What They Say:
Ace is an average boy until he hears his name being called by a mysterious egg. The egg leads him to discover the existence of Dragon Callers, humans who tame monsters into allies in their fight against evil. Does this average boy have what it takes to become one?
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo with an English language dub that gets the 5.1 bump to it. The series is one with a simple stereo design on the original front and that comes through well here with some loud segments and standard fare dialogue placement with minimal depth at times. The English mix gets a bit more impact here and there but it’s not a noticeably different mix overall. The mix captures the intent of the design well and the encoding for both tracks are clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by studio Pierrot, the show works a bright and colorful approach that’s fairly common with this kind of series and it works well with bold colors that come across as solid and appealing. There’s some decent action throughout but it works a simpler approach so it’s not a high motion thing but it’s smooth and fun with how it plays out and the encoding captures it well. The series sticks to the usual shortcuts we see with this particular genre but it hides it well with the color design and just the outgoing nature of the characters and situations. The encoding for it is pretty good as it gives us a great look at the source materials here without any problems.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the four discs from the two formats on hinges and the set comes with an o-card that replicates the cover artwork from the case, albeit brighter and more colorful thanks to the better cardstock. The front cover is a good key visual piece with the main cast of characters together and the various creatures mixed throughout so that you get a good sense of the designs for the show and the atmosphere that it’ll take. It’s simple but with some nice details to give it some additional richness. The back cover does a nice red and white split with some nice artwork of Ace and TAma while giving us a decent breakdown of the premise of the show. The shots from the show add a good bit of color and we have a clean listing of the extras involved and a technical grid that list everything accurately in an easy to read way. While there are no show related inserts included the reverse side takes the character artwork from the back and makes it larger while putting the logo on the other panel.
The menu design for the show is one that sticks to a simpler approach that works for it as each disc uses the same static image. With the shot of Ace and Tama with fists raised and the map of the world behind them, it’s colorful without being too much. Placing the series logo alongside it gives us the richer colors that stand out well but keeps it self contained. The navigation strip along the bottom is straightforward with a large red block that has the standard selections in white, making it a quick and easy piece to move around in both as the main menu and with it reworked as a pop-up menu.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
With some popular mobile app games out there under the Puzzles & Dragons banner, it wasn’t a surprise to see it make the leap to anime form. What’s somewhat surprising is that since it started in the summer of 2016 it’s still ongoing with almost seventy episodes as of this writing. Going by the first thirteen episodes, which were animated by studio Pierrot and follow a lot of the standards of this particular genre of anime, you can easily map out a lot of the basics for it. Sadly, after taking in the first thirteen episodes over the course of a day, it’s the kind of series that’s light and largely empty while playing to the standard semi-educational/inspirational elements that are all too common with kids-oriented shows.
The show gives us a familiar other-world where there’s a range of creatures that are in existence that aren’t exactly magical or supernatural but rather just a part of the natural order of the world. It’s the kind of series that feels just as undefined in a way as Pokemon where you can go to a village and a city, travel by horse or by luxury cruise liner. And all while having no visible source of income and being a pre-teen that nobody bats an eye at as they’re running all over the countryside with other kids. These are the things that you have to suspend disbelief over and it’s always been a struggle for me going back to when I was a kid looking for some goddamn logic in the Care Bears TV show.
Here, the focus is on young Ace, a boy who has a mysterious father that you know is going to be tied to something far larger (that’s not even being subtle about as it goes on) where after an encounter with a Dragon Caller named Lance he decides that his path truly is to be just like him. Lance, at least early on, is almost adversarial toward Ace but he’s teaching him in his own way with brusque approach before disappearing for a lot of episodes or just having glancing pieces as part of his own arc. The real focus is on Ace as he hatches his own egg that becomes Tama and the two get underway in doing what’s necessary in order to become a Dragon Caller as there are quests that he has to complete to do so.
With Ace’s goal in place that will allow him to stand tall among other Dragon Callers in protecting the world from the various monsters that threaten people, we naturally hit up a few allies along the way and some standard story points. These are the usual growth challenges for any boy that’s working toward becoming a man and handling that with friends. The better one is Charo, a more girlish-looking guy who has a similar temperament to Ace while being a bit more cautious. What provides some early friction is the arrival of Tiger, a slightly older boy who is cocky in his abilities but has struggled with a lot of challenges that has lead to him being brasher like this. It takes a bit before they become something of a group, one that gets some mocking from Garnet, the obligatory idol wannabe that Tiger is infatuated with because he saw her early on persevering in tough times that helped to inspire him to do the same.
With the series being one that’s going on for a while and was initially slated as a two-cour show with plans for more, it’s leaning hard into the usual aspects of this genre. This set is all about introducing the basics of the world with the eggs, the drops, the dragons, and so forth. But it’s all so ephemeral in a way, loose and not fully defined because it’s keeping it light for the younger audience and the simplicity of the game in which it adapts, that there’s not a lot to latch onto with it. After watching the show I really felt hard pressed to say anything other than it has some interesting location designs from time to time, which is easy to do when you don’t have a cohesively designed world, and there’s some decent larger arcs at play with the characters because of motivations and heritage that will go only so far since it is aimed at a younger audience. It’s mildly inspirational and should work well for the intended age group but this set was just a whole lot of fluff for me.
As of this writing, the Puzzles & Dragons X franchise is in a weird place because streaming of the series ended with episode thirty-eight and dubbing for it stopped at that point as well. With it ongoing in Japan that makes you wonder if you’ll see more of it which makes it feel like a dicey proposition to get into if you like complete stories, even for properties like this. What we get is light and simple but it’s well executed and has some potential if it just buckled down a bit more. Funimation’s release is solid with what it does here even if it’s a no-frills release overall. Fans of the show will be glad to own some of it to enjoy even if its future is uncertain with what’s currently being produced.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 26th, 2017
Running Time: 325 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.