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"Dragon Ball Z" A Truly Great Awakening

Dragonball Z is probably one of the most iconic anime series ever created. Full of action and adventure, the series became was huge in Japan even before it migrated over to the U.S. and became even bigger. In fact, it grew so big that series creator Akira Toriyama was literally forced to continue the series against his will. The result: The Cell Saga. And though Toriyama might not have wanted to, he has created one of the finest moments in the series’ history.

Episodes on this disc:
Episode #169: “Cell Juniors Attack!”
Episode #170: “Awakening”
Episode #171: “The Unstoppable Gohan”

The Cell Games are reaching their peak. Goku has pinned Earth’s future on his son’s powerful abilities. After Cell discovers that Goku plans on using Gohan’s rage to defeat him, he creates seven Cell Juniors to attack the rest of our heroes in an attempt to reveal Gohan’s hidden power. Android #16, who was blown to bits earlier, attempts to talk Mr. Satan (a.k.a. Hercule) into throwing him over to Gohan for a little pep talk. The Cell Juniors quickly make mincemeat out of Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, and the rest. Pressed up against the wall, Cell performs one of the cruelest acts imaginable, pushing Gohan over the edge and bringing out the full force of Earth’s new savior. Hence the title, Awakening.

This is what Dragonball Z fans have been waiting for ever since Gohan first appeared. The day he finally unleashed his true power and stepped into his father’s footsteps to become Earth’s champion. True, all this would be figuratively erased in the Buu Saga, but for now, this is Gohan’s series. Gohan’s ascension to Super Saiyan 2 is the crowning moment in Dragonball Z, one moment which no fan will ever forget. In Japan, this scene had its own special insert song, called “Spirit vs. Spirit,” that fit perfectly, with just the right combination of pep and regret. The dub does make a contribution, though, including a nice little speech by the narrator at the end that ties the previous sagas to the present moment. The Japanese narrator merely asks if Cell is ready for a beat down.

The two other episodes on this disc do basically the same thing: show off Super Saiyan 2 Gohan. “Awakening” features Gohan picking off the Cell Juniors one by one in a particularly gruesome way (you even get to see their organs!), though it’s still a bit more graphic in the manga version. Even with the obvious plot hole (Gohan kills eight Cell Jrs when only seven exist), this is still an entertaining episode. After Cell has managed to outclass everyone throughout the saga, it’s nice to see him realizing he’s made a mistake. This brings us to “The Unstoppable Gohan,” where Super Saiyan 2 Gohan finally goes at it with Cell. Gohan effortlessly blocks all of Cell’s attacks and then comes back with attacks twice as powerful. Though it gets repetitive after a while, one has to admit that Dragonball Z has pretty good choreography, if you’re patient enough to wait out all the pan shots in between.

The animation on the disc is particularly good relative for DBZ. The scene where Gohan transforms into Super Saiyan 2 naturally has some of the best animation on the disc, and the transformation sequence still manages to shine. The fluid energy, the lightning bolts, everything just works. The animation dips a bit in the third episode, but it’s nothing noticeable. Transfer is crisp and clear, but the Japanese angle has a washed-out look to it, which is kind of distracting.

Audio is a mixed bag. Normally, I wouldn’t complain too much about the English version since I am used to it, but during Gohan’s ascension the inadequacy of the dub music is particularly apparant. On the rest of the disc the music is decent, better than in the Freeza Saga, but not by much. It’s weird to hear Stephanie Nadonly as young Gohan after hearing her voice Goku in Dragon Ball. The cast has become comfortable with their characters at this point, and although they fit their roles well enough (especially Eric Vale as Trunks), I still miss the Ocean Group voices for the original. Though I will admit that Chris Sabat’s Vegeta can be great fun to listen to.

Extras? There are extras? Oh, right, I almost didn’t notice them. There’s a preview for “Cell’s Breakdown,” the first episode of the next disc (why they don’t have the preview after each episode like normal DVDs I still don’t know), as well as various trailers. Oh, and FUNimation is finally putting in the original eye catches, though the music they use kind of makes them seem depressing.

If you are even remotely a fan of Dragonball Z, I highly recommend this disc, simply for “that scene.” It’s one of the greatest in the series and well worth it.

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