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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks / Bardock: The Father of Goku (Blu-ray)
Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks / Bardock: The Father of Goku (Blu-ray)
FUNimation // PG-13 // July 15, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 23, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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I guess when FUNimation sifts through the stacks and stacks of Dragon Ball Z movies and TV specials for their Blu-ray double features, they try to stick with a theme. Their first high-def stab at Dragon Ball Z was a Broly double feature, the followup had Goku and company squaring off against a couple of power-mad nutjobs hellbent on world domination, and this most recent one...? Well, the running theme this time around looks to be...um, genocide.

With a common thread like that, it kinda goes without saying that this double feature of The History of Trunks and Bardock: The Father of Goku isn't the breezy, mindless, hyperkinetic blast that the past couple of Blu-ray discs have been. These two TV specials -- clocking in at 96 minutes together on Blu-ray -- still cram in Dragon Ball Z's trademark oversized, devastating brawls, but they're both extremely dark and dour, escalating from who knows how many thousands of deaths in the first half of this double feature to entire planets being ravaged in the second.

The History of Trunks
Wow. The
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first half of this double feature really doesn't waste any time: within the first couple of minutes, an unstoppable virus kills Goku, it flashes forward 6 months to android siblings #17 and #18 slaughtering all of the Z fighters, and then it flashes forward again a full 13 years. The squabbling androids were built with world domination in mind, but they're not really interested in that so much as traveling from town to town, having a few laughs, and then murdering whoever's still flailing around in the rubble after the city is leveled. Trunks is on the brink of being a Super Saiyan -- one of the only forces in existence with any hope of taking down the androids -- but he's only thirteen and is a long way from mastering his raw, still largely untapped power. He's soon taken under the wing of Gohan, a Super Saiyan who's tried squaring off against the androids on his own but has time and again found himself hopelessly outgunned. He secretly sets out to teach Trunks how to summon his power, but their training isn't even close to being complete when they're caught in an android raid on an amusement park that proves to be devastatingly costly.

The History of Trunks is a big story, spread out over nearly seventeen years when it's all said and done. These unstoppable androids rack up a body count of tens of thousands...if not in the hundreds of thousands or millions...and the fact that they aren't motivated by some grand scheme to take over the world -- that they'd just as soon exterminate the entire human race -- makes for two darkly compelling adversaries. The slaughter is kept off-screen, but this is an unflinchingly brutal tale about loss and responsibility that even maims one of its key characters, and the bleak tone continues to snowball from there.

Unlike most of these other Dragon Ball Z Blu-ray double features, though, The History of Trunks isn't a self-contained story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. This TV special closes on what'd look to neophytes to be a cliffhanger, and Dragon Ball Z first-timers will probably be left screaming, "wait...that's it?" at their TVs in the last couple of minutes. This future version of Trunks plays a pretty significant role in the series, but that sort of context is nowhere to be found on this Blu-ray disc, leaving it better suited for established fans only.

Bardock: The Father of Goku
The squabbling sibling androids in The
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History of Trunks
were only wiping out cities at a time; Bardock is a Saiyan warrior who revels in exterminating all life on entire planets. Bardock's son has just been delivered, but a proud father he's not, so much. The newborn shows no promise of ever being a true warrior, and Bardock is more interested in slaughtering everyone and everything on the planet of Kanassa anyway. One of the straggling survivors curses him with visions of the future, and Bardock is plagued with the sight of virtually every last trace of his own race being wiped out as well as his son's eventual role as the savior of some far-flung mudball called Earth. Bardock shrugs off the visions until he heads off to join the team already razing the planet of Vegeta, and it's there that he learns that his master Frieza is on the verge of murdering every last Saiyan and that there's nothing he can do about it.

