Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Feb 10th 2009
Dragon Ball Z Movies 7 & 9
Super Android 13: Goku's idyllic day in the city is rudely disrupted when a pair of robotic assassins blows the restaurant he is gorging himself in into very small pieces. Understandably upset, he and Trunks lure the mechanical baddies to the polar icecap, only to be met there by Super Android 13, Dr. Gero's most powerful creation. Much mayhem ensues.
Bojack Unbound: Gohan's idyllic day at a faux-intergalactic martial-arts tournament is disrupted when a team of real intergalactic thugs hijack the proceedings in a nefarious attempt to seize control of the planet. Understandably upset, Gohan and Trunks face down the space-faring baddies in the ring. With the fate of the world at stake, Gohan must struggle to unleash his true powers. Much mayhem ensues.
Handsomely repackaged though it is, this is a re-release. But even had these two films not been released years ago, any moderately attentive fan of Dragon Ball Z would have seen them before—in every episode of the television series ever broadcast. So slavishly do these films adhere to the franchise's formula that every moment is fraught with an eerie sense of déjà-vu. Bojack Unbound's plot is cribbed directly from every “tournament interrupted by evil contestants” story in Dragon Ball history, and every power-up, reversal and taunt in the fights is a weather-beaten veteran of dozens of on-screen battles. You know the opening peace will be shattered by evil thugs, just as you know that Vegeta and Piccolo will lend timely (if grudging) support and that good will ultimately triumph.
Not that predictability really alters one's Dragon Ball Z experience. After all, surprises were never part of the franchise's charm. Muscle-bound, ki-spouting guys with funky hair beating the snot out of each other in a variety of highly-destructible settings, on the other hand, are. And it is there that the DBZ films excel. The plus-sized budget allows for an awful lot of brawling and setting-destruction. Android 13's finale is a Super Saiyan free-for-all set in a wasteland of artistically shattered ice, and Goku and his buddies destroy enough cityscape in both films to make a jihadist drool. From the bull-like musculature of the protagonists to their exploding energy blasts, the violence is animated with an intricacy and fluidity that finds a pleasant mean between televised simplicity and full-blown theatrical opulence. And thankfully the restricted timeframes (fifty minutes each) allow for none of the franchise's usual stalling, stripping the fights down to lean thirty-minute bursts of face smashin' fun.
The series' blocky character designs and dippy humor remain acquired tastes regardless of length, but they're tastes that anyone likely to pick this set up will have already acquired. And therein lies the most important truth about these two films: they are intended only for dyed-in-the-wool DBZ fanatics. Content, in other words, is really beside the point. Those who already enjoy DBZ will enjoy these films, and those who don't, won't. As such, one's willingness to purchase of this set will depend more on Funimation's treatment of the films than their objective quality. Funimation certainly does what they can to make the otherwise flagrant waste of money worthwhile. Though entirely devoid of extras, the two discs are snazzily dressed in a solid tin case and feature crisp digitally remastered visuals. However, the real meat of the release is in the audio tracks. There are three of them, designed to cover all fan preferences. There's the original (mono) Japanese release, the US version with English dialogue and revamped music, and a track that combines the English dialogue with the original Japanese score.
Not that the choice of audio track is ultimately that difficult. The oppressively murky Japanese track rules itself out even before factoring in its shrill rendition of Goku, and the dark, often tin-eared score weighs down the US version. Armed with the lighter, more appropriate Japanese music, Funimation's adaptation finally frees itself from its most conspicuous drawback (despite saddling itself with a ridiculous opening theme). The rewrite still earns Funimation its reputation for reckless reinterpretation, and it sometimes goes too far in its rush to deliver light banter—especially when putting words in the mouths Android 13's humorously silent villains—but it also features Sean Schemmel's vastly superior Goku and enough humorous touches to keep the English dialogue lively while the Japanese is bogging itself down in repetitive clichés. Transforming Android 13 from a generic villain into a socially aware, trash-talking redneck may not be terribly respectful, but it certainly eases the pain during the inevitable macho exchanges with Goku.
Recycled though they may be, by this point DBZ's creators are fully aware of the franchise's strengths. All originality is jettisoned in favor of extended action set-pieces that are long on spectacular destruction and surprisingly short on the series' patented monotonous pummeling. The two movies do have their differences—Android 13 has the better finale and Bojack Unbound the superior sense of humor (thank you Mr. Satan)—but they ultimately share one overriding similarity: while reasonably fun, no one but an established DBZ-head would ever fork over their hard-earned cash for them. Even if they do come in a cool tin case.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Two diverting jolts of unadulterated DBZ action.
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