Blue Dragon sticks to what it does best, and does it well.
What They Say
On their way into Grankingdom, the shadow wielders are ambushed by General Logi and his forces. Shu is still having trouble drawing out Blue Dragon's full power, but a one-on-one battle with Logi should give him the right motivation! After the fight, Shu sets off on his own to catch up to the others and befriends a fellow traveler - never guessing that his traveling companion is more foe than friend!
Contains episodes 10-13:
In Enemy Territory
An Honorable Opponent
Blue Dragon is presented English language option only, which is a logical move considering the audience Viz is aiming for with this release. The stereo mix is straightforward but effective. Effects and dialogue are balanced nicely and when the larger action moments pop up the audio doesn't let the material down. The dubbing is pretty good as well, so the loss of the Japanese track isn't <i>too</i> keenly felt.
This is a very recent show, originally airing during 2007, and in its classic fullscreen aspect ratio, it looks it. Colours are fantastic, and Toriyama's simple, fun designs are great to see in motion, as they nearly always are. The transfer is as clean as it ought to be with a pretty short running time and no significant extras: image clarity is superb and even dark areas look nice and solid. I did notice some very rare and limited jaggedness along certain lines during movement; but that's really just nitpicking. There's no cross-colouration or any other distracting problems. On my setup this is close to flawless just about all of the time.
Blue Dragon is presented, appropriately enough, in a blue transparent case. The cover image this time focuses on Jiro and his Minotaur Shadow, fittingly since Jiro's role is played up in the second pair of episodes on the disc. As anybody would expect, the Toriyama/Dragonball Z angle is played up, in the form of a short strip across the lower right corner of the image. The back has the usual combination of writeup and stills from the show, and lays out all of the technical information across the bottom. (Though the runtime is actually located separately on the upper right hand corner of the case.) The transparency of the case isn't fully exploited, but the reverse side of the cover has a dragon pattern that is at least more interesting to look at than a plain black piece of plastic would be. There is an insert this time: one side advertises the collectable card game while the other has a find-the-word puzzle.
With no language or subtitle selections to make the menus don't have a lot to work for, but they get the job done just fine. The main menu is a static piece except for some animation from the show playing in a small round frame on the left side of the screen while the options are lined up on the right waiting for you to choose them. In addition to the the "play all" function there's a single submenu screen for choosing episodes or parts of episodes, and it's nice to have it all there in one place for convenient access. There's also a "Book of Blue Dragon" option where the extras are housed. This part of the menu has some really nice movement with the book opening, etc. and the clips playing next to the character profiles that makes it look a step above the other parts of the menu.
The brief extras are listed under the menu option "The Book of Blue Dragon" and consist of two short text scrolls of background information to the world the series is set in, and a couple of character profiles, this time Jiro and Minotaur. The Book of Blue Dragon keeps the chapters from the earlier discs and adds a new one recapping the events from the last installment. Nothing too special, but they are well produced and look good.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The best thing Blue Dragon has had going for it is the action sequences. In this volume the action scenes, including plenty of Shadow fights, take center stage and the series is all the better for it. There's a lot less of what the series isn't so good with, and a lot more of what it does exactly right.
Recovering the stolen pages of the Book of the Beginning means going deep into Grankingdom territory, so Zola and the rest have their work cut out for them. Especially when the first thing they do on crossing the border is walk right into an enemy trap. The only way out of course is to fight their way through; easier said than done when you're facing a squad of Grankingdom Shadow-wielders. In the course of all the fighting and escaping the group gets separated and each member of Zola's party finds himself squaring off against an enemy. The show milks this to pretty good effect by intercutting between the various fights and keeping the excitement high. It doesn't hurt that the Grankingdom Shadow-wielders are a pretty interesting lot with a nifty set of attacks, either. I particularly like the way Jiro handles himself in his encounter. He holds his own in combat and wins the mental game hands down. But naturally the most important fight goes to Shu. Being the least experienced with his Shadow, he's got the biggest load to carry - and that's not even taking into account who his opponent turns out to be. So he gets to learn a few things about wielding Blue Dragon while dishing out as much punishment as he can.
This series of fights takes up the better part of two episodes, but there are more on the way. After the Grankingdom forces withdraw inexplicably - at least inexplicably for the moment - Shu and the others try to rendevous. On his way to join up with his friends, Shu runs into a man who treats him kindly despite being a Grankingdom officer. Their conversation prompts Shu to think about what being a warrior involves, and exactly what it is he's taken up by participating in the war against Grankingdom. The scene picks up the thread started by Conrad in the last volume, but it has a different twist this time by coming from somebody on the other side.
And speaking of Conrad, I got my wish in seeing more of him in these episodes, and commanding the allied army on the battleline, no less. The action keeps coming, but it's varied a bit by enlarging the scale to a full battle between armies as opposed to the one-on-one Shadow fights. Conrad turns out to be an excellent strategist and it's a good bit of fun to se the tricks he has up his sleeve. I wish there were more on this front (figuratively speaking, of course), but I really liked what I saw.
While Conrad keeps most of the Grankingdom troops occupied, Zola takes the opportunity to go straight to Emperor Nene himself. This is where Jiro's importance to the story increases. As the one with a personal grudge against Nene and Grankingdom, Jiro has a lot of rage bottled up that could endanger the group if it's released at the wrong time or place. His inner struggles make him the object of dramatic interest especially in the last episode - and also the perfect target for what Nene has in mind.
The third disc of Blue Dragon is nearly non-stop action, and good action at that. And not only is the action good in itself, but it's the kind of action that really serves the story, particularly in the second half of the disc. A few more things are revealed about Emperor Nene and what he's ultimately up to, though not even General Logi knows as yet what kind of chess game his commander-in-chief is playing. The story feels like it means business now - there's very little of the silly throwaway comedy that the fist two volumes had clinging to them. With the action and story fusing as well as they do, I get the feeling that Blue Dragon has come into its own.
English 2.0 Language, Character Profiles
Sony 35" KV-35XBR88 SDTV, Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player (via generic component), Yamaha RX-V550 DD/DTS Receiver, Infinity Primus C25 and 150 speakers and Yamaha YST-SW216BL Subwoofer.