Judge Brett Cullum says, "Yeah, Little Boy Blue. He needed the..." Oh, sorry—wrong "DICE." Our bad.
DICE speeds to the rescue!
Kids have gotten in on the anime craze in a big way, but a lot of titles just aren't appropriate for the under-thirteen set. One company, Bandai, seems committed to the young viewers and fans, providing them with shows like Power Rangers, Digimon, and now DICE. It's a show, it's a toy line, it's a marketing ploy, all rolled into one shiny happy package for boys and girls who dream of teen heroes driving fast ships that turn into mecha dinosaurs. You can't judge a title like DICE: High Speed Action along the same lines as you would something like the Ghost in the Shell series. This is a show that's about simple desires—speed, toys, and fast plots that disappear into the ether as quickly as they came. It's fine fun for the young and young-at-heart, but not a series for serious anime fans. There is hardly any real violence in the show, and when it does appear it's always robot versus robot. Most of shows have the characters racing against the clock to save the day rather than engaging in constant combat. Welcome to the lighter side of anime.
In case you are wondering, DICE stands for "DNA Integrated Cybernetic Enterprises." It's just an acronym for an organization who wants to help the hopeless across the galaxy. This series concentrates on one of DICE's units, comprised entirely of pre-teens and teenagers. Each member of the F99 group pilots a ship that can transform into either a mechanical armor suit or a mechanical dinosaur (depending on their need and mood). It seems mandatory that one person says to the team, "I need help, and I'm not sure a gang of school kids can do the job." I guess someone has to carry on the Scooby Doo legacy—kids solving adult problems—even in anime.
On DICE: High Speed Action (the second volume of the series) we find five episodes that are all very well self-contained for the most part. We start off with the galactic heroes of F99 entering a Grand Prix race where the favorites to win mysteriously die. Is it corporate greed or something more sinister? Then Jet (the feisty red-headed twelve-year-old) and Tak (the fifteen-year-old captain) take off to explore a mysterious planet that only appears every twenty-seven years. After that escapade, the team has to stop an interplanetary war, find out about the disappearance of a strange bird, locate a missing artifact, and contend with the Phantom Knight (their nemesis), who pops up now and then to taunt them.
It's all standard fluff that uses what worked in so many shows before it. As a result, DICE will give sophisticated anime viewers a sense of déja vu. They'll constantly scratch their heads and ask "Haven't I seen this before?" Truth is, you have. But the intended audience should like it well enough. Kids will recognize the show from its airings on The Cartoon Network, and they should be the ones who clamor for something like this.
Bandai provides consumers with a stripped-down, bare-bones edition for DICE: High Speed Action. You get the five episodes with no bonus material at all. There is only one English track, and it only uses two speakers. The audio is strong in quality, but I would have liked a surround track to give some force to all the fluff. The transfers are fullscreen, and the colors look strong and vibrant. This is a bright series full of a lot of color, and seems to be authored quite well. Bandai knows what they are doing with shows like this. All in all, not a bad disc for kids or fans of simple, straightforward anime.
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