April 14, 2009
by: Adam Beck
It's over 900 minutes of the classic that we all loved and hated.
Review Hardware Used: Dell 42-inch Ė W4201C Ė Plasma display, Sony Playstation 3 with HDMI input set to 720p resolution and Optical out, Klipsch 7.1 Surround sound system.
Disc description: The Saiyans are coming! The last survivors of a cruel, warrior race, these ruthless villains have carved a path of destruction across the galaxy, an now they have set their sights on Earth! They will stop at nothing until they have the wish-granting powers of the seven magic Dragon Balls for their very own. With the fate of his family, friends, and the entire human race hanging in the balance, Goku, the Earths greatest hero, must rise to meet the approaching threat. As he prepares for the fight of his life, Goku embarks on n epic journey that will take him to other worlds, pit him against new and old enemies alike, and force him to confront the dark secrets of his own past. At the end of this path, the most powerful opponent he has ever faced awaits: the evil Saiyan Prince Vegeta! This set has been digitally re-mastered in High Definition and transferred from the original Japanese film. Features revised English dialogue and the original Japanese music, and comes with a 24-page booklet filled with episode summaries, character descriptions and a Dragon Ball Z timeline.
Contains Season One (Approx. 925 minutes)
16:9 Widescreen Aspect
5.1 Dolby Digital (English) 2.0 Dolby Digital (TV release) 1.0 Sound Track (Japanese)
Episodes 1 thru 39
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
If youíve ever watched a Japanese anime before, you most likely know what Dragon Ball Z is; even if you have never watched an episode before. It is one of those crazy, out of ordinary shows that goes overtop to try and impress you.
It has been nearly twenty years since the original anime aired in Japan and it has spawned a huge mainstream interest across the globe. With the age of DVDs upon us (well, high-definition format now), it is only natural to bring a large series such as Dragon Ball Z to the format. FUNimation has put extensive effort into creating a new experience for the franchise, but how will a twenty-year old anime series hold up in the modern day and age? I will admit, Dragon Ball Z is one of my guilty pleasures because I have fond memories of the series from the past. Itís been many years since Iíve watched an episode of the series, so I feel refreshed to come back to it in such a high quality. Customers are also getting one of the best values for their buck considering the first season contains over 15 hours worth of content (39 episodes); all for a very affordable price. Itís basically a little more than a dollar an episode, a much greater value in comparison to more current releases. I truly believe the first season of the Dragon Ball Z franchise is the best of the series as it is a little more comparable to the original Dragon Ball series which focuses more on the world than the awkward character driven power-ups. It contains many adventures on Earth before the cast flies off into space to explore the unknown.
Probably one of the best features FUNimation could have ever put into any long running series is the Marathon feature. This feature allows you to watch every episode on the disc with just one opening. I do wish they would have added one ending though as it would have completed the cycle perfectly. Anyways, this saves viewers about half an hour worth of openings, endings, previews into the next episode, and recaps at the beginning of episodes. You really begin to lose track of time when watching this, considering I flew by three of the six DVDs in one evening without knowing. There are some issues I do have with the marathon feature as on episode 15 and 37, the ďfind out on the next episode of Dragon Ball ZĒ narration at the end of the episodes is cut off too quickly.
Goku has really beefed up.
The series is basically broken down into multiple scenarios, a lot of which are concentrated on each of the sixth discs of the release. The first is about Raditz, a Saiyan warrior that has comes to Earth only to reveal Gokuís hidden past. Iím quite surprised that things start off this way considering the Dragon Ball series always hid Gokuís true past (although always hinted at it), but to have it revealed within two episodes of its sequel catches me off guard. Raditz is an enemy of the Earth so I wonít go into great detail considering his demise is swift. Raditz is by far the least evil Saiyan of the three enemies from the saga; that isnít saying much considering each is pure evil as it is, but Raditz seems to think before he does anything. On Earth, he doesnít do any unnecessary killing; he just gets straight to the point, unlike the other Saiyans who go on killing sprees whenever they feel like it. The Raditz scenario starts the series off with a strong battle as Goku has to team up with his mortal enemy Piccolo in order to get his son back. The fight is a bit one-sided, but we get a peek into Gohan, Gokuís young son; and his hidden power. It almost feels like Dragon Ball Z is trying to pass down the torch from Goku to his son Gohan, as a lot of this release centers on the timid child.
