After driving away the sinister Vegeta, Goku and the Z Warriors discover that another set of Dragon Balls exist on the planet of Namek. After an eventful trip through space, Bulma, Kuririn and Gohan find themselves in the middle of a planetary game of cat and mouse as a terror infinitely more dangerous than Vegeta has already gathered up many of the Namekian Dragon Balls. How can the Earthlings possibly make it through this alive?
What They Say
The battle to harness the power of the seven Dragon Balls explodes in vivid detail like never before. The Dragon Box features over 40 uncut episodes, remastered and restored frame by frame, rendering the legendary action in pristine clarity. Each episode is presented in Japanese with the complete opening and closing credits and includes the original episode previews.
Having suffered heavy losses in the battle with the Saiyans, and with Goku still recovering from his injuries, the remaining Z-Fighters must embark on a perilous journey to Planet Namek in search of the Namekian Dragon Balls. Unbeknownst to them, however, a powerful new enemy has set his sights on the same prize: the ruthless tyrant Frieza!
Contains episodes 42-83.
Dragon Box Vol. 2 features two audio tracks. The original Japanese mono track (48 kHz, 96 kbps) and the popular English dub set against the original Japanese soundtrack in a 5.1 mix (48kHz, 384kbps). The Japanese track is still great. It is clear, crisp and features the famed Japanese cast and soundtrack in all of its cheesy, tinny glory. Considering the age of the show (20+ years!), this track sounds great.
For the purpose of this review, the vast majority of my time was spent with the Japanese audio. I don't like the English script that changes some characters and their key characteristics.
The colors are vibrant and accurate with no loss in film grain or detail. All presented in its original aspect ratio of 4:3. That fact alone will make fans very happy. The result here is a 20 year old show that has never looked better than it does right here. Any flaws you see in the video at this point are in the source itself. I still couldn't be happier. Nothing has changed between this volume and the previous.
Packed in a sturdy cardboard box, this volume features nice Vegeta artwork on the cover. Inside, the six DVDs are kept within two solid "book" type cases that open up and lie flat. These house three DVDs each. These are black with an etched drawing of Shen-Long on the covers. On the spines are little bits of a bigger picture that will become complete as you collect these box sets. The disc art is very nice as each one features a different character with a clean Toriyama illustration set against a white background. This time, the disc art features Bulma and the Ginya Special Corps.
The menus remain unchanged. Simple, fast and get the job done. Each disc features a different action shot from the show in the background with an eye scouter overlay that has the different disc options in it. Basically, you're looking at the action shot through the eye scouter. Navigating the menu is very quick which is always a plus in my eyes. In a nice touch, each disc defaults to the original Japanese audio. These are not the most eye catching set of menus, but it gets the job done very nicely.
Another handsome hardcover booklet is included with this volume. Each page is made from a nice quality glossy paper and is filled with information about the series, show, characters and more. There is an expanded character relationship chart, a guide for each episode, a section of Gohan's earlier adventures stuck in the wilderness and a look at the designs of the show.
Content (Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers): While Goku recovers and waits for another set of Senzu Beans, the team of Bulma, Kuririn and Gohan have landed on the planet of Namek. This is the original home planet of Piccolo and Kami. It is also where the Dragon balls originated. Their mission is simple: Get the Dragon Balls and wish everyone who was killed by Vegeta and Nappa back to life. Doing so would also bring their Dragon Balls back as well. Upon landing, they sense a power level they never imagined existed.
The Galactic Overlord Freeza listened in on Vegeta's battle on Earth. Wishing eternal youth for himself, he set his sights on the poor planet, systematically killing any Nameks in his way. When they arrived, Freeza had already amassed the majority of the Dragon Balls for himself. Vegeta also arrives on the planet looking for the Dragon Balls. He had been working for Freeza throughout his entire life and he sees this chance to finally strike back at the diminutive alien. Right off the bat, the Z Warriors find the odds completely stacked against them. Not only can they not stand up to either Vegeta or Freeza, but even Freeza's underlings are ridiculously powerful.
What ensues is an interesting game of cat and mouse between the three parties. Due to the innate abilities of the Saiyan race, Vegeta has grown much more powerful after his battle with Goku. His plan is to wait and pick off Freeza's most powerful henchmen, Zarbon and Dedoria, when they are alone. In addition, if he can manage to get just one of the Dragon Balls, he can prevent Freeza from making any wishes. Kuririn and Gohan have the same idea as well. They also have the Dragon Radar, can sense oncoming power levels and lower their powers to stay undetected. Freeza has numbers in his army, power and scouters that help them find Namek settlements. However, his people can not sense powers on their own. Each faction makes their move to find or hide the Dragon Balls to keep them away from one another.
