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 long-awaited Battle Cup begins, and this year, the powerful Soul Brave fighting technique is permitted. Going toe to toe with both friends and foes, Ace must push his abilities to the limit if he hopes to win the prized Golden Egg.
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 Battle Cup competitive side of this set getting center stage with the two primary players. It’s simple but busy 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)
While I wasn’t trashing the show with the previous sets, Puzzles and Dragons X just hasn’t been my jam so much. I know I’m not the primary audience so I put myself into that mindset as much as I can and I always come back to this being like the early seasons of Pokemon but with a dash of Dragon Ball mixed into it so that it’s more serialized storytelling than episodic storytelling. The core of it is that it’s still largely a big commercial for the games, which isn’t a bad thing, and that it tries to tell some decent and fun stories aimed at the younger audience. Though I’m hard pressed to say it’s quality entertainment for the kids it’s fairly standard material for them and I could easy see myself watching it way back in the day if I had gotten into the game.
With twenty-six episodes of material so far, this set moves us into the next stage with the Battle Cup experience getting underway. It takes up the entire set and even runs into the next set, leaving us with a huge tease about what happens next that I’ll admit will have me curious as to how the next episode goes before it shifts into whatever’s next for this group. The Battle Cup is pretty much what you’d expect as we get some of the high rollers of the world coming to watch, having had their own youthful experiences in it, noting that the competition in a lot of ways isn’t as rough as it once was. With it just relegated to human Dragon Callers these days and a lot of things off limits, there’s not as big a draw for some of these elders. The big change is that the Soul Brave is being allowed to be used after being off limits for some time and that kind of allows for a certain power up to it, not that they expect to see it used often if at all because of how dangerous it is.
A lot of the set is what you’d expect in one-off battles throughout. The A, B, and C ranks all play within their lane and we get to see some powerful ones and some weak ones. Ace being in the C-rank being so new and unknown is expected and he has some good stuff here as he progresses through it and shows that he has the real heart of a Dragon Caller, especially considering his lineage and that some of the elders knew him in the past. There’s plenty of jockeying and rivalry with Lance going on here because of the dynamic of their relationship and it’s almost no surprise at all that they end up facing off against each other at the end here with Lance holding the A-rank position. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The main thrust that comes from a lot of the fights between the start and finish here involves Starjohn, a pretty skilled Dragon Caller with the expected “bad attitude” to him. He’s a player in the basic sense but one that’s cruel towards his monsters and has little respect or interest in them beyond tools. Admittedly, you can see exactly how his fate will go and how Ace and company view him. Even Lance has a distaste for him. Starjohn has a good selection of attacks to use but it’s his crueler ways and generally mean-kid personality that’s off-putting. So when you see others taken out by him it just riles everyone up, especially those like Garnet. There are some nice fights where it doesn’t go quite to form, though in reality it does, and we see the group as we’ve known them for a bit dealing with their respective issues. It’s all almost single-episode focused so it’s not rich or deep as most of the time is spent on the battle.
With Ace and Lance, their final match is one that carries over a couple of episodes here and will finish in the next set. It’s no surprise that they’ll each push each other to new levels to be better players and Ace’s use of the Soul Brave is pretty expansive here because it shows him evolving mid-fight. What becomes amusing, at least to me, is that as he fights against Lance and throws literally everything at him, we get to this point where he’s yelling out about he wants to get stronger and stronger with such a serious look on his face. It’s pretty intense and as the evolving continues he really does come across as though it’s the birth of a villain for the series. I mean, I’d have loved it if they threw that twist in there and sent him on his own journey and then Lance becomes the primary character, realizing that he has to save Ace. But that won’t happen. Yet that kind of potential is there with how Ace is presented and I’ll admit to really admiring that they did him up as serious as they did here.
Puzzles and Dragons X in its third set really is “about the same” as the previous sets but there were a few more moments to it that caught my attention. That the Battle Cup dominates the whole set means it’s tournament time and more often than not that just becomes dull to me since so few tournament segments offer anything new or interesting in my years of watching them – and less so with a kids show. But they do have some good things in here and I like the potential that’s almost teased toward the end of it. Funimation continues to do well by the show with a solid bilingual presentation and a clean and problem free encoding to let fans enjoy it in high-quality form.
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: July 17th, 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.