Funimation has been releasing the Dragon Ball Z feature movies on Blu-ray, which seems only natural since it's one of the most popular anime series in the world. After four such films coming out on two discs, FUNimation has taken a step sideways and released the two TV specials on one Blu-ray disc. These specials, which run 96 minutes together, are actually a lot more fun than the movies themselves. The important difference is that they take place inside the regular DBZ continuity and flesh out the story more, rather than trying to tell a whole new tale from scratch. While they appear on the disc in reverse chronological order, that's a small flaw as The History of Trunks and Bardock: Father of Goku are both fun specials that are an integral part of the Dragon Ball Z story.
The History of Trunks:
Originally airing on Japanese TV between episodes 174 and 175 of DBZ, this tells an interesting tale. It starts out after the Namek saga, and in the introduction it reveals that Son Goku dies of a rare heart disease soon after returning from the alien planet. Six months later two robots, Android 17 and Android 18, appear and start destroying the Earth. Piccolo attacks them and is the first to die. The other Z fighters also attack, and are summarily killed. Only Gohan survives.
The Androids have control of the planet and travel around destroying cities for fun. Years pass and Bulma's young child Trunks, fathered by Vegeta, has grown into a strong young man. When the androids attack a nearby city, Trunks runs into Gohan who agrees to train him.
The first thing that Trunks needs to learn is how to become a Super Saiyan. Gohan tries to get him to think of something that gets him really angry, but no matter how he tries, he can't get that upset. Meanwhile Bulma is putting the finishing touches on her time machine. She hopes to get Trunks to use it in order to go back in time and save Goku's life. She's sure that if he had survived he would have been able to defeat the androids. The only problem is that Trunks doesn't want to run away to the past. He wants to defeat the creatures himself.
People who have seen the DBZ episodes knows what happens to Trunks and what he ends up doing, but this TV special tells the story from his time-line's perspective and it's very interesting. Seeing Gohan train Trucks is enjoyable, and Gohan's battles with the androids are very exciting. There's a pretty surprising thing that happens too, that I won't spoil here. Needless to say this alternate time-line story is one of the best.
Bardock: Father of Goku:
This first TV special aired between episodes 63 and 64 of Dragon Ball Z. It tells the story of Son Goku's father, a Saiyan who was part of low-level team that worked for Frieza. They are given the job of exterminating all life on the planet Kanassa, and easily do it since a full moon is in the sky (turning them all into giant apes, something that happens to all Saiyans.) They miss one person however, the general in charge of the planet. He attacks Bardock and gives him the 'gift' of being able to see into the future.
It turns out to be a pretty horrible gift, because Bardock sees what Frezia has in store for the Saiyan race: He wants to destroy it. The Saiyans are too powerful and Friezia fears that their power my even rival his own. First he sends his henchmen to first eliminate Barock's team, which they do. Bardock is badly wounded in the process, and travels to warn the other Saiyans, but will he be in time?
While not as exciting as the first feature, this was still an action-packed show. Seeing Vegeta at a young age was fun, but more important was having Freiza's motivations for destroying the Saiyans fully revealed. The premonitions that Bardock had about what his son Goku would ultimately become were also rather touching. This is a good solid movie that fits in well with Dragon Ball Z continuity.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Like the earlier Dragon Ball Z releases on Blu-ray, both of these films were presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which I believe is reformatted from the original full frame ratio. I couldn't find a definitive answer to what the original aspect ratio was, but the original releases of these TV specials had them at 1.33:1, and with FUNimations reformatting of the TV series to 1.78:1, it doesn't come as a surprise. While FUNimation does a lot right with this disc, presenting the films with both the original Japanese music and an optional track with the more familiar US score, giving viewers the original Japanese soundtrack and releasing the films uncut, it's a shame that they didn't preserve their original aspect ratio.
Aside from that, the AVC encoded image looks about average. The lines are sharp and the colors look nice, but the prints to both films are in less than pristine shape. There are a myriad of spots, dirt and micro-scratches that harm the presentation. Large patches of color also seem to shimmer slightly. While it wasn't a horrible transfer, this isn't an exciting Blu-ray release.
This disc has three sound options: the original stereo Japanese track, and two English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 dubs; one with the Japanese music and the other with the more familiar (to region one viewers) US music. I switched between the Japanese and True HD 5.1 tracks as I watched, and though I preferred the original track the dub was more exciting to listen to. The English 5.1 track was very enveloping, with music and sound effects coming from the rear channels that made the movies just more fun. It was nice to hear the original music too, which works much better than the US music. All three of the tracks were very clean and clear, with no hiss, distortion or other audio defects.
Nothing, just a series of trailers.
Both of these TV specials were very good Dragon Ball Z movies. They worked a lot better than the average theatrical film since they follow DBZ continuity and expand the story while filling in details. If you've never seen DBZ before, this probably isn't the place to begin, but for fans of the series, this is a must-see. The Blu-ray disc looks fine though not outstanding and the TrueHD soundtrack is great. A very strong Recommendation.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.