After the DBZ movie, we get the finale of the original series, which introduces the Piccolo of DBZ, the return of Chichi, setting up the original series pretty much perfectly with the introduction of some familiar characters, making it a must need for fans of DBZ.
What They Say:
In the aftermath of his epic battle with Piccolo, Goku embarks on an electrifying quest to rescue his fallen friends from the realm of the dead. His perilous journey will take him to the heights of Korin Tower – and beyond – as he searches for Kami, a mystical being with the power to resurrect Shenron and restore the magic of the seven Dragon Balls! But even if Goku succeeds in raising the dead, there’s no guarantee he’ll live long enough to enjoy a reunion with his slain comrades. The World Martial Arts tournament is just around the corner, and an eerily familiar foe known only as Junior wants to teach Goku the true meaning of pain! To survive the tournament and finally earn the title of World’s Greatest Martial Artist, Goku must train his mind as well as his body in order to complete his amazing transformation from a bushy-tailed boy into a man to be reckoned with!
The DVD release has a 2.0 English stereo track and a 2.0 Japanese stereo track, which as mentioned before seems a bit off considering the DBZ releases had 5.1 English. There are no issues I noticed with the sound quality in either track, with no problem synching in with the subtitles (though there was problems with the video at times as shown below), and the 2.0 release is overall more than acceptable though I had to increase my settings considerably to make it acceptable for my system.
Set in virtual widescreen, the video quality of Dragonball in this release is sadly a bit more problematic – whilst in general the show is finally visually, it does feel a bit grainy – not because of the older animation but like the previous release there was pause distortion (when you pause it, the picture is never clear and always full of lines). Also, there was some out of synching subtitles done too quickly and also even some spelling mistakes on several of the lines (and not just with the characters names, with common words as well). Granted, this isn’t happening that often but it is still glaringly noticeable (strangely though this only seemed to be on the dubtitle track and not the subtitle one). There was however no slowdown I noticed or menu issues from the previous release so at least the show is easy to watch in English without subtitles if needed all the way through.
Similar style to previous releases, the menu is very classic Dragonball, with Goku on the left, Chichi hovering over a Dragonball sign and Piccolo looking menacing over the sign whilst clips showcase in the top middle area – selections are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. Selection was easy and returning to the main menu was no problem with my DVD remote – it has a classic Dragonball feel as the others do so pleasing to look at as well.
There were character profiles spread over the discs that were the same on discs 1-2, and slightly different on the remaining discs – character profiles overall are Goku, Krillin, Yamcha, Korin, Mr.Popo, Tien, Chaotzu, Kami, Piccolo Jr, Mutatio, Tao, Chi Chi, Ox King and Annin. There were trailers as well but again, it feels like a copy/paste of Australian releases as the trailers are sadly for shows in the UK not due out soon or (re)licenced here (Full Metal Panic Fumoffu and Gilgamesh).
If I don’t include the non-canon movies, then this is the final instalment in the three main seasons of the Dragonball franchise. Before DBZ and DBGT, I had never seen the original series which is why I was happy when it finally got a UK release. And now I’ve seen the final arc, everything links, makes sense and even almost plot worthy in the initial set up for Z. Granted, nothing yet about Goku being a Saiyan but everything that needs to those initial first episodes in DBZ concludes here, and it was definitely worth it getting to this point so all the sagas in my head now make sense.
The initial arc is to try and resurrect the dragon Shenlong that the original Piccolo killed, so Goku has to travel to find Kami on the advice from Korin. Using his power pole, he is able to travel from Korins’ tower to the far skies…whilst back on the ground; Piccolo Jr. has been born and is seeking out revenge…
The majority of the initial arc then becomes a new sort of training for Goku, introducing one of my favourite designs of the DB franchise Mr Popo. I always wondered what his role was pre-DBZ aside from being the assistant to Kami, and here, it turns out he was actually one of the main trainers for Goku, specifically not just in martial arts, but with mental martial arts. Popo basically teaches Goku a lot in meditation and clearing the mind, making it easier to sense and strike. Goku actually develops a fair bit as a character surprisingly as his win over Piccolo did make me a bit cocky, so Popo manages to knock him down a peg or down. Eventually, the potential Popo sees allows him to see Kami, who shockingly for Goku looks like Piccolo. A little bit of how Piccolo and Kami are ‘related’ is revealed (way before the Namek saga of DBZ) but Kami does revive the dragon, allowing Gokus’ friends to wish back Krillin, Roshi and Chaotzu along with the innocents that died during Piccolos’ attacks. We get a lot of training then as they prepare for the next tournament with Roshi basically allowing them to train on their own as he has nothing to teach them, whilst Goku trains more with Popo, keening up his senses, including meeting mysterious strangers that Goku learns are tougher than they look, and even travelling back in time to meet the young Roshi as he learns how to harness spirit energy. There are a lot of interesting ways Popo trains Goku, from fighting a clone of Goku who seems stronger because he only has his instinct to fight and not rely on emotion, and sensing energy through a game of hide and seek. Every way he is trained actually has a purpose and I like the time and energy that Popo gives to teach, explain and demonstrate to Goku – hence why Popo may be quite the underestimated character and glad he got his chance to shine.
