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 friendly monsters into allies in their fight against evil. With an egg calling his name, it seems that Ace is destined to be a Dragon Caller, but the road to summoning dragons isn’t going to be easy.
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 new characters for this set 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first set for Puzzles & Dragons X didn’t do a whole lot for me because it was basically playing to a simple premise. That can often be the case for a lot of shows of this nature in that it keeps things simple for the first cour or two in order to draw in the kids and some of the older fans looking for something mellow and easily enjoyable to watch. And this series does feel like it’s slowly building to something a bit bigger in the background with what’s going on with the nature of the world and how the Drops are occurring. But it’s a very light touch thing for the most part and instead focuses on the continuing adventures of Ace and Tama with a mix of others who move in and out of his orbit. And because they move like that it’s hard to tell who is really worth caring about sometimes and who is just a transitional character.
In a way, I feel bad reviewing shows like this because it doesn’t really have much that can be said about them. On a weekly basis you can go into the specifics of the episodes and what they do, the choices they make, and the fun of the action sequences as they unfold because there are some silly and fun ones that do play out here. But when looking at the season as a whole there isn’t a whole lot to really grab onto in terms of themes and character arcs, particularly for Ace because he almost by nature of his existence has to move very slowly in terms of growth. It’s the journey and all that and how his nature changes the lives of those around him while he and Tama go on their journey. This works out well for Tiger, who gets several episodes worth of focus early on here before he departs for a while, but even that’s a stretch because it’s so light and breezy and he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. The episode with the wrestler/entertainer type, Agut, reinforces just how oblivious he is to the real world and while I know it’s easily viewed as amusing it just leaves me kind of sad.
But really, that’s almost the entirety of the takeaway that I got from it. There’s some nice material with Ace remembering that he should send an email home once in a while to fill his mother in on everything and I liked that the set started off with him in Venice as he’s getting his journey back underway after the events of the first set. The nod toward a school that trains Dragon Callers is nicely done with Garnet getting a chance to shine there and this factors into the seeming background transition piece of how humanity is becoming more and more key in how the Drops are being dealt with in this hurting world. And there’s plenty of repetitive bits of Ace trying to get strong, including the last couple of episodes here that focus on Sturgeon and the defeat that he suffers there that motivates him to train even more. Familiar stories are familiar.
Puzzles & Dragons X isn’t bad and I won’t call it bad because it’s doing exactly what it sets out to do in order to please the kids that are watching it. It does touch on a few more mature themes along the way and hints at bigger things but this is like so many shows of this type that it’s not really straying from the course. I like the simplicity of it and that it does have a good handle on its characters but I also get frustrated with the inherent flaws in this kind of property, from the slow nature of character development (which is sometimes nonexistent) to petty things like always wearing the same outfits all the time. I get why it’s done but it still doesn’t sit well with me. That said, Funimation put together a solid release here that the fans will enjoy being able to own and I’m glad that it exists for them. But I can see this series becoming more of a chore if it doesn’t start to build something of a more serious mythology behind it sooner rather than later.
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: April 10th, 2018
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.