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Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Box Five

FUNimation // Unrated // April 26, 2011
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted April 24, 2011 | E-mail the Author
The Show:

The most famous anime series in the world gets a definitive release with FUNimation's Dragon Box series, and box five is no exception.  Covering the series high point, the Cell Games, this is collection has some of the best episodes from the show's run.  There's drama, excitement, a world-shaking battle, and more than a little comic relief thanks to Mister Satan and (later in the set) the Great Saiyaman.  

As this set starts, the artificial creation of Dr. Gero, the seemingly unstoppable Cell, has announced that he'll be holding a contest:  the Cell Games.  With the fate of the entire world in the balance, the Z-fighters go off to train.  Surprisingly Goku cuts his training short to spend time relaxing at home, something that raises more than a few eyebrows.

Once the games start Cell, as expected, turns out to be a very formidable opponent.  The first real opponent to face the monstrous creature is Goku, who goes after Cell at full power.  The battle is fierce, with some incredible fighting and powerful attacks, but just as the contest is heating up Goku concedes!  This shocks the other Z-Fighters (and most viewers the first time they see it) but Goku, far from defeated, cheerfully announces that he can't beat Cell and resigns.  Instead, he declares that his young son, Gohan, will not only be the next challenger, but that he is the more powerful fighter!
Things heat up after that, with mini-Cells attacking and some of the fiercest fighting in the series.  The whole of the Cell Games is a high point for the show, and not only tells a great story but sets things up for the next chapter in the Dragon Ball Z saga.
After the games conclude, there's a short four-episode story that nicely wraps up the fate of one of the main characters and then the narrative jumps forward 7 years.  Young Gohan has been studying hard with his mother at home and now is a teenager.  He may have traveled across the universe and saved the Earth, but there is one great challenge he hasn't yet faced: high school.  With no schools near his mountain home, Gohan travels to Satan City, named after the person that the world thinks was responsible for defeating Cell, to attend formal school for the first time.
On his way to Orange Star High School, Gohan encounters a police stand off.  Thieves are robbing a bank and are in a battle with the police.  Gohan decides to put a stop to things so he turns into Super Saiyan mode and easily defeats them.  Of course his exploits are the talk of the town and by the time he gets to school, everyone is talking about the 'Golden Fighter' who stopped the bank robbery.
One of his new classmates is Videl, the daughter of Mr. Satan, and she's determined to find out who this new hero is.  Gohan, on the other hand wants to be just a normal kid and is trying to fit in without revealing his true strength.  When he gets to PE though, he doesn't do such a good job of acting normal.
This was a great collection.  The Cell Games is my favorite DBZ story arc, and the follow-up stories are a nice change of pace.  The four-episode Anoyoichi Saga was a touching and fun way to wrap up a major character's story and works especially well after the dynamic Cell Games. 
That's followed by the beginning of the High School Saga, and the first episode of that story is one of the funniest episodes of DBZ ever.  My two sons and I were laughing out loud through the entire show.  Just the set up, that high school could be a bigger challenge for Gohan than Frieza or Cell, is amusing and they really played this episode for laughs.  When one of the bank robbers aims a machine gun at Gohan and fires at point blank range, the young Saiyan catches all of the bullets (with one hand.)  The look on the robber's face as he drops the slugs onto the ground is priceless.
Things become even more hilarious when he gets to school.  Since he made perfect scores on his entrance exams, the jock of the class starts picking on poor Gohan.  Little does he realize that Gohan has no clue that he's being mean, and that this kid is much harder to hurt than he can imagine.

The DVD:

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 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.
Final Thoughts:
This is a must-buy collection.  Not only does this set nicely illustrate just why Dragon Ball Z is one of the most popular animated titles in the world, but the show is presented with love and care, in a definitive set.  The stories included in this box are some of the best in the history of the show, running the gamut from surprising, to tragic, to laugh-out-loud funny.  This is easily a DVD Talk Collector's Series title.
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