Dragon Drive Vol. #10 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 09, 2005



What They Say
After stealing the Dragonite, Kouhei and Hideaki return to the D-Zone with Hideaki deliberately releasing the all powerful Shinryu! It’s now up to Reiji and his friends to try and succeed in containing this incredible power before it destroys the entire world!

The Review!
While not surprising for a finale, Dragon Drive focuses more on the big action scenes but does flesh out its storyline even more.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we alternated between English and Japanese for the four episodes here, spending an entire episode in one language and switching during the next. Both tracks came across well in their stereo mix, though most of the dialogue continues to be center channel based. The music, particularly the opening theme, sounds full here and fills up the soundstage nicely when it starts off. Dialogue throughout the show is clean and clear and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, Dragon Drive is presented in its original full frame format and full of the vibrant eye-catching colors that are the norm in many kid's shows. The transfer for this show looks almost spotless with only a bit of noticeable aliasing in a few areas, mostly from some of the mixed CG of the dragons, and a few very minor spots of cross coloration that look source material related. The colors schemes are rich and vibrant with hardly any macroblocking. The bright blue skies during the daytime scenes are great looking and maintain a really solid look and feel. While the animation itself may be a bit sub par in a few scenes, the transfer for it is spot on.

Packaging:
The last cover is definitely appropriate as it has the main trio of characters from the start of the series in their big happy moments with their dragons set against a really nice blue backdrop. While a full cast cover would have been nice, when combining with the dragons it would have been incredibly busy looking. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself and a minimal background of one of the characters faces against a darkened skyline. The summary is decent if simple and we get a clean listing of the discs features and basic technical information. While the spine and front cover thankfully list the volume number, we also get episode numbers and titles on the back here. The insert replicates the front cover and opens up to provide more specific summaries for each of the four episodes along with some artwork. The back of the insert has the full production credits translation and bilingual credits for the main voice cast. This release also came with a lenticular insert of Light Night's Knight in his transformed state.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty simple for this release and likely for the whole series since they're pushing it somewhat more towards the kids market. The main menu and the submenus are all static pieces, with the main menu having a shot of a Meguru and Reiji looking serious set against a backdrop of the monitors used for the game and some of the equipment. Selections are pretty standard and are easy to access and navigate. The menus load quickly and we had no trouble with language setup or defaults.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal with this release, being just a few illustrations in full color of some of the dragons and some of the cast.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a series like Dragon Drive with how it's worked itself out over the last thirty or so episodes, you know what the series finale is going to be like; Lots of action, a bit of angst and plenty of dragons flying around looking pretty impressive.

Things haven't gone too terribly well for Reiji and his friends as they've failed to stop Kouhei from acquiring the Dragonite and with the assistance of Hideaki, causing a fair bit of trouble since then before getting ready to head home. With this kind of power behind him, Kouhei's naturally the type to try and force himself on his opponents to show that he's unstoppable now. But even he knows his limits and eventually returns back to Earth where his father is waiting for him so he can take the Dragonite for his plans. His father is definitely a cold and calculating type as he cuts power to the transport system as soon as Kouhei is through, which ends up stranding Hideaki, Miharu and Rockaku inside the D-Zone program. This completely messes with the good guy's heads since they've never seen a city like this one before from the game.

While Toki goes about getting his plans in order for the Dragonite, we get a flashback from him that shows his own encounter with Rikyu that happened years before. His arrival in that strange land led him to seemingly have a relationship with a slew of dragons and strange creatures that were in search of the Shinryu power but he wasn't able to find it before being thrown back to Earth. Since his return, he saw only the wars and devastation that was going on and became determined to gain the Dragonite so he could put a stop to it all. Finding others who had experienced similar passage to Rikyu as he did, he brought them all together to build the Dragon Drive game/transport system so that he could put his ambitions into action.

As all of this gets underway, everyone on Rikyu are beside themselves trying to figure out what to do and how to get back to Earth. Well, except for Reiji who just sprawls out in the yard and looks up at the sky and waits to see if something comes to mind. To his and Meguru's luck, they come up with it at the same time as Jigen Joker has awoken and if Meguru can control him, they can use his powers to transport everyone to the other side. This is a fully different fight than before though and Reiji warns all of them that it's do or die time becomes Kouhei's father will be the one that will destroy the world to get what he wants.

We get a lot of material before that series of events starts though as Kouhei tries to get the upper hand on his father and swipe the Dragonite from Hideaki. This forces Toki to get into the D-Zone himself, something that everyone thought impossible since adults couldn't use the system, but Toki has his own trump cards and an incredibly powerful dragon of his own. The unraveling of the plans here in the D-Zone is interesting to watch as we finally see what the Dragonite is when it unfurls and expands to a dragon the size of others but taking on the form of the dark side to Chibi's light side. While it's a bit odd to look at at first, the design for Shinryu is really interesting as it looks like it contains all the stars and galaxies inside of it.

While I won't say the show spirals downward into lots of action to finish things out, it is very action intense and goes along traditional boys-show lines as Reiji and the others try to stop Shinryu from destroying everything. It's decently done action but the feeling about the entire thing is summed up early on by Toki in my opinion when the Dragonite first gets into his own hands when he says, "This has taken far too long." That's still the feeling I come away with in regards to this show. The original premise gave you the feeling of another card based fighting anime but then it shifted into something else entirely but it had far too many episode given to it in order to do it, so it felt like it meandered a lot and had way too much time to complete each of what turned out to be mild missions. So when we get to the end of the series, the final battle just feels as stretched out as those earlier arcs but at least you know there's a conclusion ahead and a decent one at that.

In Summary:
Dragon Drive is a show that is pure kids TV but well done for the most part. It has its flaws but it is exactly the kind of show that you expect to come from Japan and clean up on the airwaves here in the US. It has just enough neat moments to it that it'll get an older fan base to enjoy the show as well but not quite to that critical mass level. And it is definitely a show that can sell some really interesting toys based on the dragons. Unfortunately none of that happened here so we're left with a ten volume series that should have been a couple of volumes less. At its conclusion, Dragon Drive does a decent job of wrapping things up and putting the characters on new paths. Some episodes in this series were really great though and it's one that's easily recommended if you've got young boys in the house, or even girls as mine loved it as well.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Gallery,Dragon Gallery


Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Dragon Drive