman and the 10000 year old giant invisible lizard are apparently a match made in heaven, and she instantly falls in love with him. Invisible Dragon pretty clearly doesn’t care much about her in return, and so he continues his slaughtering ways. But despite Invisible Dragon’s self-indulgence, banality, and outright idiocy, she still loves him. At the climax she explains herself with the story’s best line hands-down:
And you know what? In the end I don’t blame the girl. I think a lot of people fell for it.