Dragon Ball is the world's most popular anime franchise. With over 500 combined episodes, a bunch of movies, some OVA, and manga to boot you'd be hard-pressed to say that it was anything but. In fact it's so mainstream that most non-otaku associate the show as the definition of anime simply because it's absolutely everywhere.
The sequel series, Dragon Ball Z was arguably the most well received of Toriyama's Dragon Ball programs. With a whopping 291 episodes under its belt collecting individual volumes of the series would no doubt be a daunting task. Equally challenging would be the quest to catch each episode on TV. The problem with going down that road is the fact that the episodes have been censored for the American audience so you're not exactly getting the whole picture. If you have waited patiently for a full block of episodes that featured uncut content then FUNimation has the ticket you've been searching for.
Here we are with the third uncut season of Dragon Ball Z. By this point there have been 74 episodes and so much has happened to our heroes it defies simple explanation. I suppose a recap is in order though I'll make it as brief as possible in the spirit of discussing the new material.
Ok, so DBZ started out simply enough with Goku reemerging as a father to one whiny brat named Gohan. Before long a Saiyan threat appeared and a guy claiming to be Goku's brother, Raditz, sought to annihilate the planet, which was Goku's job in the first place. Well, to make a long story short Goku had to team up with Piccolo in order to defeat Raditz but this resulted in Goku's death. Piccolo took Gohan under his wing to train him to be a powerful warrior while Goku journeyed through the afterlife seeking more power for when the Dragon Balls were gathered to resurrect him.
Eventually Goku is brought back to life and all heck breaks loose. The focus is shifted to another quest for Namekian Dragon Balls in order to resuscitate Piccolo. The crew heads to another world and battles Vegeta and a new nemesis, Frieza. There are many details in between that I'm leaving out for the purposes of spoilers in case you happen to be joining the show at this point. All you really need to know is that up to this point the series has gone back and forth between the good guys and bad as they each seek out the Dragon Balls for their own purpose.
When the third season starts Krillin and Gohan have found all seven of the Namekian Dragon Balls. It's rather amusing to watch as they fumble for a way to activate them and in the end they have to find the Elder to figure it all out. Of course in good villain form Frieza is seeking the same information and sets out to stop Krillin and Gohan from achieving their ultimate goal. Unfortunately once they actually accomplish the awakening of Porunga the dragon they find out that only one person can be resurrected. Therefore the two have to pick someone above the others and brilliantly enough they choose Piccolo because it allows the Dragon Balls to return to Earth to be found again.
Even though they can only bring one person back from the dead with a single wish they are afforded two additional wishes. This enrages Frieza even further and the powerful enemy comes along looking for a fight. The ensuing battle rages on for quite some time as Krillin is taken down, Vegeta is dragged into the fray, and Piccolo fuses his powers with another to try to defeat Frieza. Their efforts appear to be for naught as Frieza unleashes his inner power and launches his fighting ability to over a million points.
After more people hit the floor and Frieza transforms yet again, Goku finally comes back to power and jumps into the fight. They trade blows for a handful of episodes and just when it looks like Goku has finally met his match his Saiyan brethren talk to him from beyond the grave. He's instructed on a powerful technique and eventually goes under a transformation of his own. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is the point where Goku becomes the golden Super Saiyan.
The battle between Goku and Frieza escalates here to the point that Planet Namek is on the verge of destruction. With a boat load of flare the fighting continues for the rest of this third uncut season right up until the end. People are down for the count, a world is in turmoil, and as the dust clears we learn that one has emerged from the massive conflict. After watching all 33 episodes in this set I have to admit that I was wiped out. This leg of the journey was almost entirely fighting with very little story and it felt like a huge climax after what transpired in the previous set.
I do have to admit that despite my feelings of being worn out from watching such an adrenaline rush of storytelling, I was entertained. Dragon Ball Z is a fun show though I do think it's better in short bursts. The episodes are so drawn out with recaps and exposition that very little actually happens in the course of a program. This works well with a show like this during broadcast but as a lump sum experience it feels very tiresome. Still, this is a good round of Dragon Ball and if you have been following the show to date you'll want to pick it up. Despite its shortcomings this is a classic anime that holds up to most scrutiny and bridges gaps between what otaku look for in a series. Whether you agree with FUNimation's uncut, widescreen presentation of the show or not it's hard to deny that this is a solid release.
If you're a fan of Dragon Ball Z you already know that FUNimation has cropped the original 1.33:1 image and churned out a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer in the process. The promise was put out there that more would be gained and it would give the show a nice theatrical appearance. While the image does carry a certain cinematic flare now there are times when it's glaringly obvious that sections were chopped off. Newcomers may not recognize it as easily as fans but even I, with my limited exposure to the show, spotted a few areas that made me question the decision.
As far as the content itself you can expect a mixed bag of quality. Sometimes the colors appear vibrant with a wide palette though there are quite a few spots where the show looks washed out. Other nitpicky flaws such as grain, dirt, and scratches also appear throughout the 33 episodes here. With all of that being said, I do have to say for a show this old it looks very good. Compared to other anime from this timeframe the care taken to clean up the image here is definitely appreciated.
Overall the video quality on this DVD is tough to gauge. For starters, the cropped anamorphic widescreen does little improve upon the presentation. I mean, I love widescreen anime as much as the next guy but why mess with a classic and present it in a manner that wasn't intended? Other than that controversial subject matter the image quality here is very good with noticeable effort towards cleaning up the original print.
Dragon Ball Z season three includes audio quality mostly identical to what came before it. This means that you can expect the original Japanese Mono track and a track for English stereo and surround. I enjoyed the original Japanese track the most and listened to that for much of my viewing. The English dubbing has always sounded cheesy to me and therefore it is a "must avoid" while watching in my opinion. There are some out there who would rather deal with the English dub and not bother with reading flawed subtitles. To each their own I suppose.
As far as the quality is concerned what is here is fine but not groundbreaking. The 5.1 English track certainly offered more immersion during battle sequences with some ambient noise kicking in at times. The stereo and mono tracks were noticeably lackluster in the technical presentation but all around the sound quality was crisp and clean.
Once again Dragon Ball Z's Uncut DVD set presents the Marathon Feature for extended play. Apart from a booklet with some character descriptions and recap of the episodes there are only textless songs and trailers available on the DVDs. It's unfortunate because I'm sure there are plenty of features available for Japanese DVDs that we just do not get here in the States.
Ok, I'm not going to beat around the bush. The third uncut season of Dragon Ball Z wasn't as good as the previous two in my opinion. It took way too long for the story to be presented and the one battle lasted for just about the entirety of the 33 episodes. Sure it was grandiose and offered plenty of eye candy but I personally like more of a balance between the action and story. Despite this I still found the third season to be very entertaining and a perfect example of a simple show done right. Fans or anyone interested in Dragon Ball will definitely want to pick this one up. Recommended
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