What They Say:
With the deadly asteroid Thanatos bearing down on planet Earth, an elite fighting force known as the Dragonauts flies into action. These space junkies can really fill out a uniform, and their courageous Dragon comrades are fearless and foxy in the face of danger. Following the lead of interplanetary lovebirds Jin and Toa, humans and dragons team up for a romp in the lunar hot springs and a showdown with the nefarious Gillard Army. The fate of humanity rests on Jin and Toa, who must harness the power of their cosmic hook-up in order to stop Thanatos and build a new life for a lonely boy and the dragon of his dreams.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese audio is done in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English language gets a bump up to 5.1 at 448kbps. Both language tracks are essentially stereo in a sense as the English language one doesn’t have much going on to the rears that I could discern, but it does provide for a slightly louder and more distinct experience overall. The Japanese track is pretty solid all around and it conveys what was originally broadcast while the English track beefs it up a bit and adds a touch more clarity. Both are free of problems such as dropouts and distortions and we had no issues during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Like most half season sets, Dragonaut is split in a seven/six format with the two discs. Dragonaut has a very bright digital color palate to it which leaps off the screen. The bit rate on average is pretty high which helps to give it a very appealing look. Colors are strong and generally maintain their solid nature, though there are some areas where it is more noticeable that there’s some mild blocking going on. It’s often more in the areas where there are darker colors. Gradients are handled pretty well and there’s no cross coloration and only some mild line noise during panning sequences. The animation looks really good here and it has a very vibrant feeling.
The second installment isn’t as blunt with the fanservice as the first and that works to its advantage as it feels a bit more serious overall. The standard thin slipcover which houses two clear thinpaks is the order of the day here and in that regards it is familiar and works well. Gio, Toa and Jin take the cover well here with the menace lurking behind them which feels all the more so because of the dark space filled backdrop. If there’s anything to really dislike here, it’s the truly awful face for Jin which looks far too stretched even for this particular shows design. The back cover, done sideway, lets Toa shine again except we see her from the back side and her shorts are far too short. There’s a good layout here overall with the white giving it a much more appealing looking. There are a few shots from the show included in the middle with the lengthy summary about the premise. The discs episode count is clearly listed here as well as the extras to be found here. The technical grid is relegated to the bottom of the slipcover spine, but with how clean the back cover looks I can’t complain too much.
Inside the slipcover we get a pair of covers that really mirror the slipcover in a lot of ways. The first volume has Raina and Howling Star paired up in an appealing shot where they look good against the star filled background. The second volume uses the pairing of Sigelinde and Amadeus and I was glad to see they didn’t do a full frontal shot of her since that’s just a bit awkward looking The back covers of each volume shows off the dragon form of the respective characters on the front side and the CG designs don’t look that bad at all overall, especially in comparison to some other CG dragons done in the last few years. The reverse side covers are pretty nice, though again focusing on the copious fanservice, as they’re mostly the female characters outside of Gio, Jin and Asim on the first volume. Amusingly, part of the second reverse cover has a Witchblade feel to it with the designs and the tearing of clothes. With the white backgrounds, the character stand out a lot more, which is scary considering the size of their chests. No show related inserts are included in the release.
The menus for Dragonaut work a little different than the norm as they take parts of the cover design and use different pieces of character artwork. The design uses the faux letterbox style from the back cover to good effect with the white on the top and bottom and with a starry space scene between it. The right side uses character artwork of the leads along the right side, different pieces for each volume taken from the front covers, and though it’s a static menu this has a really good feel overall and I found it set the mood quite well for what was to start the show with the space shuttle incident. Submenus are minimal and there is no top level episode selection access but everything loads very quickly and is easy to navigate. As is the norm, sadly, the disc did not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English language with no subtitles
The extras for Dragonaut are fairly minimal but there’s a little effort put into it as in addition to the clean opening and closing found on the second volume, an English language dub commentary is included for episode sixteen which was good to see. Everyone involved seems to have had a lot of fun with this show and it seems to come through a bit more in the dub adaptation.