The second half of this double feature is even more bleak than the first. Bardock and Frieza's other soldiers take a certain thrill in the hunt; butchering entire planets is their job, but it seems like they're just collecting a paycheck for something they'd otherwise be doing for free. Bardock: The Father of Goku seems more keenly interested in its story than the other Dragon Ball Z movies and specials that I've caught. The fight sequences are still gigantic and impressively staged -- especially the enormity of the final battle with Bardock singlehandedly plowing through an army meant to ravage an entire planet -- but the emphasis is placed as heavily on the storytelling as it is on the action. Bardock is a more satisfyingly complete story, covering territory that really hadn't been touched on in the series proper while also leading into Dragon Ball continuity in a way even wide-eyed newcomers can appreciate.

Video: The other Dragon Ball Z double features up to this point had all been anchored around movies, and the fact that the Blu-ray discs matted the full-frame
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animation to 1.78:1 probably reflected how they were screened during their theatrical runs. These two TV specials, on the other hand, were almost certainly animated with nothing but a 4x3 frame in mind, but both specials have still been cropped to 1.78:1 to fill HDTV screens. They're still completely watchable, and it's hard to say without a direct comparison how much the composition suffers, but I did spot some shots that seemed awfully cramped. Especially during some of the chaotic brawls, I found myself wondering a few times if there was something just out of the frame I was supposed to be seeing.

Sidestepping any squabbling about aspect ratios for a sec, this double feature otherwise looks decent enough on Blu-ray. Its colors are still nicely saturated, although the tone of these episodes doesn't lend itself to the same sort of glossy, vivid eye candy as some of the other double features. The digital noise reduction doesn't strike me as quite as pronounced this time around, although the linework is still kind of soft, and the image continues to be unrelentingly bombarded by flecks of dust. There's also a thin vertical line that's present for a long stretch of Bardock; dunno if something got nicked during the telecine or what. The pervasive film grain has sort of the same soft, smoothened, and almost chunky texture as the previous Blu-ray discs.

This double feature isn't a knock-out on Blu-ray, but it's consistent with the other two Dragon Ball Z double features in high-def, and fans who've been happy with those shouldn't feel any differently this time around.

Audio: There's a misprint on the flipside of the packaging. It lists two English TrueHD tracks: one with the original Japanese score intact and the other sticking with the Americanized music. As it turns out, only the version with the Japanese music is backed by lossless audio; the Americanized spin is in plain-jane Dolby Digital stereo. At least to my ears, that really doesn't matter because I prefer the original Japanese soundtrack anyway, and it's presented here in Dolby Digital mono. It's nice to see that FUNimation has packed on enough options that everyone is really able to get what they want, though.

The TrueHD track is naturally
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the most aggressive of the bunch. The newly-recorded English dialogue is clean and clear, and although the stems still show some sign of strain, the swirling sound effects pack much more of a wallop. Surround use doesn't seem nearly as pronounced as it was in the last double feature, although it's all still fine. The monaural Japanese audio is thin and can't really shake off its age, but it just sounds right to me even if it's not quite as technically impressive. The biggest leg up that the American version has is that Bardock sincerely sounds as if he's being voiced by a woman in the original Japanese, while the gruff grunts and growls in the English spin are a better fit for a destroyer of worlds.

It's worth pointing out that this Blu-ray disc does use true subtitles rather than dubtitles, and that's kind of an important distinction here because there are some significant differences in the dub script. For instance, at one key moment in The History of Trunks, Gohan's asked what kind of man Trunks' father was. The reply in the dub script: "He was tough...extremely powerful, arrogant, and very proud." The subtitles, on the other hand, read, "He was a hard man to please, but he was very strong and proud of who he was." That's a fairly dramatic shift in tone, and some stretches of dialogue are completely different.

Extras: Nothing, really: just plugs for a big stack of other FUNimation releases.

Conclusion: This double feature of The History of Trunks and Bardock: The Father of Goku still piles in all of the colossal battles that've won Dragon Ball Z so many fans the world over, but these two TV specials are both really dark and downbeat. Because Dragon Ball Z's most iconic characters barely pop up in this double feature and The History of Trunks ends on a cliffhanger that goes unresolved on this Blu-ray disc, it's really not a recommended starting point for the uninitiated. Fans ought to dig this double feature, tho'. Recommended.
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