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Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1 (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 27, 2011 by  



For those who have been wanting to see “Dragon Ball Z” in its entirety on Blu-ray, “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” is what you are looking for!  Restored for HD, the series looks much better than any of its DVD counterparts.   “Dragon Ball Z” is the classic ultimate action anime series of all-time and a series worth watching and worth owning on Blu-ray!

Image courtesy of © Bird Studio/Shuiesha/Toei Animation. 2009 Toei Animation. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1

DURATION: (Episodes 1-17) 425 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (4×3), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Toei Animation/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 8, 2011

Originally created by Akira Toriyama

Directed by Daisuke Nishio

Series Composition: Takao Koyama

Character Design by Yuji Ikeda

Music by Shunsuke Kikuchi

Screenplay: Aya Matsui, Hiroshi Toda, Jun Maekawa, Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Keiji Terui, Masashi Kubota, Reiko Yoshida, Satoru Akahori, Sumio Uetaka, Takao Koyama, Toshiki Inoue, Yoshiyuki Suga

Episode director: Atsutoshi Umezawa, Daisuke Nishio, Hidehiko Kadoda, Hiroki Shibata, Johei Matsuura, Junichi Fujise, Kazuhisa Takenouchi, Kazuhito Kikuchi, Masahiro Hosoda, Minoru Okazaki, Mitsuo Hashimoto, Osamu Kasai, Shigeyasu Yamauchi, Takahiro Imamura, Tatsuya Orime, Yoshihiro Ueda

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masako Nozawa/Zoe Slusar as Son Goku

Masako Nozawa/Hyle Herbert as Son Gohan

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Vegeta

Hiromi Tsuru/Tiffany Volmer as Bulma

Naoko Watanabe/Cynthia Cranz as Chichi

Mayumi Tanaka/Sonny Strait as Kuririn

Ryo Horikawa/Christopher R. Sabat as Piccolo

Hirotaka Suzuoki – Tinshinhan

Tohru Furuya – Yamucha

Daisuke Gouri/Don Brown as Mr. Satan (Hercule)

Michael Dobson as Supreme Kai

 

The Saiyans are coming!

 

The last survivors of a cruel, warrior race, these ruthless villains have carved a path of destruction across the galaxy, an 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 Earths greatest hero, must rise to meet the approaching threat. As he prepares for the fight of his life, Goku embarks on n 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 this path, the most powerful opponent he has ever faced awaits: the evil Saiyan Prince Vegeta!

 

For the first time in any corner of the galaxy, Dragon Ball Z is available in HD on Bluray! This collection presents the first seventeen episodes of DBZ in unparalleled picture quality. The classic 4:3 format is captured in true 1080p HD with the original, director-approved color scheme!

 

For the past few years, I have been raving about FUNimation Entertainment’s releases of “Dragon Ball Z” from the original orange box collections to the recent Dragon Box Z DVD box set releases (Japanese version of the series uncut).  And afterward, raved about the “Dragon Ball Z Kai” series on Blu-ray.

Having grown up with “Dragon Ball Z” and during my teenage years visiting the local Japanese video rental store and always in heavy anticipation of what was being shown on television in Japan that week and waiting the two weeks it would arrive in the US and watching it in Japanese, despite not knowing what was being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously.

The main protagonist Son Goku was Japan’s equivalent to America’s Superman.  I’m sure the juxtaposition of both Superman and Dragonball can be seen as a baby from other planet comes to Earth, the baby growing up to becoming a boy with tremendous strength and abilities and raised by a loving person who instilled good in his heart.

Granted, Goku’s original mission when landing on Earth was to destroy humanity but learning kindness towards people, nature and animals, he became a hero that protected all that he loved from any evil.  But most importantly, Goku was a character that was far from perfect.  He was a character that was always learning about people, enjoying life but most of all, setting a goal to becoming stronger and developing his skills in order to protect the people and the planet that he loves.

And now this beloved, action anime series receives its latest release from FUNimation Entertainment, restored specifically for Blu-ray known as “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1”.

“Dragon Ball Z” begins five years after the finale on “Dragon Ball”, after Goku defeated King Piccolo.  “Dragon Ball Z” begins with Goku introducing his friends to his young son Gohan.  But while things seem peaceful, unfortunately things are going to go from peaceful to downright terrible when Goku’s brother from the planet Saiyan, Raditz, goes to check and see if Goku has destroyed the planet Earth.   But Goku, who was raised by the peaceful Gohan when he was a baby grew up compassionate towards the living life on Earth and swore to protect it.

Needless, to say Raditz is disappointed and decides to kidnap Gohan and gives Goku an ultimatum, he must slaughter 100 of Earth’s people and has a day to consider joining him in destroying Earth.  Or else, Goku must fight against him.

With Raditz being the most powerful nemesis by far, Goku and his former nemesis Piccolo decide to work together in order to beat Raditz and rescue Gohan.

The main characters during this part of the series are:

Goku – Now an adult, married to Chichi and has a son named Gohan.  Constantly training in order to become stronger.  Still naive and hungry as he was when he was younger.

Gohan – Goku’s young four year old son who may have some unknown power like his father.  Due to his mother Chichi’s strictness, he has never been trained to fight.  Just study.

Piccolo – Still a rival to Goku but during these dire circumstances, the two form an alliance.   Also, becomes Gohan’s guardian and trainer.

Chichi – Goku’s wife, Gohan’s mother who is very strict.  She does not want Gohan to be like his father.

Bulma – A woman still developing products at her father’s company, Capsule Corp. and uses her intelligence to help the Z Warriors under dire circumstances.

Yamcha  – Ex-boyfriend of Bulma who once joined Goku and Bulma during their adventures to find the Dragon Ball.

Master Roshi – A trained martial artists who was friends with Goku’s adopted grandfather, Gohan.  Despite his old age, he can still fight and also a big pervert.

Kami – One of the Kings who trains Goku on how to fight with gravity ten times greater than Earth at Kaio’s world.

Tien and Chiaotzu – Former rivals of Goku for the 23rd Martial Arts Tournament and now his good friends.

The main enemy:

Raditz – Goku’s older brother who is so upset that Goku has not destroyed the planet Earth and now has kidnapped Goku’s son Gohan.

“Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” features the first 17 episodes of the series.  Here is a brief synopsis of each episode:

DISC 1

  • EPISODE 1 – Five years after Goku’s victory at the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament, Goku plans to take Gohan to meet his friends for the very first time.  But Gohan is lost.  Where is he?
  • EPISODE 2 – Goku plans to take Gohan to meet his friends for the very first time.
  • EPISODE 3 – Raditz kidnaps Gohan, which leads to a surprising team-up with Goku and his former nemesis Piccolo.
  • EPISODE 4 – Goku and Piccolo vs. Raditz.
  • EPISODE 5 – Raditz warns that two more Saiyans: Napa and Vegeta will arrive on planet Earth and they have one year to train.  A Z Warrior is killed.
  • EPISODE 6 – Kami takes Goku to the Other World for training.
  • EPISODE 7 – Piccolo leaves Gohan alone in the wilderness for six months in order for him to grow up and train himself.
  • EPISODE 8 – Krillin and friends try to find the Dragon Balls.  Piccolo learns about Gohan’s transformation if he sees a full moon.
  • EPISODE 9 – Gohan wakes up from his transformation.

DISC 2

  • EPISODE 10 – Krillin, Bulma and Master Roshi go to Yamcha for his help.
  • EPISODE 11 – Goku goes on a journey to Snake Way.
  • EPISODE 12 – Gohan continues to train, meanwhile Krillin and Bulma look for Tien and Chiaotzu.
  • EPISODE 13 – Goku accidentally falls from Snake Way to Hell.
  • EPISODE 14 – Will Goku have to repeat this adventure after falling from Snake Way?
  • EPISODE 15 – Piccolo trains himself by splitting himself in two.
  • EPISODE 16 – Gohan washes up in shore after training and meets a few orphans.
  • EPISODE 17 – Piccolo trains Gohan in martial arts.

VIDEO:

As mentioned earlier, this is not the same “Dragon Ball Z” featured in the orange DVD box sets or the “Dragon Box Z” box sets that were just enhanced for Blu-ray.  This 1080p High Definition version of the series is a new digital transfer by FUNimation Entertainment and ANDTRANSFER for restoration.

