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DVD Review

DVD cover

Dragonball Z
Season One (Digitally Remastered)


Starring (voice): Masako Nozawa, Ryo Horikawa and Hiromi Tsuru
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £34.99
Certificate: PG
Available 02 July 2012

The Saiyans are coming! The last survivors of a cruel, warrior race, these ruthless villains have carved a path of destruction across the galaxy, and now they have set their sights on Earth. They will stop at nothing until they have the wish-granting powers of the seven magic Dragon Balls for their very own. With the fate of his family, friends, and the entire human race hanging in the balance, Goku, the Earth’s greatest hero, must rise to meet the approaching threat. As he prepares for the fight of his life, Goku embarks on an epic journey that will take him to other worlds, pit him against new and old enemies alike, and force him to confront the dark secrets of his own past. At the end of his path, the most powerful opponent he has ever faced awaits - the evil Saiyan Prince Vegeta...

Akira Toriyama's 1980s manga series Dragonball is among the most successful and influential ever made, and the anime series and movies spawned from it, of which Dragonball Z is the best known, have had a colossal impact not only on other manga and anime creators but on anime fandom's growth in the West. The series was a huge hit after being aired on the US's Cartoon Network in the late 1990s and paved the way for the blockbusting fighting series that dominated anime in the years to come - Bleach, Naruto, One Piece and many others owe an avowed debt to Toriyama's work, and his style is likely to influence manga creators for decades to come.

So how does the anime hold up today? As this is my first real viewing of DBZ, which is itself a sequel to the original Dragonball and based on the last part of Toriyama's manga, the multitude of characters and their relationships were at first unfamiliar to me. Goku and his friends are so famous that it was easy to recognize the series' elements after only a few episodes, though, and DBZ wastes no time in establishing a compelling story for its characters to unite under, as the dastardly Saiyans arrive on Earth to shock Goku with the revelation that he, like them, is an alien of savage strength sent as a baby to conquer his adopted planet - a neat riff on the Superman origin myth.

This new challenge sets the characters off on a desperate quest to acquire the strength needed to defeat the horrifically powerful Saiyans, and while Goku runs off into the afterlife for a chin-wag with the quirky tutor King Kai, his friends scale the heights of a heavenly tower for training with Earth's protector Kami and his associate Popo (a word of warning: Popo's appearance, resembling as he does a heavily stereotyped gollywog character, may be offensive to many). Goku's young son Gohan is sent into the wilderness for some harsh survival training with the ruthless Piccolo, and while this portion of the series may seem unnecessarily cruel, it also provides some of its most enjoyable moments as Gohan chases butterflies, tangles with saber-toothed tigers and dinosaurs, and makes friends with passing robots and orphans. Indeed, despite the relative crudity of DBZ's animation, the charm of Toriyama's work, with its odd blend of childish whimsy and brutal Nietzschean displays of strength, shines through and is vital viewing if you want to see one of the mainsprings of contemporary anime.

While the simplistic animation means the show is never a feast for the eyes, the remastering done for this edition, coupled with the excellent restoration of the original Japanese musical soundtrack, is superlative and presents the series in the best format possible. With the first 39 episodes included, this first season is an essential introduction to an undoubted anime classic.


Richard Hunt

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