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  Daizenshuu EX - General Info - Feature  

[ Previous Feature: April Fool's Day 2004... DragonBall AF Lives! ]

The "Arrival" of the "Ultimate Uncut Editions"...
DVD Showdown!

So the so-called "Ultimate Uncut Editions" are finally upon us. Before we starting talking about them, we should probably explain to some people what they are. Let's start at the very beginning.

After lackluster performance with the original DragonBall TV series, FUNimation moved on to DragonBall Z in 1996. Still known for nothing more than Cyboars at the time, FUNimation was in no position to handle their own home distribution, and so sub-contracted these rights out to Geneon, then still named Pioneer Home Entertainment. Pioneer would release FUNimation's English dub of DragonBall Z on home video and DVD, in exchange for sole distribution rights to these episodes.

Needless to say, FUNimation eventually split ways with Saban (their original syndication television distributor) and even Pioneer (their original home format distributor), and wound up with piles of cash and a huge property on their hands. They would move on to in-house distribution, and even fully uncut, bilingual DVDs featuring the original Japanese audio track and a translation by well-known and well-versed fan Steven J. Simmons.

But what about the first two seasons? Approximately 67 episodes were hacked down to 53 episodes, were edited-only, and featured an English dub by the original Ocean Studios cast (FUNimation had since moved on to exclusively using their own, local, voice talent for the show).

On August 31st of 2003, this sub-license to Pioneer expired. Long before that, though, FUNimation had already announced plans to go back and re-dub the episodes, and release fully bilingual DVDs to match the rest of the series.

Here we are, a year and a half later, and we're finally seeing these darn episodes fully uncut on DVD in our country for the first time! Huzzah!

Or is it really something to celebrate about...?

It really depends upon what kind of fan you are. If you're a, dare I use the lame phrase, "old-school" fan, you are quite happy to throw in the DVD and finally see some Steve translations on an uncut Japanese audio track. If you're a newer dub fan, you're probably enjoying hearing Schemmel, Sabat, and even Justin Cook (Raditz) voicing the characters instead of the original Ocean cast. Or maybe you're someone like me who fell in love solely with the original Japanese version, yet still holds an incredible place in their heart for the original Ocean Group dub... you heard that first, and those will forever be "the" English voices you attribute with the show.

Let's talk about a few aspects of the discs, shall we?


This review is based around the disc-only release, so I know nothing about the box that accompanies the "Starter Set."

It seems almost irrelevant so many years later, but we're finally getting some really neat looking packaging with these DVDs. Extremely heavy on the reds and blacks, FUNimation also hypes up the "uncut"-ness of the episodes by finally featuring a bit of Japanese on the cover. Granted, it's only DragonBall Z in katakana... but after those trailers and the incoherent Japanese gibberish, at least they got the darn name of the series correct ^_~.

Interestingly enough, totally going against fan speculation, the episodes are clearly labeled as 1, 2, and 3. As this will completely throw off FUNimation's own episode numbering, it's quite confusing. Not that we're complaining, since it's correct, and all...

In general, the packaging is very slick, if only slightly too dark for my tastes. I dig it. It doesn't scan very well, thanks to the reflective colors/paper/etc. used, but that only makes it look nicer in person. The insert is a fold-out showcasing FUNimation's releases up through May.


Probably the best part of (at least) the first disc released, there's a slew of extras to check out! There's some... er... "interesting" footage of what you perceive to be the typical otaku talking about the show, why they love it...

(It's VERY typical "weird fans" who stutter while talking, and a great look to the outside world of what anime conventions look like... but hey, they're having fun! And if they enjoy the show, that's all that matters!)

Positioned among these random fans are some comments from yet another random person (just someone from the trash anime magazine Anime Insider; seriously, couldn't they get someone even slightly more authoritative? :P), but also with Sean Schemmel (Goku) and Chris Sabat (Vegeta). They certainly have their own insight into the characters, their personas, their motivations, etc. You may or may not agree with what they say, but if nothing else, it's fantastic to see two actors so in love with the characters they portray to some amount of fandom.

