Funimation // 1991 // 1025 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // June 2nd, 2010
The Ultimate for any Dragon Ball Z Collector!
Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Box Three is the third in Funimation's most excellent box set of authentic and restored Japanese edition of the seminal anime series. Talk about a long-awaited fan dream come true.
On the alien planet of Namek, Vegeta is getting the tar beaten out of him by Frieza, the powerful intergalactic warlord. With Goku recovering, things look grim for the Z-fighters. Will Goku be able to heal in time to save his friends -- and the planet Namek -- from annihilation?
Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Box Three contains episodes eighty-five through one hundred twenty-six of the hit anime series, encompassing the end of the Frieza Saga, and part of the Garlic Junior, Trunks, and Android Sagas.
Dragon Box Three finishes off the Frieza Saga, which for my money is one of the finest battles the show ever produced. Agonizingly long, with endless buildups, buildups and more buildups, the final cataclysmic brawl has Goku finally donning the bleached blonde hairdo and going all Super Saiyan, arguably the defining moment in all of Dragon Ball Z, and destroying an entire planet in the process. From here on, things get more debatable. Call me old-fashioned, but once you've destroyed a @#$%ing planet, there's really nowhere else you can go from a dramatic narrative standpoint. If any saga set the tone for the entire Dragon Ball Z run, it was this one. All the villains and epic battles that came after kind of felt, well, redundant; as if trying to capture the same excitement and epic scope of the Frieza showdown, but not quite pulling it off. Cell gets close -- but that's another box in the future.
Once the Frieza Saga is over...well, things get rocky for a bit. The Garlic Junior Saga doesn't really carry the same gravitas as a planet-destroying tyrant responsible for the destruction of the Saiyan race. As for the Trunks Saga, the introduction of the mysterious Sayian from the future opens up some interesting possibilities for the Capsule Corp. gang. Dragon Ball Z is an exercise in chronology, if nothing else -- the longer you sit there and grunt, the stronger you get. Consequently, the longer someone like Goku is around, the stronger he also gets, and the more kids he has, the stronger they get. So how do you up the ante? Bring in Saiyans from the future! They're bound to be ten times stronger, which Trunks illustrates quickly by hilariously dispatching a reformed Frieza, offering a nice lead-in into the Android Saga. This is a very good saga, but alas, one that will have to wait until Dragon Box Four. We barely meet Artificial Human No. 19 and No. 20 before we run out of discs.
I'm partial to Frieza as a villain, and King Cold is pretty fun, but boy do I dislike the Garlic Junior Saga. Its inclusion in this seminal box set isn't up for negotiation, but the unfortunate side effect of its presence here is that Dragon Box Three isn't quite as bodacious as its predecessors. In addition, the over-tendency from the point forward in the narrative to lean on the Dragon Balls for repeated reincarnations and deux ex machina to sort out every time Goku bites the big one gets...well, annoying. As nifty as the Frieza fight is, having a quick round of wishing basically undo the damage caused kind of renders the whole thing moot. Resurrecting fallen heroes over long episodic arcs is one thing, but there's a heck of a lot of undoing going on in a very short span of time here. It's messy.
From a technical perspective...well, odds are, you know exactly how good this set is from already owning Dragon Box One and Dragon Box Two, so no sense rehashing. In terms of video, a fair amount of grain is evident, but this is a two-decade-old animation, and, frankly, one would expect as much. Colors are pleasing and natural, without being oversaturated, and, as advertised, there isn't a scratch to be found. The full-frame presentation gives this show the most faithful and accurate presentation available in North America.
Audio choices include the original Japanese mono presentation and a 5.1 English dub treatment, with the original Japanese music. Tinny and distorted, the mono track exhibits harsh trebles and weak bass, but has been cleaned up enough to still remain quite viable and enjoyable. The English dub makes respectable use of its five channels, spreading out sound effects and smoothing out the harsh treble qualities of the mono track, but you can only tweak the original source material so much. Like the previous installments, this edition preserves the original Japanese score, abandoning entirely the English music many fans grew up on.
There are no on-disc extras; fans get a handsome forty-eight-page hardcover booklet, a translated copy of the original material included in the Japanese release crammed full of trivia, sketches, and tidbits. Some of the content is redundant from previous installments, which is unfortunate, but this is a minor nitpick at best.
As exceptional as these box sets are -- and they really are -- it's worth noting again that fans will have spent well over a hundred dollars to get to this point, Dragon Box Three, and no one's even a Super Saiyan yet. This is a long, expensive, masochistic journey, and it's nowhere near over. We've still got a long ways to go, kids.
The good news is that the set seems to be going on sale more often. Last time I checked Amazon, you could pick up one of these bad boys for twenty-five bucks, which is none too shabby -- especially considering this is going to be double, if not triple-dips for most hardcore fans.
What more needs to be said? You know what to do. Fans are going to buy it, especially ones who already bought the first two in the series. If you're in, you're in. You know you're not stopping now.
Expensive, but not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1025 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated