Review for Dragon Ball Z: Season 7
I should be happy, or at least relieved. Long running shonen action shows have to be something special, timely and relevant for me to get into them. Dragon Ball Z may be special, after all it is the granddaddy of them all, but after all this time, its production values have dated, and its storytelling style is positively archaic. As someone approaching the show for the first time now, it has been something of a chore to get through, only occasionally inspiring any protracted interest from me. But it is a nine volume set, and we’re now up to Season 7. That’s well past the halfway mark, well over the hump. I should really feel like we’re freewheeling all the way to Season 9 from here, but really it just feels like I’ve got three more mountains to climb ahead of me. If I’m lucky, we might get something of the standard of Season 6’s Cell Games again.
Son Goku is dead, and that is a good thing. No really, he’s up in heaven, having a whale of a time, and he’s decided not to come back to life. You can see his point. As the strongest fighter on Earth, he’s a trouble magnet, and it’s no surprise that villains like Vegeta, Frieza, The Androids, and Cell all keep showing up to challenge him, and wind up wreaking havoc on innocent bystanders in the process. So, Goku has decided to stay dead for a while, to give Earth some peace and quiet. Besides, it turns out that all the heroes throughout history are up there in heaven, some of them even stronger than Goku, and this might be a chance to get in some more training. When he learns that the ultimate fighter is the Grand Kaio-Sama, Kaio’s boss, and that there is a fighting tournament whose victor will be personally trained by him, Goku’s in... well... in heaven!
On Earth, seven years pass, and Gohan grows up, and contrary to his mother’s fears he doesn’t become a delinquent. In fact he reaches the point where home schooling is no longer an option, and he has to attend high school. But seven years of peace on Earth brings the idiots out of the woodwork. Gohan is attending school in Satan City, named after the ‘hero’ that saved the world from Cell, and it’s a city plagued with petty crime. Turning Super Saiyan isn’t much of a disguise, so Gohan turns to Bulma for a full on superhero suit, and soon Great Saiyaman is patrolling the city. But Satan City already has a hero, Satan’s daughter Videl, and guess who’s sitting two spaces down from Gohan in class? It’s not going to be easy keeping his secret identity a secret.
The 25 episodes of Dragon Ball Z Season 7 are collected across 6 discs from Manga Entertainment.
195. Warriors of the Dead
196. Tournament Begins
197. Water Fight
198. Final Round
199. Goku vs. Pikkon
200. Gohan Goes to High School
201. I Am Saiyaman!
202. Gohan’s First Date
203. Rescue Videl
205. I’ll Fight Too
206. The Newest Super Saiyan
207. Take Flight, Videl
208. Gather for the Tournament
209. Camera Shy
210. The World Tournament
211. Trunks vs. Goten
212. Best of the Boys
213. Big Trouble, Little Trunks
214. Who Will Fight Who?
215. Forfeit of Piccolo
216. A Dark and Secret Power
217. Videl is Crushed
218. Identities Revealed
219. Energy Drain
Dragon Ball Z gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer on these discs, which courtesy of Madman Entertainment is a native PAL conversion, with the 4% speedup that implies. It’s the same transfer as for the first season, so you’ll find that it has been cropped from the original 4:3 ratio, and has had DNR applied to scrub the grain, and in some scenes to such excess that line art detail is lost. That said, it does clean up a treat and looks pretty watchable on a widescreen set. If all you want are the episodes, and aspect ratio and integrity of the original art isn’t a concern, then you’ll have no issues watching these episodes, as the transfer is clean and without any other major problem.
You get three distinct options here. The one that I chose is probably the least appealing in technical terms, but long habit always makes me click on the original language track first. Here it’s in DD 2.0 mono Japanese, and this one is as mono as it gets, showing its age, and not all that well defined. It’s accompanied by a translated English subtitle track. It’s adequate, but there was a distinctly different style to anime dubs when Dragon Ball Z was made, and compared to modern anime it seems very quaint. Then there is the broadcast version option. When Dragon Ball Z was broadcast, the original music was deemed as unsuitable for US audience sensibilities, so a completely new score was composed for the show. You can thus watch Dragon Ball Z with this music, and the most recent Funimation dub in glorious DD 2.0 Stereo with a signs only track.
Finally, and really quite appealing is the DD 5.1 option, which has the Funimation dub, but also has the original Japanese music score to the episodes. I gave this a quick spin, and found that the surround audio does a fair bit in giving the show some space, while the stereo track isn’t too far behind it in terms of clarity. Both of these tracks blow the Japanese track out of the water in technical terms. The dub itself is pretty agreeable, what I sampled of it, and it’s a lot looser and free flowing than what I am used to. It’s also not absolutely faithful to the original script, which makes for some interesting differences.
We get all new Japanese theme songs from episode 200, and once again, for some reason the themes in the Japanese audio were exceptionally muddy compared to that of the earlier volumes. Finally there was what I think are signs of injudiciously applied pitch correction. This is particularly noticeable in background music. Whenever there is supposed to be an extended, smooth note, it sounds clipped and choppy. This is more prevalent in the Japanese mono track than either of the English audio tracks, but it is present in all.
