DICE Vol. #2 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: D
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 14.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: DICE

DICE Vol. #2

By J.J. Matthews     August 22, 2005
Release Date: July 12, 2005

DICE Vol. #2
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
The adventures of Jet and the crew of the DICE F-99 Fortress continues! First, they participate as drivers in a planetary Grand Prix in order to discover who is behind acts of sabotage. Then Jet and Tak will visit a planet that appears once every 27 years while the rest of the crew gets some much-needed rest. And they’ll need it because then they’ll have to stop an interplanetary war, find a missing artifact, and solve the mystery of the disappearance of a strange bird!!!

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 change. 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.

The packaging is pretty nice for a children’s anime. The standard plastic keep case comes inside a sturdy cardboard sleeve with nice action poses of Tak and Sam with their dino-breakers on the outside, and featuring brief character bios of Marco, Puffy, and Marsha inside. The case would certainly attract the attention of the target audience. No volume number is provided, but episode titles are listed and numbered clearly on the back cover.

DICE has a simple menu system. The main menu navigation style is a straight forward, vertical list at the left of the screen. The following menu items are present: Play All, Episode 6 – Episode 10, Credits and Extra. There is a nice sized frame on the main menu that plays the series' entire opening animation, including theme song. 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.

The only “extra” on this release is actually recycled from the previous volume: a series of clips lasting approximately 45-seconds and showcasing game play from the PS2 game of the same name.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
D.I.C.E. volume 2 jumps right back into the action with our young heroes fighting the forces of evil and trying to make the galaxy a safer place.

Each episode in this volume follows the same general pattern as those of volume 1, starting with a quick introduction to the crisis-of-the-week, followed by some fairly simple plot "twists" as the team uses their transformable dino-breakers to resolve the situation and save the day.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, that this volume changed up the formula a bit by mixing in some world-building elements and giving more background on both the D.I.C.E. organization and the characters. The series hasn't become hugely in-depth and character driven or anything, but it's nice to see them make the effort to go a little beyond the straightforward video-game action of the previous volume. I also didn't notice quite as much blatantly bad dialogue this time around and there was some genuinely clever humor that gave me a chuckle.

This volume contains five more episodes of the series, starting with a fairly typical action plot in episode 6. Tak, Jet, and Sam participate in a race where any up-and-coming contenders have been sabotaged out of the running. Our heroes must avoid the pitfalls put in their way during the race and figure out who's been doing the sabotaging. Jet also has another brief encounter with his nemesis, the Phantom Knight.

Episode 7 provides our first significant world-building episode, revealing that dino-breakers are actually living machines that survive by eating mysterious pellets found only on one planet. We’re also introduced to a new recurring character, Capt. Spike, a young and good-looking hot-shot pilot that all the girls are gaga over and who seems to have some secrets of his own.

Episode 8 provides another crisis-of-the-week episode as the team must stop two planets from re-starting a war that has only recently been resolved. The episode got a bit preachy for my tastes…but most kids probably won't notice and they’re preaching a good message, anyway. War, hatred and greed rarely do anyone any good. The episode also provides a first look at yet another mysterious adult keeping tabs on the F-99 team, as a green-armored dino-rider observes the situation.

Episode 9 sees the return of B-DICE, the comic-relief squad that gets in D.I.C.E.'s way occasionally. This time around, they interfere in a training exercise between the overly competitive Jet and Robert. This episode was one of the funnier ones to date: a B-DICE meeting attended by countless hordes of lackeys ends with a clever gag twist, and the rather console-rpg-ish mission Jet and Robert must complete takes place in the "Tendo" ruins in search of a treasure called the "Tri-Zelda".

Finally, in episode 10, Puffy joins the team on the ground in a mission to save a rare Cuckoo bird from a ruthless poacher. The episode reveals that Jet, Puffy, and Robert are all orphans. Considering the emphasis the series has put on the fact that the F-99 team is the ONLY all-children team in D.I.C.E., I presume that this will be important at some point.

In Summary:
With the increased world-building going on, this volume of D.I.C.E. improves a notch over the previous volume, adding a few more mysteries to its episodic structure. The show is still rather light-weight with simple, predictable plotlines that will probably not be of much interest to adult viewers. But the stories are appropriate for the target demographic and worth a look if you’re interested in giving your kids some fun Saturday-morning entertainment that won’t grate on your nerves.

English Language,Video game clip extra

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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