DICE Season 1 Complete Collection - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B

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  • 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: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 650
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: DICE

DICE Season 1 Complete Collection

By J.J. Matthews     March 30, 2006
Release Date: December 13, 2005

DICE Season 1 Complete Collection
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
DICE (DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises): When a problem arises, DICE is called to the rescue. And when their special training and skills aren't enough, they rely on their Dinobreakers, which can transform from Vehicle Mode to Dino Mode, to help get the job done! Always on call, always on alert - DICE is ready for action!

The Review!
Being that DICE was made primarily for the USA, the only language available is English and no subtitle options are provided. The audio is recorded in Dolby Digital Stereo and is generally clean and suits the action onscreen. Dialogue is mostly clear throughout, though a few times I caught myself wanting to re-listen to a word or two. Music and sound effects are used liberally and somewhat effectively in the episodes, just in case the viewer somehow doesn't understand the simple plots and action sequences on-screen. Music and sound effects are also clean and clear. No distortion or other technical anomalies were noted.

This anime is presented in standard NTSC full frame format. The animation is just slightly better than mediocre, at times exhibiting a slight jitter effect where not enough frames were used to convey completely smooth motion. Many of the vehicles (especially in space scenes) are very obviously CG renders edited into the more traditional looking animated scenes. The video itself is clean and I didn't notice any defects besides a noticeable pause during the DVD layer changes. Colors are very bright and saturated. The video exhibits little aliasing and is surprisingly good quality for a series produced for children 7-12 years old.

This set is packaged in a standard double-width DVD case, with two double-sided inserts, for a total of six disks. The cover is a nice shot of Jet and Robert in armor with their dinobreakers that is in keeping with the sort of "Transformers"-ish feel of the show, which is carried over to another shot of the characters on the back, along with a few screenshots and the usual blurbs plus vital stats for the release.

The menu system here is simple and straightforward, with the same layout for each disk. The opening credits song and animation loops in a frame on the right of the screen, with options down the left to play all or access individual episodes. Each episode is divided into four chapters: the beginning of the opening credits, two stops within the episode, and the start of the ending credits. The menus are simple, easy to use and function well.

I gave an "extras" rating for the individual volumes of DICE that I've previously reviewed, but in retrospect, I don't think this set can really be considered to have any actual extras. Each DVD has "Extra" as an item on the menu, but each one leads to the same 45-second clip of gameplay from the DICE video game.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
D.I.C.E. is an interesting little series. As a show created primarily for a younger audience in the North American market, it bears some surface similarities to the classic team series of the 1980's - ThunderCats, G.I. Joe, etc. But with its younger protagonists and bright and friendly storytelling, D.I.C.E. is also clearly a show that's been created for the children of today who have grown up with the likes of Pokemon or YugiOh. As such, I found the series to be a fun little throwback to my own after-school cartoons, but it will probably only have lasting appeal to school-age children in the recommended "7+" age bracket who are still susceptible to the charms of transformable vehicles, cool transformation sequences, and nifty catch-phrases.
The basic premise of the series focuses on a group of teenagers who form Unit F-99, a single team within the larger organization of D.I.C.E. (DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises). D.I.C.E. is the Sarbyllian galaxy's all-purpose problem solving agency, coming to the rescue for every manner of planetary emergency. Teams go into action using special vehicles, called "dinobreakers", which transform from standard cars and motorcycles into dinosaur-themed variants when the need arises.

The action is primarily led by Jet Siegel, the "young hothead" of the crew who pilots a "motoraptor" - a motorcycle that transforms into a velociraptor. He is often accompanied by Robert Clapice, a more level-headed, charismatic type whose "hoverptera" provides aerial combat capabilities. The other two main mission personnel are Marco, a frequent complainer whose vehicle burrows underground, and Sam, the techie-geek of the group. Rounding out the team and providing backup support from the F-99 home base are Tak Carter, the captain of the team, Puffy Angel, a computer technician, Chao, the pilot of the F-99 fortress that serves as their home base on each world, and Marsha, Tak's second-in-command.

