Dragon Ball Z Saga 7: Back From the Dead (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2006



What They Say
Gohan's training with Piccolo continues to intensify, but it's Goku who faces the biggest challenge. Goku begins his training, but it is unlike anything he's ever experienced before. King Kai then tells the story of the Saiyan race. Inspired, Goku resumes his training like never before.

There's only one day left before the Saiyans arrive! The problem is - it's going to take Goku two days to return on Snake Way!

Contains episodes 19-21:
Defying Gravity
Goku's Ancestors
Counting Down

The Review!
The Saiyan's are close to arriving and the countdown is on to finish out the new hardcore training for everyone.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The covers for this series continue to outshine just about every other cover used in the franchise and this one is no exception with a great shot of Shen Long in the foreground as he winds around and some action pose shots in the background to flesh it out a bit. The foil in particular really makes it all work better than it would otherwise. The back cover plays up a similar feel with Goku 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.

Menu:
The menu layout is reminiscent of the cover layout as it uses the same shot of Vegeta 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.

Extras:
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)
With this installment of episodes, still three unfortunately, the various fighters in the different training areas get close to concluding the workouts they've been subjecting themselves to as the Saiyan's are close to arriving. While Goku manages to get the real timeline for when they're arriving, everyone else is off by a month and end up wigging out a bit as things are about to happen earlier than expected.

There's a good bit of fun to be had with the main arc that flows there here with Goku going through his training with Kaio-sama. Of course, we get to see it in an amusing manner right from the start when Goku gets confused and spends a bit of time "training" under his pet gorilla, Bubbles. Kaio's small world, as Goku finds out, is an interesting place to train as the place has a far greater gravity than Earth's which makes everything he does very difficult. Kaio won't even train him though until they engage in a series of word puns (or bad jokes in the dub). Admittedly, the puns used in the Japanese version are bad as well but it's an area where having listened to the Japanese for so many years and taken some classes even I'm able to get them without the subtitles.

Goku's training, which has about five months to be done in before the Saiyan's arrive now, isn't something that happens as quickly as he'd like. A lot of what Kaio has him do for the first several weeks is just the simple act of trying to catch Bubbles. Since the gravity is so high, it forces some serious body work on him. Once that's accomplished, Goku finds the next round of training even more problematic as he gets to chase Gregory around, a flying grasshopper type who's quick and agile and very hard to hit with the mallet Kaio gives Goku. It looks like silly training but it's all basic bodywork that gets Goku into some serious shape, especially since he's already used to weight training. It's all worthwhile for the preparation that it gives him for the final training that Kaio is able to give him however.

On the Earth side, there is more time spent with Piccolo and Gohan as their training progresses and Piccolo becomes more satisfied with understanding what kind of creature Gohan actually is. With his special powers based on that of the moon it severely limits Gohan from being able to really be a major powerhouse but since it's not something he can control or even remembers doing that's not necessarily a bad thing. The relationship between the two is still one of the more interesting aspects of the show as it's reminiscent of the brief material in the Princess Bride where we learn the origins of the Pirate as he tells the cabin boy that he's done a good job but to mind himself since he'll likely be killed the next day. Piccolo likes what he sees from Gohan but he continues to have to motivate him in creative ways because of how Gohan has been raised for so long in a soft environment.

Kaio is an interesting character to get to know as the episodes go on and we move a bit further away from his more comical edge, though he does keep the jokes and bad puns flowing at times. What's most useful about him is that through his knowledge we're able to see the history of the Saiyan's on their homeworld and how they came about to be the powerful race of warriors that they are. It's an interesting piece since it gives what's left of the race a history that works well and provides them with the right kind of motivation to do what they're doing. Seeing them move from the more primitive types that were kept to a small section of their homeworld to a race that became so feared definitely deserves more time than it gets here but getting this tidbit now definitely helps set up the mood for the impending fights.

In Summary:
Similar to past volumes there is a lot of fun to be had here if you can get into the shows rhythm and especially if you've got an enjoyment about the characters from the original series. But it does suffer from the same problem as the original releases of this did as well as the bulk of the Z franchise and that's the ridiculously small episode counts. The original series has a far better flow and overall enjoyment level largely because you're able to go through blocks of roughly eighteen episodes a volume. That's the previous six volumes in one release. If it had been done that way, going through this series would be a lot more fun since it has that feeling of just as it gets good and you get into it, it's over. Regardless, the small bits are fun and enjoyable and the show does progress well overall but it's not without its problems. This installment gets close to getting everything ready for the big fight with some solid training material and good relationship bits throughout.

Features
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: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 62
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Dragon Ball Z