Legend of the Dragon Kings Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, November 13, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2003



What They Say
Hajime and his brothers aren't human. As each comes of age, he gains the ability to transform into a fire-breathing dragon. Wonders of magic or science, they are stalked by a mad scientist bent on dissecting them and stealing their secrets. When an innocent friend is kidnapped by the enemy, the brothers fall into a deadly trap! Will the dragons survive? Contains episodes 5 & 6.

The Review!
While the wait wasn’t as long as between the first and second volumes, the third installment of the series has finally arrived as the schedule starts to get more regular.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Being a somewhat older show, it's no surprise that even though it's a stereo soundtrack it sounds primarily mono with most everything coming through the center channel. Music sounded decent if a bit flat while dialogue was clean and clear with no noticeable dropouts.

Video:
While many OVA series from the early 90's sport some high production values, Dragon Kings has a bit more of a smaller budget based on its looks. Or if you prefer, it's more real world in its design and coloring, giving it a less vibrant feel. Colors are nice and solid and there's a small bit of grain throughout the presentation. Some cross-coloration shows up in some of the more tightly animated areas but are otherwise pretty negligible. The shows look just isn't one that just shines in how its made.

Packaging:
With the three line title, the logo continues to take up a healthy amount of real estate, though it’s not causing too much of a problem as the artwork here is quite dark with the image of the two bionic dogs and their master set against a lighted doorway. There’s little in the way of detail here, though the overall look is decent, it just adds another murky looking cover to the series. The back cover provides a couple of small shots from the show and a decent summary of what to expect. The discs features are nice and clearly listed here as well. The reverse side of this cover has the chapter marks for the two episodes and the English only voice actor credits with a note that the Japanese credits are unavailable.

Menu:
The main menu is a good looking piece that has imagery of flames going inward from the edges while in the center animation from the series plays along to some of the action theme music. The menus are easy to move around in and things are in standard style here. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is what we’re used to with CPM releases.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release is a brief video art gallery and a set of dub outtakes, unless you also include the English trailers for all three volumes of this series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dragon Kings continues to be a series that suffers much like the early Patlabor releases did. Between the first and second volume there was a six month wait, in which time it was very easy to forget nearly everything about the show (especially when you’re now averaging over six hundred discs a year to watch). Between the second and third volume it dropped down to four months, which is somewhat more manageable in that I at least remembered part of the series. Future volumes look to be more like two months apart, and that will definitely help, at least for those just now getting into the show.

With the past volume bringing part of the initial storyline to a close with Gozen now beingout of the picture, things seem like there’s a chance of settling down a little bit. There’s still some concern over the ‘hired goons’ that the four Ryudo brothers had to face as they didn’t seem like they were part of Gozen’s plan, but that’s sort of filed away as something to deal with when they do find out more information. The eldest brother, Hajime, has decided to spend his time researching the groups that vied for power against Gozen to see who would likely fill in this new gap, since they’re likely to be the next enemy.

Surprisingly, he finds that Gozen had essentially crushed most of the competition over his long life and with his abilities. What seems to be happening though is that various smaller powers that had been bootlicking Gozen are now looking at working together to fill the void. We see this in action at a baseball game at the dome where the two younger brothers, Owaru and Amaru, managed to get some free tickets to from a reporter. The entire thing is actually a setup by the various sub-powers that are now trying to gain control. One of the things they’ve done to get their hands on Gozen’s power is to use his former personal physician, Dr. Tomozawa.

Tomozawa is one of those older pudgy looking characters that are just pure creepiness. His love of dissecting people and saving parts of them for future use is his main goal in life, as we see from his specimen room. Tomozawa goes for the Hannibal Lector creep factor by having such things as lampshades and sofas made of human flesh as well. For this particular escapade, he’s brought along two bionic dogs with control implants that will obey his every command, dogs that are powerful enough to defeat anything that gets thrown at them – particularly with their diamond-strong teeth. Naturally, once they’re in action they’re of little use against the Ryudo boys and their wild and unpredictable ways.

Of course, there are outside interests in not only Gozen’s realm of mastery but also of the Ryudo brothers themselves. These two episodes bring in some new characters from an organization calling itself the Four Sisters, a group that apparently runs the United States according to one bit of dialogue. With the attractive Japanese-American woman Lansdale taking charge of the situation, she starts causing waves and ripples in the Japanese power vacuum as the group she represents looks to assert itself in certain positions in the country, bringing yet another range of story potential to bear.

In Summary:
There’s a variety of things going on in these two forty-five minute episodes, but I’ve not been able to find a hook since the beginning of the series to actually get me to like any of the characters, never mind care what happens to them and what they’re going through. With this series having its origins in a series of novels, I’m wondering just how much was lost in going from one medium to another and how much was changed. I just can’t find anything to connect with here, which is why the series continues to be at the bottom of my to-watch pile.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: C
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 92
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Legend of the Dragon Kings