One final thing, there is a missing subtitle on disc 3, 26:22 into the disc.
Once again, the extras amount to marathon mode for the episodes, which plays them through without credit sequences or last episode recaps. On disc 6, you’ll find the new textless credit sequences, and that’s your lot.
There’s something decidedly wrong with the way that I appreciate shonen anime, compared to the way that most fans enjoy it. I’ve noticed it before, where epic combat arcs are lauded, season spanning battle sequences are loved by all, yet I tend to find them tedious and interminable. But sometimes I enjoy filler, and I enjoy arcs that others deride as poor imitations of the real thing and signs of a series in decline. With Dragon Ball Z, everyone talks about the Vegeta arc, the Frieza arc, and the most recently released Cell arcs. But I find that with this release, and the Great Saiyaman arc and the subsequent World Tournament arc, I have never enjoyed Dragon Ball Z as much as this. It’s even more fun than that Cell Games arc, which everyone loves.
If anything, this season is a reminder of the core attraction of Dragon Ball, the tournament format. A group of fighters all train to level up their powers, just to test their mettle in the sort of tournament that attracts vast crowds and appreciative commentary. The Cell Games were sort of a return to that, although the imminent destruction of the universe sort of kept the crowds at a distance. Mr Satan’s presence made up for that though, the incredulous world champion faced with the reality of super-powered heroes and villains doing battle.
We begin this season with a tournament pure and simple, just the way that they used to be. Except that the participants are all dead. They have fighting tournaments in heaven too, and Goku’s been entered into a big one. Of course with everyone resident in heaven, the only animosity lies between the fighters’ sponsors, the various Kaio-samas who run their respective galaxies. The prize is personalised training from the Grand Kaio-sama, the Muten-roshi of the afterlife, a wacky old man with a penchant for carrying a ghetto-blaster.
Back on Earth, we have a time skip to deal with, and we catch up with Gohan now that he’s at high school age. If Dragon Ball Z up to now has been a variation on the Superman mythos, this is the start of the Smallville arc, with Gohan actually masquerading as a superhero to battle the forces of (minor) evil, donning a cheesy suit and a hero pose to stop pesky bank robbers and hijackers and the like. Otherwise, to attend high school, he has to keep his real identity secret, but he’s no Clark Kent when it comes to discretion. It’s more down to the gullibility of his fellow students that his secret remains that way for so long.
It’s an interesting world after the time skip. In between fighting Cell, and dying, Goku managed to get some more quality time with Chichi, and now Gohan has a little brother, Goten. Meanwhile little Trunks is growing up as well, and training with his father Vegeta. The world thinks that it was Mr Satan who defeated Cell, and he’s been living off that goodwill ever since in Satan City. As luck would have it, that is where Gohan’s school is, and despite his superheroics, it already has a hero in Mr Satan’s daughter, Videl. Not only do the Great Saiyaman and Videl the crimefighter cross paths in fighting crime, with no little friction, but Gohan is sitting two seats down from Videl in class as well. Naturally she’s the first to get suspicious about Gohan, and the first to confront him.
Which is all good timing, as there is a Tenkaichi tournament coming up, a world tournament where Mr Satan will defend his crown. Videl’s learned that those fighters who her father dismissed as using tricks are actually for real, and she persuades Gohan to teach her to fight the way they do. For the first time in years, it will be a proper tournament, as the Z fighters all enter. Goku gets a day release from heaven to take part as well, and Vegeta relishes another chance to prove his superiority. This time around there is a junior division, which is disappointing for Trunks and Goten, who would much rather fight worthy opponents. But it all looks to be a super-powered action-fest, the sort that will leave Mr Satan’s jaw on the floor once more.
Then unfortunately a storyline gets in the way. With our heroes having defeated the strongest warrior in the universe in Cell, you’d think that decent opponents, and worrying threats would be thin on the ground, but you haven’t counted on Gods getting involved. Even Piccolo, who’s spent some time as Kami-sama meets his match in this collection. It turns out that the divine entrants into the tournament aren’t there to defeat our heroes, rather to recruit them. The ancient warlock Bibidi created an unspeakably destructive force in the Majin Boo. It took the strength of several gods to seal Boo away, and defeat Bibidi, and at the cost of most of their number. The sealed Boo was hidden away on Earth. But no one knew that Bibidi had a son, Babidi. Two ringers in the tournament use stealth to steal enough energy to resurrect Boo, and it will be up to our heroes to stop this insidious plan. Bibidi, Babidi, Boo. All hell will break loose in the next instalment of Dragon Ball Z.
I enjoyed writing that. Indeed, I had a blast recounting this set of episodes for this review, but not as much as I did actually watching it. I think much of it is down to the light-hearted nature of the story at this point. Lives aren’t in peril, the universe isn’t in danger, and the stakes are smaller and more personal. Also, there is a lot more comedy to balance the action, while the pairing of Gohan and Videl is a lot of fun to watch. This is my favourite collection of Dragon Ball Z so far, and I certainly would not have foreseen enjoying it this much when I was stuck in the middle of the Frieza arc.