Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 4th 2009
Dragon Ball Z
DVD - Season 8 Uncut
An attack on Gohan during the most recent edition of the World Martial Arts Tournament leads the Z fighters and the Supreme Kai to the attackers' master, the wizard Babidi, whose father Bibidi long ago created a terror called Majin Boo, a terror that the Supreme Kai had once seen sealed and which the Kai fears Babidi now seeks to release. Babidi does, in fact, precisely intend that, and uses battles between the Z fighters and his henchmen to gather the remaining energy needed to free Boo. Despite both Babidi and the Supreme Kai grossly underestimating the power of the Super Saiyans, Babidi's plan nonetheless ultimately succeeds, in large part because Vegeta uses the situation to resolve his long-standing grudge against Goku. As the fat pink monster that is Boo rampages across the planet, unable to be stopped or controlled, the Z fighters develop two plans of attack, one centered around Gohan, the other around teaching young Goten and Trunks the Fusion technique Goku learned in space. But could the key to stopping Majin Boo actually be the (comparatively vastly underpowered) World Martial Arts Champion Hercule Satan?
What Funimation calls Season 8 covers episodes 220-253, which includes the set-up for, and first segment of, the Majin Buu Saga that dominates the last quarter of the series. For those who are long-time DBZ fans, this includes the full run of the wizard Babidi, the introduction of Buu, the long-awaited Ascended Super-Saiyan duel between Vegeta and Goku, the debut of the Fusion technique and Super-Saiyan 3, and the first appearance of Gotenks, as well as Mr. Satan's initial encounter with Buu. For those who may be watching the series for the first time, these episodes turn the series away from yet another tournament format and towards an actual substantial storyline, which really just offers more of what the series has always offered: lots of massively super-powered action interspersed with regular bouts of goofiness and accompanied by the ever-present threat of foot-dragging and stretching.
The block begins with several episodes of slow and tedious build-up as the Saiyan elements of the Z fighters battle Babidi's minions, including nearly two entire episodes where Goku, Vegeta, and Gohan are merely waiting for their next opponent to arrive on the scene. That side of the action actually generates little special interest until Vegeta provokes the fight with Goku, as Babidi's minions are a mostly uninteresting lot. The occasional switches over to focus on the wrap-up of the tournament events actually are more entertaining during this time, as Mr. Satan's efforts to weasel out a victory make him a more amusing character than in his earlier appearances during the Cell Games (when he was more a nuisance). What he does towards the end of this set of episodes also later proves to have great importance.
At first, the introduction of Majin Buu hardly helps matters, as the silliness of his bloated, clown-like pink appearance and child-like behavior may leave viewers initially wondering how the producers could possibly make him convincingly intimidating; though his nigh-unstoppable, world-killer-level power is firmly imprinted on both the Saiyans and viewers by the Supreme Kai, it is hard to take Buu seriously – at first, anyway. His childlike demeanor actually gives his malicious smiles and mad faces a surprisingly chilling effect, however, and there is something more than a little disturbing about his ability to turn people into confectionaries and then eat them. (Since the show originally skewed more towards younger audiences than most anime familiar to American viewers, this could be looked upon as a literal case of sugar-coating the mass slaughter Buu commits.) Buu's childishness does set him well apart from the other hyper-evil badasses the series spawned over the years, though, which can make him either very annoying or oddly endearing, and sometimes both.
When not besotted with posturing, stare-downs, and power-ups, the action component still proves why this is one of the all-time elite action series, and round 582 of the ongoing Vegeta/Goku face-off still offers some thrills. Even so, the standard combat moves are getting stale by this point in the series, as beyond increasing their power levels to even more ridiculous outputs of ki, the heroes offer little for new tricks. Even the Fusion technique, while certainly a new gimmick, ultimately does not result in anything for new moves. The problem is less prevalent amongst the bad guys, but Buu's ability to recover from being blasted into bits too much resembles Cell's equivalent ability.