Of course, the Earthlings have their trump card. The pending arrival of a recovered and vastly more powerful Goku...again.
The events of all three parties overlap but the real stars of the show are Vegeta and Freeza.
Vegeta is in full on antihero mode here. He learned much from his fight with Goku on Earth and maintains his goal of becoming the strongest in the universe. So strong that he may even become the legendary "Super Saiyan." A warrior stronger and more fierce than all others. To do this, he must defeat Freeza. His methods used in this arc are savage and cunning. Even more so than Freeza's. He does not hesitate to dispose both the innocent and villainous to further his goals. He attacks Nameks just as easily as he does Freeza's underlings. When he encounters the Earthlings, he adopts an "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" attitude towards them. Finding it to his advantage to fight with them. His faults remain the same, however, as his pride still manages to get him into trouble.
Freeza (played wonderfully by Ryusei Nakao) was originally intended to be the final villain in the Dragon Ball manga. If this had taken place, he would have made a fitting end boss. He uses his agents and armies to destroy native civilizations and sells the planets off to buyers. The Saiyans were under his employ before he destroyed their planet prior to the series. He is a small, slightly effeminate alien who speaks in a polite manner. He comes off as an even handed person in his dealings, but does not hesitate to use force. Even more so than Vegeta, he is supremely confident in his power and abilities. Because of this, he has a nasty sadistic streak and relishes in watching his opponents shake in terror at his power. Personally, I get a kick when he breaks the Z Warriors down both mentally and physically. He is a good, entertaining villain who fights our heroes straight up and with a grin on his face.
There are two main fights among all of the tiny skirmishes in this set. A fight against the best group of fighters in Freeza's stable, the Ginyu Special Corps and against Freeza himself.
After Vegeta makes off with Freeza's Dragon Balls right under his nose, Freeza calls in the Ginyu force to take care of things. They are five strong fighters who excel at different aspects of fighting. While used for comedic purposes as they run around like a frat house sports team with funky poses, they are capable fighters who beat down Vegeta, Kuririn and Gohan with ease. It's not until Goku finally shows up that the scales tip back in favor of the good guys. Unfortunately, Goku is taken out of commission quickly in his fight with Ginyu. This forces him to sit out the rest of this set while he plays a confused color commentator. Seven episodes of Goku in an actual fight out of 42. Not good. On the bright side, it does lead to some of the best screen time given to a frog this side of "Sgt. Frog." It evens out I guess.
Finally, Freeza takes on the Z Warriors and he does not disappoint. He transforms into each of his three forms, slowly peeling away the layers of his power. He delights in torturing the poor Earthlings as they struggle mightily against him. This inspires many bipolar swings in mood. "Yes! We may have a chance!" "No! We're doomed!" "Yes! Maybe we will get out of this alive!" "What were we thinking? We're going to die." "Yes! We can win!" "Oh crap, we're so screwed." I do believe one can start a drinking game out of that. I wouldn't advise it though. You could end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning after about four episodes.
The Namek Arc's main problem is pacing. This is where "Dragon Ball" becomes "Drag-on Ball." The game of cat and mouse lasts a whopping 31 episodes or so. Mix in the fact that everything in this arc is really dreary and the pacing can wear on you. In an attempt to lighten things up, there are boring scenes of Goku's training inside his space ship and random moments in time with Bulma as she complains endlessly about being stuck on Namek. One would think exploring a new planet would be a joy for a scientific mind such as hers, but it is not the case. Because these asides are so boring, the pacing feels even more sluggish.
We're also introduced to another type of "deus ex machina" of the series: Saiyans coming back stronger after they're nearly killed. By my count, Vegeta does this three times while Gohan and Goku do it twice (they are not aware of the trait though). This is done simply as an attempt to keep our heroes from getting completely run over by the power of Freeza and his minions. It comes off as entirely too convenient that our heroes befriended a tiny Namek with healing abilities to help their cause. Even Freeza expresses annoyance much to my glee.
The Namek Arc introduces a fun, legitimate new villain to the series while continuing to develop the character of Vegeta along the way. While I was entertained by the planetary game of cat and mouse that led up to this Arc's signature fights, this is where the series really tends to drag in its pacing. That being said, you take the good with the bad when it comes to the original form of Dragon Ball Z. Nothing I've said here about the show's pacing is of any surprise to long time fans. Especially considering the next set will feature episodes from the longest five minutes in anime history.
This volume of the Dragon Box is just as good as the last. The picture is great, the audio is that crisp, old school mono and the booklet packed with the set is filled with more goodies.
Features Japanese 1.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, 48-page Collector's Booklet
Samsung PN50A400 50" Plasma HDTV, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver, Yamaha 5.1 Surround Sound Speakers, PlayStation 3 Slim via HDMI @720p
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