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Dragonaut Part 1 Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Dragonaut Part 1 CoverWhen Pluto is destroyed and a new planet takes its place, the world won’t blink an eye about dragons flying about.

What They Say:
With a deadly asteroid hurtling towards Earth, sexy human Dragonauts in tight uniforms and their curvaceous dragon companions come together to create a formidable fighting force with all the right moves. Caught in the middle of this race against time are Jin – a heartbroken young flyboy, and Toa – a voluptuous mystery woman with an amazing set of intergalactic battle skills. Jin’s down about the fate of his doomed planet, but Toa is quick to grab him by the seat of his pants and lift his sagging spirits. If these star-crossed space cadets can unlock the secrets of their mysterious connection and convince the Dragonauts to join the action, there may yet be hope for planet Earth!

The Review:
Dragonaut, being an action series, has a good audio presentation to it here as 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.

Dragonaut more than lays its cards out on the table with this release. The standard thin slipcover which houses two clear thinpaks is the order of the day here and in that regards it’s familiar and works well. The front of the slipcover gives you the three basics; Average looking guy, hot hourglass female showing off far too much thigh and a lack of a bra while behind both of them you have a mecha-like dragon. The back cover, done sideway, lets Toa shine again except we see her from the back side and her shorts are far too short as she seems to shove Jin’s head into her chest. There’s a nice 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 the same characters again with Jin looking all manly and Toa showing off her assets with that kind of “oh my” expression about her. The second volume uses the pairing of Machina and Akira which is good, as the pairings make sense, but it showcases the massive breasts that Machina has which completely takes me out of the show when they get to bouncing around. The back covers of each volume shows off the dragon form of the respective women 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 all the female characters outside of Gio and Jin on the second volume. 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, 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 ten which is where things start to change for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of Gonzo’s original stories, which had a brief manga serialized story as well, Dragonaut is a big epic intended series about the potential end of the world that fits in very easily with a previous show of theirs called Gravion. Thankfully this one avoids the regular maid uniforms, but there are quite a few similarities in the designs between them, both story wise and character wise.

Taking place in a relative new future, Dragonaut plays with the time periods in just about every episode. The prologue for each episode takes us back in time, from twenty, ten, to five and two years beforehand to tell various parts of the back story. They’re all important in their own way, but the big piece is to know that twenty years prior, an asteroid dubbed Thanatos crashed into Pluto and essentially destroyed it. Thanatos then ended up falling into the orbit that Pluto had and has sat there every since with a really ominous look to it. During that period, it was discovered that there are things called Dragons out there, creatures which take human form and bond with a human master while also being able to transform into large biomechanical dragons with a pilots seat. There are also alien dragons out there whose purpose isn’t exactly clear, at least yet.

The catalyst point of this series comes two years prior to where the show takes place when sixteen year old Jin Kamishina is on a space shuttle with his family, with his father piloting, only to end up becoming the sole survivor in the explosion that follows just after lift-off. While his father is vilified for causing the accident, Jin falls into a bit of a depression, has little connection to the foster family that takes him in and loses his bond with his friends as he drifts away. Jin’s life turns upside down when he meets an attractive and minimally dressed young woman named Toa that he connects with almost instantly. The two don’t have much time together before it is revealed that she’s actually a dragon from Thanatos who has come to Earth to find the Earth-born dragons for the Thanatos asteroid she refers to as Mother. And she must do that before Mother decides to simply destroy Earth.

The Earth side of the equation is a little complicated. The world governments are aware of what’s going on with the dragons and have funded a couple of different operations over it. The primary that they have is Girouard group which has developed a massively powerful new weapon that should be able to destroy Thanatos and save the world. The other is the ISDA which is designed to come up with a new delivery system to get it there, ala a new space shuttle. The ISDA couldn’t figure it out though and funneled all their money into the development of the dragons and their human bonded Dragonauts. They have several pairs set up so far, none of which wear regular uniforms that you would think would be important, and their latest one is G-10, which takes on the name Gio.

Unfortunately, Gio doesn’t end up bonding with the man meant to be his master, Kazuki. Circumstances cause Gio to bond, or resonate, with Jin instead who also has Toa bonded with him, though she’s an altogether different case for a lot of reasons. This incident puts Jin, Toa and Gio very high on the wanted list by everyone involved and it sends Kauzki down a spiral of shame and anger over what’s happened as he can’t understand it in the slightest. Kazuki comes off really badly and childish throughout this because of it and his anger feels strangely misplaced over the entire situation. A large chunk of this first half of the series revolves around the initial discoveries and then a whole lot of back and forth as each side tries to chase each other down, politics get involved and some of the larger truths start to become revealed.

The visual design for Dragonaut is one approach that Gonzo often takes with its shows in that it’s very flashy, full of vibrant colors and really stands out as a digital show. There are times when the blending isn’t as good as it could be, likely because the focus was more on creating the really great looking dragons that flow and move in a very attractive manner. Not so attractive are some of the character designs which suffer from gravity-defying cleavage which only paints the series in a really poor light. There are so many moments where you don’t either listen to the show or read the subtitles because you can only look in wonder at the absurdity of the breasts bouncing across the screen – up and down and left and right. The men make out fairly alright, most of them are lanky and they don’t show much off in general, though Gio has a good topless scene in the hot spring episode which is amusing, provided you can look away from all the other characters in their skimpy outfits.

In Summary:
Because of the back and forth nature of it, with Gio and Jin forming an uneasy bond in order to protect Toa and spending much of their time simply chasing after her, Dragonaut has a less than clear focus at times. There’s a lot going on here with multiple Earth created dragons and the various organizations and those within it, but the main story about Thanatos and what it may be doing is given very little time overall. We get more out of the flashback zones than anything else when it comes to the really good story concept and building blocks. What we do get in the main show is a lot of action, a lot of scantily clad varied characters running around and a fair bit of angst. Dragonaut reminded me heavily of Gravion in a number of ways, which means this may play out better the second time around than the first, especially when we have the whole thing in hand.

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: November 3rd, 2009
MSRP: $54.95
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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