It took nearly two years, but FUNimation has finally completed the Dragon Box series - the definitive version of the most popular anime series in the world: Dragon Ball Z. With the seventh box they finally reach the end of the saga, and what a wild ride it has been. This last collection includes 40 episodes and encompasses two story lines: The Fusion Saga and The Kid Buu Saga. If you've been following the adventures of Son Goku, Gohan, and the rest for this long, you won't want to stop now.
When we last left the Z-Fighters they were having trouble with the latest threat to Earth: Majin Buu. A child-like and comical character, Majin Buu is easily distracted and more amusing than menacing but he also had a bad side, Evil Buu. When Evil Buu is released and absorbs the Good Buu, he turns against the Earth and seems to be unstoppable. The main problem is that Buu can regenerate incredibly quickly. Almost any wound can be cured in the blink of a eye.
The only way that the Z-Fighters can counter such an immense force is to use a difficult technique: Fusion. This power allows two people to merge into one, adding their strengths, speed, and agility together and creating a new, incredibly powerful warrior. The risks are high though. If the technique isn't performed correctly the fuse will produce an incredibly weak creature, and both fighters will be locked in that form for 30 minutes, terribly vulnerable. Goku and Piccolo teach this Fusion Dance to Trunks and Goku's second son, Goten, who create the incredibly powerful Gotenks. But will even this massively talented fighter be able to defeat someone who can instantly renew himself?
The battle is fierce, and eventually Buu transforms into his ultimate form: Kid Buu. Though looking like a young teen, this version of the villain is immensely powerful. One of the first things he does after transforming is to destroy Earth and everyone on it with a single blast.
A few of the Z-Fighters were lucky enough to escape and they travel to the Grand Kai's world for their last stand. After destroying a couple of other worlds, Kid Buu finds them and it's time for the ultimate, final battle of Dragon Ball Z.
This is a great series and deserves all of the praise that has been heaped on it. From the first mention of Saiyans to the final episode, it's a wild (and very long!) ride that's immense fun. For those of you wondering, the final episode is good, and wraps things up very nicely.
That's not to say that the whole story is flawless. There are some problems, and the main one is pretty evident in this collection: people get too powerful. Creator Akira Toriyama naturally felt the need to top himself with each successive story, and while that makes for an exciting tale, it does get a bit repetitive eventually. At first Saiyans are the universe's best fighters, then he introduced the concept of a 'Super Saiyan' one member of the race that could transform and obtain overwhelming power. Originally the idea is only a legend since one had not been seen in 1000 years and it's limited to one person. Then Son Goku becomes a Super Saiyan, then Vegetta, pretty soon there are young kids that are training by themselves and transforming into this legendary power.
When kids are able to pop into Super Saiyan form at will, you need something more powerful. So Super Saiyan II was introduced, and Super Saiyan III. They people can merge their powers via the Fusion technique, and while fused transform into Super Saiyans too. Yeesh.
I'll admit, I'm being a bit hard on the show. When you watch it a couple of episodes a day you loose track of the big picture a bit, and the increase in power that accompany each story line seem natural and are exciting and impressive. It's only when you look at the series as a whole that it gets a bit ridiculous.
Even having said that, the episodes in this final collection are a lot of fun. It's great seeing Goku and Vegeta deciding who gets to fight Kid Buu first after the Earth is destroyed (they play a game of Rock-Paper-Scissor) and it's hilarious seeing Mister Satan trying to take on Buu early on in the set. Of course there's some great fighting too. More epic battles all wrapped up with a final look at the World's Martial Arts Tournament. What more could you want.
These 40 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 a profile of Goku's family and a relationship tree that lets you know who is working with whom. There are tidbits of trivia scattered through the book as well as character sketches. It's very nice and a wonderful addition to the set.
I'm a little sad that it's all over. Dragon Ball Z is a fun series, especially if you're willing to devote some time to it, and I'm a little sorry that there's not more. Yeah, there are the movies and specials, but they don't really hold a candle to the original show. And there is Dragon Ball GT, but I never really got into that show. The definitive version of a great show, Dragon Box Volume 7 is a must-have for fans of the show. Highly Recommended.