The Earth gets kicked around a few more times in this latest double feature set in high definition from FUNimation.
What They Say
The Tree of Might
The Earth's destruction lies dormant within a single, solitary seed. Brought forth from the darkest reaches of space, the Tree of Might has been sown with the vilest of intentions. Once it takes root, nothing else can survive. A plant designed to drain the energy of a planet, it steals the very essence of life only to blossom in death and desolation.
Unable to fell this mighty threat, Goku and the Z Warriors must instead confront the harbinger of the evil, a Saiyan bearing an uncanny resemblance to our hero: Turles. This new enemy kidnaps Gohan and sets the son against the father, a tragedy which only delays the inevitable fight. As Goku finally faces off against his deplorable double, Turles turns to the thieving tree...
This is the story of hope untapped.
Once again called upon to save their planet from disaster, Goku and Krillin race to head off a giant asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The threat deflected, their home is saved...Or is it?
A greater menace looms in the shadows; a being so evil that he was banished from his old world and now seeks to create a new one of his own. Lord Slug, prepared to dominate by freezing all opposition, seeks out the seven Dragon Balls. Fully restored to youth and more powerful than ever, the Z Warriors soon prove no match for this ancient enemy, a Namekian with abilities from lore and legend. As Goku falls, another must step up before all is lost.
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 1990 and 1991 respectively, 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 features never looked great to begin with but they look good here considering the age and source materials. I’m not looking for clean pristine presentations of films that have grain in them, so it doesn’t bother me so grain doesn’t make me cry. Both of these movies have some moderately strong areas of grain that really has it looking very much alive. Unlike the DVD presentations of it though, it doesn’t result in noticeable blocking. The colors in general look much brighter and more solid than ever before and overall it feels more fluid. These films are not ones that I have any real expectations for and it reminds me of how they were when we first got them on DVD. It was great to have something new on DVD and to get a bilingual Dragon Ball Z flick, but it wasn’t going to win anyone over.
Using standard Blu-ray packaging, the cover art for this release mirrors that of the DVD steelbook and makes me wish the Blu-ray edition got the same thing. The cover artwork is alright as it has Goku, shirtless, as he’s just entering the first stages of his Super Saiyan mode. 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 Goku in another pose 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 scene of the bad guys from Lord Slug 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 <i>will</I> be the ones that are looked at.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
FUNimation has continued their process of cleaning up and taking care of the various movies and specials by putting out this latest double feature collection. These two features, Tree of Might and Lord Slug, were originally released in the US back in 1998 and 2001 respectively. With their TV series remaster in full swing and several of the specials and movies getting lovely steelcase double disc edition releases, the latest one also gets a Blu-ray release, sans steelcase unfortunately. And like most Dragon Ball Z movies, the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance and there’s tons of destruction to be had.
After revisiting Dead Zone, Bardock and the History of Trunks features in the last few months, I was actually quite looking for to this release. I hadn’t seen either of these features before unlike the others so it was fresh new territory for me. Like most of these features however, these two movies are more of the fairly standard “zero impact” stories that affect the Dragon Ball Z Universe overall. They fit in neatly within certain parts of the overall framework of the franchise, such as in Lord Slug where talk of Goku being capable of becoming a Super Saiyan is brought up. But overall, nothing that’s done within these movies affects anything else as by the end of each of them it’s like nothing is truly different. Even as the Earth gets massively destroyed in the process of both features.
The first feature, Tree of Might, is a serviceable hour long film that lets Goku and the others have a good bit of fun against some members from Freeza’s side who have come across the Earth. The small group, led by Saiyan Tullece, carry on board with them the Shinseiju tree which will burrow its roots into the planet and suck all of its life force dry. They’re able to get this accomplished rather quickly, coming at a time when Gohan and the others had just gathered the Dragon Balls in order to save a particular forest from a fiery destruction. Now they’re forced to face Tullece head on along with his henchmen in order to stop the tree from sucking everything out. Of course, it affects their Ki levels as well so it’s quite the struggle as everything is against them as they battle it out. Of course, being a “zero impact” movie, you know that they’ll save the day in the end and the planet will recover within minutes to its former beauty. There are some good fights to be had in here though but it couples that with Gohan’s weak new friend in a small dragon named Haimeya.
The second feature, Lord Slug, is a fair bit more interesting as it revolves around a group of aliens on a small planetoid that’s hurtling towards the Earth. They’re not intent on smashing into it, though there is some rather fun mass panic early on that reminds us that there really are people on this planet beyond the core cast of characters. As it turns out, what this group of people want is to take Earth and transform it into their latest planetary vehicle. Led by the mighty Lord Slugg from the planet Slugg, they’re intent on using their trivially easy science to make Earth into a vehicle of their own so they can scoot around the galaxy. Of course, nobody here wants to let them do that so there’s a big fight that ensues.
What makes this one a little more interesting is that the big bad, Lord Slugg, is actually a Namekian. One of those who had been sent off young before that planet met its fate, he ended up on Slugg and built up his reputation and abilities there before dominating completely. Coming across Piccolo here on Earth provides a nice tie to all of that but they decide to take it in an unusual direction to me. While Lord Slugg is obviously a powerful Namekian in his own right, they tie it to the growing changes in Goku as he becomes a Super Saiyan. Can you say Super Namekian? I knew you could.
For better or for worse, one of the things about the various specials and features made within the franchise is that they all do look pretty much the same. The animation we get here is on part with what we generally see in the TV series and in the other specials. Sometimes there are more fluid moments than others as they try to take it up a notch, but by and large everything is really on track to carry on with what’s familiar. This feature looks much like the others and that’s not exactly a bad thing since it keeps it consistent and you’re not seeing wild changes in character designs or the style from which the series carries itself.
Within the Dragon Ball Z universe, I suspect that these two features are at best called mediocre. They’re not bad exactly, but they don’t have anything that really sets them apart because of their “zero impact” status. Unlike something like History of Trunks through which we gain a greater understanding of the core storyline of the series at one point, what we get here are side stories that reset at the end with nothing truly changed. They’re certainly easy to jump into and to see lots of characters battling it out with epic stakes, but at the same time it does still ring relatively hollow. FUNimation’s work on these releases continues to be solid though and they’re branding and producing them in the same manner which gives it much better – and needed – consistency than the original DVD releases ever did.
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language (Original Music) Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language (US Music) 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.