They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Well, Toriyama tries making a new version of his DBZ…and so far, it succeeds…just not in a good way.
What They Say
As a young boy, Shu spent a lot of time dreaming of all kinds of outlandish adventures. But when he manages to awaken a legendary shadow named Blue Dragon, his real life dishes up way more excitement and danger than he ever could have imagined. Shu and his new comrades Jiro, Kluke, Zola, and Marumaro are thrust into an epic adventure as they travel across the world to confront the evil King of the Grand Kingdom, Nene, and stop him from dominating the world. This title features character designs by the acclaimed Akira Toriyama, creator of DRAGON BALL and DRAGON BALL Z!
For this review, I listened to the Japanese track. In a standard 2.0 format, the sound comes through clearly and concisely though I did notice a couple of moments where the sounds didn’t match with the subtitles – fortunately it wasn’t horrendously noticeable but still something to note. The audio comes out well though without any signs of muffling or distortion – checked the English track as well and again no problems, despite the lack of 5.1.
The video’s only problem I had is as said, the fact that the timing between the sound and the subtitles was a little off in one episode. (They seemed to change the spelling of Kluke’s name half a dozen times as well) Other than that, the video is very vibrant and comes through well on the screen considering the amount of colour that is used in the show. There were no problems with the video being broken up or distorted and it flowed through fine, however there are noticeable problems with the subtitles which were more than rectified by the second disc.
The menu is very basic, with an easy selection box of play, episodes and languages easily selectable. The menu has a very colourful menu with each of the main characters with their summoned creature at their side, alternating with the music. It’s very eye-catching and menu is straight forward enough so no problems.
The only extras were on Disc 2 which were trailers of Blue Dragon Plus, Mar, Bleach: Memories of Nobody, Bleach TV and Naruto.
It seems whenever there is a shounen style series which isn’t called Naruto or Bleach, I get intrigued to see if it can get me enjoying the style. MAR did this to some extent, and being made by Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball Z, along with a video game tie-in, it certainly intrigued me. However, by the end of the it, the attempts of making a new DBZ had almost predictable results – and certainly not for the better. Indeed, this is on record the first series which I had the dreaded ‘look at the timer to see how long is left’ syndrome, which should give you an indication of how I felt about it.
We are quickly introduced to our main lead Shu, a Goku style boy, who is looking to find someone who is a Knight Master, and get him/her to train Shu, for no apparent reason at the moment other than to get stronger. Whilst nimble, he gets easily annoyed and when he bumps into what appears to be two pirates, a tall tanned woman by the name of Zola, and a stern and spiteful young man by the name of Jiro, he gets irritated by Jiro’s words but is impressed by Zola’s abilities, thinking she’s a sword master. However, a few choice words from her puts him in his place – shortly after though, the town they live in is attacked by a group ordered by the big bad boss, Lord Nene, and whilst Shu and his mechanic female friend (who does pass a slight resemblance to Bulma) Kluke do their best to hold off the enemy, they are soon defeated mainly due to Zola’s refusal to help them. However, chosen people seem to be gifted with the ability to summon monsters controlled by their shadow. When the army’s boss summons one, Zola returns to save the day – however during a moment where a building collapses to crush some of the villagers, Shu gets frustrated and upset about his lack of power, and remembering some choice words Zola said, he’s able to summon a monster of his own – the title’s Blue Dragon.
Unfortunately, the first episode pretty much sums up the problems with the show – it’s not only way too predictable, there is no real explanation for why the villains attack Shu’s village, or why the pirates come back to save them, or how Shu suddenly has this rare power. This could easily be explained, but during 8 episodes, nothing of the nature occurs. 7 more episodes I hoped would do that, but instead we got a lot of stuff which you could see in other shounen shows…only better.
Shu at first, cannot control Blue Dragon, who is quite pompous, but powerful and wants more power. Shu doesn’t even know how he summon him – Jiro manages to stop the carnage with his shadow Minotaur as does Zola’s Killer Bat. It’s ‘explained’ that Nene’s reason for this is to simply turn the world to chaos. It doesn’t help that things like this are accompanied with Shu being both an idiotic and unlikeable lead, his stubbornness is typical, but unlike Naruto or Ginta who at least have fun-loving personalities, Shu is a bit of a brat to all, even Kluke who joins Shu in the inevitable journey with Zola/Jiro to get Shu to control his powers. A training montage with Shu to get stronger also gives us a brief look at Kluke’s tech skills and even more impressive cooking skills (though not in a good way). A strong enemy of the Grand Kingdom fights them, Jiro panics as he can’t beat him, Shu panics because he can’t control Blue Dragon, but it leads to Jiro learning how to control his emotions and how to use strategy, eventually causing the enemy to hit with his Minotaur’s strongest attack, Waves of Rage.
More characters are later introduced, in episode 4 we get the token pervert, a weird animal/human hybrid character named Marumaro, who I must admit, at least gives some elements of comedy in the show, albeit on the perverted kind when he keeps trying to flip up Kluke’s skirt, and when they set a trap for him using Kluke’s panties. Yeah, with the bad cooking and this, I’m also getting Ranma ½ vibes all of a sudden…it does lead to Marumaro joining as despite his perverted nature, he is a fighter for justice and he uses speed in his battles, and as he has to fight two tough enemies, he needs all the help he can get. One of the villains gets a bit of air time named Logi, as he seems to have a history with Zola, and is pretty strong, which caused Blue Dragon and Shu to snap into shape and finally get some degree of control. Blue Dragon is the ace in the hole as he’s quite strong to say the least.
Coming to the end of Disc 2, the one real plus point is that the comic moments and characters are at least quite enjoyable. Illustrated in what I’m guessing is the last main character (if the opening and menu are an indication) Bouquet, a big busted pig-tailed girl who works in a restaurant who seems to delight in helping others who help herself. She is clumsy, but has a shadow herself and can become invisble, which leads to a lot of amusing antics. Also, the crew pick up a weird old guy named Legalis, who his attempts at sounding important in honouring the crew to take him to his city is at least worth a smle. And to it’s credit. It does end well as whilst the ghost episode was pretty pointless, the crew get to meet the king of Legalis’ city, as Zolo wishes to acquire the Book of the Beginning, a very important book which details the war between the Light and the Dark, snippets of which have happened in previous episodes but not expanded on until now. After some Bouquet stalking, and Shu fanboying over lead guard and Sword Master Conrad, the castle is attacked by the Grand Kingdom’s army where their genetically altered beast take on the shadows and the skills of Conrad, but the final scene with the book seemingly in the hands of the enemy after Zola’s groups help means there is trouble a brewing…
Sadly, the good moments are few and far between. Whilst Bouquet and Maramaro are amusing, the rest of the cast who are more of the main characters are very bland and boring. Shu in particular comes across as very annoying and not a strong or likeable lead. The obvious comparisons to DBZ are obvious from the artwork to the characters, but the lack of charm really hurts the series. A lot of predictability and random battles don’t help it, and only the intrigue of what happens in the next disc to the final scene saves it from being something I don’t want to return to. However, it was a struggle to finish it off – which is not a good sign for future volumes.
Blue Dragon’s main weakness is that it is too similar to other shows – and doesn’t have the charm of them to compete. The designs will please fans of Toriyama’s works however the similarities of some of his characters will make people think it is a DBZ clone, and not for the better even if it is his work. The characters are very one-dimensional, the plot doesn’t seem to go anywhere and despite some moments where they focus on the comedy and battle, it’s hard to recommend Blue Dragon to only those who have watched too much Naruto and Bleach and need something else for their shounen fix.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.