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"Dragonball Z: Vegeta Saga 1" Uncut All Cracked Up?

Nearly a decade ago, Dragonball Z made its American premiere in syndication. The original dub infamously shoved 65 or so episodes into a 52-episode, syndication-ready package. The show eventually moved to Toonami, acquired a dub from FUNimation, and became the epic series we now know it today. In time, FUNi promised to go back and redub the first set of episodes, giving them the voices of the new cast, no edits, and the treatment that we’d expect nowadays.

ImageAnd here they are.

We know the basic story of Dragonball Z. Goku saves the day, dies, saves the day again, dies again, saves the day one last time, leaves his son to fight, and returns to save the day. Not the most extravagant plot, but they still managed to stretch the series out to nearly three hundred episodes, garnering both a massive amount of fans and the nickname “Drag on Ball Z”.

The series opens several years after Goku’s final fight with the evil demon King Piccolo. Goku has settled down with his wife, Chi Chi, and is raising their son, Gohan. Things change when a warrior from an alien race, known as the Saiyans, comes to Earth. Neither Goku nor King Piccolo’s spawn (Piccolo Jr., but we’ll just call him Piccolo) are a match for this longhaired, armored fighter. But something about this man, Raditz, seems eerily familiar. He has a tail, just like Goku had. He even bears a certain resemblance to our hero. Anyway, he has kidnapped Gohan, saying that they share a common link.

This Raditz is Goku’s brother. Goku is an alien who had been sent to Earth to conquer it. Luckily, he hit his head and forgot his programming. Raditz wanted to recruit Goku to aid him on his mercenary job of conquering planets, but Goku’s a good boy now. So Raditz kidnaps Goku’s son instead, hoping to raise him as a warrior.

Fifteen years ago all of this would have been ground-shattering, Internet-breaking (go ask Marvel Comics how you in fact “break” the internet), status-quo-changing news.

Instead, and through no fault of the actual episodes, these events have long since lost their wonder. Yes, the episodes are completely uncut. This may seem like a great thing, but people who grew up watching the dub in America will be completely thrown by the pacing. These episodes could easily have been the final episodes of Dragonball instead of the introductory episodes of Dragonball Z. The first episode does nothing but set up who Gohan is and how he acts, all while retaining the humor of the preceding series (and lacking the hyper-kinetic action of later episodes of Z). I’m far from being a big fan of the original series, but I found myself waiting for the inevitable fight. In the edited dub, Goku was dead by episode 3. In the uncut version, he barely gets punched by the end of the first disc. Okay, well, yes, he gets the crap beat out of him, but not in the fight he dies in.

Ah, yes. Spoiler, much? Rosebud was the sleigh, Bruce Willis was dead, and the ship sinks. The plot of Dragonball Z is predictable.

All in all, these episodes are rather hard to sum up. Fans of Dragonball will love seeing them completely uncut. But if the vibe of the later episodes is what grabbed you to the series, you might want to rent or borrow before buying this. This is a decidedly different show: Gohan running comically from a tiger who stole his hat is dynamically different from Gohan going Super Saiyan after seeing his friends die, slaughtering eight Cell Jrs (despite there only being seven), and then blowing apart a villain with one arm broken.

For the extras to fill out the disc (given that we’re only given three episodes), we get a “Follow the Nimbus Cloud” visual, pointing out what footage was cut out back in the day. Add to the pointless file the trivia game and trailers. The most interesting thing is the “Goku VS Vegeta Featurette,” which interviews the voice actors behind Goku and Vegeta (along with some people at Anime Insider magazine, ICV2, and a convention). In it we see how the voice-acting gig has worked for these two, how the series has affected the fans, and so forth. There’s also a hilarious moment where the two recap their favorite grunts, screams, and open-mouthed moments (complete with reenactments). It would make me want to be a voice actor if it weren’t for the whole “screaming your lungs out” thing.

The disc has three language tracks: the new English dub, the original Japanese dub, and a Spanish dub. I mainly listened to the English dub (since that appears to be the highlight of the disc), but gave the Japanese and Spanish dubs a few moments’ listen. I had no idea what was being said in the Japanese version, and could only catch bits of the Spanish dub. The packaging is very, very nice, focusing on blacks and reds, with actual art instead of the screen caps that plagued the other DBZ releases. The redub of DBZ has a new intro, which honestly seems more like a trailer. It’s not too heavy on the actual footage (or music production), and it just seems to be style over substance. I miss “Rock the Dragon” already.

Dragonball Z is one of the legends of anime. It’s great that the series is getting a redub, but three episodes are only a drop in the pond. They did try for some extras this time, but we’ll have to see how long that lasts. Diehard fans of Dragonball Z will pick it up, but outside of that, you’d be better off looking for the next big thing.

Episodes included on Dragonball Z Ultimate Uncut Special Edition Vegeta Saga 1 “Saiyan Showdown”:
Episode 1: “The New Threat”
Episode 2: “Reunions”
Episode 3: “Unlikely Alliance”

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