Anime: Dragonball Z Ultimate Uncut Special Edition: Episodes 16-18
Ah, foil graphics. I do not know through what magic they are produced. I do not know from whence they come. Perhaps it is metalsmiths practicing an ancient art handed down for generations high in the mountains of Wu Dang. Perhaps it is superintelligent machines sent from the future to elevate our society. But no matter how they are made, in the lexicon of nerdom, foil graphics are a clear mark of superiority. Foil graphics set apart the cases of the Ultimate Uncut Special Edition of Dragonball Z. Has anything bad ever come in a foil case? Of course not, that’s just crazy talk.
In addition to its foilocity, the Ultimate Uncut edition offers dialogue in English, Spanish, and Japanese and, of course, uncut footage. The English track has been redubbed especially for this edition and includes Dolby digital 5.1 sound. In addition, now and then Funimation throws in the odd bonus extra. In this case, the dvd includes a 3d computer animated short called “Mr. Stain on Junk Alley.”
I’m really more of a fan of 2d cell animation. I’m a bit leery of 3d especially after Disney shut down their cell division, placing their hour-and-a-half long toy and sound track commercials firmly as the main outlet for 3d animation. Generally, I see much less narrative and artistic experimentation in 3d computer animation. However, “Mr. Stain on Junk Alley” offers some hope of interesting animation in the 3rd dimension. Aesthetically it still looks like most other 3d animation but there are some glimmers of individuality. The story in this short is told completely without dialogue, which is refreshing, especially if you’ve been watching Naruto lately. Overall its addition beefs up the dvd a little. I’ll be looking with some interest when Funimation begins releasing the “Mr. Stain on Junk Alley” series early in 2006.
Episode 16: Plight of the Children
After escaping the desert where Piccolo left him, Gohan is shipwrecked. A group of children who were orphaned by a tsunami find and adopt him. The orphans are led by an older boy named Piegero and live by their wits and thievery. They are regularly chased by officials from an orphanage who try to take them into custody.
The entire episode focuses on the story of the orphans and Gohan’s interaction with them. This episode offers a more adult storyline than your usual Dragonball without necessarily clear divisions of morality. In the end of the orphans’ story, you are left without a clear feeling of whether the children will be better off or if the characters have made the right choices. It’s pretty rare that a character in the series actually has to make a tough decision.
As the episode ends, Gohan finally finds his way home. Strengthened by his experiences, he balks at the last moment and decides to return to his training with Piccolo. This is a major character development for Gohan’s, finally embracing his role in saving the planet from the Saiyans and most likely knowing that he might not survive.
Episode 17: Pendulum Room Peril
Gohan begins his training with Piccolo, which pretty much amounts to Piccolo beating the crap out of Gohan. There are a few inconsistencies with the time line here. In one translation Piccolo says they have six months left and in another three. If I spoke Japanese I’m sure it would make sense. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about it. It doesn’t really matter that much anyway.
Goku is still running down Snake way. Meanwhile the other fighters begin training in Kami’s pendulum room. The room allows them to go to planet Vegeta where they fight two rather poorly animated Saiyans. The cocky earth fighters soon find things going rather badly.
The fight on planet Vegeta is good and has some genuinely creepy moments. However, they keep using the same animations for the Saiyans again and again (especially their standing still pose). Dragonball Z is sometimes guilty of that cardinal animation sin of reusing frames. This episode is just ridiculous though and even if they didn’t keep using the same animations the Saiyans just aren’t that well drawn to begin with. This really brings down the rest of what could have been an excellent episode.
Episode 18: The End of Snake Way
Gohan continues training with Piccolo. If you will remember, earlier in the series Piccolo destroyed the moon and removed Gohan’s tail to prevent him transforming. Well in this episode Piccolo finds that both the moon and Gohan’s tail are back. Gohan goes berserk, ferociously attacking Piccolo and eventually turning into a giant ape. Piccolo has to try to stay alive while figuring out how to reverse this latest transformation by Gohan.
Meanwhile, Goku finally reaches the end of Snake Way. There he finds a small planet and a little house. Though small, he soon finds the planet has such gravity that he can barely stand up. After a little investigation, he meets a monkey who he assumes to be King Kai and asks him for training. You’d think after Princess Snake he’d be a little slower to assume somebody is King Kai, but then Goku is monumentally dense.
Though they’ve already done an episode on Gohan turning into a giant ape and Piccolo having to stop it, that doesn’t really detract too much from this one. Besides, we do need to establish that Gohan’s tail can grow back. Their fight is entertaining. Goku’s scenes on King Kai’s planet are also amusing.
The Ultimate Uncut Special Edition sports the best extras of any Dragonball release. With uncut footage, Dolby 5.1 sound, and three language tracks, it has pretty much everything basic a Dragonball fan could want. In addition, the occasional bonus feature like the “Mr. Stain on Junk Alley” short mean this is a series you should keep your eye on.
Though I have problems with episode 17, all these episodes are above average. None of them are the biggest episodes in the series mind you. You probably won’t feel the need to watch them hundreds of times. However, this is a strong collection of episodes.
I’ve said it before, but if you want to collect the Dragonball Z series, this is the dvd release you should be buying. I wouldn’t expect Funimation to come up with a more complete and comprehensive presentation any time soon. The added short, though not really in the vein of Dragonball, further sets this particular dvd apart. Just buy it; it has foil cases; how can you say no to the siren’s song of foil cases?
Extras: English, Spanish, and Japanese dialogue
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (English only)
Mr. Stain on Junk Alley animated short
Trailers (Galaxy Railways, Lupin the 3rd, Samurai 7, Case Closed, Dragonball GT, Dragonball Z)