Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Puzzle & Dragons X
BD/DVD Part 2
Now that he and his friends are full-fledged dragon callers, Ace begins taking part in guild missions. These run the gamut from those he can do by himself to others he has to cooperate with other dragon callers on, and not only does Ace begin to hone his skills, but to learn more about his friends and companions. But all is far from over – the threat of the JSF still looms and with the Battle Cup tournament to determine the strongest dragon caller approaching, Ace, Charo, and Tiger have a lot to consider as they continue to aim for the top.
Just because you've achieved your goal doesn't mean that the journey's over. That's the premise behind the second set of Puzzle & Dragons X episodes to be released on DVD. The first thirteen saw Ace work towards his goal of becoming a dragon caller – the show's combination of Pokémon trainer and generalized RPG hunter – like his late father was, as well as learning that sometimes meeting your heroes is not a great idea. Episode fourteen picks up with Ace and his two new friends Charo and Tiger having all passed the exams to become official dragon callers, and the boys quickly realize that just because they now have sanctioned D-gears and official backing, their journeys are far from over.
Partially this is because now they have responsibilities to look into reported monster problems. In part this involves them just sort of traveling around and seeing what they fall into, but they also have specific missions assigned to them. Since what they can do depends upon their strength and that of the monsters they've allied with, getting stronger becomes more than just a plot device – it's actually something that they legitimately need to be concerned about if they want to advance in their careers, especially since all three of the boys are humans and not dragonoids. For Charo and Tiger, this means both trying to live up to Ace's impressive natural talent, but also that they need to acquire soul armor like he (and other dragon callers of note) have in order to be taken more seriously.
If this sounds like the set up for the boys to have a falling out, that's not totally incorrect. Puzzle & Dragons X does deserve a lot of credit, however, for not taking this down the typical path of jealousy. Neither Tiger nor Charo suddenly grows resentful of Ace, nor do they decide that he's somehow to blame for their own perceived failings. Instead Charo sort of swallows down his feelings of inferiority (and to be honest, he doesn't appear to have many; this is a very secure kid we're talking about) while Tiger sees his lack of strength as his own issue. In large part he arrives at this conclusion because of a chance meeting with an old partner, a girl named Rose. Before meeting Ace, Tiger apparently traveled with her until she decided that he was somehow holding her back. When the two reunite, Rose has a bad case of the Superiorities, and she basically tells Tiger that he's still weak and has lame soul armor because he has too much fun.
Apart from the fact that she's really very cruel to him when she has no right to be, the most damage is done to Tiger's self-esteem. Previous to reuniting with Rose, Tiger was rightly feeling pretty good about his progress and the fact that he had gotten acquired soul armor at all. That he did so not because of his brute strength or other physical prowess but because he is genuinely a good person makes him more impressive – but Rose doesn't know this. Because she knows him, she knows just how to hit him so it hurts, and the result is that Tiger essentially punishes himself for her perceptions of his failings. While the younger viewers of the show may not fully grasp what's going on here, older viewers will see that while Tiger won't be hurt by some time alone, he also is losing something more important in allowing Rose's criticisms under his skin. Even though he's the oldest of the three boys, he's also not the most secure or mature, as we can see later when Ace, feeling similarly beaten down by a terrible little brat named Star John, sets out to find a specific monster. The difference is that he's doing this one thing on his own, and we have every expectation that when he's done, he and Charo will go on together again.
By this point in the series it's become clear that we have three major plots going on: the shorter arced stories, such as Ace going to find Horus or the Battle Cup, the dragonoids versus humans storyline, and the SDF plot. Those last two may very well turn out to be connected, as both are spearheaded by dragonoids, but at the moment the two seem to be existing separately. The third story thread appears to be the one that is most likely to be around for the long haul, as it sets up the classic science fiction versus fantasy storyline that can in this case be summed up as technology versus a magical environment. We're still not entirely clear on what Nyudo plans to really do, but there's enough talk about how the drops (evidence of the show's origins as a match 3 game) are the earth healing herself to raise some concern.
This set of episodes is a little less tightly put together than the previous release. Apart from the fact that the eighth episode is a clip show, there are also episodes for several of the side characters, which have varying success. Lance's is definitely the best of that bunch, with not only a valid explanation for his lack of social skills and grumpy attitude but also doing a truly good job at making Devi a sympathetic character. Garnet's is on the other end of the spectrum, but if you don't find her an annoying character, you may enjoy it more. Monster designs continue to be on the cuter side, which really isn't a problem, while people's designs are a little more off – Star John appears to either be the son of Ryo-Ohki from the Tenchi Muyo! franchise or to have skinned her and remade her as a hat.
Puzzle & Dragons X's second release isn't quite as good as its first, but it's still a kids' show that is easily enjoyed by an adult audience. With bright colors, adorable monsters, and themes of always trying your best even if you aren't sure how to, it's far more than its humble origins would suggest. You could do a lot worse if you're looking for a light fantasy adventure.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Good storyline momentum, Lance and Devi episode gives good character development, final episode gives more insight into Tamazo's species
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