The final two main movies of the franchise from back in the day bring out more plain simple action silliness.
What They Say
The universe is ripped apart at the seams after an industrial disaster in Other World unleashes the monstrous Janemba - and the beast grows stronger with every moment. The turmoil reaches across dimensions, and the battle rages on two fronts.
Goku and Vegeta unite in the fight for Other World’s survival, while Goten and Trunks confront a ghoulish army of the undead on Earth. With strength and fury, the warriors reach incredible heights of power - but it isn't enough. A dangerous plan of attack is devised, and only an unprecedented level of teamwork will deliver victory.
Wrath of the Dragon
Two strangers have appeared on Earth. One of them invites devastation. The other has the power to prevent it. Harsh sacrifices must be made to untangle the web of deception that threatens to blind the forces of good to an approaching evil.
Dark magic has released an ancient monster - Hirudegarn - that consumes both flesh and soul. As it rampages on Earth, its power threatens to multiply to unthinkable levels. Such wickedness can only be defeated by Tapion, a man who has already given so much - and must now offer his very life to save the universe.
The audio presentation of this release is rather good overall and is the kind of release that does its best to cater to all the different fans that have come to the show over the years. The original Japanese language is essentially preserved here in its mono form using a 640kbps encode. I’m not quite sure any higher would be useful but it does sound much better than any of the previous releases I’ve heard on DVD for it which typically ran about 192kbps. Not unlike the previous Blu-ray releases of other Dragon Ball Z movies, it’s the English language side that makes out the best as we get two Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes with its variable bit rate. The two mixes are rather different as one contains the original Japanese music (sans vocals for the most part) while the other is the one done originally with the US created music. Depending on which you’re a fan of, you’ll be happy with this release regardless since you can sample both in high definition audio. The 5.1 mixes are significantly better than the DVD ones as they have a lot more impact overall and a greater presence. At the same time though, they aren’t really stand out pieces to begin with so just because it’s in TrueHD doesn’t mean it’ll blow your doors off. It is a solid presentation all around for what was originally a pair of mono movies released back in the early nineties.
Originally in theaters back in 1995, the transfer for these two films are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are authored using the AVC codec. The experience for these two specials is really the same as we had on the earlier movie releases in the franchise in that the material is really limited by what it was. These two features have much better animation overall with a higher cel count and something about them comes across as a lot more vivid and alive. The fluidity of the animation feels higher as well and with a cleaner look these are some of the best looking releases of the franchise.
Using standard Blu-ray packaging, the cover art for this release mirrors that of the DVD steelbook and makes me again wish the Blu-ray edition got the same thing. The cover artwork is straightforward as it has Goku in his Super Saiyan mode trying to look all badass set against the too-yellow image of Shen-Long spreading himself out a fair bit as he roars a little. Below him is both the franchise logo and that of the two movies done in a similar fashion to the earlier movie releases. The consistency is definitely a plus in re-establishing these movies as part of a proper collection as opposed to a mish mash of things. The back cover is similar in its design as it has Fusion form along the left from the show with a black background. There’s a bit more color here as there are a few shots from the show and a good bit of very small text to provide the summaries of the two features included. The discs technical features are clearly listed in an easy to read grid while the remainder of the information is kept to the bottom. Hopefully over time a proper technical grid will be developed that will keep everything in the same place for quick reference. The insert that is included with this release is simple in that it has a fold-out piece that shows the original cover artwork while the back of it talks about the transfer of the film. We do get some reverse side artwork that features a close-up of the villain from Wrath of the Dragon that’s spread out across both panels in full color of the keepcase as well.
The menus that FUNimation used in their first release was pretty weak but they’ve got things working much better here. The main menu has clips from the features playing along with the logo overlaid on top of it. The pop-up menu and the main menu navigation are one and the same so it has a good consistency there though they are fairly minimal in design. There isn’t a lot you can do theme-wise with this so the sleek approach works pretty well. Individual feature selection is available here and when you go into playing a particular feature, you can choose options there. Submenus load quickly and the trailers section is decently done. The only suggestion to mention here is to include the resolution next to the title for when high definition trailers start to be included as they will be the ones that are looked at.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This was one of the movies that I had missed the first time around but ended up having a similar feeling in a way to what I thought of Wrath of the Dragon. At this point in time of experience with the Dragon Ball Z franchise, it’s very easy to look at these movies as one off pieces that have little bearing on just about anything. If you go into it with no expectations beyond seeing some fun fights and probably a few familiar characters, then you’re going to make out pretty well with it.
Fusion Reborn obviously plays heavily to the idea of more fusion material going on. The premise of the movie is very simple as we have Goku participating in an Other World Tournament with the four corners all betting and gambling with each other over the outcome, obvious with Kaio really sure that Goku will win. At the same time, King Yama is doing his best to process souls and that means business is really booming as they’re going to heaven or hell quickly. The downside is that in hell, the big soul purification container is getting close to full and they only have one single stupid teenager watching it. And he’s more interested in rocking out to his music player than anything else.