The series also follow the pure hearted Goku as he enters the otherworld to receive special training from an unknown master; but Gohan feels like more of a character to develop. The first scenario is entertaining as it opens up the series with a brand new direction. Unveiling Gokuís origin right off the bat is out of the ordinary for the series but I like that it doesnít beat around the bush. The second scenario mainly focuses around Gohanís survival and Gokuís adventure down the path of Snake way. Both adventures, I think, are the best of the release considering how much Gohan helps open up the world around him, and allows the viewer and the characters to understand more of his hidden powers. There are a lot of questionable decisions though. For example, Piccolo destroys the moon, but if he can do that, youíd think he would be able to kill Goku or even Raditz with such power. Another strange decision is the transformation of the Saiyan race. It is explained that Saiyans need a special power that a moon resonates near the end of the release, yet Gokuís space pod (which miraculously appears during Gohanís adventure into the wild) just displays a picture of the moon in the sky and allows Gohan to be able to transform. In any case, I really enjoy Gohanís adventure because you can see how much he improves over a short amount of time, not to mention understanding his responsibility to the human race. He turns from a selfish and spoiled little brat to a mature individual (even though his timid and scared nature still remains).
Gokuís adventure doesnít really mature him as a character as he really doesnít need to evolve all that much. He continues his comical nature down Snake way and comes across multiple insignificant characters that have him overcome simple tasks from catching someone to escaping the belly of a beast. Itís entertaining but it does nothing for Goku as a character. Following this scenario is a shorter one as the strongest Earthlings are gathered to train with Kami, the Namekian guardian of the Earth. This also involves Goku finally receiving some comical training from the legendary King Kai. King Kai and his friends Gregory and Bubbles are some of the more comical characters in the series as they give light to the extensive training Goku is put through. They fit well with Gokuís nature, being comical and determined to help out others (well King Kai anyways). Besides Gokuís training, the rest of Earthís defence Force gears up, but only offering mildly uninteresting events. This ultimately leads up to the main attraction of the disc: Vegeta and Nappaís arrival. Iíve always wanted to crack a really geeky joke with the ďItís over 9000!Ē line from Vegeta, but because this isnít Oceanís dubbing, itís hard to make such a cheesy note in the review. In any case, the fight between the Saiyans and the rest of the Earth takes up most of the release as there are multiple events that occur. Some of the weaker fighters, such as Yamcha and Tien are put up against more believable aliens, Saibamen. This ends quickly, but it is the Nappa and Vegeta fights that have the most attraction as both are fairly quick paced (even though Nappa always seems to do a lot of powering-up) and they are action-packed.
I do think Vegetaís fight with Goku does go on a bit longer than it should. Goku begins to kick ass, and then when we think Vegeta is dead, but he comes back with barely a scrape. Later we think heís dead again, but then he comes back once again. In the end, the conclusion of Vegetaís fate is pretty obvious considering how his character is constantly surviving killer attacks over and over again. At the end of the disc, the crew begins their next quest, something a little more sci-fi as they travel to the planet Namek, but not without a few hitches on the way. In the end, the first season of Dragon Ball Z may be the best of the series (at least from my experience). It contains quite a bit of adventure and building of characters that includes lots of drama and action. It is an experience you will lose many hours to, but at least it will be an entertaining one. It is the entire first season of the series, offering over 900 minutes (over 15 hours worth) that should have fans and newcomers a glued to their couches.
Gohan is pissed!
