The third iteration of the franchise, Dragon Ball GT takes Goku back to his roots by reducing him to the height of a child as he has to save the world once again.
What They Say:
After enduring trials that would have crushed any other soul, Goku is now faced with the most important journey of his life. The Dragon Balls have been scattered to the ends of creation! The universe is dense with danger and the Saiyan hero must plunge head first into the peril, for if the seven magic relics of Shenron are not gathered within a year s time, Earth will meet with final catastrophe.
Alongside his friends, Pan and Trunks, Goku will struggle against the most formidable evils yet, be they savage beast with the power to crumble mountains, false gods intent on sacrificing those who believe, or cruel manipulators of science who seek to strip the good of all power. The countdown to oblivion has begun... And before the clock strikes eternal midnight, the most incredible menace to ever threaten existence will rise!
What We Say:
FUNimation has a pretty standard set of mixes here in the audio department that won’t really surprise anyone. They’ve included the two English languages mixes they have, one with the US based music that was created years ago and one with the original Japanese music, done as a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps and one does as a stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. For fans of the original Japanese language, we do get something of the short end of the stick with a measly mono channel mix done at 96kbps which pretty much underwhelms, particularly in comparison to everything else on the disc. Each has their merits and each has their poor points to them, but Dragon Ball has such a varied fan following that it’s hard to please everyone. On the plus side, we at least have three choices to it and they’re all serviceable to one extent or another. We predominantly listened to the Japanese mix and had no problems with it throughout regular playback.
Originally airing in late 1996 and into 1997, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This release has thirty-four episodes spread across five discs, which means most discs run just over or around two hours a piece, though the first ones run a bit more. Dragon Ball GT was never a great looking show to begin with and it pretty much had the same kind of production design as Dragon Ball Z so it does maintain the same kind of look and feel. That means we do have some fairly noisy and grainy backgrounds at times and it doesn’t have a really polished look, but that does add to some of its appeal as it is a traditionally animated show. It isn’t a bad presentation, but it is one that is representative of the source materials from what I can see. Line noise shows up in various panning sequences and there’s a few hints of cross coloration here and there. These aren’t deal breakers to me though I do wonder if it’d look a lot better with a higher bitrate to play with beyond DVD. On the very positive side, FUNimation did not crop and make this show widescreen, which is why I’ll support it.
Dragon Ball GT mirrors the Dragon Ball Z release in its design except that it uses a pea soup green color instead of the bright orange. I know why they used orange but I can’t figure out the green yet. The front cover has the logo down the side with the big Season One tag at the bottom while the right sie features a full shot of Goku in his adult form looking rather angry. Amusingly, this look of his only shows up in the final few frames of the last episode of this set. But it probably sells better than cute or naked little Goku. The back of the slipcover has more of the green where we get a good rundown of the premise of this season and a nice selection of shots along the left as it talks about the number of episodes and discs. Add in a little character artwork and a clean if small basic technical grid and you can get the basics here easily enough.
Within the slipcover it replicates the front cover artwork for the top piece and opens up to a digipak that has space for all five discs in a two/two/single format. The very left section has a booklet holder in which we get a really nice booklet that has a rundown of the heroes and villains of this season and a breakdown of all thirty four episodes. Behind the discs and the booklet is a four panel shot of Shen Long, or at least part of him. The back side of the slipcover, which has copious amounts of this green, has the symbol that has been used since the beginning as it was found on Goku’s back.
The menus for this release are the same across all five volumes as it uses the pea soup green from the packaging along with the same headshot of Goku as its center piece. The menus are done in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and they fill out the screen nicely, though the green is a bit garish, especially with the bit of purple we do see from Goku’s outfit. The layout is straightforward with navigation along the bottom which includes the marathon play option. Submenus load quickly and the language menu details the options quite nicely, even if it doesn’t observe our players presets.
The only extras are included on the fifth volume and it’s simply the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which are certainly appreciated.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the popularity of Dragon Ball and the massive popularity of Dragon Ball Z, it was little surprise that they’d try going back to the well again, which resulted in Dragon Ball GT. Unlike the first two however, it’s not based on a manga property and it goes in a slightly different direction. When Dragon Ball Z was first out in the US on TV, I ignored it from what I saw of it and pretty much fell into the group that derided it with only seeing a little of it. But years later, I tried reading the manga and got completely caught up in both it and the original Dragon Ball series. I really liked the first series more with the younger Goku and his adventures as it was all introduced as fresh and new.
