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Dragon Ball Z: Season 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read
Dragon Ball Z Season One
Dragon Ball Z Season One

This is the show that never ends, it just goes on and on, my friends.

What They Say:
The Saiyans are coming! These ruthless, intergalactic villains carved a path of destruction across the galaxy, and now they’re headed for Earth! The evil Saiyan warlord Vegeta will not rest until he’s seized the wish-granting powers of the Dragon Balls for himself! Goku vs. Vegeta! The battle of all battles begins now!

Make room on your shelves because the Dragon Ball Z Season Sets are finally on Blu-Ray! We embarked on a frame-by-frame restoration process to remove any blemishes, tape marks, and foreign bodies that might have tarnished your viewing experience. All three audio tracks have been re-mastered in the interest of noise reduction and superior sound quality. The bolder, more vibrant color of this ultimate Dragon Ball Z release closely mirrors the visual aesthetics of today’s entertainment. Lastly, we undertook a precise shot-by-shot reframing of the entire series to create a modern HD widescreen presentation of this legendary fan favorite It’s time to experience Dragon Ball Z like you’ve never experienced it before!

The Review:
There are three audio tracks for this release: Dolby TrueHD English dialogue with Japanese music 5.1; Dolby TrueHD U.S. English broadcast version 2.0; and the original Japanese mono. For this viewing I listened to the English dialogue with Japanese music and it was very good. The sound was clean with no distortions or dropouts. The dialogue did stay centered from what I could tell, but here was some directionality to the sound effects. English subtitles are also provided and they showed up well without blending into the background.

Although, as the package makes clear, they went to painstaking lengths to clean up this show and make it HD-worthy, it still shows its age. While there were no real problems with the video, the colors were a bit muted and it still looks like a show that was made in the ‘90s. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it bears mentioning given that the package spends an entire paragraph describing (and selling) how they made this HD-worthy. It could lead to unrealistic expectations.

The discs are housed in a Blu-Ray case on a center insert. The case is protected by a cardboard slip cover that bears the same images as on the case. The front shows Raditz, Goku, Piccolo, Nappa, and Chaozu fighting. The spine simply shows the series’ title, season, and number of episodes. The back cover primarily features Raditz along with some screenshots, show summary, and DVD specs. While the packaging is nice enough, it doesn’t really impress me either. The art is pretty simple, and I actually had quite a hard time reading the back due to the small font size. Ultimately, it could have been better.

The menu for Dragonball Z Season 1 is fairly interesting. The disc options are listed on a light blue, transparent strip on the bottom superimposed over what I think is Raditz’s point of view as he travels through space and eventually lands on Earth. All we see are stars, oceans, mountains, and various other sorts of terrain ending in a dome of energy surrounded by lightning and the ubiquitous DBZ earth-floating-in-the-air-and-crumbling effect that heralds somebody gathering power. Occasionally the screen will distort like an old television set experiencing interference. There is minimal music playing in the background—barely more than a beat with a kind of droning, electric charge underneath—that highlights the intensity underlying the images shown. It’s a rather nice, understated effect that I did not expect.

There aren’t too many extras on this set. There is an upcoming special feature sneak peak, textless opening and closing songs, a U.S. trailer, and trailers for other shows. While they aren’t bad in any way, they also don’t include any information or content that I found particularly interesting and entertaining. The one extra that I did enjoy, however, was the “marathon play” option, which cut out the opening and closing credits. That was a nice touch that I’d like to see in more shows.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Were the people that created Dragon Ball Z paid by the hour? It may seem like an odd link, but I kept thinking of Charles Dickens when I watched this season. Dickens’ novels were printed as serials in newspapers and he was paid by the word; this lead to Dickens’ now-famous loquacious style because the more he wrote, the more he got paid. I wondered if perhaps the people that made Dragon Ball Z worked under a similar setup, because my God does this show drag. I’m fairly sure that a twenty episode series could be strung together of just snippets of Krillin and Gohan staring aghast at things.

The funny part of my reaction is that I used to enjoy Dragon Ball Z. I watched it with my friends back in college when it was being shown on Toonami. One of use would tape the day’s episode and we would watch it after dinner. We made fun of the pacing at the time, but none of us felt it was the soul-destroying miasma of pointless mugging for the camera that I felt when watching it this time.

More than likely you’re already familiar with the show, but if you’re not, here’s a short recap: Dragon Ball Z is the sequel to the wildly popular Dragonball series which was loosely based on the Chinese legends of the Monkey King Son Goku. The first series was charming and told the tale of Goku, a boy with a tail from a distant planet, and the martial arts adventures he got into. In Z, Goku is now an adult and married to his sweetheart, Chi-Chi. The two have a son named Gohan and things are going pretty well until a spaceship lands on Earth and Goku is confronted by his jerk brother, Raditz. Raditz tells Goku of his heritage and warns that two other Saiyans (which is the race Goku belongs to) are coming to Earth in one year’s time to take over the planet. Goku defeats Raditz with the help of his former nemesis Piccolo, but at the cost of his life. Instead of instantly bringing him back to life by making a wish with the magic Dragon Balls, Goku stays in the afterlife to train so he can face the two new Saiyans. Lots of fighting happens with people shouting, people shooting energy balls, people turning into giant apes, and people standing around for incredibly long amounts of time gasping or trembling in fear.

If you’re a fan of the show then buying this set is probably a fait accompli and anything I have to say about it is meaningless, but I have to say that this show has not aged well. More to the point, I think my taste in anime has changed and the aspects of the show that I enjoyed no longer outweigh its issues with plot, pacing, and character.

To put it simply, the show is boring. It takes three episodes for a character to scratch his head, much less work up the fighting spirit to save the planet. The show also doesn’t portray women very well, which I did not realize way back when. Chi-Chi is incredibly overbearing as a mother to the point where I’m surprised she doesn’t keep Gohan on a leash 24/7. She also clearly hates Goku. I suspect that perhaps she married him just so she could get a baby and even then that must have taken a herculean effort on her part to push back her disdain. Bulma is slightly better, but not much being that she browbeats everyone around her.

Taking the matter of character even further, there are very few that I actually like. Piccolo is probably my favorite because he’s the most competent and, like me, views the rest as a bunch of clods, but he’s rendered ineffectual because he’s not Goku, who is charming in his own way, but after a while his shtick gets rather old.

In Summary:
I have fond memories of watching Dragon Ball Z back in college, but those memories weren’t enough to sustain me during this viewing. The ponderously slow pacing, the lack of likable characters, and the shrill women made this a difficult thirty-nine episodes to watch. I will say that Funimation did do a solid job of cleaning up the audio and video, which will probably be enough for Z fans, but this show is obviously not for me anymore. Not recommended.

Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Upcoming Special Feature Sneak Peek Textless Opening and Closing Songs, U.S. Trailer, Trailers

Content Grade: D
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 31st, 2013
MSRP: $44.98
Running Time: 945 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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