Once again FUNimation is releasing the Dragon Ball Z series, and this time it looks like they've gotten everything right. The Dragon Box contains the first 42 episodes of the series, uncut, with the restored video that their last releases boasted. The big difference this time is that the show is presented in its original aspect ratio, not the faux widescreen that the earlier season sets were marred with. In addition this set come with a nice 48-page hardcover book that includes episode synopsizes, character designs and trivia. If you've been holding off on buying Dragon Ball Z, this is the set to get.
If you're reading this, chances are good that you already know the story, but in case you don't, here's a brief recap: It has been five years since the end of Dragon Ball where Son Goku defeated King Piccolo and the Earth has been at peace in that time. Son Goku has gotten married and had a child, Son Gohan. Unfortunately things are not going to stay peaceful forever.
As this series begins, a mysterious meteor crashes to the Earth, and an alien gets out. He starts searching for the strongest person on the planet. First he encounters Piccolo, but that's not who he's looking for. Pretty soon he discovers Goku and his son relaxing with their friends. This mysterious alien is Raditz, a Saiyan. He belongs to a race of warriors, as does Goku. It turns out that Goku was sent to Earth as a baby with orders to kill everyone on the planet. An accident soon after he arrived in which he bumped his head made him forget his mission though. Now Raditz needs the grown Goku to help him conquer worlds. Of course Goku refuses to go with him, so Raditz takes Gohan and promises to kill the boy if Goku doesn't agree to be his partner.
Goku comes up with an idea that will defeat the alien, but he has to team up with his greatest enemy, Piccolo, to pull it off. The two warriors are able to defeat Raditz, but it costs Goku his life. Not only that, but Raditz was able to radio for help before he died, and a trio of even more powerful aliens are coming to Earth. Though it will take a year for them to arrive, There's little hope for the planet after they land.
To combat this new menace, all of the strongest fighters on Earth band together. Dubbed the Z fighters, they train and hone their techniques, while other in the group search for the Dragon Balls so they can wish Goku back to life. Of course Goku isn't sitting in the afterlife just biding his time, he's training with the great Kaio.
Even with everyone's training, the battle with Veggeta, another Saiyan, will be long and costly.
This is a classic series that is popular all around the world. It's easy to see why: there's a lot of action, the characters are enjoyable, and the show has a good dose of humor. It's also slightly addicting. The reason for that are the characters, especially Son Goku. He's strong and powerful, but also a genuinely nice guy. He doesn't seem to have a cruel bone in his body, and while he really enjoys fighting, he is never the aggressor. Goku has a child-like innocence that's infectious and his positive outlook on life is fun to experience.
The other Z-fighters are also enjoyable. From Krillian, Goku's childhood friend and sparring companion to the once-evil Piccolo and the boy-crazy but brilliant Bulma the show is populated with slightly odd but fun characters. Watching them bond as a team and come together to battle evil (and even to die sometimes) makes the show still enjoyable after all these years.
These 42 episodes arrive on six DVDs that are held in a pair of 'books', three discs each. Two of the discs are overlapping (boo!) on one side while the third has a side all to itself. There is also a hardcover book included with the set (more on this in the extras section.) The three books are stored in a thick slipcase and the books themselves have a spanning spine. Altogether it's a very nice looking set.
This is the definitive collection too. All of the episodes are restored, uncut, presented with their original aspect ratio, with the original Japanese openings, original music, and even the original episode previews. What more could you want??
This time the options are the original Japanese mono audio or a 5.1 English dub (with the Japanese music... the English music is not to be found in this set, which is fine by me.) I viewed it with the Japanese track, and though the English dub is good and a much more immersive experience (especially during the frequent fight scenes) I enjoyed the original track just a bit more. Both tracks were clean and free of hiss and distortion and the show sounded great, even in mono.
The image is in its original full screen aspect ratio this time, and I couldn't be happier. The picture has been cleaned up, frame by frame, from the original 16mm film. I have the original Pioneer releases and this is an improvement. There is less grain and some spots have been removed. The colors are a bit more even, though not as bright as the original releases, which I found a little odd. Though this version does look a little more realistic, I don't think that's what they were going for originally. The colors aren't oversaturated though, as has been reported with the FUNimation season sets. They also didn't go overboard with the digital smoothing as happened with the earlier brick collections.
In any case the lines are tight and the colors are even and solid. The blacks are generally deep. On the digital side of things the shows look good too. There is some minor aliasing and light posterization in a few places but neither is ever a distraction and other compression artifacts such as blocking are absent. Overall this is the best looking version of Dragon Ball I have seen, and the set I'd recommend to fans.
There aren't any extras on the discs themselves, which is fine by me. I'd much rather have the show presented with the way it was meant to be seen. I can live without the English dub cast 'party' commentary tracks.
There is a 48 page hardcover book that comes with the set and it is a real asset. Not only does it contain a synopsis of every episode in the set, but there's also a four-page synopsis of the events in Dragon Ball, a very cool character relation chart that explains who was trained by whom as well as romantic relationships. There are tidbits of trivia scattered through the book as well as character sketches a time line that explains when the show was originally broadcast as well as important events that occurred in the real world, and a profile of Goku's Earth family. It's very nice and a wonderful addition to the set.
I was on cloud nine while I was watching this collection. It's nearly perfect. (My only real complaint is the overlapping discs, which is nit-picking I'll admit.) This set is really devoted to the hardcore fan who wants to experience the show the way it was first broadcast, and it does everything it sets out to do. With the restored image, faithful reproduction of the original Japanese shows, original aspect ratio, and nice packaging, this is the definitive Dragon Ball Z collection. Highly Recommended.