In the past, I would notice the scratches and white speckles.  In fact, years before the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, when FUNimation Entertainment released the first two “Dragon Ball Z” movies on blu-ray, it was littered with dust and white speckles and I felt that if DBZ ever made it to Blu-ray, it may suffer from the same quality.

In fact, I have dreamed that they would restore the series but at 291 episodes, I figured that it would be too expensive for them to pursue it, even if “Dragon Ball Z” was FUNimation Entertainment’s flagship series.  But sure enough, they did do it in 2011 and they took the original Japanese 16mm film frame and made it to 1080p.  The FUNimation Entertainment team cleaned up the episodes frame by frame (note: you do see a few white speckles but only a very few times) and the picture quality is much more vibrant, clearer and you do see the grain a bit more.  Colors and line art is more pronounced as with the artistic background.

So, FUNimation Entertainment did something which I thought was never going to happen and literally give American fans the best looking version of the “Dragon Ball Z” series to date.  Yes, “Dragon Ball Z Kai” looks great but it’s not the entire series.  So, I’m pretty ecstatic about this release and quite happy that FUNimation Entertainment decided to go through with the restoration.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) with the original Japanese music, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (broadcast version) and Dolby TrueHD Monaural for the Japanese track with Japanese music.

Because the English is mixed and utilizes more channels, there is a dramatic difference in sound, although for those with a modern receiver and have a solid 5.1 or 7.2 setup, can easily switch their receiver to stereo on all channels for the Japanese soundtrack for a more immersive soundscape.

But here is the lowdown on the lossless audio.  Sound effects are now heavily utilized on the surround channels.  For example, the first episode with Goku and his son as they are near a river.  You can hear the water splashing and flowing through the surround channels.  During battle, you can hear each blast panning from left surround channel, through the front channels and then right surround channel to full effect.    When a person is screaming, the surround channels are used as well.  I didn’t notice major activity via LFE but felt the series was more front, center and surround channel driven.

The Japanese soundtrack is probably the best that we’re ever going to hear it.  Remember that this is an older series made back in 1989.  While “Dragon Ball Z Kai”, the Japanese brought in voice actors to re-record the soundtrack, this is not Kai, this is the original series.  And as much as I want to say the hardcore fans of the Japanese version would be happy, fortunately for these hardcore fans, FUNimation Entertainment released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD box sets.

With that being said, I grew up watching the Japanese audio and typically, I prefer to watch anime in Japanese BUT with “Dragon Ball Z”, I have always felt that the English dub was among the best out there and the voices just sound right for the characters.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” features the following special features:

  • Dragon Ball Z: Film to Blu-ray – (7:48) A featurette on the restoration process of “Dragon Ball Z” by ANDTRANSFER and FUNimation Entertainment.
  • Textless Opening Song
  • Textless Closing Song

All that went through my mind when I was watching “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” was how awesome an experience it was to see this series finally in HD and how fantastic it looked and how incredible the lossless audio track was. I’m still impressed after watching part one and how this TV series looks on Blu-ray.

As a person who has followed the series for over 20 years, watching “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” was fun, especially to see it so cool in HD!  I didn’t think it would happen because there were so many episodes in the series, but FUNimation Entertainment did it and I’m quite happy.

I was captivated by the original “Dragon Ball” series (which featured Goku as a child) and later with “Dragon Ball Z” featuring Goku as an adult.  The series would bring back the characters that were seen on the original “Dragon Ball” series but this time around, the series took on more of a serious tone as the enemies became more deadly and Goku and his friends were put into grave situations that they have never had to face before.  “Dragon Ball Z” would feature wonderful character development, intense action sequences and most of all, knowing how to extend the series to tease fans and keep people in high anticipation of what would be happening next.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see this DBZ fandom grow in the US from the very early ’90s and seeing “Dragon Ball Z” viewing parties at the early anime conventions and then seeing how the series exploded into American pop culture once the series began airing on television in the US and with its DVD releases.   It’s hard to believe that this series I have followed for years and began in 1989 has celebrated its 20th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

But the celebration was fantastic news for fans as this time, “Dragon Ball Z” would be remastered for HD TV and would be called “Dragon Ball Z Kai” which would include a brand new opening and ending sequence, commercial cut scenes, new frames produced digitally, re-recording of the voice talent, new music and most importantly, focusing on the main story arcs and reducing the series 291 episodes to a total of 97 episodes.

