DICE Vol. #3 - 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. #3

By J.J. Matthews     October 19, 2005
Release Date: July 12, 2005

DICE Vol. #3
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
The crew of DICE Fortress F-99 continues their adventures throughout the galaxy. A planet with enormous gravity is their first stop, and Jet and the Phantom Knight race for a precious artifact. This time, however, the Phantom Knight plays rough and Jet is totally defeated. His confidence destroyed, Jet takes some time away from DICE to recover. But he is fated to cross paths with the Phantom Knight again much sooner than expected. And after this battle, Motoraptor is left in the hospital, fighting for his life!

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 for characters and dinobreakers alike. 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.

As with the previous two releases, the only “extra” here is a series of clips lasting approximately 45-seconds and showcasing game play from the D.I.C.E. PS2 game.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As with the previous volume, this chapter of D.I.C.E. takes another moderate jump in interest level, this time with a mini-story arc that increases the stakes a bit for Jet and the gang.

This volume provides four episodes of the series. The first three episodes form a nice little arc that focuses on Jet’s ongoing conflict with the Phantom Knight while also expanding on his relationship with his older brother, Zak. Zak has been mentioned briefly in previous episodes, but here we get the full backstory, learning that Zak was also D.I.C.E. member, and that he went M.I.A. a while back.

In the first part of the arc, Jet is assigned to work with Makioto, a D.I.C.E. agent who knew Zak. This leads to some tension for Jet, as he clearly feels as though he's living in his brother's shadow, always trying to prove himself. The situation is worsened when the Phantom Knight shows up with his usual mix of challenge and critique of Jet's handling of the mission. Jet pretty much ignores the Knight's warnings about taking better care of his vehicle, MotoRaptor, and tries to complete the mission. But when the Phantom Knight uses a special move that only Zak is supposed to know, Jet perceives this as an insult (rather than the not-so-subtle foreshadowing that it actually is) and finally blows his top.

Jet is so enraged by the Phantom Knight's taunts that he takes some time off from D.I.C.E. and pursues his own agenda to track his nemesis down. He gets more than he bargained for, though, when the Knight turns out to be pursuing an agenda of his own: looking into some sort of mystery related to "Heron", which was a name originally associated with a deity earlier in the series, but now also seems to refer to a mythical planet. This storyline has been hinted at in earlier episodes, so I expect we'll be hearing more about this mystery in the future.

Unfortunately, Jet interrupts some business that leads to him and the Phantom Knight fighting for their lives against a new enemy: an unidentified newcomer riding a "MotoStinger" dinoraptor. In his eagerness to prove himself, Jet again ignores all of the Phantom Knight's warnings, getting himself and MotoRaptor badly injured. This damage to his partner and friend forces Jet to rethink his situation, and the final episode of the arc is much more contemplative as Jet faces the consequences of his actions before going one more round against the mysterious MotoStinger, proving to himself and the Phantom Knight that he's got what it takes to fill his brother's shoes.

After the high tension of this arc (relatively speaking), the series switches back to its basic format for the final episode on the disk. Sam, the science geek of the team, gets the spotlight this time in a mission to save some scientists trapped in a facility where monsters are running amok. Although the episode is mostly action-adventure, it also provides some of the throwaway moments of humor that have really amused me with this series. For example: Sam creates a monster detector that, instead of the usual beeps and warning buzzers, informs the users of its status by saying "Nothing. Nothing. Nothing." over and over (much to the annoyance of Sam's teammates), then alerts the user that it's found something by yelling "HEY!". It's not much, but it's an endearing little bit of world-building that gives the series its own unique sense of humor. :)

In Summary:
So far, D.I.C.E. has been a fun little show that I think would entertain its target audience. In this volume, they've done a pretty good job building the characters and expanding the story while not straying from the necessarily simplistic, kid-focused style. In addition, the likeable characters, genuinely clever bits of humor, and hints at a bigger story brewing provide enough interest that it's not much of a hardship for adult viewers, either.

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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