Zatch Bell Vol. #02 (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, March 05, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What They Say
Kiyo is a brilliant junior high student who is a major target for teasing at school. His father sends him a bizarre birthday present, a strange little boy named Zatch Bell! But Kiyo soon discovers that there is more to Zatch than his dad ever realized!

Zatch is a creature called a mamodo, and he has magic powers that are unleashed when Kiyo reads spells from a mysterious red book. With Kiyo's help, Zatch must compete against 99 other mamodos who are vying to become king of the mamodo world!

Contains episodes 5-8:
The Dark Mamodo
The Mystery of the Missing Red Book
Botanical Madness
A Kind Mamodo, Kolulu

The Review!
After getting clued in on the basics of the series, Zatch Bell moves to a bit more character related drama and plenty of standalone action episodes.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language adaptation. No Japanese language track is included with the release (contrary to some of the initial solicitation information received by retailers) so we only have the new English track to it. The series has had its music changed as well so the original opening and closing songs are no longer there. The English track throughout is a pretty solid stereo mix that makes good use of the stereo channels for action sound effects and some dialogue, giving it a very full feel during the big action sequences and even some of the quieter times. The dialogue track is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this look quite good as the show had a fair budget to it and uses characters with a mostly clean and simple design with bold striking colors and a straightforward bright feeling palette. The result is that visually the show is definitely appealing looking – particularly when compared against its broadcast run in the US which just looks horrible on our analog channel – and it shines very well with this transfer. Colors are bright and solid, avoiding any real major blocking issues as well as a lack of cross coloration and only a few tiny moments of aliasing during some fast action sequences.

The front cover is fairly decent with a standard action pose, as much action as there can be when one of the leads holds and reads a book, as Zatch leaps out and takes up most of the foreground while the others fill out the background in sitting or standing positions. It's not terribly detailed artwork but the designs are meant to be simple and clean anyway. The back cover provides a nice mix of things with shots from the show along the right side and an action shot of Zatch on the left with lightning striking against a black background. The center section provides a rundown of the four episodes by title and summaries while the remainder of the bottom area is a mix of production information and basic technical information. Viz continues to be one of the few companies left that doesn’t do up a proper technical grid so figuring out some of the basics can take a little time but they do clearly list along the bottom that this is the North American Edited TV Version.

The menu layout replicates the front cover artwork nicely along one side while providing a listing of the navigation selections along the left. The same kind of blandish red/yellow backgrounds are used here but there is a small sampling of music that plays through the standard under 30 second loop. The menus are basic overall and are quick and easy to use but they lack any real pizzazz to them. Access times are nice and fast and our players’ language presets were a complete non-issue due to the lack of multiple language tracks or any subtitle tracks. Close Captions are included but I truly wish that they’d include them on the disc so that in order to see them I didn’t have to deal with the big black background close captions that my TV generates. Including CC subtitles on the DVD itself is a big plus in user friendliness.

None. What’s included in the extras section is advertisements for other Zatch Bell products.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Zatch Bell didn’t exactly set me on fire with its first four episodes it was entertaining enough for both myself and my kids that I went and tried the second volume to see if it could survive the sophomore slump, something that tends to last a bit longer in shows like this that go on for many more episodes than most series. The opening was interesting enough as it provided us with a view on something new but the second volume doesn’t make much progress on it.

The second volume brings to a close the initial storyline that has Zatch and Kiyo meeting up with some of the other Mamodo guys and those that work with them and it’s interesting to see the differences in how these apparently main characters differentiate in their attempts to win the big prize of power. They aren’t necessarily malicious but it has that Highlander affect to it where you know they’re going to have to fight some day if they’re really serious about becoming the Mamodo King. The closure of the opening storyline brings some decent battle sequences with the one Mamodo who isn’t quite so friendly but it also sets the stage for some character drama that spills over.

Kiyo, who isn’t the best social person ever, makes his own set of mistakes in talking about Zatch when he isn’t around but is actually listening nearby. What he says isn’t exactly mean but for a pint sized punk like Zatch it cuts right through him and whatever pseudo-human emotions he may have. It’d be a nice chance of pace to have a non-human character not get offended by the same things as a human but then how would we empathize? Ah, for challenging writing. The result of the words and other incidents lands Kiyo in the hospital where he’s a bit injured and needs some minor recovery. This leads to some mildly amusing fun as one of the other patients there who has trouble healing learns how valuable the book is and swipes it from them with the intent of destroying it because Kiyo is “mean” to him. It comes back to the same thing as with Zatch though in that Kiyo is simply saying what’s true and the person not handling it well.

This is what the show sort of turns into over the next several episodes though as it deals with either Zatch foolishness and misunderstandings or some other person with a book and Mamodo who shows up in search of a challenge so they can gain more power and move further towards their goal of becoming the Mamodo King. Some of it is amusing, such as the material with Suzi being either a ditz or just not being able to operate in a regular manner in the world, but most of it is very basic and uninteresting boys action material. The opening volume provided some interesting bits as it unfolded but it was also very much cemented in its genre.

In Summary:
While my kids still pretty much enjoyed the show for what it was and the kinds of escapades that they got into, what little held me during the first volume was essentially lost here in the second one as it fell right into standard “gotta catch ‘em all” kind of mode. The show does continue to look fantastic though in terms of visuals and animation with a very clean print and vibrant colors. While that can attract the kids in 20 minute sections it’s not something that’ll keep my attention and is more likely to put me to sleep.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

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

Mania Grade: D+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Zatch Bell