The "Nimbus Cloud" feature pops up an alternate subtitle track that gives you an indication (via Kinto'un popping up in the upper-right of the screen) when and what specific footage was cut from the original 1996 dub. Massive admiration for the poor fool who had to sit there and count frames to time that darn cloud...! Very neat. The only think that irked me about this feature is that since it's done via a subtitle track, you can't watch with this with other subtitles at the same time. Rats.

Shocking more than anything else is probably the presence of the Spanish audio track! Only previously dangled in front of us on their DBZ movie 5 release, FUNimation has included the complete Spanish dub for the episodes, along with the two English tracks (new dub in both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround) and the original Japanese track (presented in its original mono).

And hey, there's some trivia you can play. But the answers are dub-only when shown. Heh.


Needless to say, if you're a fan of the original Japanese version, you have nothing to worry about. Steve's in full-force, and we still love him!

If you're watching the Spanish dub, you'll be presented with translations from the Japanese audio track; there are no subtitles exclusive to the Spanish dub. As this dub is largely faithful, this isn't much of a problem.

Then there's the new redub. Truthfully, I only spot-checked it. I'm not interested in an English dub of the show, let alone a redub of something I have fond memories of from nearly a decade ago. What to expect? More of the same. In fact, it's almost exactly the same damn script from the original dub back in 1996. Some of the things are slightly different (such as, thankfully, Gohan saying he's "Five and a half!" now being "Four and a half!'... which brings in tons of inconsistencies with how old FUNimation says he is throughout the course of the series, but that's a whole different matter)... but yeah, it's essentially the same script. Lines from the first broadcast such as Kame-Sen'nin's "I smell death in the air!" return, yet a similar line (Piccolo's, "You could get killed, for one thing...") remain missing. Something that struck me as FUNimation saying "Remember our video games, and buy more!" was Raditz's "I call this one keep your eye on the birdie!" being changed to "I call this one Double Sunday!" Neither is even remotely close to the original script, so it simply induced some eye-rolling in this viewer.

(For those unaware, "Double Sunday" is the name of an attack given to Raditz exclusively in the "Budokai" series of video games. It has no name or mention in the original Japanese script for this episode.)

Long story short, if you're a fan of either the original Japanese or Spanish dub, you're in for some great viewing. If you're a hardcore fan of FUNimation's dub work, I really can't say what you'll expect... I'm not particularly part of your group! Like I said, I simply spot-checked it, so you're on your own.

And if you're going to ask about the music, I don't know. Didn't listen. Again, not a FUNimation-dub fan, here! Shunsuke Kikuchi forever!


Again, I really can't say much with regards to the English audio track; I'm not a fan of it. There's a stereo mix and a 5.1 mix that I'm sure sounds fantastic if that's your thing.

The first thing I noticed while watching the disc (in the Japanese language) was how fantastic it sounded. Seriously. It's not a stereo mix of the show, but it's certainly been cleaned up a good deal, more-so than what appears on the other discs that comprise the rest of the series.

And the Spanish track sounds even better. It, too, is not a stereo mix of the show, but it's a step above the Japanese track and sounds quite amazing. Definitely check it out.

And then comes the big topic of discussion...


We were promised digitally remastered video footage. What did we get?

A really awful-looking first episode, and some pretty decent-looking episodes 2 and 3.

We're not entirely sure what happened with the first episode of the series. It looks embarrassing. It's not particularly full of macroblocking, and it's not traditional grain... it just looks like complete garbage. The original release of Arrival looked very similar, so we can only assume that FUNimation's masters for this episode simply cannot be cleaned that well.

But we can't completely forget about it, because we know that the episode doesn't look like that. It can't. There must be a better looking version somewhere. Whether or not FUNimation has access to this version is a completely separate matter, and it is totally understood if what they purchased a decade ago is still all that they're welcome to.

For the sake of comparison, let's do a three-way between Arrival (1999 FUNimation/Pioneer DVD release), Saiyan Showdown (2005 FUNimation DVD release), and the Japanese "Dragon Box" (2003 Toei DVD release).

(click for a full 720x480 lossless PNG version; approximately 500 KB)

As you can see, both FUNimation releases are ever-so-slightly zoomed in. The colors are significantly saturated, and in the case of this episode, far too dark. The amount of grain is quite unbelievable, and while it's still somewhat present in the Japanese release, it's nowhere near what the domestic releases contain.

