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Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn / Wrath of the Dragon

FUNimation // Unrated // May 19, 2009
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 15, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Tally up that stack of Blu-ray discs in the corner, and you're staring at thirteen movies and a pair of TV specials. Yup, we're right at the end now, and FUNimation's latest Dragon Ball Z double feature serves up the last two films in this leg of the series: 1995's Fusion Reborn and Wrath of the Dragon.

Fusion Reborn
"Super Ghost Kamikazi Attack! 100 ghosts total!"

Fusion Reborn was the first of the Dragon Ball Z movies to plow its way to a limited theatrical release on these shores, and...oh, what I would've given to have seen something this cacklingly incoherent splashed across a fifty foot screen. So, um...Fusion Reborn kicks off at the weigh station in the afterlife. The good little oni get to hop onboard a shuttle to Heaven. The badniks...? They're martinized in a soul laundry before being scuttled off to Hell. While a paper-pushing demon type is munching on a cheeseburger and stamping "Hell!" over and over again on all the incoming oni, the soul-scrubbing laundromat goes boom. Oops. This is why you don't let demon-kids wear headphones and breakdance to not-quite-hard-rock on the clock. Anyway, it's kind of the same deal as the containment unit going blammo in Ghostbusters, only set to the tune of chirpy Moogs: a gaggle of ghosts come flooding back into this mortal coil. The dearly departed are out and about, zombies are flooding the streets, and...why not?...Dracula and Hitler (?!?!!?) are back too. So, Goku's off to the afterlife to free the entrapped middle management, and that pits him against the evil-soul-toxic-waste-sludge of an oversized baby named Janemba. The rest of the bunch square off against some of the other baddies that've been unleashed, although they're mostly warding off Hitler and a battalion of eight quadrillion panzer tanks that have flooded every square inch of the city.
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Wow! I could almost follow that synopsis I just rattled off, and that's one up on Fusion Reborn itself. The movie just keeps lobbing one deliriously random idea after another at the screen for fifty minutes straight. I had an oversized, doofy grin plastered across my face the entire time too. I mean, an army of hundreds of dead-and-not-so-buried-anymore bad guys are unleashed on the city, and in any other Dragon Ball Z flick, this'd kick off an epic fight scene that'd scream ahead for twenty minutes. Here...? Try twenty seconds. What else is on the laundry list? A fairly involved Fusion routine! Vegeta! Teleporting punches! A clapping fight! Hurling insults as a mystical weapon! A hysterically botched "we have but one last hope..." maneuver! Veering the standard issue Shen Long wish fulfillment into uncharted territory! Heck, outta-left-field fart jokes! You still get a couple of colossal fight scenes -- the pretty much unstoppable Janemba has an even more pretty much unstoppable second stage -- but Fusion Reborn is packing a completely unhinged sense of humor, and it revels in upending most everything you've been trained to expect in the stock Dragon Ball Z formula. For what it's worth, this would easily rank as my favorite of the ten DBZ flicks I've managed to catch on Blu-ray.

Wrath of the Dragon
"Now! Continuous Die-Die Missiles!"

The second half of the double feature is a little more routine. Y'know, some interdimensional, indomitable force plows its way planetside, it can trash an entire city block in six seconds flat, and everything our supercharged heroes fling its way just makes things worse. The idea's that it's not the end of the world as we know it quite yet, though. Rewind the clock a bit: the prophecies say that the legendary hero Tapion can nip this world-ravaging problem in the bud without breaking a sweat, but he's trapped in a music box, and the rusty crank isn't all that eager to turn. Hmmm. Superhero-types Great Saiyaman and Great Saiyaman Mark II are off to find some Dragon Balls to get Shen Long to mystically grease it up. Sure enough, Tapion is released, but he's not all that thrilled about it. Turns out that music box held a prison-within-a-prison...
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Wrath of the Dragon does stick more to the traditional Dragon Ball Z formula, but a few things help liven it up. One...? Some of the animation is particularly striking this time around. There's also the appeal of a giant monster stomping his way through some sprawling metropolitan city, and it's a blast to grab hold of something kinda kaiju-ish on Blu-ray. There's also an awwwww-sweet brotherly bond that's struck between Trunks and the cold, detached Tapion. Startlingly original...? Nah, but Wrath of the Dragon is solid enough.

If you've caught Dragon Ball Z in high-def before, the smart money says you know how the rest of this goes. Both halves of this double feature look alright on Blu-ray, sporting a bright, punchy palette. Whites tend to be a little dull, and colors don't pack quite as much of a wallop at the outset of Wrath of the Dragon, but it evens out a few minutes in. There's some mild speckling, and the linework of its streamlined character designs tends to be kind of soft. High-def eye candy it's not, so don't fret about your jaw scraping against the floor if you're sitting a few feet away from a 60" set or anything. The smaller the screen, the better it'll look. I don't have the DVD set handy to do a direct comparison, but I'd expect the difference to be pretty modest. Still, this double feature is in the same league as all the other Dragon Ball Z sets that have clawed their way to Blu-ray, and if you've been happy enough with those, there's nothing different that'll change your mind this time around.

Both Fusion Reborn and Wrath of the Dragon are presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 -- probably close enough to how they were originally screened theatrically in Japan -- and its pair of AVC encodes fit with room to spare on a single BD-25.

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This Blu-ray disc belts out the same set of audio options as the big stack of other Dragon Ball Z sets. First up are two 16-bit, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD tracks. Both have been dubbed into English, with one packing the original Japanese music and the other sporting a chugging rock soundtrack. The original Japanese audio is offered in its entirety in a Dolby Digital mono track (640Kbps). Even though the monaural audio is flat and strained -- there's even some pretty prominent hiss in Fusion Reborn -- the show just sounds right to me in Japanese. I prefer it over the two English tracks, even though on a technical end, there's really no comparison. The dubbed dialogue and re-engineered sound effects are both rendered cleanly and with crystal clarity. The flurries of kicks, punches, and eighteen-jigaton blasts scream from every direction, and it's backed by a reasonably thick, meaty LFE. Although I'd just as soon opt for the goofier, more playful Japanese score, the rock soundtrack definitely thunders from the sub and surround channels. As always, there are plenty of options, and something here oughta work for you.

A set of English subtitles are served up as well, and they've been translated from the original Japanese rather than just rattling off the very different script from the English dub.

Nothin' -- just plugs for a handful of other FUNimation titles.

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The Final Word
Out of the ten Dragon Ball Z flicks I've reviewed on Blu-ray, I think I'd have to give the deliriously incoherent, inhumanly fun Fusion Reborn the nod as my favorite. Wrath of the Dragon is more routine but still pretty solid, and the ::sniffles!:: sweet big brother angle helps set it apart from the rest of the bunch. Recommended.

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