What They Say:
Goku is missing, and a new breed of villain prepares to wreak havoc on Earth! Armed with knowledge of this looming menace, a Super Saiyan arrives from the future to deliver a grave warning: The Androids are coming—and they cannot be stopped!
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.
Season Four contains thirty-three episodes spread across four Blu-ray discs. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray case with a slipcase that displays the same art and information as on the case proper. The front cover features Trunks fighting Android 17 while Android 16 stands with Frieza and her father. The spine features the show’s title, season number, and episode numbers. The back cover primarily features the androids along with some screenshots, show summary, and DVD specs. While the packaging is nice enough, it doesn’t really impress me either. While I do like that Funimation is trying to be consistent with the general design scheme, I do fine the art to be rather simple, and I actually had quite a hard time reading the back due to the small font size. Ultimately, it could have been better.
Season Four continues the general menu concept established in the first three seasons of this set. This time the menu focuses on Master Roshi’s home. We see scenes of him on the beach, along with Krillin, Marain, and a few others lounging by the water. While the scene unfolds a heavy beat plays in the background that builds in intensity until the scene starts over again. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, it’s a cool design that I quite like.
There are quite a few extras on here that should please DBZ fans, especially the interviews.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the problem with Dragon Ball Z lies with Goku. In order for the stories to work, the writers must find some new way to incapacitate or shunt him off to somewhere else, otherwise the story ends too quickly. In the Namekian Saga, Goku needed to recover from the battle with Vegeta and then make the trip from Earth to Namek, and even then he had to be incapacitated by Captain Ginyu. Once he did recover, the story went from spinning its wheels to advancing towards a climax—albeit slowly. He’s the deus ex machina of the Dragon Ball Z world, and everyone including the characters know this. The series could just as well be named “Waiting for Goku.”
In this set, Goku spends most of his time either off planet or suffering from an alien heart disease. What is interesting this time around is that the story works better when there is no chance at all for Goku to show up to save the day, supporting my theory that Goku breaks the show.
The first story arc of Season Four concerns the return of Garlic Jr., a powerful creature made immortal by the Dragonballs, but was exiled to the Dead Zone by Gohan. He returns and unleashes dark mists over the world, transforming people into twisted, hateful monsters willing to do his bidding. Gohan and Krillin manage to avoid it, and they work to foil Garlic Jr.’s plans and free the Earth from his influence.
I actually enjoyed The Garlic Jr. arc. It was suspenseful and exciting and the Z warriors acted far more proactively than usual because they knew they couldn’t count on Goku. For once they used their brains instead of just their fighting spirit, and it made for a much more enjoyable story with a satisfying climax.
To digress for a moment, two of my fictional heroes are Indiana Jones and Spider-Man. What I love about them aren’t their amazing powers and skills, or even their roguish attitudes. I love them because they use their brains. They end up in impossible situations and use their wits to find ways out of them. They often find themselves out of their weight class, but their victories tell us that intellect and reason will always win out over brute strength. This is often not the case in real life, but it’s one of the reasons why these fantasies are so beloved by fans.
Goku—and the rest of the Z fighters—rarely use their heads except as battering rams. Their victories come from strength and skill, not from wit and guile. They win because their fighting spirit—their innate energy and will—is superior to their opponents, and from a narrative standpoint, that gets boring after a while. The Garlic Jr. arc stands apart because the fighters do use their brains and they think their way out of the situation. They don’t just hover in a holding pattern until Goku arrives to clean everything up.
Not to belabor a point, but the writers understand this—at least on some level—and that is why they find those ways to get Goku out of the way. Once the Super Saiyan returns to Earth, he meets Trunks, a half-Saiyan, half-human from the future who warns him about a new threat: deadly androids created by the leader of the Red Ribbon Army, whom Goku defeated as a child. Trunks also tells Goku that the androids rule the future because the Super Saiyan died from a heart disease he contracted while off planet.
The Z fighters prepare for the android’s arrival, hoping to destroy them before they become too powerful and before Goku succumbs to his disease. However, the past differs from Trunk’s memory and the androids possess far more power than their future counterparts. The rest of the season chronicles Goku suffering from the disease while the androids cut a bloody swath through the world. The rest of the Z fighters either train or stand by, but otherwise they once again fall into the same tired holding pattern.
Vegeta stands as the only exception to this. Constantly trying to outdo Goku, he trains to become a Super Saiyan. Once he achieves this, he succumbs to his pride and vanity and does some monumentally stupid things that make you want to punch him. Despite that, I find that he and Piccolo are the two characters that annoy me the least, mainly because they try and don’t just sit back and wait for Goku to save the day. Their methods may be lacking, but I like their spirit.
While the Garlic Jr. story was fun and different, it’s not enough to make this any more enjoyable or any less tedious than the previous three seasons. Again, the problem is Goku. Goku is too powerful and too skilled and all anyone ever truly does is wait for him. They try to branch out on their own, to save the day themselves, but they never win, and that may be the worst part of all. This is Goku’s story, after all, but there’s only so many times I can watch his friends waiting for him to show up, or for him to channel enough fighting spirit to overcome the enemy before I’m switching the channel to something else. Check this out only if you’re a DBZ fan.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Inside Dragon Ball Z: Interview with Matthew O’Hara, Inside Dragon Ball Z: Interview with Daniel Mancilla, From the Vault: Goku vs. Vegeta Featurette, From the Vault: The World of Dragon Ball Z
Audio Grade: A
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Running Time: 755 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection