Dragon Drive Vol. #02 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dragon Drive

Dragon Drive Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     September 14, 2004
Release Date: July 13, 2004

Dragon Drive Vol. #02
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
Dragon Drive was only supposed to be a game, but now it's become more real than anything Reiji knows! It began with a tour of the special training room, but ended with the group suddenly sent to "the other Earth", a place known as Rikyu.

Not knowing what is real anymore, Reiji agrees to participate in a championship that will determine the best dragon master in the world, but the start of Reiji's true journey has only just begun.

The Review!
As Reiji starts to get more and more involved in the game the realities of what it is start to seep through.

For our primary viewing session, we alternated between English and Japanese for the four episodes here, spending an entire episode in one language and switching during the next. Both tracks came across well in their stereo mix, though most of the dialogue continues to be center channel based. The music, particularly the opening theme, sounds full here and fills up the soundstage nicely when it starts off. Dialogue throughout the show is clean and clear and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2002, Dragon Drive is presented in its original full frame format and full of the vibrant eye-catching colors that are the norm in many kid's shows. The transfer for this show looks almost spotless with only a bit of noticeable aliasing in a few areas, mostly from some of the mixed CG of the dragons, and a few very minor spots of cross coloration that look source material related. The colors schemes are rich and vibrant with hardly any macroblocking. The bright blue skies during the daytime scenes are great looking and maintain a really solid look and feel. While the animation itself may be a bit sub par in a few scenes, the transfer for it is spot on.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, Yukino and her beast take the front cover here with little of the overall bland background showing through. Yukino helps make the cover look cute against her beasts ferociousness but it's a weak cover in general. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself but the bulk of the backdrop image is from episodes that haven't come yet (next volume!) so it's a bit disingenuous to have it here. The summary is decent if simple and we get a clean listing of the discs features and basic technical information. While the spine and front cover thankfully list the volume number, we also get episode numbers and titles on the back here. The insert replicates the front cover and opens up to provide more specific summaries for each of the four episodes along with some artwork. The back of the insert has the full production credits translation and bilingual credits for the main voice cast. This release also came with a lenticular insert of Thunder Volt.

The menu layout is pretty simple for this release and likely for the whole series since they're pushing it somewhat more towards the kids market. The main menu and the submenus are all static pieces, with the main menu having a shot of Reiji and Chibisuke set against a backdrop of the monitors used for the game and some of the equipment. Selections are pretty standard and are easy to access and navigate. The menus load quickly and we had no trouble with language setup or defaults.

The extras are pretty minimal with this release, being just a few illustrations in full color of some of the dragons and some of the cast. There isn't even a clean opening or closing sequence provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dragon Drive continues on with its game playing nature for a bit more with this volume but the shift to what's really going on becomes the main focus as things start to actually get a bit more serious. It's still early in the overall scheme of things for this series so while we do start to move into more interesting territory, it does still feel like pretty standard material.

After Reiji had that weird encounter at the end of the previous volume and woke up in what appeared to be a massive dragon graveyard, he's found himself thinking it was all a dream since he's back at his desk and studying. The pressure of all the school work combined with trying to play Dragon Drive has him thinking he's just completely exhausted from things and that has to account for that weird world he thought he was in. As much as it's getting to him though he's convinced himself that he wants to be the best Dragon Drive player ever. His goal of being able to take on the mysterious Hikaru and win becomes something that really drives him and it's something that get noticed.

Returning to the game center, he makes his plea to Miss L that he wants to practice as much as he can and be the best he can be. With the things he's shown so far, she's easily given over to showing him to a secret set of training rooms where he's able to practice to his hearts content in areas that are nothing like any other area he's ever been in. Or anyone else for that matter when Yukino and Daisuke search after him and find him there and join inside the game. It'd taken a few weeks of his sneaking away but they had finally found him but even they're surprised by the world they're in with their dragons. The creatures are so powerful that they have a lot of trouble and find themselves rescued by Reiji to their surprise. His time spent in there with Chibi has allowed him to truly blossom and the innate ability he has to urge on whatever dragon he's on has become quite apparent.

Even as strange as this virtual world is though, it doesn't prepare any of them for the ripple that appears once more and sucks the three of them through to "another Earth" to a place called Rikyu. Brought in by those who have been watching him, the real meat of the show starts to be unveiled. Reiji's been watched for some time since he first made a splash with such a strange looking dragon as if he's fulfilling some sort of prophecy and now that he's gained quite a bit of power they've brought him over and started laying out things to him, such as that the entire gaming center is actually a recruiting device for the bad guys of this world to find people who can master dragons and use them for their own powers. So with Reiji and Chibi, they want to bring him to their side to help fight off against all of this.

And, of course, if he doesn't do it, he'll never get the thing he needs to be able to go back home since the people who brought him can't return him. How friendly!

Not too surprisingly, the show sets up for a tournament of sorts to take place where he can start making progress towards acquiring what he needs, thereby keeping the gaming aspect to everything still there just in a different form once again. Reiji really gets to shine nicely in a lot of areas throughout this volume as he continues to master his abilities. There's one amusing scene where he has to use another dragon to get where he needs to go and instead of his usual trepidation about things he simply leaps up on it and it instantly obeys his commands, much to the dragon masters surprise. The ease with which he's settled into this new fantasy world isn't all that surprising since some people would just acclimate easily, if not find themselves desiring such a thing.

In Summary:
Dragon Drive hasn't really risen about what we've seen in the first batch of episodes but it continues to be a mildly enjoyable show that's not taking itself too seriously and doesn't go too far over the top in how it all plays out. I've seen a lot of game to anime shows (mostly against my own will) but Dragon Drive is the kind that at least has something meaty to it, even if it's not top grade meat. The series has some interesting characters to it as it expands here and the new world is firmed up a bit but it'll be the tournament aspect that will both slow things down as well as let it move by at a fast clip. Hopefully there's still enough plot to cover another thirty-one episodes without it all being heavy on fight after fight sequences.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Illustration Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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