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Dragonball Z Season 1 UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read

Nostalgia goggles? Check. Shouting out my actions for no undisclosable reason? Check. Can’t bring myself to hate it and just immense myself in the cheese? Check and mate.

What They Say:
DRAGON BALL Z is the sequel to Japanese animation DRAGON BALL which starts where the last series left off. It was inspired by the Chinese novel JOURNEY TO THE WEST. Follow the adventures of Goku as a grown man who now has a wife and child. He and his friends are living a quiet life until Goku learns he is really a Saiyan and comes from another planet. Includes every episode in series 1.

The Review:
With this being the first ever time DBZ has been released in the UK, the remastering of it has been nothing short of superb, this includes the audio. In English we have a 5.1 Dolby Surround sound whilst in Japanese we have a standard 2.0 stereo which still sounds excellent, which should please dub and sub fans. On a personal note, watching the Funimation dub makes me realize how well they transcribed it to the original Ocean dub, I remember the original voices and lines and they’ve have done a very good job to match it as good as possible with the voices. Overall, a very good audio enjoyment, with no freezes, or glitches or matching with the subtitles.

I will mention the video as well, as this is a remastered track, so unlike in the US who got several versions of DBZ prior to this release, this is literally brand new to the UK as the first time it’s ever been released on DVD. Needless to say, this is a great release as the animation has been remastered magnificently, giving it a real crisp feel, no errors or animation glitches or transition issues throughout or when you have to pause the show. It’s superb to look at and great for fans from back when it first aired on Cartoon Network back in the late 90s, it feels like ‘it’s about time’ to get a real good feel of nostalgia, combined with a modern day look and sound feel.

The menu on all 6 discs is exactly the same (bar the extras on Disc 6) – a shot of Vegeta in the middle on an orange background a la Goku’s gi with a black bar about a third from the bottom of the screen with play all, episodes and audio selection, with extras on the final disc. Each is easily selectable but with very little interplay as its very standard, plus there is no scene select option with the episodes. Very basic and lazy which is a shame as a little bit more fun in a release like this would have been much appreciated?

There are only a few brief extras on the final disc, with the clean opening and ending reconstructed in the remastered format being a nice choice as always.

The other extra is a 5 minute short called Dragonball Z Rebirth, which is a short segment about the remastering process involving Steve Franko, the colourist, video and transfer worker, who very briefly talks about remastering into HD, making it as good as possible, step by step HD Restoration, smoothing the grain and video noise, etc. It’s a nice little piece, but it was way too short. My guess is that there is going to be little bits like this through the series release, which is good but still feels really short considering the amount of content there is in the box set and what could be explored. I hope it does build to some more juicier extras in the future.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Dragonball Z is considered one of the more iconic anime series over the years. Originally airing in Japan in 1989 and the sequel to the original Dragonball, it was one of the first anime series that actually aired in the UK on Cartoon Network in the late 1990s (I think it was the second anime series to ever air in the UK after Pokemon but don’t quote me on that). It was a show I grew up on in my late teens when I was starting to catch the anime bug, and I recall watching each episode at one point, through the good, bad and the ugly.

Of course, this has been over 10 years ago, and since then I’ve watched a lot of shows, and my tastes have changed a lot. Yet there must have been something which made me enjoy DBZ as a youngster all those years ago – so does it still hold up today, for a DVD release which has been a long time coming?

The story begins with a very brief overview of the original Dragonball which does help those who never saw it but it throws us into exposition, our lead Goku, also the lead in the original series, has had time to settle down as 5 years have passed since then. He has a wife, Chichi, and a son Gohan, who isn’t a fighter and is definitely more on the way to being a scholar despite his young age. However, someone suddenly arrives on the planet Earth, looking for the highest power source of the planet. He first finds Goku’s rival, a green warrior by the name of Piccolo, and Piccolo is shocked at how strong this alien is…but before the alien can attack him, he notices Goku’s power level and goes to find him.

It turns out his name is Radditz and is Goku’s older brother, but is known as Kakkarot back on their planet as a race known as the Saiyan’s. Apparently Goku was sent down to Earth to destroy it, but he got hit on the head on the way down and lost his memory. With the planet now his home, Goku obviously has no intention to follow up this plan. Radditz gets mad and beats him up for a bit, then kidnaps his son to try and force him to do his duty as a Saiyan. This leads to Piccolo and Goku now having to team up to deal with the overpowered Saiyan.

This leads to the first battle of many (and what DBZ is known for, for better or worse) between Goku/Piccolo and Radditz. However, Radditz seems to be too powerful even for the two of them when suddenly a strange burst of power stronger than Radditz predicted comes out…which is emanating from Gohan. Reacting to this burst of energy, Goku holds Radditz down long enough for Piccolo to land the finishing blow, having to kill both of them. This leads to the deus ex machine brought into play, the Dragon Balls, which have the ability to make any wish once they’ve found them. Unfortunately, discussing this in bringing Goku back to life meant whilst Radditz is dying, all of this information is being transferred to his home planet, where two even more powerful Saiyans, Nappa and Vegeta, are listening in. This knowledge intact, they know intend to head to Earth to get the Dragon Balls, with the wish of immortality in their mind.