As you might expect for a series in the given age-range, most episodes tend to be fairly straightforward and episodic. A crisis threatens a planet in D.I.C.E.'s jurisdiction and a mission is issued, ranging from delivering medicine to save a sick little boy's life to preventing the escalation of an interplanetary war. In each case, the F-99 crew is dispatched to help, often with much skepticism from their adult clients at the capabilities of a group of teenagers. Complications arise, and the team uses their transformable dinobreakers and their own can-do spirit to resolve the situation and save the day.

As the series progresses, though, these day-to-day episodes are occasionally interrupted by episodes that do a bit more with the series - expanding on the premise a bit with a few recurring elements such as other members of the D.I.C.E. organization who get involved with the kids' missions or missions that return to the planet of a previous episode to further explore what was going on there. In addition to these smaller elements, there are two primary recurring threads that really drive the series, gradually building toward a (comparatively) climactic conclusion for the season. The first of these is the presence of a mysterious dinobreaker-pilot known as the "Phantom Knight" who frequently appears in the midst of Jet's missions. Jet has a conflicted relationship with this stranger, as it starts very antagonistically and eventually gets personal when the Phantom Knight performs a maneuver that only Jet's long-lost, supposedly dead brother could do (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). But the Phantom Knight also happens to be on hand at several crucial points when Jet's life needs saving, so he's obviously not all bad. As they interact more with the Phantom Knight, the F-99 gang figures out that he is involved in a fight against a shadowy organization and that uses dinobreakers for its own nefarious purposes. To pursue this conflict, the Phantom Knight is seeking information and artifacts related to the "Great Lord Heron", which is the second important recurring element of the series. From early on, this "great lord" is mention as some sort of deity that people pray to for help, but the name "Heron" is also related to a paradise-like planet that is known only as a myth. The importance of this planet grows over time, starting as just casual mentions in the midst of unrelated stories, but increasing to the point that the search for the planet becomes a major focus for the series.

As the first season builds to its finale, the F-99 crew discover the identity of the Phantom Knight and he reveals to them some truths about the D.I.C.E. leadership that cause the organization to suffer a dangerous split. The F-99 crew and their allies must fight against the rest of the organization, including several friends they've worked with on missions in previous episodes. The conflict in the last several episodes is really pretty nicely realized for a kids' show, as it was clear who the real enemies were, but to get at them, our heroes first had to get past their own friends who were protecting those bad guys out of blind loyalty. I especially liked the solution that Jet came up with to get rid of a fleet of attacking D.I.C.E. fortresses by opening wormholes that scatter them all over the galaxy. In some ways, it was a bit of a kiddy-show quick fix, but the way it was handled worked within the context of the show and it was used nicely later when that solution came back to bite him in a bit of a twist later in the episode when those ships were needed to prevent worse things from happening. It's a little thing, but I appreciated that the show took time to come up with creative solutions within its own context instead of a sillier resolution. Of course, in the end, everything works out for the best and the good guys win...but they went through some nice conflict to get to that point, and I appreciate that.

In Summary:
D.I.C.E. is definitely a fun little show that I think would entertain its target audience. The characters are likeable and have a nice byplay between them, and the storylines, while simplistic, do a pretty good job of balancing the prerequisite toy-marketing and moral-telling with actual plot. This is helped by the fact that the episodes start to build on each other as the story wears on, giving the series a bit more weight than the simple standalone style implies at first. Again, this isn't a series that is going to have much appeal for adults, but it's worth a look if you're shopping for age-appropriate material for an elementary schooler.

English 2.0 Language

Review Equipment
Marantz DV4300 Progressive scan DVD player via HD component connection, Marantz VP-12S3 DVI/Component HD DLP Projector, 110" 16:9 Stewart FireHawk Fixed Wall Mount Screen, Marantz SR9300 7.1 A/V Receiver 140 watts/discrete channel (7), DTS/DTS-ES/DTS Neo: 6, DD, D-PLII THX Certified 7.1 speaker system


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