What They Say:
“Problem child” Ash Blake is nothing but a nuisance to his fellow students at Ansullivar Dragonar Academy. Sure, he’s got the sacred star brand that marks him as a future master of dragons, but his lack of dragon companion and hot temper make it more than a little difficult for him to play the part of the hero. That is, until his dragon awakens, and he’s finally partnered with a fierce, fire-breathing… cute girl? And her human form isn’t the only surprise; she’s determined to be Ash’s master. But when dark forces begin to endanger the lives of dragons and students, Ash and his partner must find a way to work together to defeat them!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 boost. Both tracks are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec and the end result is pretty good across the board. The show has an engaging stereo mix in general with what it needs to do in using the action with the dragons and the riders to accomplish things and there are some more personal action sequences as well that helps to carry it through. The show is designed for stereo and it may not be a top tier mix but it’s one that works very well. It also makes for a good 5.1 upgrade with the English mix as that adds more to the rear channels and some better impact with the bass, especially through the subwoofer. This mix ramps things up nicely without it going over the top, making for a very fun time for dub fans.
Originally airing in the spring 2014 season, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second, which also has the couple of extras on it. Animated by C-Station, the show has a bright and colorful look about it that really does stand out well with some great colors and really strong vibrant moments. There’s a lot of really good designs to the character here and that carries through well with the transfer as they come across cleanly, especially with the color definition we get here. There are a lot of very fluid (sexual) moments to the show and that has even more pop in a way to stand out. I really liked the look of this transfer and the materials themselves as it embraces what it wants to be. Definitely a good looking transfer.
The packaging for this release is pretty nice all around with a lot going on with the front cover. The regular edition has a slipcover with it that replicates what’s on the case artwork, though the slipcover looks better overall with the better quality material. The front cover has a really nice and rich border to it where inside we get a look at most of the main cast with a lot of detail and some great symbolism that gives it some additional richness. The cast may be similar with the costume design but they all show off their assets and uniqueness well. The back cover goes for a white background with the symbolism in gray that gives it a little additional texture. We get a really nice image of REbecca along the left while the right has a brief but decent summary of the overall premise. The shots from the show are decent and we get a clean and accurate technical grid that breaks down the details for both formats. The case itself replicates the slipcover but we also get the added bonus of artwork on the reverse side that gives us a really nice full length image of Rebecca. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for the release goes with a very simple design with a mild sort of scroll like design along the lower right that has the minimal selections spread across it. There’s not a lot to really make it thematic with the show, but it does work smoothly and without problem both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu. The logo is kept to the upper left while the bulk of the screen is given over to some good clips from the show with both dragons and girls as well as a bit of action. It doesn’t stand out overall but it’s very functional.
This release has a couple of good extras to it that will work for fans of both sides of the language divide. English language fans get a pair of audio commentaries for some of the cast members to opine in with episodes two and seven while Japanese fans get the original commercials and promos for the show as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Originally known in Japan as Seikoku no Ryuu Kishi. Dragon Academy began as a series of light novels back in 2010 with a manga adaptation following in 2011. That original series is written by Shiki Mizuchi with illustrations by Kohada Shimesaba and at this time has had twenty volumes published so far – adding seven more to where it was when the anime came out. The anime adaptation for it has some good credits to its name with C-Station producing the animation while Shunsuke Tada is directing, who has worked on some fun shows over the years, including two seasons as the director on Kuroko’s Basketball and working on the Tsubasa OVA releases.
The series revolves around a young man named Ash Blake who goes to the Dragonar Academy where he’s not exactly the best kind of student there. Labeled as the number one problem child, he’s the kind of person that you can see having an amusing set of hanger-on friends in real life, but here he’s kind of on the outside of things. But he has a certain appearance and confidence that even though he’s mostly on his own, he’s able to handle it for the most part. But there’s plenty of people that tease and mock him from the sidelines, particularly since he doesn’t have a partner dragon yet, something they call a parr. With it being the new year at the school where he and the few people that he calls friends are now Senios, they’re starting in on a three year course to master their skills and abilities. There’s a bit of an info dump in small ways across the opening episode, but it basically illustrates how these students operate in regards to their dragons and the kinds of connections that they have.
Naturally, Ash ends up falling in with a crowd along the way while also becoming a critical play in some big world ending events that are coming. Since he’s the one without a parr, that gets rectified quickly when he gains a dragon in the form of a flat chested young girl that he names Eco. Dragons are not supposed to look like this so there’s a lot of curiosity about her and why she’s with him of all people. Amusingly, Eco treats him like a dog and puts him down regularly, but in a nice mild twist he doesn’t quite take it constantly and asserts himself enough to have enough standing rather than just being walked all over. The two have a decent relationship that grows over the series but you can see the way it’s going to go easily enough in that they’ll be bonded tight and really need each other when the chips are down. The show does spend its time well to bring them together, though, and I rather liked seeing their relationship play out across it.
Though there are several characters that are added of the female persuasion throughout it, from smutty maids to abrasive older sisters, the main focus is on that of Silvia Lautreamont, the fourth princess of the family and quite the stuck up girl early on. Silvia’s that type where she has position and uses it more than it actually exists and she has a real disdain for Ash early on because of his lack of a parr and his general poor standing. But once Eco enters the picture she becomes more involved in situations with her, mostly because there’s a man named Milgauss that’s being used as a pawn in a bigger plan to change the world. It’s not a bad overall plot that takes center stage towards the end, but it’s also not something that’s used regularly throughout the series. Silvia has her own ties to Milgauss but even that’s not really dealt with towards the end, though again we know the gist of it early on. Silvia naturally does start to come to Ash’s side as it goes on and as she gets to know him and as we go through some of the usual stories that exist here, including some time away from training at the academy to enjoy a lake with swimsuit time.
Though the story itself is something that didn’t grab me, especially as it’s fairly muted along the way with Milgauss as a peripheral character for the most part, but I had a lot of fun with the way it played out at the academy and with that cast of characters. The show really does embrace its fanservice elements, which were strong during the simulcast, and the uncut version here shows a whole lot more. There’s plenty of bathing moments, lots of getting undressed and all sorts of groping and accidental falls that leads to more hands on moments throughout it. It even goes a lot further than I expected for a TV show in the final arc of the series as a few tentacle monsters show up and really, really, really go to town on some of the girls. I do enjoy shows that are upfront about it being full of fanservice and embraces it and Dragonar Academy does just that.
Dragonar Academy is a series that doesn’t have a strong overall arc to it with what it wants to do as a story but it works very well in just being a series of fun sort of standalone episodes. Having seen this as a simulcast I knew what to expect going into it and enjoyed it a good bit the first time around for what it was. It’s not a show with big ambitions, though it tries to go for a big story at the end, but the real fun is all about the character interactions, the sexuality and the silliness that ensues from it since it doesn’t try to be coy a lot of the time. It embraces these silly elements and just enjoys the heck out of it while presenting it with some really great looking designs and animation.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD Language, English 5.1 Dolby True HD Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (2, 7), Commercials, Promotional Videos, Textless Opening and Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 24th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.