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Dragonball GT Season 1-2: Of Sins and Farewells

Son Goku’s feelin’ pretty spry for fifty-two.

‘Course he was just turned back into a boy.

After a chance encounter with an old foe, Son is left with but one year to retrieve the ‘Black Star Dragonballs’ that have turned him back into a kid. However, this time they aren’t spread across one world, they’re spread across the galaxy! With granddaughter Pan and friend Trunks in tow, the mightiest in the universe is on a road trip to return the Black Star balls to Earth before it is destroyed.

Those who have been in the Anime Fanboy club long enough know that beginning with the final third of a franchise is quite silly. GT takes place five years after Dragonball Z‘s conclusion, and these sixty-four episodes are, as one might suspect, choppy in quality. The initial sixteen episodes are made up of smaller mini-arcs as Son, Pan, and Trunks cover a plethora of planets while collecting the Dragonballs. By the third of Season One’s five discs, though, a bigger picture begins to form. Toei attempted to incorporate their own mythology into a series not based upon any material written by original manga author, and often trips over itself while doing so. (For instance, by including film characters not in the actual series, or by allowing the villains in Hell to retain their bodies despite the assertion in Toriyama’s original manga—and even the anime itself on one occasion—that those who die lose their bodies and become puffy little clouds). At one point, Toei even ripped off the plot of the twelfth Dragonball Z film, despite having produced it only two year earlier. (I’ll be damned, though, if the final episode does not bring tears to my eyes, if only for the use of music.) Of special note is FUNimation’s inclusion of the GT television special, which tells a tale set one hundred years after GT’s final episode, about Son Goku’s descendant finding courage during a quest to find the Four-Star Dragonball.

GT, being the black sheep of the franchise, is presented by FUNimation in a most infuriating manner. While the packaging for these two season sets is kept in line with the packaging for the Z season sets, the contents are most frustrating. Both covers are used to showcase characters that appear in each set for not even a complete episode. Somewhat puzzling but to be expected, it is the Super Saiyans, who are most popular throughout the series. Whereas FUNimation’s original single disc release from the first half of the decade retained the original Japanese eye-catchers, this set does not. My only guess is that somebody was far too cheap to pay for the audio for 64 episodes to be recorded in English by either of the English Son Goku actors (the original release used two separate video tracks because of the changed opening, ending, title cards, and eye-catchers for FUNimation’s hardcore-reimaging of the series).

Toei Animation is hardly know for having the most spectacular animation. But though often a mixed-bag, especially in the later episodes, the animation and art are usually quite well done. By far my favorite episodes may be the twentieth and twenty-first, as each articulate Son Goku’s Super Saiyan hair in one of the most consistent and detailed styles. (Believe it or not, Toei has often struggled to achieve a consistent look with hair and coloring, but here the hair is far better). Backgrounds, truthfully, simply are not what they use to be. By the final arc of GT the coloring effect of the Earth’s skies—plagued by aurora lights—look ugly as sin and often distract from the action. At the very least, FUNimation’s uncropped footage (which, for a change, marks a difference with Z) slightly blurs the footage.

The audio—as with FUNimation’s other recent Dragonball-related releases—comes in threes. The default audio contains the FUNimation version—quality-troubled scripts and all—with the masterful, beautiful, and simply powerful score from Akihito Tokunaga. Also of high note is FUNimation’s actually dubbing of the vocal themes (other than the inserted music, which remains in Japanese even on the English audio track). The second audio track contains FUNimation’s original dub track with the ‘hardcore’ background music brought to the fore by Mark Menza. For the sake of your fertility, please do not touch this audio track. While hilariously missing the original opening and ending rap themes (which were the centerpiece of FUNimation’s ‘You Don’t Know GT’ campaign during the series’ original run in the US), the background music within the dully-lit fiery pits of this hell will most certainly only increase the fan base’s already hostile attitude toward the series. The final track is the original mono track from 1996-1997. Obviously somewhat dated, the original is still the best, with each actor having played their character for nigh a decade’s time by that point, and so what better way to enjoy a head-scratcher of a series than with the original Japanese audio (with subtitles written by fan favorite translator Steve Simmons) and with the men and women who literally co-crafted these characters for millions of fans around the world? This is the most recommended option, but if you’re truly against reading subtitles then watch the default English track rather than the one-note reaper of sound television scoring.

GT has its fair share of quirks and fallacies, and seasoned Dragonball fans are bound to have complaints. For fifty MSRP dollars a set I do recommend picking each up—if you want to see what all of the bickering is about. Season 1 contains the initial thirty-four episodes, while the second contains episodes 35-64 and of course the television special. While not a perfect release, it is one a longtime fan looking for just a little more of Goku and friends will reasonably enjoy.

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