Dragon Ball GT tries to recapture some of that in a way almost from the start. So much time has occurred during the course of the previous two series that it’s a big sprawling epic now with lots of characters who have grown and aged. So much so that Goku is a grandfather now, which is certainly an odd thing to think of considering how he looks. And you have to wonder if that sort of alienates some fans in thinking of him that way. They actually bring up his status a lot in this series as it has him working with his granddaughter, Pan, throughout a lot of it. What sets off events is that goofy old villain Pilaf has made his way to where the Dragon Balls are kept and he manages to get a wish but ends up botching it. He botches it so badly that it affects Goku and turns him into what he looked like at the start of the first Dragon Ball series. Goku doesn’t mind (Chichi certainly will!) but he can’t really stay this way because if they don’t get the Dragon Balls back, the Earth will be destroyed.
As it turns out, the Dragon Balls used by Pilaf were of a stronger order from a long time ago and if they aren’t brought back to where they originated from when used, the planet will be destroyed. Goku and the gang have had enough experience in hunting these things so it shouldn’t be a problem, but unlike before the Dragon Balls have been sent off into space to other planets and elsewhere. So with a year left to go, Goku uses his friendships to get a spaceship from the Capsule Corporation and heads out there. He initially plans to go with Trunks and Goten, but events don’t play nice and Pan finds herself in the ship when it blasts off. Goku and Trunks aren’t happy about this overall, but Pan wants to increase her abilities and help out as well as seeing more of the universe. Of course, she’ll prove useful along the way and it’s a great bonding experience for everyone.
Once the ship makes it into space, the first half of the season is pretty fun if predictable. Goku, Trunks and Pan make their way to different planets which have all sorts of local problems going on that are fun or dangerous or both. They get caught up in different things as they try to find the Dragon Balls or cope with issues related to the ship, which of course was damaged on take-off so it has problems of its own. Some are corny, like the creature that is taking brides from the locals because it threatens them with causing eruptions, while others are amusing and intriguing as there is a world where everything is rented and people are becoming poorer by the minute. There’s some dangerous ones such as the cult of Lood which has its sights on the Dragon Balls for a power source as well as the Don Kia piece see at the beginning. It all comes together fairly well, predictable, but enough so that it’s fun but without the excessive power-up battles we saw in Dragon Ball Z.
The second half is where the show started to lose me for a couple of reasons. As expected, there is a higher power at work out in the galaxy that Goku and gang have to deal with. At first, it seems like it’s going to be Doctor Mu, but that’s all a charade to introduce the really powerful character. Baby. Yes, a character named Baby. Toriyama’s universe has a lot of really badly named characters but this one is just horrible. Even worse, Baby looks like a baby for quite a few episodes before he starts to infect others, lay eggs in them and gain control of them. There’s a good bit of history brought into play with Baby’s homeworld and why he has such a grudge against Saiyan’s, but the whole character is just so shoddily presented that you can’t take him seriously. What’s worse is that once Baby makes it to Earth, the series just feels like the pacing went out the window as it shifts to the story there. After focusing so much on a trio of characters and their adventures, to go back to Earth and have everyone taken over by Baby – so easily at that – it feels like it negated a lot of the big threats from the previous season. But that’s been an issue with this franchise for awhile, especially in the Z saga.
Dragon Ball GT does keep consistent with its animation style in comparison to past seasons of the series, though of course it does feel a little better in some ways. It’s not as grainy as a lot of Dragon Ball Z was and this release gives it a bit more room to breathe as well as using some more current authoring techniques – particularly in not having a bitrate cap on it that made no sense. But stylistically, you could drop this show anywhere within the previous two series and it wouldn’t stand out all that much in comparison. The characters look the same as we’ve seen them and it does feel like a very mild and realistic evolution of the designs over time for those that have grown. But man, thank god that Vegeta shaved that moustache. He looked like he stepped out of some bad 70’s porn with that thing.
When I first watched Dragon Ball GT years ago – out of order and only a part of it – it just didn’t appeal to me. When I learned to love the franchise overall, I still felt a sense of dread in coming back to it because it wasn’t part of what Toriyama created in the manga. I felt it would be more like the various movies that don’t make much impact and are little more than additional fight scenes taking place in quasi-alternate universes. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the first half of the set with Goku and the gang off on their trip and having fun. The second half wasn’t quite as fun as the Baby character irks me, but so did a lot of the villains in the Dragon Ball Z series as well. While this isn’t a huge show for me, it’s better than I expected and I’m glad it got a mostly proper season set release to complement the big orange boxes. Now I just want a set of big red boxes with the original Dragon Ball show.
Japanese 1.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.