Dragon Drive Vol. #06 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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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: 24.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dragon Drive

Dragon Drive Vol. #06

By Chris Beveridge     March 11, 2005
Release Date: February 22, 2005


Dragon Drive Vol. #06
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Kouhei has stolen the powerful Dragonite and the time has come for Reiji and friends to arise a plan to once again encounter RI-ON for the final battle. But in order to have any possibility against the evil Kouhei and his powerful dragon, Chibi needs to acquire the power of a legendary dragon that lives in the dark mountain. Will Reiji and Chibi achieve their goal?

The Review!
It's time for Reiji to power up with some intensive training while the rest of the gang goes to bring in more help.

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, Sayaka and Kyoji get the cover shot this time, each of them with their respective dragons, and Sayaka looking particularly good as she's given a fanservice pose. It's not as dark as some of the past covers but I like the balance of the colors and the way the dragons match their outfits. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself and a minimal background of one of the characters faces 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 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 Canopus.

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)
Creeping back up to four episodes for this volume, Dragon Drive doesn't hit too much in the real plot area but moves forward in its continuing journey of getting the characters to train more and meet more characters along the way but also to start changing some of the relationships. We do get a bit of the larger plot in a few areas, but this set of episodes isn't really focused on there which isn't surprising considering we had the tournament end so recently.

In terms of the larger plot, we get to see the fallout from Kouhei having acquired the Dragonite and heading back to Earth where he presents it to his father. His father isn't all that keen on his return though as there are other things he's apparently told Kouhei he's wanted done so his son's arrival is only arrogance in his eyes and he gets pretty nailed for it before getting sent back, or at least attempting to send him back before having some trouble. We do get some background material on Kouhei through his interactions with his father and one of the scientists responsible for the Dragon Drive and it's easier to see how his motivations work but it doesn't turn him into a sympathetic character, something I was rather pleased to see happen.

Beyond that, the disc has a lot of material that feels like we've seen it before but that's mostly due to the way that Reiji has often gone off already to train with Chibi. This happens again a couple of times in this volume before he comes across everyone else and then goes his way again. Reiji's training is tied to finding a particular dragon called SinnSaber that could be really useful to have on their side when they have to go up against Kouhei again. Reiji's trip takes him into some decent fight sequences as he works towards where this dragon may be, but it also goes into an extended episode adventure where he deals with a village that's being shammed into thinking they're trapped by a powerful dragon and have to offer up gifts to it in order to maintain the peace.

For the rest of the gang, they go through some interesting times themselves as they try to beef up their group by searching for some new help. While their search doesn't exactly go all that well and they aren't coming up with anything, they are surprised when one of Kouhei's teammates, Ichirou, shows up and says he wants to join their side for when Kouhei comes back. He's got his own reasons which he doesn't want to be all that forthcoming with other than he needs to talk to Meguru about it but even after that is said and done he's sort of aloof about it, which of course only heightens the concerns of the others about whether he's really trying to join them or not. There's a lot of bravado on both sides about trust and all but neither are really being up front with their concerns to it simmers for a bit until it erupts into a decent little fight that brings things to a surprising resolution.

The only other thing to this set of episodes that was fun to watch was with Hikaru constantly trying to challenge Reiji to a fight so they can settle what he sees as something that needs to be settled. Reiji really doesn't care not have the time or inclination to fight him but Hikaru's persistence is pretty strong and he seems to run into him constantly. The two do get to face off in a couple of ways but it turns more so that they see how the other fights and that's only making Hikaru more anxious to take Reiji down since he can visibly see just how much Reiji and Chibi are growing in their strength and abilities. Hikaru is just amusing though in the way he keeps trying to push things so they'll have their fight.

In Summary:
While Dragon Drive sort of goes into a neutral status with this volume, there are things that are moving the story forward slowly but it's still got that feel that the series is just too long overall. It's probably more a merchandising gimmick than anything else to keep introducing more dragons and the like and bring them into the show, but if the series was done in a more traditional twenty-six episode format I can see things being much more streamlined and the story much tighter. As it is now, it's still interesting and I love the dragon CG animation, but it just feels like it's got way too much space to wander about in.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art 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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