As a result, these episodes tend to be carried much more by two other key factors: the humor component and the characterizations. The former has always been an integral part of the franchise, whether it's Master Roshi's lechery and powerful farts, the notion of Goten and Trunks standing on top of each other to pretend to be a single masked warrior, Mr. Satan's antics, a stupefyingly silly-looking power-awakening ceremony, how embarrassingly dumb the Fusion technique activation actually looks, or the notion of a certain bad guy being sent to Heaven rather than Hell because he would have enjoyed Hell too much. Less effective are the grating jokes in the naming conventions. (For those who don't recognize the gimmick with the names Bibidi, Babidi, and Buu, they are adapted from the song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” which was featured in Disney's 1950 animated version of Cinderella. Given that original creator Akira Toriyama is a known major Disney fan, this shouldn't be too surprising.) And really, how corny can you get by make the name of Videl, daughter of a man named Mr. Satan, merely be an anagram of devil? (And if that is not enough, note the car numbered 666 that she rides around in during the eyecatch.)
The cast also plays a major role in making this series what it is and as successful as it has been. These are not complicated archetypes, but they are effective ones that are easy to love, hate, and respect. The immense pride of Vegeta, and how that can be a fatal flaw, especially shines through in this block, as do the freewheeling spirits of Goten and Trunks, the naiveté of Buu, and Mr. Satan's attention-loving, glory-hound nature, while Number 18 shows an unexpectedly cunning side. Naturally Piccolo is as stiff as ever and Goku is as good-natured as ever. On the downside, Videl is entirely too under-used to make much of an impact and Bulma loses something just sitting around acting like a worried mother/wife.
Aside from Buu's bizarre pink appearance, the artistry offers nothing in this span of episodes that strikes any new ground, but the extent to which the series maintains consistent quality control is nonetheless meritorious. Funimation's remastered print has made the art and animation look as sharp as it ever has, and its look ages better than many other series from the same time period as these episodes. Sadly the same cannot be said for the painfully dated and often too silly musical score. The opening number used with the English dub, though bland and different from that used on the TV broadcasts, is still an improvement over the original. This release also runs completely unedited, which means the occasional snippets of intense graphic content cut out for the TV broadcast have been fully restored.
The audio production quality varies so drastically between the English and Japanese dubs that, unless you have a particular hate for the English voices, the original Japanese is hardly worth a listen. The English dub does suffer from a few weak performances in this run of episodes (especially Kara Edwards' rendition of Videl, which is surprising given how vastly better she does voicing Goten) and has a penchant for overusing funny accents in minor characters, but too many of the performances are too consistently good to rate the whole dub down just for a couple of bad apples. Goku sounds appropriately older in English, while Buu sounds far more childish; his Japanese voice does not seem to fit his behavior at all. The highlight performances in this run are Laura Bailey's unrecognizable turn as Trunks and Duncan Brannan's gleefully wicked performance as Babidi. The English script, though well-written, varies so much from the original that at times it is a complete rewrite. The subtitles have their own problems, in that they consistently spell Buu's name as Boo.
On-disk Extras are limited to a clean opener on the final disk, but the case does include a liner booklet containing character profiles and episode summaries. As with previous sets, the episodes are split over six disks in a 6/6/6/6/5/5 pattern and housed in a quad-fold case, all available for an MSRP of less than $50.
Although this penultimate block of DBZ episodes still clings to the series' action greatness, the cracks in its well-tested formula start to show here. The series has, by this point, let its power escalation get so far out of hand that the world-shattering power of a new villain has to resort to odd tricks just to impress anymore. At one point one of the villains comments about how the three key adult Saiyans, who aren't even fully powered up at that point, have ten times the power sufficient to destroy a world, and early on both the villains and the Supreme Kai are continually shocked at their immense power. American super-hero comics learned long ago that you had to either periodically step back on the power scheme or else give the most powerful individual exploitable vulnerabilities, as continuing to force victories through “I'm more powerful than you are” schemes can only go so far. DBZ, sadly, has never understood this, or else ignored it because out-powering, rather than out-maneuvering, has always lain at the heart of shonen action series. For now, it still works – but only barely.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : C
+ Comedy elements, later action scenes, likeable characterizations.
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