Dragon Drive Vol. #05 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dragon Drive

Dragon Drive Vol. #05

By Chris Beveridge     January 01, 2005
Release Date: January 04, 2005


Dragon Drive Vol. #05
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Reiji and friends are in big trouble when they abandon the Dragonic Heaven Championship to help their friend Mukai. Muka is headed for the palace of an evil monster that killed his mother. It seems as though Reiji's life seems to grow more complicated as the days go by. He ends up missing on the only day he can get a chance to capture the Dragonite! What will he do now?

The Review!
As the contest comes to a climax and the prize is at hand, Reiji and friends must decide which is more important, that or helping friends.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, Mukai and his dragon get the center stage this time and it's an appropriate volume for it. Like some of the previous covers, this lets his design look a bit darker and a bit more mature and less cartoonish than the show itself and it works well. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself and a minimal background of one of the dragons against a darkened skyline. 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 three 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 Hayate Slash.

Menu:
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 Kyoji and Sayaka 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.

Extras:
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 still hasn't been a clean opening or closing sequence provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though at this point it becomes easy to understand why the show has been broken down as it has with the last volume and this one having just three episodes, it's something I wish they hadn't done because when you get to this volume, it feels like you aren't getting your money's worth. That's right, the dreaded recap episode is back as the last episode on this disc and they even list it as such on the back cover to my surprise. Other than a couple of brief minutes of new footage to bookend it, we've basically just got two new episodes here and it's all over pretty quickly.

With the two episodes we do have here, it brings to a close the first arc of the series by tackling the Dragonic Heaven contest and also working through the problem of Kouhei. Being that this show is definitely aimed more towards kids but with plenty of mature storyline elements in it, there are things that happen that you sort of just want to shake your head at but accept it. With the final match of the contest about to start, all those that remain are going against Kouhei and his team in one fell swoop so that he can get things over with quickly and easily. While everyone is ready for just such a match and they're all becoming much better warriors than when they started, something's happened that gives most of them pause.

Mukai's reaction to learning of his mothers' death has sent him on something of a rampage and he's gone off to tackle Guan-coo on his own and is barging right into his residence with the intent to kill him. With Reiji having now considered him a friend he's unsure about what to do; go forward with the contest where the worlds are at stake over the dragonite or go help his new friend and stop him from getting killed or killing someone else. Of course, he takes the easy route and goes to save his friend and everyone else goes along with him except for Rockaku who still has a mad on for dealing with Kouhei and will represent the team himself.

We've known for a bit now about Rockaku's need to take down Kouhei but the reasons why were fairly simple and without detail. This finally gets explained as we see the Rockaku's origins alongside his friend Yakou as they grew up as street punks trying to survive and into adults who wanted to become the strongest in the lands. Unlike other street punks that grow up into power and control dragons, this pair wasn't interested in actually doing really bad things though they did get into trouble along the way. On their search for a challenge, they come across Kouhei and the remains of what he'd been fighting. Kouhei's methods, as seen, are far more brutal and he had laid waste to numerous dragons and their partners, something that the two of them could not let slide.

All of this leads up to the paired battles where we see the final events of the Dragonic Heaven contest and the awarding of the prize as well as the battle against Guan-coo and the results of that. Even as climactic as this gets, it's just setting the stage for the final battle where the fate of Earth now starts to hang in the balance because of the dragonite being freed from where it once was by someone who has evil intent in their hearts. It's interesting to watch the final battle of this arc play out and the way the characters have evolved along the way. It's a little rougher in the dub since the kids voices do sound young and all instead of having that slight maturing in their voices, but it's a standard evolution for the characters from somewhat friends and minor adversaries into a tight knit group of friends' intent on doing right by two worlds.

Unfortunately that recap episode takes a lot of the steam out of the volume just as things get good. With it bringing a summary of the first seventeen episodes of the show, roughly the first half of the series, it's useful enough for a TV run but as with a lot of them they're just annoying on the disc. But it's more annoying on a release like this since it has only two new episodes here. If it had been a four episode disc I wouldn't complain all that much since I'd at least have been teased with the beginnings of the next arc.

In Summary:
Dragon Drive continues to be a fun show if you put yourself in the right mindset for it as it's definitely aimed at a younger audience but with enough darkness in it to appeal to a slightly older crowd as well. It's shed much of its card game origins and is instead a typical fighting show in a number of ways but I think it's still got some really great style to it when it comes to the CG dragons and just how detailed they are. This is the kind of show that's ideal to be airing on TV and getting the younger set more familiar with some of the standards of anime and to let them enjoy a show that's perfect for them with the right mix of action and drama and a dash of comedy.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 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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