With only one more volume left, the original Dragon Ball series moves ever closer to that finale with the fourth season boxed set. FUNimation isn't kidding when they say that Dragon Ball is their cash cow. Just look at how many releases of the franchise have hit the market! From Z to GT and all films in between, it's quite clear that Akira Toriyama's masterpiece is as popular today as it ever has been. After all, why else would FUNimation make the effort to digitally restore the picture and sound, and release the uncut versions?
For a twenty year old anime franchise the original Dragon Ball series looks fantastic under these new efforts. FUNimation really has brushed the dust off and one would be hard pressed to say the series has ever looked better than it does now. Sure it still shows its age, but we'll get into the video discussion in a moment. What about the show itself?
Dragon Ball is the anime that most non-anime-loving people associate with the medium. It's iconic in so many ways and should be standard watching for otaku in order to appreciate the genius of Akira Toriyama. I won't break down into a complete dissection of the show, but I will say that the series is about an alien boy named Goku who comes to live on Earth. He was sent here to destroy us all but wound up being tamed and became our greatest defender against the galaxy's worst of the worst. There's more to it than that, and more characters to talk about, though for the time being we'll just leave the description there. If you want to learn more (should you have absolutely no clue what the show's about) then by all means check out some of our other reviews for the series. There are a lot of them.
In the last installment of Dragon Ball the show began and finished the Fortune Teller Baba Saga. Shortly thereafter there was another tournament of sorts which took place during the Tien Shinhan Saga. Rather than divulge everything that happened, I'll direct you to the review of the third season. For the fourth boxed set of Dragon Ball it all begins about halfway through the Tien Saga.
The conflict with Tien continues as he rises in the tournament's rank. Krillin has his time in the spotlight as well, and naturally Goku is there doing what he does best. The real meat and potatoes of this installment, however, is the death of Krillin and the emergence of King Piccolo.
The Piccolo Saga takes up the remainder of this installment's 30 episodes. The green-skinned baddy not only killed Goku's friend, but also stole some Dragon Balls in the process. The storyline soon breaks into a mad dash to the inevitable confrontation with the man himself. In between the beginning of this Saga and then several of his henchmen step forward and Goku even finds himself a new ally. While there's much more that happens here in terms of plot, the real focus is on the action, as one might expect. The quantity of said Dragon Ball feature is in abundance here. There's more fighting than you can shake a stick at and from top to bottom this installment is also probably the most dramatic.
In many ways the fourth boxed set of Dragon Ball stands out as the best. The quality of the story, the amount of drama, and the sheer epic scale of some of the battles here truly makes it stand out. If you've been collecting the other installments of this series then you'll be pleased to know that this one is just as good, if not better, than what came before. Newcomers should check out the first volume to see if it's your thing, but all around this installment comes strongly recommended.
Much like the DVD release of Dragon Ball Z, this one hits DVD with a nicely cleaned up transfer that is sure to please many fans. I will say that one thing I was surprised about was the decision to present this DVD in the original 1.33:1 fullscreen. After all the hoopla about how they improved DBZ and made it more modern with the anamorphic widescreen, I don't understand why they dropped it for this release. Either way it's worth noting that the show looks great for its age, aspect ratio aside.
The restoration that took place here definitely cleaned things up a bit. There's very little in terms of dirt in the transfer and grain is kept as minimal as can be for an animated show that's over twenty years old. The colors are also incredibly vibrant for their age and overall the show has a nice clean look. DBZ's transfer looked a little sharper, but this one definitely holds its own.
Dragon Ball season four 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.
Like the DBZ releases, this one features the Marathon Feature for extended play, a booklet with artwork and information, clean animations, and some trailers.
While FUNimation has certainly milked this cow for quite some time, it seems there's still some milk to be had. The fourth season of Dragon Ball continues the trend set by the first three and we once again have a solid batch of episodes packed with drama, action, and decent storytelling. The 30 episodes on these five DVDs really stand out once King Piccolo gets involved in affairs. Fans can consider this installment strongly recommended!
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