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. As you'd imagine this is something that could be considered both a good and a bad thing.
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 collection you've been searching for.
For a while now we have been checking out the uncut seasons of Dragon Ball Z as FUNimation has been presenting them. Up to this point six seasons and 194 episodes have come and gone, and I'd be hard-pressed to say that it hasn't been one hell of a ride. Due to its scope and impressive amount of background Dragon Ball Z can best be described as epic in anime terms. Rather than fill in the blanks for folks who are just joining us I'm going to cut right to the chase and talk about the episodes that pertain to this installment. I figure that if you're looking at the seventh installment of a show, you probably already know what's going on or at least have a very good idea.
The season starts off with episode number 195, which sees Goku dead (again) and in the Other World. While there he bumps into a bunch of familiar faces, but he also learns about someone known as the Grand Kai. Determined to train with Kai, Goku seeks an audience with him. Through a series of events there's an Other World Tournament that gets started and naturally Goku just has to take part in it. This is DBZ in its lightest form and we are able to see Goku let loose with some goofiness on the side. In addition to the many foes that make an appearance in this segment, Goku even has to fight a dinosaur who likes to throw meteors. How's that for kooky!
The Other World act goes on for a few episodes, but before long the show heads back to Earth and we visit with Gohan to see what he's up to. As it turns out seven years have passed since Goku went to the afterlife and now Gohan is a teenager and attending high school. Unfortunately, now that he's amongst modern society, the people all around him talk about some golden guy who stopped a bank robbery. Naturally Gohan wants to keep his Super Saiyan identity a secret, so he gets Bulma to make a superhero costume for him. It's goofy for sure, but it lets the show have a little fun with itself and is a nice accompaniment to what Goku was going through in the Other World.
The silliness continues as Goten (Goku's other son) discovers his Super Saiyan powers and his training continues. Things get slightly more serious towards the latter part of the season when the World Martial Arts Tournament gets underway. All of the Z-Fighters get together and several others climb out of the woodwork (yes, we even get to see Mr. Satan again) to participate in the battle. This Tournament takes up the rest of this installment and things end just as the Babidi Saga starts to gear up.
Dragon Ball Z's seventh season has a lot to offer for fans of the series, though I must admit that it just seemed sillier all around. Goku's time in the Other World and Gohans adventures as a superhero just didn't pack quite the punch I was hoping they would. Even so, it was nice to see the show explore its lighter side and provide some respite and amusing moments with its cast. Fans of the series have yet another collection to pick up and this one is quite a bit of fun. I am anxious to see how the next season presents the Babidi Saga.
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 25 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 seven 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. Aside from that there are some trailers and a booklet with character data and episode recaps.
Dragon Ball Z has always been a show that made its mark by offering more action than story. This time around the action shares the table with a sense of humor as the show takes a few episodes to relax and give viewers a few laughs. There's still plenty of fighting here, but it just doesn't feel quite as epic as what came before it. Still, this is a solid collection of episodes and deserves to be in any DBZ fan's collection.
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