Dragon Drive Vol. #09 - 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. #09

By Chris Beveridge     July 26, 2005
Release Date: July 12, 2005

Dragon Drive Vol. #09
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
The truth about Hideki being a spy have become a surprise to everyone. Now they must find the shrine before it’s too late and once they reach their destination, they must battle some fierce looking dragons guarding the shrine. Prepare to get ready for the last battle in Rikyu!

The Review!
As the series gets closer to the final set of episodes, the battles become bigger and the stakes much more interesting.

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, Rockaku and his dragon get a cover to themselves at long last though the artwork isn't all that good since it has the really bad image of his hand reaching out towards the viewer so it's huge and just bad looking. 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 in his transformed state.

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

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dragon Drive enters into the penultimate volume of the series and takes everything that's come before and whittles it all down to one really concise set of events. Kouhei must be stopped from entering the Shrine of the Four Dragons with the Dragonite that he has as he'll be able to capture Shinryu with it and thereby be able to recreate the world however he pleases. The realization of how simple it is at this point for Kouhei to win has shifted the balance of power once again and the "charisma" of Reiji and his friends manages to set the stage right for the last series of battles.

Of course, over the length of the series Kouhei has done very little to enamor himself to those who have worked with him which is why it's not surprising that they've jumping sides here and there and have been for awhile. Kouhei's actually getting a bit of this himself in having to deal with Hideaki and the way he's suddenly become Father's favorite and is given to understanding all the plans while he's left just following orders. There's plenty of sibling rivalry that's ready to enter things as Kouhei just bristles at all of this but is trying to set things up to his own advantage along the way.

For Reiji and everyone else, their obvious goal as instructed by the old lady and passed onto them by Rockaku who rejoins the team is to the get to the Shrine and protect it at all costs. The revelation of the second Dragonite gives them the feeling that they have a chance by sheer numbers alone and will try to use that to their advantage. With Rockaku joining and Meguru being able to find the place, they should be set. Of course, they forget that they have Daisuke on their side and his low self-esteem sets in motion bad things once again. In his effort to prove to everyone that he's as good as they are and not a waste of space like the occasionally joke with him about, he ends up unintentionally releasing the four guardian dragons from the Shrine and starting the entire battle sequence far too early.

With Kouhei and "friends" right behind them, they're able to take advantage of the confusion and we have one of the best series of dragon fights over this volume than we've had all series. With so many dragons, powerful ones at that, ending up in various situations and styles of attack and defense, it's just chaotic at times but it looks great and if you enjoy the dragon designs and their CG movement, this will be a real treat. It's simple basic action sequence material combined with their riders spouting off the usual stuff they do during the fights, but it's simply a lot of fun to watch and to see how the dynamic changes overall as some revelations come out along the way about things we've known for awhile through flashbacks.

This set of episodes was a good set that deals mostly with action and closing up some of the past threads a little bit by providing a few revelations to the characters that aren't new to the viewers themselves. What's interesting is that as these people all come to focus around Reiji and his personality, all of them (including Reiji) are just talking about how this needs to be dealt with now and anything else can happen afterwards. All of them want a piece of him in a one on one fight and he's all for it but he's able to keep them focused on what the immediate issue is and they're all coming to understand that their lives are at stake because of it, which makes it easy to rally around his cause.

In Summary:
Dragon Drive picks up nicely with this volume due to the great action and CG effects which means less whining in general and less filler type material since it's got a fairly good focus. The series still does have that too-long feel to it and I think would have been better served with some judicious editing earlier in the series but as we get towards the end, it's climactic battles and epic scope work nicely in providing some drama. You have a good idea of what's going to happen but there have been some tricks before so there's still a chance for some surprises to come in the next and final volume.

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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