With all the others training (including at Korins’ tower) and Piccolo slowly growing as well, we do get the inevitable time skip of 3 years passing as they prepare for the tournament with Goku and Tien the only ones who have knowledge of Piccolo Jr. This is where we get more classic Goku for the first time as he has all grown up (most of the cast don’t even recognise him at first) and Piccolo makes his presence. We get the prelims again, including a very beautiful woman who seems to know Goku yet he doesn’t recognise her, making her all angry…
The prelims go through mostly predictably, with two exceptions being Chaotzu is defeated by a returning Tao, now a cyborg vowing revenge on Goku, and also Yajrobe entering the tournament in a mask, but being surprisingly defeated by a middle-aged salaryman simply named Hero by what appears to be a complete fluke…with the main battles now decided we get Tien/Tao, Krillin/Piccolo, Goku/the familiar looking woman and Yamcha/Hero.
The fights are both mostly predictable but there were some interesting moments. Tien is obviously far stronger than Tao which finishes any potential rivalry between Roshi and Hermit Crane, but the three other fights prove more interesting. Obviously, the woman is in fact Chichi and Goku easily defeats her, but she is upset he forgot about her marriage promise as kids. Goku, being Goku, thought a marriage was something to eat, and all of a sudden, they are hooked up – yes, it has Disney princess written over it, but at least it kind of makes sense for a plot like DB into DBZ, and it was quite funny, plus Chichi is way less annoying compared to her DBZ battle mom days.
Piccolo vs. Krillin whilst a predictable win was actually good for two things – that Krillin clearly improved forcing Piccolo to be serious, and the fact that Piccolo at the very least, has respect for those he considers strong, albeit only a little – whilst he still wishes to conquer, this is the first hint of the jerk with a heart of gold we eventually see him as in DBZ. Lastly, Yamcha completely underestimates Hero obviously…which leads to the reveal it is in fact Kami in control of the man’s’ body who is here to seal Piccolo (revealed earlier that if he or Piccolo dies, the other one does as well). Hero wins and we get our final four.
We get a rematch with Tien vs. Goku, which is a very good fight but showcases both their improvements, mostly Gokus’ though, and Kami failing to seal Piccolo when he reverse the technique and swallows the sealing bottle, leads to the inevitable Goku vs. Piccolo. As per DB/DBZ style, the fight is long, a lot of things happen (including Piccolo growing to an enormous size, but Goku tricks him so he can rescue Kami) which leads to Gokus’ win, but he lets Piccolo go, not wanting to risk Kami which of course, would lead to the first episode of DBZ.
Finally, we get a more light-hearted arc with the wedding of Chichi and Goku, with a lot of rituals, returning characters like Baba and Pilaf with his crew, Ox King, and after a lot of problems, the two do get married, ending the arc and Dragonball.
Surprisingly quite a lot happened in this release, which makes sense as it is the final arc(s) but we get the introduction of Kami, Mr Popo and of course the Piccolo we know from DBZ. We learn a lot of Gokus’ spiritual training, and how he became much stronger in those 3 years, we get enough from the rest of the gang as well to keep them involved, the wedding promise is finally fulfilled, and some great battles in the tournament. What I enjoyed in particular was the fact it puts in enough time to showcase how Goku has gotten strong, but not too much to make it long-winded. The ideas of going back in time of course scream deus-ex-machina, but at the same time in this world you believe it.
The battles were incredibly good, very fluid, and enough of the characters you cared about. Kami inhabiting ‘Hero’ was a surprise twist which I didn’t expect, not only was trying to each Yamcha, but also in sealing Piccolo. Tao’s return didn’t do much apart from end the Hermits’ rivalry and have someone Tien could beat without issues before the rematch with Goku, but as it set up that excellent Tien/Goku fight, I can’t complain too much. Chichi as mentioned, was far more tolerable here pre-marriage, though of course Goku being Goku was hilarious, it did feel a bit forced, but I guess it all worked out in the end. Piccolo as well was definitely a much more interesting villain than his predecessor because there were hints whilst he was definitely a bad guy; he viewed his opponents with more caution than his father, learning from his mistakes. His link with Kami made sure he wasn’t killed as well hence setting up for the future quite well.
As always, it is still Dragonball, so it is still light on plot but that isn’t what we came for when watching this. This is the strongest of the arcs in my opinion, as it showcases full circle Gokus’ development, introduces and reintroduces some good characters (some getting their own combat development) and sets up for the more famous sequel perfectly. The grade given is more personal enjoyment rather than as a masterpiece of anime, but for me, this is definitely a classic and the one arc that any fan of DBZ must watch if they have to watch any of them.
The final DVD set of Dragonball brings us perfectly to the start of DBZ and thus the one that needs to be watched for fans of that show. The introduction of Piccolo, Kami and Popo gives us story, development and character building for themselves and Goku, the fight scenes are great, the actual training is told well and makes sense, and the rest of the cast for the most part aren’t cast away and make a good contribution themselves. It isn’t perfect of course, but it is the right amount of action, fun and set up that makes this release very worthy.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: November 24th, 2014
Running Time: 775 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.