It's amazing what actually developing a coherent plot can do for a series that, through most of its first 13 episodes, was a train wreck. Now the series is finally clearly going somewhere and - wonder of wonders! - the characterizations and relationships established in the first half start to fall into place, too. In fact, the second half is such a vast improvement in writing over the first half that one has to wonder why Gonzo couldn't have managed to tell the story like this from the beginning. Sure, some of the character foundations laid in the first half were essential, but it seems like the Gonzo staff just muddled through the first half because they did not have enough plot to fill up a whole 25-episode run (a problem that, unfortunately, is all too common in anime series of this length).
A lot of the improvement comes from the story getting away from just trying to capture/pin down Toa and Gio and shifting gears towards working with them against Thanatos, which presents a much greater common threat. Along the way the series does play the tired discovering the value of love card, and gives entirely too easy an out at the end for one of the prime trouble points in Jin and Toa's relationship, but the emphasis placed on the nature of the Resonance between Dragonaut and Dragon, and how that Resonance shaped the identity of the Dragon, compensates for that; each Dragon is apparently molded in the ideal image of the one who underwent Resonance with that Dragon, which makes for some very interesting insight into what each Dragonaut considers an ideal and explains the close bond which forms between each pair. (Howling Star represents Raina's unrepressed side, Machina is the full-bodied woman that very petite Akira wishes she could be, Amadeus combines a butler with Sieglinde's most beloved family member, and so forth.) That makes the lack of a close bond between Kazuki and Widow all the more glaringly for its absence, which makes for an interesting contrast to the close relationships of the other pairs. These connections, and the fleshing out of individual cast members who had not seen much development in the first half (especially Sieglinde) serve the series well as it plays out.
The second half dishes out some big surprises, too, and these plot twists help quite a bit. One concerning the true nature of one character who was prominent in the first half should not be a major surprise, given the abilities that character has shown, but the true nature of a second character who occasionally popped up through the first few episodes is a jaw-dropper, as the normal style of anime storytelling would naturally lead you to believe that she was something else entirely. Some character deaths may be unexpected to various degrees and the trio of bridge crew ladies who do the Next Episode pieces show some unanticipated spunk at one point, which provides one of the few comical moments in the regular second half episodes.
To Read More Click Me!