Blue Dragon: Volumes 5 & 6 Review
The gang needs information, and whaddaya know, they just happen to be arriving in Corin Town, famed for its information trading. Somebody knows how to find the information on the ‘missing 7’ that they seek, and a mystery woman who follows hotly on their heels also wants some…information. Espionage and shitty politics abound as Shu and his loyal allies of justice stumble into the middle of a war and find themselves asking even more questions - some of which will actually be answered here.
Things kick off in relatively light fashion with the gang arriving at their new destination and learning that Jibral Castle has disappeared. Actually that bit is quite depressing for them, but they need information and they need it from Corin’s master informant, Homeron, who likes to keep in the shadows, because lots of folk want him dead. Well, he’s no easy man to reach, certainly not without presenting wads of cash first, so the kids decide to raise the necessary funds by taking on various jobs which entail fishing and capturing monsters’ horns. Things are generally left ambiguous as a series of mildly comic situations see the adventurers take to the tasks at hand. They do however, eventually succeed and meet the legendary Homeron, who from here on in becomes vital to their cause, thus leading to some vital exposition later on. But before all that kicks into gear the following episode sees the series take a bit of a breather, with an episode devoted entirely to just Marumaro, who has managed to lose himself in the nearby woods. A loving couple who maintain an old inn happily invite him in to rest, but soon their intentions are made known after they mistake him for a Grankingdom spy. Plenty of comic horror and a little soapy romance ensues, before we settle into more serious territory.
The series goes back to juggling its various plot strands by episode 19, ‘Mystery of the Ruins’. While Homeron is off conducting an investigation on behalf of the kids, Shu and company are trying to find answers within the nearby Ruins of the Phoenix, hoping that Kluke might finally be able to awaken her newly-acquainted shadow at will. Danger escalates into episode 20, ’The Captive Knight’, when having learned of Jibral’s dwindling numbers the kids, led by Homeron, head to one of Grankingdom’s frontline bases in order to gain access to the master computer’s information and rescue Shu’s friend Conrad - who has been under the vigilant watch of Cynthia of the Independent Flying Squadron (having made their grand entrance in the previous volume). General Logi’s cronies, they of the IFS, are back for a fight; cue some further moments of tedium. ‘Quest for the Informant’ does little to move the plot forward, as it focuses primarily on Homeron talking to himself a lot while he hacks Grankingdom’s computer, while Shu and his friends continue to fight for their right to party.
The overall tone across these eight episodes is mixed, with the writers struggling a little to maintain some form of balance. The issues that are tackled would generally be looked upon as serious, but there’s also a feeling that we mustn’t forget about the fun to be had. Not only then do we have the aforementioned Marumaro special, but also a bit of a weird one with episode 22’s Bouquet-centric shenanigans. ‘Vanishing, Vanishing, No!’ bizarrely places much of its focus on the villain Cynthia, who is far to vain for her own good, and is soon given a wake-up call when she learns that most of her subordinates quite fancy the buxom Bouquet. There’s little here but jealous rages, befuddlement and the usual slew of breast gags before finally some important truths are uncovered.
The remaining three episodes up the dramatics and with certain revelations regarding the identity of the mystery woman and the arrival of Sabaru Kingdom’s - former Grankingdom allies - battle fleet ready to take on Nene’s forces, the tension heightens as we take to the skies. Episode 22 ‘Towards the Blue Sky’ is particularly gratifying in that the change of scenery is welcome, with our heroes having stolen a ship and eventually crossing paths with the crew of a famous Sabaru vessel known as “Norg”. Lots of aerial combat keeps the pacing brisk and exciting, before the final episode hits hard with some tugging at heart strings.
Presented 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.