What They Say:
In the seven years since Cell’s defeat, life on Earth has returned to normal. But now, the time has come for a new World Martial Arts Tournament. Goku returns from Other World to Challenge Mr. Satan for his title—and to guard against the arrival of a new evil!
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 Seven 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 Gohan as the Great Saiyaman. Videl fights Spofovich in the air while Trunks and Goten fly to some unknown purpose. The spine features the show’s title, season number, and episode numbers. The back cover primarily features the two big bads of the season 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 Seven continues the general menu concept established in the first three seasons of this set. This time the menu focuses on the World Martial Arts Tournament, showing us the announcer and the crowd. As I’ve said in my previous reviews, it’s a cool design that I quite like.
As with the other releases in this run, the extras are quite impressive: two Inside Dragon Ball Z interviews with Justin Cook and Nathaniel Harrison, a feature on the Dragon Ball Z Card Game: Past Present and Future, and the standard clean op/ed and trailers. There’s quite a bit here for fans to sink their teeth into.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you’ve read my previous DBZ reviews, you know that I have a few issues with the show: the pacing is glacial, the characters can act in infuriating ways, and too often the story feels needlessly padded. I often focus on those issues as they tend to overwhelm the show’s other aspects, and because of that I don’t focus enough on what I do enjoy about the show: the world.
The world of Dragon Ball is fun, whimsical, and childlike. It’s big and bold and painted with huge strokes, making it an enchanting place. You have talking floating cats that talk like Harvey Fierstein, anthropomorphic pigs that can change their shape, and dinosaurs and aliens and just about everything else. Unfortunately, those aspects get pushed to the side for the endless fighting and posturing and the entire experience just wears me down instead of excites me. Season Seven may be my favorite because it returns to that core enchantment. It’s not perfect, but I found I enjoyed the experience far more than expected.
Goku is dead, deciding to stay in Other World instead of returning home in the hopes that his absence will keep the Earth safe. He travels with King Kai to the world of the Grand Kai to receive special training. He meets other warriors desiring the same thing and the inevitable tournament happens.
Meanwhile on Earth, Gohan attends school for the first time. Because of his powers and his fairly sheltered life, he experiences trouble fitting in and constantly stands on guard against revealing what he can really do. However, being Goku’s son, he finds he can’t stand back and do nothing when people are in danger. He commissions Bulma to make him a superhero costume and becomes the Great Saiyaman, and his presence becomes a source of consternation for Videl, the daughter of Mr. Satan, who attends Gohan’s high school and works with the police on the side. Videl eventually learns Gohan’s secret identity and blackmails him: she says she will keep his secret if he teaches her how to fly and if he enters the World Martial Arts Tournament.
Gohan agrees, and so does Goku, who gets a special one day pass to return to Earth to compete in the tournament. His presence (and the reward money) inspires Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin, 18, Trunks, and Goten to enter as well. However, a mysterious fighter named Shin troubles them, and the tournament becomes the staging ground for a larger story.
One of the aspects of Season Seven that I enjoyed the most was its lighter tone. The majority of the season was fun and character driven. It didn’t concern itself with world-shattering threats until the very end, and that was incredibly refreshing. I enjoyed seeing Gohan trying to find his place in high school, as well as seeing him be a big brother to Goten. Lord, even the World Martial Arts Tournament proved to be fun, and I’m dang near allergic to tournaments at this point. Even though I knew it was coming, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed when the big world-threatening storyline began to insert itself into the narrative.
I could have also done without the Great Saiyaman. In typical DBZ fashion, the show took a joke and ran it so deep into the ground it came out the other side of the planet. The joke is that Gohan’s outfit and general manner as the Great Saiyaman is painfully uncool and embarrassing, but he never realizes it. I could handle it for an episode or two, but not thirty (or however many it actually plays out over). I never found it funny, and I often became embarrassed on his behalf. It also took away from what I felt was a better story: Gohan trying to find his place within a new environment.
Videl also serves as a source of contention for me. DBZ women come in two varieties: overbearing and ditzy. Videl falls into the overbearing camp, often reminding me of Chi Chi, and I found her to be quite unlikable much of the time. Her personality does change, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s for the better, as she almost starts fawning over Gohan at the end. The fire still exists, but her attitude becomes disturbingly subservient. I’d rather have the annoying but assertive Videl than the lovestruck teen she becomes. Neither versions are particularly great, and to me this shows the inability of the DBZ writers to properly handle female characters, but it’s better to have some agency and autonomy than none at all.
Dragon Ball Z Season 7 was not terrible. There were, in fact, many elements that I enjoyed quite a bit. However, the Great Saiyaman, the way it handles female characters, and the requisite inclusion of a global threat took away from the stronger elements. Of course, if you’re a fan of the show, then the audio and video quality will be enough to sell you on it, but if you’re on the fence, I’d say give it a pass.
Release Date:September 16th, 2014
Running Time:565 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