This leads to bringing back some old friends and rivals from the original series as they train to prepare to fight the Saiyans, Piccolo decides to train Gohan seeing his power potential, whilst Goku in the afterlife is going to get some training from the legendary King Kai, to fully upmost his power levels. There’s a lot of action combined with training and bringing back characters like Tien and Yamacha, as well as getting more from Krillian, Master Roshi, Bulma and also Chichi’s reactions over her husband’s death and her son’s abduction. It’s amusing to say the least. Most of the action before the Saiyan’s comes through Gohan’s training as he has to survive in the wilderness for 6 months before Piccolo decides to properly train him. It’s most interesting to see Piccolo’s reaction to this, because he was always seen as cold hearted, but in his own way, his taking care of Gohan actually gives some hope there is a form of friendship being bonded.

When the Saiyan’s arrive, it is back to the fighting action. And it is done predictably but so fun that it’s hard not to begrudge it. All the characters are no match for the Saiyan Nappa, with 3 of the characters dying fairly quickly which may surprise people who haven’t seen it, especially as a bit later, one of the main characters also gets killed. Admittingly, with the Dragon Ball deus-ex machina it’s not as big as you may think, but one of the side characters had already been wished by the Dragon Balls and cannot be resurrected again, so it’s still a real surprise. Finally, Goku does return and he’s now far more powerful much to the shock of his friends and his enemies. Nappa who had literally taken everybody and was more than a match, is then easily defeated by Goku.

The main crux now leads to the fight between Goku and the other more powerful Saiyan, and one of the most iconic characters not just in DBZ, but anime in general, Vegeta. Vegeta is a smug guy who has the arrogance and ego the size of the planet, but has the power to back it up. The two fight quite for a bit, with each of them using their techniques, and tricks such as the fact that Saiyan’s can transform into giant monkeys when the moon is out (which was already shown with Gohan during his training segments, which does lead to how Vegeta is indirectly defeated) or Goku’s techniques gave to him by King Kai, like his Kaio-ken technique and the Spirit Bomb. It leads to Gohan and lovable coward Krillin (along with a not so lovable coward Yajirobe) to help him out, as the battle rages on to an interesting conclusion, which begins the set up of finding some new Dragon Balls on Piccolo’s home planet of Namek, which will lead into Season 2.

Dragonball Z has 39 episodes so there is a lot to great though, as the above was basically the abridged version. There are exposition and almost filler moments throughout, like Gohan’s training, but it does bring in characters from the original (it was fun seeing Yamcha as a baseball player, plus it brings in people who didn’t know of the Yamcha/Bulma relationship) and work them in united against the Saiyans. The villains are also interesting – Vegeta of course is extremely well known and you feel that he isn’t that one-dimensional. He’s evil and prideful yes, but he can back it up and if you’re with him, he’s got your back, but if you’re not with him or he feels you are no longer worth his time, it’s bye-bye. With the fact he was left alive at the end of the season with some words of wisdom, you know he’s going to be back.

The development of Piccolo and Gohan is probably my favourite part of the season – mainly because Goku’s role was predictable and whilst they added bits to make the finale interesting, it was still over the top and predictable. Piccolo was my favourite character of the early seasons because it proved he does have a caring side, and basically he protected his only friend from certain death, whilst some of his history is slowly coming out. Gohan grows from a (quite rightly) scared fish out of water, into someone who has to learn to be strong despite his young age. He reacts as you would accordingly during the battle, scared, but knows he has to fight to survive, and he grows into a little warrior much to his mother’s chagrin. I guess it’s kind of surprising that DBZ does have some really good character development with these two, but doesn’t lose what it’s good at – some silly comedy combined with some high action fights…and even some tear jerking moments with the deaths in particular. Goku himself gets some good moments with his training with King Kai, and his initial death was very touching despite the nature of the show by the end.

Of course, it’s not perfect. It’s very silly – it’s over the top with the action, reused animation of course, it’s very predictable and for quite a number of the characters, there is hardly any development at all that you don’t feel for them or care what they do. But in the end, this is easily a shut your brain off series. Add to the nostalgia value with the remastering and it’s definitely a release I’d recommend, especially if DBZ was one of the shows that got you into anime. The Funimation dub does a good job as well (I remembered watching the Ocean dub) but it’s great to hear it in Japanese as well in its original format.

Dragonball Z to the UK has been a long time coming, and thanks to the format it’s worth the wait. It’s nothing special in this day of age with so many shounen series out there, but for a nostalgia feeling, combined with some great voice acting on both sides of the fence, remastered in this format, its well worth the purchase. It’s stupid, not ground breaking, predictable and so over the top, you wonder how much scenery it can chew. But its fun, has some likeable characters, the action is still great to watch, and it’s certainly aged much better than expected in today’s market. A guilty pleasure and recommended.

5.1 English, 2.0 Japanese Languages, Dragonball Z: Rebirth, Cleaning Opening/Ending

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: July 2nd, 2012
MSRP: £21.99
Running Time: 936 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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