Dragon Ball Z Saga 4: Gohan's Trials (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, August 12, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What They Say
Vegeta and Nappa head towards Earth but make a quick stop on planet Arlia and become prisoners of the tyrant king who rules the planet. The Arlians realize that the two Saiyans are more for then they can handle as Vegeta and Nappa leave their terrible mark on the planet. Goku speeds down Snake Way for a meeting with King Kai, and Gohan learns valuable lessons from his survival training.

The Review!
Gohan continues to grow on his own while the Saiyan's take a pit stop to add some new real estate to their sell list.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Having done the show previously in its (albeit edited) English language release, we've been wanting to see it in its original language for a long time now. The shows mono mix is pretty much what we expected though and it's fairly lackluster and misses a lot of the oomph that's become so common from so many more current fighting shows. Even though it lacks that, it's not something that's really a problem if you've seen any of the show before since you're already used to how it feels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and it's basically on par of previous Japanese language releases of the show.

Originally airing in 1989, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show definitely feels its age in a lot of ways with the way it has its grain and color palette as well as the animation itself. The transfer for these episodes definitely look better than the previous release of the series but the source materials for the franchise has never been particularly strong to begin with and always easy to see where they made their shortcuts in animation. With just three episodes on the disc the quality of the authoring is quite good but there's only so much they can get out of the materials. Colors look good if a bit bland and washed out in a few places, cross coloration is non-existent and the only real noticeable problem is some occasional aliasing.

Using foil paper for the cover, FUNimation has done a nicely stylized cover where it's got the core image of Gohan with a mad look to his face as he's wielding his sword, giving him something of a ready for primetime look. The background is made up of various characters from the episodes here and with the mixture of blacks against the fiery colors with the character designs it looks appropriately dark and powerful. The foil in particular really makes it all work better than it would otherwise. The back cover plays up a similar feel with Tenshihan and shots from the show. The discs extras and basic technical features are relatively easy to find though as usual things are mostly mixed down at the bottom with the production information. As is normal at this point in time, no insert is included with this release.

The menu layout is reminiscent of the cover layout as it uses the same shot of Gohan but angles it a bit and covers it up with lots of heavy speed lines, flames and a piece from the show itself set to some of the darker music to the show that's rather atmospheric. The layout is nicely done and it looks good in how it conveys the feel of the show. The navigation is pretty straightforward and things are done the same as most other FUNimation releases with languages selecting the right angle to be played, which is why our players' language presets never work right here. Access times are nice and fast and this is a nicely in-theme menu.

The only included extra is the trivia game section which I haven't paid any real attention to.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Moving three episodes deeper into the series, Dragonball Z hits up more material that was originally excised in the previous release and helps to flesh out the time that Gohan spent alone as well as a few other areas. These episodes are fairly fun and continue the show on well enough but it's over far too fast and doesn't feel like you got your value out of it.

With the volume being called "Gohan's Trials", it's obvious that he continues to be the focus of things and it's a nicely done arc over the three episodes. Gohan's adapted well in the time since first being tossed out there to fend for himself in the wilderness and he's mastered a few things such as food gathering. It's a cute scene of him taking down a huge fish and hauling it around while he picks up the various berries and fruits that he can scavenge along the way. We also see that he's picked up a few things from his father that he never really thought about such as self medical care. This is done in a cute flashback and it reinforces just how much Gohan has changed during all of this.

One of the continuing gags for the show right now is that mean old dinosaur that keeps going after Gohan. This creeps up again after Gohan helps another dinosaur with a wound and the two find themselves being attacked. It's a fun little gag since it's another way to show how Gohan has grown with his powers. Watching him go from running in fear of the dinosaur to now basically mocking him as he leads him around a little chase is cute but the best is when he slices off yet another part of his tale to cook up for that nights dinner. It's a childish gag overall but that's what a lot of this series really is right now anyway so it works out nicely.

There are a few other areas covered though. Yamucha is brought back into play as Kuririn picks him up at a baseball game where he's the ace home run hitter. Revealing what's going on with the Saiyans, he's not immediately keen on joining up, especially since it means dealing with Bulma again, but the thought of being able to train with Kami-sama is just too much to pass up. Bulma and Kuririn are making their rounds to pick up as many old friends of theirs from the tournament days to help out in the future fight with the Saiyans. Getting familiar with them again is nicely done here as there aren't flashbacks to the past but simply showing where they've gone to since the original series.

A nice touch, though essentially completely filler, is that instead of continuing to tease us with the idea of the Saiyan's coming, they have them stop off along the way at some planet that was in their path so they can add one more to their conquered list. This lets us see their powers in action as well as the way they are as characters. The downside is that they're attacking a fairly downtrodden world where the creatures that live there are basically intelligent grasshoppers of sorts and they're all very stock characters. The two Saiyan's show off their powers well enough to tease but there's nothing really major to it. It does break up the monotony of their trip a bit though.

In Summary:
The show continues to be fun since there's some new material mixed into it that didn't make it into the original run so it's not like watching it all over again is the same experience, particularly since it's in Japanese this time. The downside continues to be the small runtimes as the show really feels like its over quicker than it should be. Seeing the show as it should have been seen after all these years has definitely raised my appreciation of it, particularly after reading the manga for the original series and getting to know the characters better.

Japanese 1.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,Spanish 1.0 Language,English Subtitles,Trivia Game

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Dragon Ball Z