So many things are better because they come in pairs. Where would the world be if socks came one by one or if shampoo didn't have conditioner? With that in mind FUNimation has been packing Dragon Ball Z movies together with some amount of success.
Given their revisit to the series with an uncut widescreen presentation (yes, yes, insert purist rant here) it has renewed interest in the classic and somewhat tired franchise. If you have been following DBZ lately then you have undoubtedly seen the three other recent film releases. Packing two movies together within a 2 disc steelbook case, the DBZ franchise has been given new life for the next wave of fans. For the most part these releases have been successful, but it's hard to deny the stigma that applies with each. For the most part you can expect little more than an extended episode in terms of story, but the real draw in each film is the thematic elements pertaining to animation and those glorious DBZ fight scenes.
For its fourth steelbook two-pack, FUNimation has put together the fifth and sixth Dragon Ball Z movies. Like many of the other films that came before them, these more or less portray the franchise in a manner that stays in line with the series. There are few surprises, almost no lasting elements as far as the franchise is concerned, and in both cases you can expect more action than story.
The first movie here is Cooler's Revenge, which was originally released in 1991, but didn't hit our shores until much later. The film is entertaining enough to stand on its own two feet, but you definitely need some knowledge of DBZ in order to appreciate what's going on. Basically it all begins with something of a recap of events that transpired in the past with Goku going to Earth, Planet Vegeta being destroyed, and Frieza losing in battle. It's more of a brief overview, rather than the whole picture, but it sets up the introduction of a new villain and is a fine way to get the ball rolling here.
Frieza's brother, Cooler, is brought into the fold with intent to get revenge upon Goku and avenge Frieza's death. Naturally this means that he has to head to Earth to find the hero, and of course you know there's going to be a lot of fighting. In good DBZ fashion, Goku is knocked out of the picture early on and it's up to Gohan, Krillan, and Piccolo to pick up the slack. There's all kinds of fighting going on here while Gohan is attempting to heal his father, and during it all Piccolo is severely injured. The whole affair comes back around predictably to show Goku getting his strength back and going toe to toe with Cooler. No worries about spoilers there because the film is really just that predictable. This isn't high brow anime or something heavily layered with meaning or plot twists, but the story told in this one serves as a nice backdrop to the action, despite it being as light as it is.
Cooler makes a miraculous return in The Return of Cooler, but then again I suppose you already figured that one out. While this one had a much looser plot going for it, some of the action was better all around and the fighting had some nice moments. With that being said this is arguably the weaker of the two episodes here. Basically what happens is that Cooler isn't dead, but rather transformed into a metal being with some strange new abilities. He's more powerful, can duplicate himself, and has the power to siphon off energy from the Super Saiyans. Other than that there's really nothing going for this movie in terms of a plot, so if you're coming just for fighting and some good 'ol fashion DBZ action, then you're getting what you wanted.
Once again the FUNimation double pack is an entertaining slice of DBZ, but it's also one that reveals its shortcomings. Each film lasts roughly 45 minutes, so you're not getting a lot of story, action, or bang for your buck. You're essentially going be treated to extended episodes with slightly better plot and fighting elements, but overall there's nothing outwardly special about these movies. If you love DBZ then you'll enjoy these episodes for what they are, but if you're new to the franchise you'd be much better off checking out the show rather than films.
Both Cooler's Revenge and The Return of Cooler are presented on DVD in much the same way the remastered show is. The original Japanese material has been brought through one filter after another to clean up the picture, and it definitely shows. While both films maintain a certain worn look with grain, dirt, and some faded colors there's no denying that the transfer contains an overall vibrancy and is much sharper than you'd imagine a twenty year old image would look like. The aspect ratio for both films is presented in anamorphic widescreen to give a somewhat more theatrical appearance.
Both films feature original Japanese language tracks with mono output and English 5.1 offerings with selections for original Japanese music and updated English tunes. When it comes to this series I have always been a fan of the original Japanese content and though the mono track is definitely more subdued I found the dub to be much more palatable. With that being said the English offerings are much better in the technical department with a greater sense of immersion. Unfortunately even that 5.1 selection isn't quite as robust as it could have been.
Sadly, all you're going to get for both films here is a collection of trailers for bonus features. At least the release's packaging is nice!
Another Dragon Ball Z two-pack has hit stores and once again we're reminded that the DBZ films were little more than extended episodes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's certainly disappointing when you compare the franchise to other anime properties that have launched successful films. I suppose it's like comparing apples and oranges though, because DBZ fans like what DBZ fans like, and as one I can honestly say that both of these episodes are entertaining. The first movie is better than the second, but both offer plenty of action and enjoyable story elements. If you have been collecting this compilation to date then you have no reason not to buy into FUNimation's latest release. Consider it recommended if you're a fan of the show, but newcomers should look elsewhere for an introduction to the series.
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