Blue Dragon: Volumes 3 & 4 Review
Shu and his friends are turned to for help, when Jibral’s secret alliance announces that it’s preparing an invasion on Grankingdom. While in Jibral’s capital they learn more of the Book of the Beginning, but worse begin to wonder why its last 7 pages were stolen. It’s time for the gang to journey to Grankingdom in a bid to free hundreds of children from Nene’s conspiring grip.
The kids have quite a lot on their plate it seems; not only does the threat of Nene and his robotic army loom over them, but they also have their own internal problems going on as well. Volume 2, which gathers episodes 9 - 16 continues to spring back and forth from drama to absurd comedy in its attempts to flesh out the characters a little more. It’s still largely pre-occupied with intermittent doses of Oppai material as Bouquet finally makes herself a permanent addition to the roster, asking for Shu’s hand in marriage in the process, while Kluke’s feelings are briefly explored and the mystery behind Zola and Jiro’s backgrounds slowly unravels. These moments inevitably cause much bickering and confusion within the group, and while often ambiguous the show does hint that it is indeed going somewhere with all of it.
It takes a while to convince us however. The first few episodes are made up of lengthy, rambling fight sequences that do little to advance the plot. When the travellers fall right into General Logi’s trap as they traverse a treacherous mountainside in order to cross the Grankingdom border, they’re ambushed by a band of mercenaries serving under Logi’s wing, who refer to themselves as the Independent Flying Squadron. Thus begins some tedious exchanges of vanity-induced dialogue between some incredibly irritating foes and our heroes. During this time focus remains on Shu’s struggle to maximise the potential of Blue Dragon on account of his own inexperience; something which is carried across upon his chance meeting with Lieutenant Dragnov shortly afterward, which eventually brings into to play a heavy betrayal. The problem now is that the novelty of the action is starting to wear a little thin, with the repetitive use of shadow summoning drawing out encounters a little further than needed.
It’s not until around episode 13 that the writers decide to do something with the narrative. It’s only when Shu and company arrive in Grankingdom’s capital and Nene places his efforts on attacking Jibral’s front lines that more attempts are made at scratching the surface of these characters. Perhaps the most crucial turning point is Kluke’s discovery that she herself harbours a shadow - the phoenix - which naturally sees Zola finally figure out that these young adventurers are indeed the seven soldiers of light. It’s just a shame that the final two episodes in the volume, which offer most of the exposition, have such contrived and lazy dialogue, with Zola delivering some truly eye-rolling hypothesis (it’s clear something was stolen because somebody needs it, and so on). It offers us very little that we didn’t already figure out for ourselves, which is beginning to make the whole journey seem a tad laborious at times.
The DiscPresented anamorphically at 1.78:1 the transfer for Blue Dragon does a great job in complementing a crisp and colourful anime. Colours remain suitably vibrant throughout and contrast and brightness levels are very pleasing. As per usual the NTSC-PAL conversion lets it down a little, with the picture exhibiting interlacing on HD set-ups. While the standards conversion isn‘t so easily helped, it’s a little more disappointing to see things like compression artefacts rearing their ugly head on discs containing just four episodes. By no means is Blue Dragon terrible in this department, but it does have a tendency to show a bit of noise during the major fight sequences when things get a little flashy with bright effects and quick editing.
The discs contain a choice of Japanese and English DD2.0 soundtracks. Both are excellent offerings, squeezing as much action as possible out of the front channels. Particularly notable is a fairly aggressive bass, which heightens the onscreen battles and gives precedence to the opening and closing songs. Dialogue is also well balanced, proving not to get drowned out by any loud happenings or ambient effects.
Optional English subtitles are included and offer a solid translation, free from errors.