Granted, the first episode is an extremely poor comparison to make and unfair to all sides; FUNimation's master is clearly terrible, while Toei went to great lengths to clean up their footage from the original masters they actually and personally own.

So let's take a look at a few other examples.

This particular shot is from the third episode. Once again, FUNimation's colors are saturated, but not to the point where it's ridiculous. What's obnoxious is the pure darkness of FUNimation's release; it's less obvious on a television screen (properly calibrating helps, too)... but it's still there. The grain is slightly more significant on the FUNimation release, but certainly leagues better than what was previously released on Arrival.

Let's talk overall "bitrates," though. Without going into too much technical detail, when DVDs are encoded properly, you won't see all that digital breakup. As DBZ is a high-energy show with lots of motion, it's very hard to compress (as are most action shows). If there is not enough bitrate given to the high motion, you're going to see what looks like "blocks" (called "macroblocking") appear; it's the MPEG-2 format unable to keep up with the footage. The first-generation domestic anime DVDs (such as the original FUNimation/Pioneer release) were notorious for having embarrassingly low bitrates, and it showed in releases such as DBZ.

So how do the three discs stack up against each other? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words. And since we've got three pictures below, that's a whole lot of words.

The small box in the lower-left you see is actually a full-size capture of that part of the screen, the rest of which has been scaled down to fit within this website's size constraints.

The scene this comes from is when Raditz first rushes forward to elbow both Goku and Piccolo in the backs from behind them. It is a very high-motion scene, and this particular frame is as Raditz is in the process of rushing forward, and momentarily disappears from the screen all together.

Needless to say, Arrival had a lot of problems with this scene. Look at those blocks; you could actually count them, if you wanted to! The new FUNimation release keeps up pretty well; the grain is still there, and the saturation is somewhat obvious, but overall it's a decent effort. The winner (of course) is the "Dragon Box" release, with its original colors and tolerable amount of grain and breakup.

So what's our opinion? It's no doubt a step up from the original Arrival release, and while it's not really near the "Dragon Box" release, it's quite an acceptable above-average FUNimation product. I have some minor issues with the slight zooming and dark colors, and I never have a problem with killing the extras for a higher bitrate on the actual episode content, but really... it's a decent looking release. Not perfect, but pretty decent.


Before I say what *** I *** think of the release, let's talk for a bit about what FUNimation thinks of the release. It may be obvious, but they really think it's great, and they want you to buy it. But why? Because they have to. They're releasing a set of episodes that, in all reality, have been available for a decade now. No matter what you think of the original dub and its censoring, the story remains intact enough for you to have watched the rest of the series with no problem. They're essentially up to the challenge of convincing their fans they need to purchase the same episodes for a second time.

So they put a little love into it.

There's something for every type of fan, because they know there's a bunch of us they need to convince. If you're a fan of the dub, you've got your stereo and 5.1 mixes to enjoy. If you're a curious fan, you've got your extras to enjoy. If you're a fan of the original, you've got your original Japanese version with Steve's translations to enjoy. And no matter what type of fan you are, you've got the bonus additions of nice audio on all versions, including an unexpected inclusion of the Spanish dub (which shows you what a great dub is supposed to be ^_~).

So it's clear that FUNimation had a ball with these episodes, even if the effort didn't go into... ya' know... an actual new script for the dub.

So what do I think, now?

I'm moderately impressed. Not a gigantic amount, but enough to enjoy the release. I'm floored by the inclusion of the Spanish track, and I'm going to have a ball watching it for the remainder of this "Ultimate Uncut" release. The extras really aren't up my alley, but if you're into that kind of thing, that's great. Of course, it will be interesting to see how they handle including extras for another sixty-odd episodes; they can't keep having Sabat and Schemmel talk about their characters forever! The video quality is a step up from what we've previously seen, and while it still doesn't touch the "Dragon Box," I can live with that. If I really wanted to drop the money for the "Dragon Box" sets and watch the episodes in raw Japanese with fantastic visual quality (which, by all means, I would live a happy life doing)... I would.

But, ya' know, sometimes I simply want to sit back and watch these episodes fully uncut in Japanese with Steve's translations, and just enjoy the show with a smile.

A decade later, I can finally rest.

Come discuss this feature and its respective content in our specific forum thread!
We'd love to know what you think.