While I enjoyed Vegeta’s development, the show overall remains the same.
What They Say:
While Goku recovers from injuries suffered during battle with the Saiyans, his friends begin their perilous quest for the Namekian Dragon Balls! Awaiting their arrival on Planet Namek is the powerful Ginyu Force—and the vile monster Frieza!
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.
As was the case with the previous season, Funimation went to painstaking lengths to clean up the show to make it HD-worthy. The overall picture quality is fine and you can see the time and care that went into upgrading it, but it also shows its age in ways that can never be addressed with a simple clean up. In terms of character designs, color palette, and just general animation style, it looks like a product of its time. This is not a bad thing in any way, but I do wonder if the hype over the HD upgrade might not set up unrealistic expectations in the fans.
There is also the issue of cropping. This was brought up by a reader of my previous review, and while I understand that this is a problem for die-hard purists, I did not notice it when watching the previous season or this one. I never felt like I was missing part of the picture or that what I was seeing was somehow inferior, so it’s not a factor in my evaluation of the video quality. I only bring it up because it was mentioned before.
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 Vegeta, Goku, Bulma, Tien, Chaozu, Yamcha, and the Ginyu Force on Planet Namek. The spine shows the series’ title, season, and number of episodes. The back cover primarily features Captain Ginyu 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 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 Season Two is similar in design to Season One’s. Basically we travel through space and over Planet Namek and Earth (possibly seeing this from Goku’s point of view). 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 very cool design that I quite like.
While there aren’t too many extras on this set, there are a few that are more substantial than on the previous season, specifically the interviews with Christopher R. Sabat and Sean Schemmel, the voice actors who play Vegeta and Goku. They both talk about their history with the show, the early days of Funimation, and how much they enjoy being part of the cultural phenomenon that is DBZ. Other than that there are the standard textless OP/EDs and trailers. Probably the best extra (if it can be considered that) is the Marathon Play option that skips the OP/EDs and plays the show straight through. It’s a small touch, but given the amount of episodes crammed onto a single disc, it is quite nice.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I was surprisingly vitriolic in my review of Season One. I went in expecting to enjoy the show that I used to watch in college, but found it to be a rather painful experience. To the credit of DBZ fans, no one ever called me out on that, and for that I’m quite thankful. When I put in Season Two, I promised myself that I would take a more even-handed approach to the show because, while I really did not enjoy it, it also didn’t deserve the amount of bile I spewed onto the screen.
I hoped that perhaps the first season was just a rough one and the show would better match my pleasant memories now that it was moving into Season Two. While I do have to say that I feel Season Two is better than One, it was still very difficult for me to get through.
Season Two follows Gohan and Krillin as they travel to Planet Namek in order to use the Namekian Dragon Balls to wish back their friends killed by Vegeta and Nappa. There they encounter Frieza, the evil lord of the galaxy, who also wishes to obtain the Dragon Balls so s/he (I can never tell Frieza’s gender) can wish for immortality. Further complicating the matter is Vegeta, freshly recovered from his battle with Goku and also set on obtaining the Dragon Balls to wish for immortality so he can take revenge on Frieza and take his/her place as ruler of the galaxy. Finishing it out is Goku, who is still recovering from the fight with Vegeta, and kind of being a big baby about it.
The majority of the story takes place on Planet Namek with brief interludes showing Goku recovering, training, and traveling to Namek, and in true DBZ style, it takes forever for the plot to progress. In terms of pacing, Season Two is no better than Season One, but the plot is a little tighter in some areas and the parts where we learn about Vegeta’s past are actually quite interesting, making him the most dynamic and multilayered of all the Z characters. Yes he’s delightfully arrogant. Yes he’s cruel and boastful and violent. But he’s also tragic and traumatized and carries with him the potential for true nobility. The parts where we see Vegeta at his most vulnerable are the best in the season, but for my money they don’t occur often enough to elevate this series.
This brings me to a broader point that I want to make about anime and reviewing. I can pick DBZ apart six ways from Sunday in terms of character development, plot, pacing, and whatnot, but there are other anime series out there that I quite enjoyed that I could do the same with but chose not to because the overall effect of the story and the strength of some of the individual elements were enough to make it an enjoyable experience. In terms of reviewing, I tend to be more subjective than objective, which is probably why I tend to write positive reviews ninety percent of the time. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does make it difficult to switch over into a more objective mode as I am here because it seems arbitrary.
The problem is that I ultimately did not enjoy the viewing experience. Partially it is due to the overly drawn-out pace of the series, but it’s also because there are few characters that I actually like in the show. I can go back to other animes I’ve reviewed that I enjoyed that had pacing problems or less than well-developed characters, but those also had stronger plots, an arresting visual design, or some ephemeral quality that elevated it past those issues that made it fun.
Dragon Ball Z just isn’t fun to watch for me. I sort of understand why it is so revered, and I understand its place in anime history, but it’s just too long and dragged out for my tastes, and the little moments of character or plot development aren’t enough to keep me going.
It hurts matters even more that the season ends with a cliffhanger. Season One did as well, but that cliffhanger occurred after the main conflict (Vegeta and Nappa’s intended destruction of the Earth) was resolved. There is no resolution here. The Namekian Dragon Balls are gathered, but unused, and the main villain—Frieza—has yet to fight any of the Z characters. Considering that the season runs 845 minutes, that’s inexcusable. This is basically the middle part of the story with no real payoff, which considering the set costs $44.98, that’s quite a bit of money to pay for just the setup for the main conflict to come.
While I did like the development of Vegeta’s character, the pacing, the overall lack of other character and plot development, and the lack of any clear resolution make this a difficult season to watch. If you’re a fan of DBZ then you’ll probably go ahead and buy this, but if you’re new to the franchise or don’t like tournament fighters, I would stay away from set. Not recommended.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Interviews, Textless Opening and Closing Songs
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Running Time: 845 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080 p
Aspect Ratio: 16×9
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection