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 fifth uncut season of Dragon Ball Z which picks up after 139 episodes from the first four seasons. That's a daunting amount of anime by anyone's standards but then again it is one of the things to love about this franchise; it just keeps going and going!
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 hell 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.
In the last volume Garlic Jr. escaped from the Dead Zone and arrived just in time to launch a black mist on the unsuspecting populous in an effort to gain control of them. Naturally Gohan and company weren't about to let that happen but so many things stood in their way that it wasn't even funny. Even so the heroes overcame Garlic Jr.'s evil plot but Frieza showed up once again at an inopportune time. Towards the end of the fourth season the Androis arrived and once again the fighting commenced. It's safe to say that the previous installment offered a ton of action but the main question is whether or not the fifth follows suit.
For the most part the short answer for the action question with this release is "yes". A huge battle against the Androids and a new enemy encompasses this whole volume. At the beginning our heroes stumble upon a time capsule which contains a strange looking green creature. With this critter out on the loose, the proverbial crap hits the fan. It turns out this guy is actually a hybrid of several powerful warriors and is the brainchild of a scientist named Dr. Gero. Let's just say that the next Saga for DBZ is one of the deadliest and in many ways it's one of the wildest.
Cell goes on a rampage in an imperfect form and with every opponent he defeats he only seems to get stronger. It gets to a point in this volume where it seems nobody stands a chance against this mean green machine. The unfortunate part is that our heroes not only have to worry about Cell but the Androids are still around as well. Granted at some point in these episodes Cell and the Androids go at it and the green guy eventually absorbs some of their powers as well which causes him to transform into an even more powerful form.
While Cell is wreaking havoc all over the board some time training occurs in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. In just the span of a day Goku, Gohan, Trunks, and Vegeta expand their powers to levels they only dreamed possible. With these new abilities each of the four warriors steps out of the Chamber to confront Cell in another phase of the battle that lasts right up to the final disc here. Everything is left up in the air right up to the end and the rest of the Cell Saga will play out in the coming season set.
The nice thing about the fourth season was the fact that even though there was near constant fighting there were a few different battles to break things up. This fifth box set focuses almost entirely on the conflict with Cell. While that's not necessarily a bad thing and there's plenty of action it does kind of limit the development of the plot and it grows tiresome after a while. There's plenty going on here but these episodes are definitely served better by spacing them out rather than marathon play in my opinion. If you've been following this show to this point then you're picking this up anyway but if you're a newcomer this is a series that requires some investment. It's great fun but there are some inconsistencies with pacing throughout.
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 26 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 five 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.
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. The only thing you'll find that resembles bonus content are textless animations, trailers, and a booklet with character descriptions and episode recaps.
Dragon Ball Z continues its run with fight after fight and not much in the way of actual plot development or a deep script. The fourth volume was fast paced with a variety of content but the fifth focuses almost entirely on Cell and the battles that ensued once he arrived. There's some additional spice that involves the Androids and the training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber but that only serves as a side story to the main action. Overall this is another solid collection of episodes but it certainly feels drawn out and poorly paced.
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