Video: The video quality of Dragon Ball Z has been re-mastered from the original film prints, and I must say, it looks magnificent. Sure, it definitely wonít be as crystal clear as most modern day anime releases, but taken from the 1980s, FUNimation really has done a fantastic job bringing it to DVD. The video transfer is extended to show more of the picture as it runs in 16:9, contrary to the VHS releases which ran at 4:3. The transfer displays beautiful colors as you can tell they contain more depth and spring out of the television quite a bit more.
My only real complaints (and Iím pretty sure itís just because of the aging of the original prints) is that there are sometimes flashes of white (and sometimes green) close to the edge of the screen. Also, at the end of the first episodeís opening video, when the DVD transitions to the anime, one picture with many of the characters becomes pixelated for about a second. Nothing major but it did catch my attention. From what I can tell, the video transfer for the first season of the Dragon Ball Z series on DVD is solid, offering a more modern and high definition quality you see with most releases now.
Audio: There is a lot that FUNimation offers in the audio department. First, you get a remixing of the Dragon Ball Z English voice track, offering a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound option. This option is by far the best as it comes uncut with the original Japanese music tracks in the background (which are significantly better than the English music tracks). I do think the series doesnít necessary capitalize on the surround sound option as there are only a few times when it really becomes noticeable; but when it does, it gives me shivers reliving such an old experience in a modern way. The second option is the original TV broadcasting audio track, offering English voices with the North American music adaptation. I personally am not a big fan of the music in the English department, but if youíre more familiar with the TV broadcasting than the original Japanese scores, you will have the option to change; though this is distributed in a 2.0 stereo sound.
Lastly, the original Japanese release is put in as you can listen to each of the characters in their insanely high pitched voices. Because this is released in North America, FUNimation didnít do anything for the Japanese voice tracks as it runs in mono sound; and because of this, the audio is sometimes very squeaky. In terms of voice acting, I really think the English department is a bit above the Japanese department, but each has their positives and negatives. There is a reason why ďDigitally Re-masteredĒ is printed on the front of the cover as it applies to both the video and audio offering a true high definition experience.
Menus: The menus are surprisingly easy to navigate. Selections of episodes are available and contain their episode numbers, but there is no selection of chapters within each episode. The music is varied per page (which I love) and each piece expands for about a minute. Itís a little more western in the sense that it is rock music in comparison to what you may hear throughout the DVD release. My only real issue is the extras section. On the last disc, there are extras to be selected, but I was confused how many there were. At first, I thought there were only two as the selections blended into each other perfectly and they were not separated all that well. Still, the menu system is easy to navigate and it is something to be enjoyed.
Dialogue: I really cannot say the dialogue itself is bad as each character has their own set of dialogue that ties in with their personality, but when you load up the first season, the first episode, almost every line is either ďGohan?Ē or ďDaddy?Ē. Still, getting by that, the series does contain some strong dialogue, both in the English and Japanese releases. It resembles each character perfectly (I usually donít like kids, but you can understand Gohanís lines) and it just ends up creating a solid story. Subtitles are also solid and are very readable.
Extras: There are very few extras, but you really cannot complain considering how much value you get for your buck. There is a look at the re-mastering of the Dragon Ball Z series, which lasts a little over five minutes and I think itís really interesting as it shows how much effort FUNimation has had to put in to create such a worthy release. There also is a three minute ďNew LookĒ video, but this is mainly a trailer or advertisement of what FUNimation has done with the DVD releases. There are also textless songs (which basically means textless openings and endings), and trailers to other FUNimation products. Outside the DVD, there is a small booklet that contains informative character profiles, enemy profiles, summarizes of all of the episodes in the release, and a detailed timeline of Dragon Ball Zís history.
The Bottom Line: After twenty years, Dragon Ball Z still holds its own in the action genre as one of the best action titles on the market. The first season is a little more similar to the original Dragon Ball series as it focuses mainly on the world of Earth before exploring into the abyss that is space. FUNimation has obviously put high priority on this title considering how much it has improved since weíve last seen it. 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound, 16:9 widescreen aspect, and three audio tracks makes this one of the most defining moments of the Dragon Ball Z franchise.
Open wide, Nappa.