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"Dragonball Z: Cooler Double Feature": Fine Fights, Dubious Dubs

In Cooler’s Revenge, which is set sometime after Freeza’s defeat, that galactic warlord’s older brother, Cooler, learns of his ‘pathetic’ brother’s death and decides to defend the family name by coming to Earth to kill Son Goku. When Son Goku is injured while protecting his son, Son Gohan, the young boy finds himself in a race against time to retrieve some magical Senzu beans from Karin, one of his father’s old masters, before his badly injured father is destroyed along with the forest.

In The Return of Cooler, Dende—now Earth’s god—senses that his home world, New Namek, is in grave danger. Son Goku and friends are enlisted to help, and notice immediately that Namek is in no ordinary bind: a large planet known as the Big Gete Star is eating away at New Namek! Once the gang lands they make the shocking discovery that before them stands a new and improved Cooler, more powerful than ever before. As the battle for New Namek rages, Son Goku’s rematch with Cooler takes a sour turn, even while he is in his Super Saiyan form. However, a newly awakened Super Saiyan Vegeta refuses to allow any other but himself slay ‘Kakarrot’. Now, the two bitter rivals must team up to defeat a horde of ‘Meta Cooler’ clones or allow New Namek to perish.

Both films (original Japanese titles “The Incredible Mightiest vs. Mightiest” and “Clash!! 10,000,000,000 Powerful Warriors,” respectively) are primarily fight-fests that rely far less upon plot than upon action. Considering the length of the films (which run somewhere in the neighborhood of forty-five minutes), it would be unlikely that they would go for anything but cool fights and the introduction of new, toy-etic villains. So they lack any real depth beyond giving Cooler a motive for revenge and further exploring the Freeza family. (Cooler comes in addition to King Cold—Freeza and Cooler’s father—who would appear in the series proper just six months later.) Neither is typically considered canonical: Cooler is never mentioned in the series proper; nor are smaller details like Son Goku’s seeming difficulty with transforming into a Super Saiyan at will; and Dende’s being the god of Earth only comes to pass in the series proper during the ten-day wait for the Cell Games.

The fights are pretty interesting. While Cooler’s Revenge parallels Goku’s fight with Freeza in the series, The Return of Cooler doesn’t make any immediate allusions to the series the way most of the Dragonball films have. The animation is quite lively, so lively in fact that Goku’s hair actually moves. Also of note is that this is the last time we see the Kaio-ken used in combat aside from the ‘Super’ version used during the Afterlife Tournament arc. But the technique gets a nice sign off.

The audio tracks on this release are in line with FUNimation’s recent Dragonball Z releases. The default track is the English dialogue with Shunsuke Kikuchi’s music score; the second is the English track using ‘Real American bands’ which were originally the only ones available for the first release of the movies in America; the third is the original Japanese mono. The acting in FUNimation’s English dub varies. FUNimation has never typically provided a very good English version of any of the Dragonball titles, and in recent years I’ve sadly turned to the original Japanese track (with fabulous subtitles by Steven J. Simmons) to get the level of acting I could expect from a non-Dragonball FUNimation dub. Masako Nozawa continues her stint as the man-child protagonist, Son Goku, and his boy, Son Gohan, to great effect; she also has two minutes as Bardock, father of Son Goku. Cooler is voiced superbly by Ryusei Nakao, who brings the arrogant Cooler to life just as acutely as he did Freeza in the series proper. Luckily, Linda Young was not chosen to voice Cooler in the English version. Andrew Chandler instead pulls off a respectable portrayal despite a script ridden with the usual FUNimation Dragonball changes (added dialogue that fills up silences and often makes Dragonball into a bad Saturday morning American action cartoon). Needless to say, this reviewer begs you to stick with the Japanese track.

Musically, the ‘real American bands’ soundtrack turns the films into 45-minute Anime Music Videos, which ruins the tension. The original Japanese score is much more attuned with Dragonball’s fairy-tale setting.

FUNimation has supposedly ‘remastered’ these two films ‘digitally’, but if you’re reading this review chances are you’ve already heard FUNimation’s spin. Here, because the films were formatted for widescreen, the actual cropping of footage leaves nothing important lost. Notably, the Japanese releases of the films have always been in widescreen, while until this recent double feature line the films were released in the States in full screen.

The release comes with no extras aside from the usual trailers. It’s sad, but Dragonball sells despite a lack of extras, and FUNimation knows it. The casing features a bland-as-drying-paint picture of Meta Cooler and is hardly attractive. Also, be careful when trying to remove the discs from the case, as it is nigh impossible to take them out easily, and I feared the disc would snap in half each time I attempted to free them.

At the end of the day this is really only for the already initiated DB fans. But it’s nice to finally hear the dubs of these films with the original Japanese music (even if the scripts are typically terrible), and it’s good to get them in intended widescreen format. If you have ninety minutes to blow, pick this up. The fights are worth it.

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