Blue Dragon adds a character that didn't sit very well with me, but compensates with some well-executed action.
What They Say:
Shu and his fellow shadow wielders are determined to seek help at Jibral castle. When they are finally granted an audience with the king, Zola requests permission to view the all-important Book of the Beginning. But during an attack by Gran Kingdom, seven key pages of the book are stolen, and the group decides to set off on a dangerous journey to Gran Kingdom itself!
Contains episodes 6-9:
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
The Trouble With Ghosts
Castle Under Siege!
The Sinister Sea
What We Say:
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 is a good face for the kind of show this is, with Zola swinging her cutlass and her vampire bat Shadow dominating the background. 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. No insert is included.
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. The volume 2 text scroll is mainly a summary of what we saw in the episodes from the first disc, while the background text from the first disc is included here as well. Nothing too special, but they are well produced and look good.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first episode on this disc gets things started off on the wrong foot. Two new characters are introduced; both of them are bad. The first is a big-haired, big-mouthed diplomat that Zola's group agrees to escort back home. At least he looks like he's going to be out of the story for a while, judging by the way things shape up across the four episodes included here. I wish I could say the same for the second character. Her name is Bouquet, and she's also a Shadow-wielder - only her Shadow is a hippo that gives her the power to shapeshift into pretty much anything. A funny idea in theory, but it has yet to be a funny idea in practice. Let's hope it will at some point. Since Bouquet is evidently going to be a regular character from now on, she's going to have to find some way to pull her weight.
But Blue Dragon is at its best in the Shadow battles and it doesn't stray too far from those, thank goodness. After a single ho-hum episode the party of adventurers arrives at the walled city that they were escorting the big loud diplomat to. They find that a lot of strange occurances are going on, and that these are being blamed on a ghost. I was afraid at first that this was going to be a filler ghost-story type of episode; but it wound up tying into the larger story pretty tightly, once Zola figures out Grankingdom is behind the mischief. And you know what that means: the Shadows get to come out and play. Things get even better afterwards when the ghostly shennanigans turn out to be just one phase in Grankingdoms plot. An entire assault force arrives to besiege the city, which leads to a pretty good and pretty long battle that lasts the greater part of an episode. A powerful Knightmaster named Conrad leads the defense, but before the battle he has a talk with Shu that gets him thinking about what he's trying to accomplish. He also gives the boy some good advice for life in general. Conrad comes off as a really strong character in spite of his brief screentime. I hope the show isn't pulling my leg wh it suggests we're going to see more of him later on.
At the center of all these schemes and attacks is the Book of Beginnings, the oldest book in the world. The walled city guards the original version of the book - the only version that contains seven extra pages of secret lore. Zola has been trying to get her hands on this information, but she won't reveal to anyone what its significance is or what it involves. The gives the show a sense of mystery, and more importantly, a more definite and tangible goal for the heroes that helps focus the series a bit more. "Beat the bad guys" is all well and good, but it's nice to know the first step to achieving that. Especially since Zola seems to have a different method than everyone else for taking down Emperor Nene.
The final episode finds the gang at sea and is mostly there for comic relief after the big battle. Since a lot of the comedy relies on Bouquet's reappearance it tends to degenerate into squabbling between Kluke, Bouquet and Shu. The relief from the comic relief comes in when most of the kids (and their Shadows) fall under the influence of an enchanted fog, and everybody starts acting out of character while the Shadows unleash attacks at harmless targets, such as the ship's mast and the ocean. As long as Blue Dragon can pull out the Shadows and blow stuff up, it'll never go too far wrong.
The second volume of Blue Dragon starts off badly but recovers well. If there is a pretty awful character added to the cast, then there's also a nice big battle to help make up for it. I'm finding it a good light bit of fun, an action comedy series that has good action and not-quite-as-good comedy. Now that all the main characters are assembled I can see it getting better provided that it turns its attention to developing the story. Assuming Bouquet doesn't mess everything up, of course.
English 2.0 Language, Book of Blue Dragon 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