With that being said, while I enjoyed watching “Dragon Ball Z Kai” as it looks even better in HD, if you are a big fan of the series, you know that so much was cut out.  Especially since Kai only covered part of the series to the Cell Saga and leaving the Buu saga in the dust.

There are so many episodes that people would miss out on but the problem is that those orange box DVD sets which contained 30+ episodes… well, either they are hard to find or many people have moved on to Blu-ray and wouldn’t think about going back to DVD.

But let’s assume that you have purchased the orange DVD box sets of “Dragon Ball Z” which were remastered for 16:9, gave the option of listening to English with Japanese music, it’s original English presentation or watching it in Japanese.  Needless to say, some fans complained because it was 16:9 and not the original presentation.  So, to appease the hardcore fans, FUNimation Entertainment released the “Dragon Box Z” DVD Box Sets.

But now with “Dragon Ball Z Kai” coming to a close on Blu-ray and many fans wondering “Will the complete ‘Dragon Ball Z’ series ever come out on Blu-ray?”.  Well, FUNimation Entertainment has answered that question with a big “YES!” by its announcement to release “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1″ for October.

Now, some of you with those orange DVD Box Sets wonder…”is it worth purchasing all over again?”.  Well, yes and no.   First, let me explain why I say “yes”.  Yes, in the fact that FUNimation Entertainment redid the visuals to make it in its original 4:3, similar to major cinema on Blu-ray and DVD, ran it through the Spirit Datacine in order to make the series ready for HD and went as far as to clean up all the white speckles and do what they can to make it presentable in HD.  In other words, this is not the same release that fans received with the orange DVD box set.  This release is specifically for fans who want “Dragon Ball Z” on Blu-ray.  Cleaned up and given the best presentation and literally looking better than its previous DVD counterparts.

But I also mentioned “No”.  Unless you are a hardcore fan, bare in mind that this release is also unlike the orange DVD Box Sets that came with 30+ episodes and took about nine volumes.  The first Blu-ray for the “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” release will only contain the first 17-episodes and if this will be the average, you can expect 17 or 18 volumes of “Dragon Ball Z” on Blu-ray.  But by saying that, restoration for films or any type of media is very expensive, so it’s not surprising to me that for a long series such as “Dragon Ball Z”, there are only 17-episodes featured.

Once again, I never expected this series to receive restoration because it is 291-episodes long and that would be expensive.  But FUNimation Entertainment did it and all I can say is that this is the best looking version of the anime series to date.

The original orange DVD box sets were fantastic and many fans should be fine with that.  That is unless you are now focusing on anime on Blu-ray, then yes, “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” and its update on visuals make it a series worth purchasing.

Overall, “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” is an impressive release from FUNimation Entertainment.  Sure, hardcore fans will complain that the series is not like the manga (and I agree with you) and I know hardcore fans will complain that it’s not the same as the Japanese TV airing (which FUNimation Entertainment went on to release the ‘Dragon Box Z’ box sets) and those who have forked money over before will complain of having to rebuy it again (but this is for Blu-ray not DVD).  But that’s the nature of media and you have to expect upgrading.  But as mentioned before, those original orange “Dragon Ball Z” DVD Box sets were fantastic and if you own them already, you should be fine with those releases.  Unless you want it in HD, then yes, you will have to upgrade.

And if you are a DBZ fan and own the DVD’s but are also watching your anime on Blu, this is too awesome of an anime series to pass up and is definitely worth the upgrade.

So, for those who want to experience the complete “Dragon Ball Z” series looking its best via HD, now you have your chance.  If you don’t want to watch the 291 episodes, then “Dragon Ball Z Kai” should be fine, albeit your missing out on other arcs, especially the Buu arc.

In conclusion, I’ll have to say that “Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1” is highly recommended!

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