Before you know it, it’s overflowed and the young lad is morphed into a massive beast of evil called Janemba. Goku is brought in to try and take him down since he’s created a situation whereby the entirety of everything is seemingly at stake since souls can’t be processed and King Yama is trapped inside his residence. While Goku and eventually Vegeta work to deal with this bad guy who isn’t all that much of a character but rather a big fleshy mound of sillines, Earth itself has a sizable challenge. Because heaven and hell is closed right now, the dead are coming back and that means we get to see just about every character coming back to exact some revenge. Including a Hitler with lots of tanks rolling all over the cities. It’s cute in its own way but it’s entirely empty since the older Gohan along with Videl are able to deal with them pretty effectively. It’s another instance where Freeza is brought back only to be dispatched within a couple of minutes, which just lessens his impact in the series itself.
While I really dislike the way they minimalize past villains, I do have to admit that there’s a certain kind of bouncy fun to all of this. The show is really split into two main areas and some “other stuff” that’s easily ignored. The serious side is where you have Goku and Vegeta coming together to defeat Janemba and that’s played out serious and with the usual kind of gruff emotion we get from these two guys. It’s well animated and has a good streamlined look that we saw in the TV series. The flip side is with Goku, Goten and Trunks where they fight on Earth and it has a more comedy centered angle with the tanks and Hitler and all. What makes it stand out more is that they use really heavy borders around the characters and the other animated aspects which makes it even more cartoony. It fits in with the story and I have to admit it made me laugh to see it applied like this.
Wrath of the Dragon:
My journey with Dragon Ball Z continues to just be plain odd and I wish that I'd been able to enjoy it in a more linear fashion. Having come to truly enjoy the original series manga and then getting into the Z manga series as well, it radically changed my opinion of the property over the last couple of years and has allowed me to enjoy the TV series more. The movies haven't quite made their way up the rung in my eyes though but with this final movie, Wrath of the Dragon, I think I've really found a winner.
The problem that I've always had with most, if not all, of the Dragon Ball Z movies is their runtime. They're so short to begin with and when you allot at least 75% of it to the fight scenes, there isn't going to be all that much plot to really bring into it. This is unfortunate since by this time they've got such a varied and vibrant cast of characters with plenty of quirks and the freedom of not being tied to the original manga that they could have expanded on things quite a lot. Wrath of the Dragon plays this up somewhat in terms of relationships by having Trunks take on an interesting role as well as tying it to something from within the TV series that gives those episodes a bit more meaning.
Life in general for the cast seems to have been pretty calm as of late but that changes when a curious old man arrives on the scene and plays up being in danger to gain the attention of the two Great Saiyamen. Through them, he's able to get in touch with the wider cast and talk about his need to find Shen-long as within a music box that he has is trapped the great hero Tapion. Mysteriously locked away over a thousand years ago, he's been seeking a way to return him to life as Earth is about to face a new danger that only he can handle as it's something he's done in the past. With the help of everyone, they're able to get the Balls and have Shen-long open the case, returning the mohawked warrior back to life.
Unfortunately, Tapion isn't all that pleased to be freed and is quite antisocial, no matter how much Trunks tries to befriend him and treat him as something of an older brother. As it turns out, the evil that's afoot is actually contained within Tapion and he's doing his best to restrain it. Slowly but surely we learn more of what's really going on and what happened on the planet Conuts that has caused this to all transpire on Earth now. Most everyone of the main cast makes an appearance throughout it, though several of them are without voices; you see Kuririn helping out in finding the Dragon Balls but saying nothing, as well as Vegeta at the end of a battle sitting nearby but without offering his opinion, something that feels out of place. Trunks takes up a lot of the time for this as he's treating Tapion like a brother but Gohan and Videl get a number of good scenes as well as the Great Saiyamen, something I can't get enough of.
The animation for both movies is quite good and you can see it very early on that they’re not like a lot of the others. There's an opening car chase sequence and just watching how the numerous people on the sidewalks and loitering around are animated that it's more detailed and simply better animated than a lot in the past. There's a great deal of destruction caused throughout the movie as well and it's given a lot of detail in how buildings collapse and crumble. Character designs manage to be very consistent as well and instead of streamlining their costumes, such as Goku's usual orange piece, there's a lot of folds and other details applied to everything. While it's not on anything like a full feature length anime film level, it's a good couple of notches above what a number of past movies have looked like and the TV series itself.
The Dragon Ball Z movie franchise effectively closed out around this time with these two movies, the last ones that I believe were considered “numbered” for it. Interestingly, I found them the most charming of them all in a way because they were quite clear about what they wanted to be but also because I thought they were rather well animated in comparison to previous movies and the TV series. These movies are mostly definitely empty overall and there are things I don’t like about them in relation to what they do with the core series, but for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I like them. Maybe it’s the fact that I know that it’s the end of the movie series from this time period? Regardless, this Blu-ray edition closes out the numbered movies well and they make out the best of all of them I think.
Japanese 1.0 Language, English 5.1 TrueHD Language, English Subtitles
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.