If you have been following our reviews in the Anime Talk column then you undoubtedly know that we love Dragon Ball. The most popular anime franchise in the world has been a mainstay for years and there just doesn't seem to be an end in sight for products being released; and why not? If something sells by the droves and there is demand for it of course the market is going to be flooded with items to purchase. Whether it's games, toys, or DVDs there is always something new coming along for your Dragon Ball fix. The latest is FUNimation's release of the lost episodes from Dragon Ball GT.
First of all I want to set the record straight; these episodes were never technically lost. FUNimation apparently had the rights to them all along but they simply didn't release them to the American audience. Dragon Ball GT was a 64 episode program though Funimation decided to start the series here at episode sixteen. Given that manner of approaching things it's easy to shout "Marketing ploy!" and I'm sure fans were slightly annoyed. Does that mean this set isn't worth checking out? Kind of, but not for the reasons you may think.
GT is the black sheep of the Dragon Ball family and it's regarded as skip-worthy by most fans. After watching these fifteen episodes I have to say that I tend to agree. Unlike the original series and Z, GT was entirely created by Toei Animation and it just lacked the energy captured by the other shows. It feels unoriginal, tired, and drawn out to such an extent that it pales in comparison to its brethren. That being said there were a few points of interest that gave the series some credibility.
In almost every way Dragon Ball GT is a sequel to Dragon Ball Z. The show picks up right after the other and once again features Goku at the center of everything. When things start Goku is turned into a kid again by Pilaf thanks to the Black Star Dragon Balls. Sure you may think this wouldn't be such a bad thing but Goku has lost most of his powers and to top it all off the Earth will be destroyed in a year's time if he doesn't recover the Black Star Dragon Balls from the regions of the galaxy they hide in. That's a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of a kid.
In many ways GT hit the restart button for the franchise. Goku's childlike appearance and few references to previous episodes gave the series a new attitude. Then again I suppose it helped that Goku seemed indifferent to what happened to his body most of the time. Who wouldn't want the chance to relive their youth again? Sure those who knew him before his transformation may not like it as much but that's neither here nor there. The show does have some fun with elements from Goku's former life with some great appearances by Vegeta and Bulma so these are definitely nice throwbacks to his previous adventures.
Early on in the show Goku heads out with Trunks and Pan in order to locate the elusive Dragon Balls. Since these aren't ordinary Balls Goku must get a starship and head out into the unfriendly territories of space. The first planet they hit is a vile place known as Imecka and our heroes quickly find themselves in a world of trouble. A tyrant named Lord Don Kee has a vice grip on the populous of Imecka and quickly sets a campaign in motion to crush Goku and company. Naturally some fighting ensues in typical Dragon Ball fashion and I'm sure you can guess who eventually comes out on top.
The next planet they visit holds a Black Star Dragon Ball but there's kind of a big problem in their way. A giant monster poses a threat to the people and our heroes must find someway to stop the beast in order to get the Ball they need. Trunks poses as a girl in order to get closer to the monster and just when things seem to be going in their favor three dancing freaks show up to give them a run for their money. Yes, that's right, it's a Dragon Ball dance-off of sorts and it's just about one of the dumbest things I have ever seen.
The fifth volume wraps up this particular story arch and I have to say that I was less than impressed. In some ways I see why the "Lost Episodes" weren't broadcast because the quality was pretty low in my opinion. The material felt flat, uninspired, and downright insulting to fans of Dragon Ball Z. I understand that this was supposed to be a new concept and draw younger viewers but the fact that it was a "conclusion" to Z left a very bad taste in my mouth. Unless you have already watched and enjoyed GT I'd give this one a pass. Younger audiences not familiar with Dragon Ball may get into it but I'd still say that Z was a much better program.
Given the fact that GT aired in Japan about ten years ago I was kind of surprised that the quality wasn't better with regards to the presentation. The video features a ton of grain and blocking in just about every scene and it gives the show a very dated appearance. Compared to FUNimation's recent uncut presentation of Z this release looks pretty poor. Sure most of the defects seem to have more to do with the source material rather than the transfer but that's not much of an excuse. Things could look much worse but as it stands they certainly don't look outstanding.
With stereo presentations for English and Japanese languages it's safe to say that GT doesn't go out of its way to impress. I was never a fan of the English Dragon Ball dubs so naturally I gravitated towards the Japanese language. Technically speaking both are suitable and are free of flaws with some clean audio and solid volume pitch. As it stands the sound output wasn't as vibrant as one might hope for and in many ways it came across as flat on the soundstage.
The five volumes presented here feature a decent smattering of bonus content but there is nothing out of the ordinary. Each volume has character profiles, trailers, and textless songs but the third contains a Director's Choice of the Top Ten Fight Scenes. It's a nice little recap of some of the battles from the Dragon Ball franchise but I don't see it as being too entirely relevant.
Dragon Ball GT is definitely the lowest quality inclusion in the franchise. It lacks the spark and ingenuity that the other series featured and it also comes across as the most immature. The gags are plain silly and a lot of the content isn't very appealing to someone who enjoyed Z. It's a novelty that wears thin after a few episodes and the formulaic structure here just doesn't really work. In the end GT is something you'll either love or hate depending on your preferences and exposure to the franchise. I personally say skip it but viewers on both sides of the Dragon Ball fence may want to rent it to see what they think.
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