With all the negativity surrounding the series prior to release, the first set didn’t come across as badly as it could have considering some of the venom thrown its way. Dragonaut certainly has its issues, but the first thirteen episodes didn’t exactly make me want to hurl obscenities at the screen. And considering the reactions of some, that was surprising. My main reaction to the first half was that it reminded me of an updated Gravion without the maid uniforms but with the same kind of world ending threat and various machines, this time dragons, that are involved in saving everything from destruction.
Going into the second half, I sort of expected things to fall apart a bit and I wasn’t too surprised that this bore itself out. Dragonaut spent a lot of the first half introducing the various dragons, their human partners and the two main sides that seemed to be strangely opposing each other in the face of potential annihilation by Thanatos, the planet that appeared at the edge of the solar system. The unusual competition between the ISDA and the Giroraud forces is one that takes even nastier turns in these episodes as the ISDA is forced to the sidelines in order to allow the Giroraud forces to gain more support. They’re intent on taking down Thanatos with no help from the dragons, outside of using them and their bodies as catalysts for its destruction.
There’s a lot of back and forth to be had during the second half, but Dragonaut raises the stakes rather nicely early on when we have Gio, Jin, Akira and Machina heading to Mars to rescue Toa from Asim. This area serves as the start of this set and works well as a midpoint to the series as Jin and Gio really have to work together to save her and Jin gets closer to really figuring out where he wants to be with her. The sequence is really strong overall, in context to the series as a whole, and I rather liked that it ended with a big explosive sequence. I almost wanted the set to start with someone telling the pair to get their asses to Mars. Where did it really go wrong? When everyone takes a brief break after the breakout for a special Martain hot spring in one of the mechanical sub-basements.
Dragonaut does change things up a bit during this half of the series as well by moving everything ahead by a year. Putting the core trio in a little countryside hideaway where they live as normal people while the world slowly becomes more difficult around them is an interesting attempt, but the visual side of it made it very difficult to really take in properly, and it’s something that’s affected a lot of this series. The lack of clothing changes works fine in some shows, but ones like this where Toa wears the same thing over the course of two years is aggravating. And even more so when they are in hiding for a year, though she does at least wear a waitress outfit when she works at her day job. This segment is one that has potential, and does work towards putting Jin and Toa closer together, but it’s so glossed over that it loses its impact.
When Dragonaut moves into its final arc, it is fairly predictable as sides are chosen, some small character background is given to help us empathize with them more and the end of the world is in view. Unfortunately, because of the somewhat disjointed storytelling throughout the show in which we never got a truly distinct voice for what’s going on but rather the back and forth aspect, the impact is lessened here at the end. Kazuki in particular really makes out poorly in this series even at the end as he flip-flops in personality and in his relationship with Jin. This kind of disconnect is what permeates the end as the big epic battle gets underway. When Thanatos puts its plan into motion, Earth seems oddly calm as the impending doom is almost here. There are carefully planned evacuations and somewhat clean levels of destruction in the aftermath that leaves everyone mostly happy as you almost get the feeling that nobody really died during it. The final battle has a lot of potential, especially with how Thanatos approaches its goals, but it came across as bland and weak.
Dragonaut has a formulaic story that doesn’t have a strong enough narrative to it in order to keep it flowing well. The set starts off well with the trip to Mars but like a lot of shows in the late teen episodes, it loses a lot of its energy and isn’t quite sure where to go. The first half of the series felt like harmless fun, and the second half has some elements of that, but the weight of the issues ends up crushing some of the fun out of it. The most fun you can have with it is in the final episode, which was a side story unbroadcast episode that brings everyone together for a little island adventure where nobody has their powers and starts acting against their personalities. I don’t think Dragonaut quite deserves the hate that it does because in the end I find it to be one that has some good moments to it and some potentially good dragon CG designs, but it is a series that is largely forgettable otherwise. Fans of the show will be pleased by this release though, much as they were with the first, as its well put together and problem free.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Audio Commentary
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 29th, 2009
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.