Dragon Ball Z Movies: Dead Zone/World's Strongest - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 34.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z Movies: Dead Zone/World's Strongest

By Chris Beveridge     June 09, 2008
Release Date: May 27, 2008

Dragon Ball Z Movies: Dead Zone/World's Strongest
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
The Dead Zone
Gohan has been kidnapped! To make matters worse, the evil Garlic Jr. is gathering the Dragonballs to wish for immortality. Only then will Garlic Jr. be able to take over the Earth in order to gain revenge for the death of his father.

Goku rushes to save Gohan, but arrives at the fortress just as Garlic Jr. summons the Eternal Dragon! Krillin and Piccolo try to help Goku, but their combined powers are no match for Garlic Jr., who creates a "Dead Zone" to suck the heroes into oblivion! Suddenly, Goku begins to show his hidden power, but will it be enough?

The World's Strongest
The sinister Dr. Wheelo has been freed from his icy tomb! With his dedicated and devious assistant Dr. Kochin, these mad scientists are plotting to unleash their fearsome biotechnology and take over the world! Of course there's one hitch in the plan... Dr. Wheelo exists only as a brain in a jar!

The evil doctor must seek out a body on Earth that is as strong as his mind is amazing! Dr. Kochin and his android henchmen kidnap Piccolo and Master Roshi to determine who is the most powerful fighter on Earth!

Goku, Gohan and Krillin rush into action to save their friends, but Dr. Wheelo's minions are more than a match for them in battle. It looks grim when Piccolo falls under the disembodied villain's control, and Wheelo's next target for mental domination? Goku! Will our heroes keep their wits about them long enough to be victorious or will they lose their minds?

The Review!
The first two movies receive their high definition upgrade and land on Blu-ray with mixed results.

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. 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 1989 and 1990.

Originally in theaters back in 1989 and 1990 respectively, the transfer for these two films are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are authored using the AVC codec. I went into these films with very little expectations, especially after the previous Dragon Ball Z release, and what we got here was pretty much what I expected. These films never looked great to begin with but they look good here considering the age and source materials. The main offense to it, at least through our setup, is the amount of grain. I'm not looking for clean pristine presentations of films that have grain in them, so it doesn't bother me (I abhor the smoothing that some Hollywood companies are doing with their films to make them look "more HD") so grain doesn't make me cry. Both of these movies have some significantly 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. I can appreciate this easily, but it's a hard sell to people in general as they'll only see the flaws. Having seen the beautiful work FUNimation did on Shinobi, it's easy to look at this and just see it as almost all source related issues.

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 a decent looking shot of Goku in a serious pose set against a black background. Below him is both the franchise logo and that of the two movies done in a similar fashion to the Broly release. 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. No insert is included with this release but we do get some reverse side artwork of Shen-long spread out across both panels in full color.

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, including accessing the commentary on the Dead Zone movie. 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.

The only extra included with this release is the US commentary track that was produced for the first movie.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming back into these features after not seeing them for several years is certainly interesting. Even more so since I've read the manga for both series during that time and have come to really enjoy both franchise far more than I would have guessed when I first saw these back in 1998 or so. While I haven't become a raging fanboy of the series, my appreciation has certainly grown and that's led me to wanting to view these features and others over again in this new light. Getting back to the beginning features in high definition no less really does make it all the more interesting to do.

Unfortunately, the first two features are pretty weak offerings in general, though the Dead Zone does hold a bit more appeal this time around. The story for the forty minute feature revolves around Garlic Jr. making a play to take control of the world when he acquires the seven Dragon Balls and makes his wish for immortality from Shen-long. Originally, this didn't really have all that much impact since it was just a pint-sized guy with airs of self importance around him ordering around three fairly powerful fighters to achieve his goal and avenge his daddy. Having now seen/read more about the origins of Garlic Jr. and all that is associated with it, it is a bit more fun. Context is important! Of course, Goku can't let Garlic Jr. have his way since he intends to destroy everything but Goku has to figure out how to deal with someone who is immortal. That takes the bulk of the episode as he fights his way through everything in classic Dragon Ball Z style.

The second feature, World's Strongest, was one that wasn't as memorable for me until I saw it and quickly remembered why I had forgotten it. A sixty minute piece, this one again has some crafty character seeking out and acquiring the Dragon Balls for a wish that they want. The ease with which the Dragon Balls are found continue to be something of a running gag, though I liked when they actually did deal with it in the TV series at one point, but it does let the first couple of movies run in a fairly predictable manner. This feature has the mildly nefarious Dr. Cochrin seeking them out so that he can revive the truly evil Dr. Uiro, who sounds like "Wheelo" in the dub. The good doctor Uiro was one of the biggest minds some fifty years prior but he ended up disappearing.

He's now a brain in a box. Or a mini mobile platform to be more precise. Having been frozen under the wastes for the last few decades, the Dragon Ball has allowed him to be freed and he's now intent on marrying his beautiful mind to manly muscle so he can proper - everyone together now - take over the world. Unfortunately, he's a few decades out of date so when he sees out the world's strongest fighters, he goes after people like Master Roshi. While Roshi is certainly gifted and talented, he and others have been easily eclipsed by the arrival of the Saiyan's and other challengers. It's all fairly amusing at first but once Uiro discovers Goku and Gohan, the focus shifts there and it plays out fairly similar to the Dead Zone feature in that it's all about stopping the big bad from accomplishing his goals.

If there's one thing to be said for this franchise, it's that it is very consistent. Even though these are features that were shown in theaters, they really do keep to the look and feel of the TV series. That's not exactly a criticism but simply the way it is and I can't really find fault for it. I'd love to see a really high budget glossy Dragon Ball Z feature where they pull out all the stops, but back in 1989 and 1990, it was just a treat to see these characters on a bigger screen. The animation is a bit more fluid at times and the scope of things, within the constraints of what's really a two episode and three episode arc, works pretty well and it's easy to see why they were gobbled up by fans at the time. I don't think they age well, particularly if you're into the series continuity and the larger storylines, but as diversions from the main path they're certainly enjoyable enough.

In Summary:
In comparison to their first Blu-ray release of Dragon Ball Z, FUNimation really has done most things right here. The menus are done better, the audio is full high definition now and they're peaking into the 30mbps range with the AVC codec more frequently. While I would prefer DTS-HD MA for backwards compatibility for people when it comes to the core audio, they're definitely winning me over by providing multiple TrueHD tracks which speaks of a lot of potential in the future when they get around to their other anime releases. Where this double feature falters is in that the source material just can't be made to look as good as it should. What we do get is much better than the DVD releases, but it's a hard one to quantify because even as bad as the DVD was, it hid a lot of the problems just because of the lower resolution. This is a mixed bag recommendation, but if you're a fan and particularly of the dub and want it lossless, this is the release to snag and enjoy.

Japanese 1.0 Language,English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language (US Music),English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language (JP Music),English Subtitles,US Commentary on Dead Zone

Review Equipment
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.


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