Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 9th 2009
Dragonaut: The Resonance
DVD - Complete Series Part 1
Two years ago, Jin Kamishina lost his entire family in a space shuttle launch accident which only he survived, one for which his father, the pilot, was blamed. He eventually, however, learns the truth: the shuttle actually exploded due to contact with something shot from Thanatos, an alien life form which destroyed Pluto and took its orbit. As a counter-measure against its potential threat, the ISDA had already been developing Communicators, artificial humans who can transform into dragon-like ships based on the originals shot out from Thanatos. Dragonauts, individuals who have undergone Resonance with a dragon egg and thus become a Communicator's master, are the lynchpin of the ISDA's defense. Jin becomes involved with the ISDA and their Dragonauts due to his presence at a battle involving Dragons and the connection he makes with Toa, a seeming young woman who saves him but also happens to be the Album, one of the original Dragons that both the ISDA and the Mars-based Giraurd Army desperately wish to acquire for study. As Jin obsessively pursues Toa hither and yon with the assistance of the renegade Communicator Gio and the alternating help and hindrance of various Dragonauts, Toa seeks to complete her own purpose even while pining to be with Jin. Things get more complicated, though, when Thanatos decides she's taking too long to complete her task and dispatches a new and more wantonly destructive Dragon to Earth.
A consumer advocate once said, “if you irradiate poop, it will be sterile, but it's still poop.” That line could pretty much apply to Dragonaut: The Resonance, too. Although it does try to doctor up its content with CG-laden battles, fan service, and some attempts at more involved characterization, those are not sufficient to overcome the fact that the series is, at heart, a pile of crap.
Actually, the first half of the series does offer a bit of worthwhile content. Having the mecha actually be people that the pilots can have varying different types of relationships with is an interesting (if hardly original) notion, and the obsessive behaviors of some characters can be interesting to a point; that Kazuki lets his obsession devolve him into such a maniacal bastard over losing Gio that he cannot recognize and appreciate the much better option he has at hand is the series' strongest plot point. A couple of the character designs (Akira, Tao) are easy enough on the eyes and this stretch does offer one major (if possibly predictable) plot twist. This and the fan service is apparently enough for Funimation to justify licensing the title and think that enough people will watch it to be worth dubbing it.
Except that this is not good fan service, unless one is a fan of grossly oversized busts done in a style similar to the Witchblade anime, with which it clearly shares a character designer. The busts on some of the female characters - especially Major Garnet of the Giroaurd Army and Dorctor Yuri - are so exaggerated that they can be counterproductive in attempting to generate prurient appeal; they just look ridiculous, and ridiculous is not sexy. In fact, the ample but not oversized Toa and the more modest Akira and Nanami are both sexier. (Sieglinde is a harder case to call since she has a loli look but a more developed figure than the norm for that type.) For a series that needs to depend on its fan service for support, there isn't enough of it, either, unless women hanging out of clothing that is unprofessional and inappropriate for the roles that they are filling works for you. They are not the only ones dressed inappropriately, either, as Mr. Cyril looks like a senior citizen who is more concerned with showing off his athletic studliness than demonstrating any sense of professional decorum.
The series also has other problems that run deep. Although the series technically has a plot involving dealing with Thanatos, most of what happens is just an excuse to have numerous battles involving human-looking individuals who can transform into dragon-like mecha. The rest involves trying to establish Jin and Toa's very troubled relationship, which mostly involves Jin trying to chase down Toa and Toa vacillating between wanting to be with Jin and needing to be away from him so she can half-heartedly fulfill her Purpose. This gets more tiring than interesting after a while, as Jin's pursuit of Toa is more another example of obsessive behavior than actual love. (Yes, Toa fills that hole in his life caused by the disappearance of his family, but this is not a healthy way to do it.) They make a decent enough couple but not one that, at this point, is going to carry a series. Despite some background flashes, none of the rest of the major cast members have been developed much by the end of episode 13, and what has been shown about them does not distinguish them much from stock characters from any of a number of other action series. That the logical structure of the indeterminate future makes little sense is an additional consideration.
The artistry and animation, beyond the fan service, is more of an issue. Gonzo was once on the cutting edge of CG design, and indeed their CG effort here might have been impressive four or five years earlier, but it pales in comparison to recent efforts by studios like Satelight and too starkly contrasts with the very stylized artistry of its non-CG parts. In execution, the Dragon-based battles do occasionally show some verve but more commonly wallow in mundanity. The character design style merely copies what was used in Witchblade, giving the impression that Gonzo wanted to turn a shonen-like mecha show into a sexy, more adult-skewing fare. Their effort comes off more like a lame Speed Grapher than a sharp Basilisk, however. Recycling the Actualizing/mounting scenes, and making at least one look rather dorky, only offers other strikes against, and the costuming chosen makes characters look like fashion rejects from assorted time periods and fetish genres.
Whatever faults the series may have elsewhere, the soundtrack is not part of it. Kosuke Yamashita's score tries very hard to give the action scenes the dramatic edge and energy that they need, but too often the effort gets wasted due to the lackluster product it backs. It often segues beautifully into the strong ending theme “Rain of Love,” while each opens with the respectable “perfect blue.”
Little fault can be found in the English dub, either. Its script stays comfortably close to the original, the casting choices are uniformly solid, and the performances lack little compared to the originals. It may not stand amongst the year's best dubs but it is a solid effort nonetheless.
Funimation has opted to release the thirteen episodes on a pair of thin packed DVDs in a art box slipcase. The only meaningful Extra is an English commentary track for episode 10, which features Brina “Akira” Palencia and Kate “Nanami” Oxley, although it does also include clean opener and closer on the second disk. Present in the cases for both disks is bonus interior artwork.
The first half of Dragonaut is not a total disaster, but it does not do much to give hope for its second half. Weak writing, unimpressive CG, and disappointing fan service all contribute to a few hours of wasted time.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Soundtrack, solid English dub, occasional moments of inspiration.
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