Dragon Drive Vol. #08 - 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: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dragon Drive

Dragon Drive Vol. #08

By Chris Beveridge     June 20, 2005
Release Date: June 14, 2005


Dragon Drive Vol. #08
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Still unable to master the power of Sinsaber, Reiji continues to struggle against the power of Kouhei. Meanwhile, Meguru also struggles to retrieve her memory which is still blocked by her own fear. Everyone is working hard to win this battle, but the princess has a different plan. Just when they think the situation can’t get any worse, a young boy suddenly appears to save the day. But which side is he on?

The Review!
Kouhei gets his final pawn in the battle to conquer everything with the arrival of what could easily qualify as the ideal vision of someone's shouta fetish.

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, Hikaru literally gets the center of the cover with his mixture of a somber and mean look while his dragon floats behind him against an indistinct blue sky. Though there's a lot of blue to it I think it looks really neat and I particularly like how his dragon looks here. 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 Crystal Gene.

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 a Meguru and Hideaki 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)
With the eighth volume of the series that brings us up to episode thirty, it feels like it's suffering much of the same problem as the previous volume which was that it really does feel like it's dragging heavily at this point. As this volume progresses we do get some good movement towards the final plotline as the lines shift again and the cast continues to train and grow stronger on both sides.

A lot of the opening episode is something of a filler or bridge episode that leads to gaining vital information but otherwise has little consequence. With Reiji and Taiyou dealing with the woman who captures and encases dragons in a special gel in order to give them eternal life and happiness, we get to have the episode that shows just how strong a persons bond is to their dragons and that it doesn't take a lifetime of being together to get to that level. The older woman who is doing all of this has her reasons and they're eventually drawn out into the open and it actually proves to be helpful in their larger goal of wanting to find the location of the shrine. This is mostly what the character and situation is really here for and you can feel that it's just slow in getting to the point, though it does have some fun in introducing a variety of neat looking dragons. In addition to this, it provides a few moments away from the action where we get to see Rockaku dealing with the revelation of his friends brother now being aligned with Kouhei and Sayaka. The angst rises nicely here.

The character interactions are the area where the show does manage to do some good though they're often broken up by the battles and subplots that string them out all over the place. Daisuke continues to be an amusing character with the way he'll do anything that Maiko asks of him in the hope that she'll fall for him. She's at least realized this and tries to avoid doing it but even the simplest of requests set him off. I was glad to see how he and Ichirou finally started to get beyond their simple relationship of hate in this volume as Ichirou is finally able to really prove himself by how he deals with Meguru, who continues to have visions of the place where they need to go to deal with Kouhei. He's proving to be the rock that she needs for balance as she deals with the secrets locked in her head.

Not completely unexpected at this stage is the arrival of a new player in the grand game. Taking the form of a young schoolboy, we get a real tentative introduction to Hideaki, a boy who is unsure of how he got into this world and with what's going on but he has some power to back himself up with. As we find out, he's actually the latest winner of the Dragon Drive competition back on Earth and ended up transported here somehow so he joins the ranks of others there who also claim the title. He gravitates nicely to Meguru during his arrival since she's the most maternal of the group and the one most willing to spend time with him.

With his strength added to the group and the overall growing power of the others as the training continues, those who've aligned themselves with Reiji are feeling like they can take on anything at this point and several of their encounters with Kouhei have pushed him into retreat, something that seriously bothers Mahiru. Kouhei's attempts to get what he wants seem to be rebuffed by Reiji and the others, especially with Reiji now using the SinnSaber with Chibi, but he's such a crafty and cunning type that you get the feeling that these are planned retreats in order to give the others more confidence than they need. Between this and the revelation about Hideaki, it certainly puts a crimp in the plans that the good guys have.

Even as the plot does move forward here, there's still a lot of it that feels like it's filler or just battles that are happening for the sake of some action in the episode to complement the bit of actual character exposition or other storytelling that was done. The arrival of Hideaki isn't all that surprising but it just brings in another character that will have so little screen time overall that you won't have much invested in him so it doesn't matter what he does. You'd rather have some of the original characters get more time instead by bringing them to the fore. The shows design though still appeals quite a bit and with so many dragons running around now it's interesting to see just how varied in design most of them are. There's a lot of creativity in this area and it's well applied here.

In Summary:
Dragon Drive gets closer to the end with this volume and it's really needing to get there faster. This set of episodes provides a few more glimpses at where things are going and redraws some of the lines where the characters stand in terms of which side they belong on but with a lot of time given over to the introduction of a new character and various pointless battles, it's a slow volume to get through. There is some good stuff in there, particularly if it centers around Ichirou, but it's balanced out by a lot of mediocre material that continues to make the entire series feel forced.

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, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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