Anime: Dragonball Z: Saiyaman Saga Episodes 4-6

Old Man Kangaroo

imageIt has been seven years since the Cell Game and Gohan is off to high school. Not wanting to stand out, he tries to behave like a normal teenager, but quickly finds that he can’t resist using his powers when the citizens of Satan City are in danger. Apparently Mr. Satan (or Hercule in the first American TV release) is so famous he has a whole city named after him. In classic superhero fashion, Gohan dons a somewhat silly outfit and assumes the identity of Great Saiyaman.

The Great Saiyaman Saga is interesting in relationship to the rest of the Dragonball Z series in that it is one of the few times we see the Dragonball characters interacting with normal humans. As viewers, we tend to take for granted that their extrodinary powers are simply a part of their world. However, in the Saiyaman Saga, Gohan has to try to lead a normal life among people who would consider the ability to fly somewhat unusual.

imageNow, should note that the Saiyaman Saga release is not part of the ‘Ultimate Uncut Special Edition’ release that I have been looking at in previous reviews. It does not come in a cool, foil case, like the ‘Ultimate’ series, so there isn’t much chance for confusion.

The DVD does, however, state that it is an uncut version. It’s hard to be certain what the differences might be since Funimation hasn’t gotten anywhere near the Saiyaman Saga in the ‘Ultimate’ series. Overall, the features on this DVD look pretty similar to those of the other series. The footage looks pretty uncut, though there aren’t any big, bloody battles in these episodes to tell for sure. The original Japanese track is included with English subtitles. The only definite difference I see is the lack of a Spanish language track.

imageThe English direction is a bit heavy-handed in these episodes. Perhaps when and if they get to releasing an ‘Ultimate’ version Funimation will rewrite it a little. Dialogue is written into places where there was previously no dialogue to help explain the situation to us stupid Americans. This has the effect of characters talking when we can’t see them. Also, going with the tendency of American voice actors, especially for bit roles, most of Gohan’s teachers have funny accents. They seem a little out of place. Of course, since I don’t speak Japanese, for all I know the Japanese voice actors give their characters funny regional accents too.

Episode 4: I am Saiyaman
Having already turned Super Saiyan once to stop a crime, Gohan goes to visit Bulma and see what she can do about making him a disguise. She is able to quickly whip up a watch that allows him to instantly change from his normal clothes to a superhero costume. So I guess Bulma’s really to blame for the fact that everyone but him and Goten think his costume outfit looks stupid. And Bulma always had such good fashion sense. After all, she was the one who dressed Vegeta up in a pink shirt.

imageGohan soon finds out there is another crime stopper in his class when Videl, who just happens to be Mr. Satan’s daughter, gets called up to help save a bus full of elderly hostages. Most police departments might be embarrassed about turning to a high school girl whenever things got tough. Videl deals with the hijackers quite handily though in her exuberance she accidently knocks out the driver and sends the bus over a cliff. Luckily Gohan shows up just in time to save the day.

I enjoy this episode and the Saiyaman saga in general for its’ offbeat manner of dealing with the classic superhero scenario. Though such things have rarely come up when the DBZ warriors saved the planet before, Gohan faces such basic problems as figuring out where the bad guys actually are. Plus he’s about the only superhero I know (excluding the Tick) where everyone respects his power but at the same time thinks he looks and acts like a total idiot.

Episode 5: Gohan’s First Date
A girl catches Gohan on the roof as he changes out of his Great Saiyaman costume and proceeds to demand that he go on a date with her. The scene on the rooftop is probably the most glaring example of the heavy handedness of the American voice director. In the Japanese version, the two simply stare at each other as the camera cuts back and forth in awkward silence. In the American version they decide to put in dialogue but, since the characters aren’t mouthing words, it’s always the offscreen one that is speaking. The whole thing is rather jarring and totally unnecessary since the original silence conveyed a lot more.

imageAs this is his first date ever, Gohan keeps bungling things, but the girl is both quick to anger and quick to forgive. Things change when they see a skyscraper that has caught fire. Gohan sneaks away to help while Videl shows up trying to rescue people from the roof. Once again, Great Saiyaman pulls Videl’s hash out of the fire (pretty much literally). Afterwards, Videl catches Gohan sneaking away from the scene and begins to suspect that he is actually Geat Saiyaman.

This episode focuses mainly on comedy and doesn’t have much action. The building fire is a decently tense scene and Gohan showing up in true superhero fashion (even if it is done a little tongue and cheek) is pretty cool. Overall, it is an entertaining episode.

Episode 6: Rescue Videl
Videl is now on an all-out hunt to discover Great Saiyaman’s true identity. We start the episode with a nice chase when she sees Gohan flying to school in the morning in his Saiyaman costume. She heads after him in her jet copter careening through city streets and up into the clouds. Gohan eventually gives her the slip.

As the episode continues, a gang shows up and takes the mayor hostage. They demand that Mr. Satan come and fight their leader (who looks suspiciously like Napa in a funny hat). As Mr. Satan hides in his attic, Videl heads into action, challenging the leader herself. Gohan shows up to help and takes out the rest of the gang as Videl and the leader go mano-a-mano. The fight isn’t all that super powered. However, Gohan does a really cool thing with an RPG that is definitely worth seeing.

In the end Videl is grateful but still asserts she will find out his real identity. Ah young love, the chases, the fights, the lifting of heavy objects. I never realized having a secret identity was such a good way to meet women.

Technical/Extras: 8
Though not part of the ‘Ultimate Uncut Special Edition’ series the Great Saiyaman Saga release is still pretty strong in this category. It still has both English and Japanese voice tracks and proclaims uncut footage. What it lacks are a Spanish dialogue track, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (just stereo), Dragonball trivia, and the really cool foil cases the other series comes in.

Entertainment: 9
All the episodes on this DVD are fun and enjoyable. There aren’t any epic battles and nobody almost destroyes the universe, or even the planet for that matter. That just doesn’t happen in the Great Saiyaman saga. However, there are also no weak episodes here as we sit waiting for everything to get set for the big fight to happen. This trio of episodes is consistant and satisfying.

Overall: 9

For all its total sweetness, Dragonball Z can get a bit formulaic. The Great Saiyaman saga breaks from the standard formula and takes the story in a new direction. For those who cannot handle any deviation from the norm, this saga will probably make your brain hurt. I think most fans will find this saga a welcome change. A bit of respite, if you will, before the universe gets back to being imperiled.

Extras: Japanese and English dialogue
Uncut footage
Stereo
Previews: (Next Episode Preview, Dragonball Z Movie, WildC.A.T.S., Lupin the 3rd, Dragonball Z (Saiyaman Saga), Z Store)

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