Akira Toriyama's epic masterpiece Dragon Ball has been going strong since the 80's. The original series begot two sequel shows, Z and GT, and there has even been a remake of Z entitled Kai. Every outing for Dragon Ball has been insanely popular and the characters are iconic of anime as a medium. In fact I'd say that Goku is the character most non-otaku associate with anime and the show is the most known, even in mainstream circles.
FUNimation has treated the series like royalty since they got their hands on the license. Often times the publisher states that Dragon Ball is the reason they're in business. While I would argue that fact, it's true that having the license for Toriyama's show has certainly helped. For the most part, however, their DVD releases have been for the sequel, Z. More recently we've been seeing the original series hit store shelves, and today we're looking at the last installment.
Dragon Ball, in case you haven't seen the show up to this point, follows the exploits of a young Saiyan named Goku. He is a boy with a monkey tail who lives with a martial arts master named Roshi. Through the course of the series we see Goku spread his wings and grow into one of the universe's strongest warriors, though many other characters join him along the way. The series strongly focuses on the unique characters and using fighting as its main theme. The show is also broken up into sagas, which make the massive episode run offer some real progression.
In the previous collection some serious business happened as Krillin was taken down, a fighting named Tien became a rival and friend, and King Piccolo stepped forward as a major bad guy. The last volume was packed with action as Goku and company searched for the remaining Dragon Balls in order to bring Krillin back from the dead. This road led them to King Piccolo, and in the end they emerged successful.
Early on in this installment, however, it's revealed that King Piccolo had a son of sorts. Piccolo Jr. comes into power in these episodes, but it's a gradual learning of his abilities that draws out his storyline. Before this installment's conclusion we really get to see Piccolo become the mean green machine he was in Z. In the meantime there's another World's Martial Arts Tournament and predictably Goku and the rest join. After all, they haven't missed a tournament before, so why start now?
I don't want to get into too many details about what happens in this volume because, quite honestly, it's the final leg of the journey. All you really need to know is if you have watched the show to this point, then you'll be perfectly satisfied with the way it ends. If for any reason you haven't seen the series, then consider it recommended as a whole. This is a classic among classics and stands as a genre defining kind of show.
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 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.
Like the DBZ releases, this one features the Marathon Feature for extended play, a booklet with artwork and information, clean animations, and some trailers.
Dragon Ball Season Five is a blast. It does two things rather successfully: It closes the first series out with a bang, and leaves the door open for the second series. It was a series I had a great time watching and was perfect for filling in the gaps between other shows. The franchise may require an investment of time because of all the episodes, but it's totally worth it. This series, and installment, are recommended!
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