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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
n the world of Japanese animation, few other series can be held in such high regard as Akira Toriyama’s “Dragon Ball Z.” One of the greatest animes ever made, the sci-fi fantasy epic not only served as the introduction to the genre for many Americans, but also as the benchmark for every import to follow. Originating as the manga “Dragon Ball” in 1984, Toriyama’s story evolved into an animated series of the same name and eventually led to the creation of the far more successful “Dragon Ball Z.” The show debuted stateside in 1999 on Cartoon Network and has since become a merchandise juggernaut for teenage boys across the world.
Previously only available in an assortment of ultra-expensive DVDs, the entire “Dragon Ball Z” series has been digitally remastered and re-released as a collection of affordable box sets containing the many different story arcs that appear throughout the length of the show. The first “season” – dubbed the Vegeta Saga – finds Earth’s youngest hero, Goku, all grown up and living a normal life with wife Chi Chi and son Gohan. But when a new evil threatens to disturb the planet’s peace, Goku jumps back into action on an epic adventure that takes him to strange, new worlds, reunites him with old friends, and pits him against his most powerful enemy yet: Prince Vegeta.
While Toriyama’s original series was viewed as being too childish, “Dragon Ball Z” ups the ante with the perfect blend of action and comedy. The material certainly gets darker with each successive saga, but there’s nothing here that the average teenager hasn’t already seen. Perhaps the biggest criticism is that the series is padded with lots of filler material. Still, even though a single battle can take several hours to complete, there's not a single person who watches the show for anything other than the action. Could a more edit-friendly approach have made the series exponentially shorter? Probably, but we all likes us an overload of action every now and again, and “Dragon Ball Z” delivers on that, so why complain? Well, quite frankly, because that’s what anime fans do best.
Granted, the new DVDs do have a few problems that need addressing, but they in no way take away from the fact that this is the most definitive release of “Dragon Ball Z” to date. Sure, the remastered video isn’t quite as great as we all would have liked – every little scratch hasn’t been removed and the switch to anamorphic widescreen has caused some minor omissions in the print – but it looks incredible. The fact that they went out of their way to bring back the original American voice cast to re-record a new English dialogue track proves that they’re serious about doing things right, while the inclusion of the original English and Japanese audio tracks will certainly satisfy purists.
The only thing that should be remedied on future sets is in the special features department. There are only two short featurettes – one on the HD remastering process (“Dragon Ball Z: Rebirth”) and another promoting the re-release (“A New Look”). The set also includes a 24-page booklet filled with episode summaries and character bios. The guys over at Funimation should really think about spending the money to produce additional bonus material for fans of the series. They’ve gotten off to a nice start, but when you’re dealing with a show like “DBZ,” you can’t help but expect the absolute best.