The anime series production of Zatch Bell is based upon the popular manga series that is known as Konjiki no Gash!! in Japan, which was both written and drawn by Makoto Raiku and which became published within a weekly shonen manga magazine. The anime adaptation has been directed by Tetsuji Nakamura (who had previously done some work on the Digimon anime). Fans of long action-packed anime series with a lot of zany characters and battle will find the series offers a lot to the longtime fans of the shonen genre.
If you are a huge fan of shonen anime productions, the good news is that Zatch Bell is in many regards just another typical shonen anime production. The series basic idea resides around the concept that it has some action-packed elements and bursts of comedy in a typical package as a storyline - one battle happens after another and as the journey extends new skills and experience is earned that significantly helps the protagonists of said storyline towards the goal established in the series.
The story of Zatch Bell is pretty simplistic. A 14 year old boy named Kiyo has few friends and is one of the brainiest of his class. He spends a lot of time by himself and isn't sure what to do with himself. He soon befriends a girl named Suzy, though, who has a crush on him and is quite kind to Kiyo. So what does the loner Kiyo have to do with himself? Apparently, his father had this thought while working on one of his archeological jobs (for the record, his father is typically away working), because he sends a "gift" for his birthday that actually turns out to be a odd mamodo (a literal translation of 'demon' so to speak) named Zatch Bell. Huh?
Who is this Zatch Bell character? He is a mamodo who doesn't have his memory anymore and needs the aid a human can provide to work his magical skills and abilities. With the arrival of Zatch, a book of spells arrives as well. The book of spells is to be used by a human being. In Zatch Bell's case, he needs the help of Kiyo.
With the aid of Kiyo, Zatch Bell has the ability to channel energy from spells and can fight other mamodo. As it turns out, there is a tournament that is typically held that involves the mamodos, which is to find the new mamodo King who can beat all the other mamodos. Zatch soon wants his successfulness to manifest into his becoming 'king' so that he can rule that there aren't any future contests so that the fighting ends and peace returns. Over the journey of the series, the companionship of Kiyo helps Zatch Bell to fight enemies, make friends (and even with other mamodos who no longer wish to fight), and learn what he had once forgotten about his own abilities and skills.
This basic concept of this series is one that is often explored in many shonen anime productions. Essentially, Zatch Bell is an anime series about characters battling, training, and learning skills which develop over the course of the storyline as a battle between good and evil is waged. The basic idea inherent in that format is found in many, many anime productions. This idea isn't a new one but it's the charm of the characters and the nice quality animation that keeps things worthwhile.
The character designs are cute and enjoyable. If you like 'cute' kawaii anime then this series is one that actually manages to add an element of that to the mix. The artwork is also fluid and is something that flows well between scenes and key moments. The production design is quite effective and mixes together strong background details with some kind of promising action -elaborate sequences (which one would expect).
The color usage is also notable on Zatch Bell as this is a vibrant series that stays in a colorful and upbeat color tempo throughout. This leads the series into a tone that is established early on as more sunny, cheerful, and entertaining (as opposed to the darker and more brooding artistic styles which frequently become employed with a 'fighting anime' series).
The direction isn't too flashy but it works as needed with Tetsuji Nakamura remembering to keep things entertaining, well paced, and to combine the appropriate about of humor and action at the same time. The approach given to realizing the characters is also effective from the directorial standpoint as the friendship between Zatch and Kiyo is a huge part of the series.
Unfortunately, the English dubbed version of Zatch Bell only covered the first 104 episodes of the150 produced in total. Production on the English dub was pulled prior to completion as the series was not deemed successful enough. As a result, the entirety will never be available with English dubbing. This is one key area of disappoint I genuinely consider worth noting to fans, but it shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying the series.
Zatch Bell is presented on DVD across 12 discs total. This was vital for the presentation quality as 100 episodes are contained on this two season collection. New Video Group continues to present themselves as a company concerned with quality as the episodes are presented with astonishingly impressive transfers that are encoded effectively with strong bit-rates and nice clean output video is present that is free from any major compression related issues. This is a tremendously well presented set. Color reproduction and detail is strong throughout episodes.
The 2.0 stereo English dubbed audio presentation is effective for the series. The clarity and detail of the dialogue is notably good and the sound effects utilized in action scenes sound pleasing. It's not a spectacular presentation but it's a highly efficient one that shouldn't disappoint.
There are no supplements on this release. The packaging does include a slip-box to hold both season sets, though.
Zatch Bell is by no means a groundbreaking anime production but if one considers themselves a fan of decently-made, entertaining, and upbeat shonen anime series then this is a quality one which is worth some consideration. It's a cute, fun, and worthy show for those who enjoy in series of the shonen action genre and who don't mind a more episodic approach to the story.
The quality of the release by New Video Group is excellent with strong PQ/AQ and a huge number of episodes. While the series English dub was never finished, fans of the dub will undoubtedly be pleased with the quality of this well-produced collection.