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"Dragonball Z: Dragon Box 2" Did You Buy the First One?

Battle has shifted to the far-off planet of Namek, and the race is on for the Namekian Dragonballs. Goku is in critical care after his battle with Vegeta, so Gohan, Krillin, and Bulma are off ahead of schedule to try to track down the Dragonballs and resurrect their friends. At the same time, newly defeated Saiyan prince Vegeta lands on Namek, tracking down his chance at immortality. Finally, a third party, led by planet broker Freeza, is on hand. Can Goku make it to the Planet to help out his friends in time? Will Vegeta become an unlikely ally against Freeza, or will he fall in line with his boss’s orders?

It’s another Dragon Box, and another FUNimation rerelease of these episodes. But, hey, this is Dragonball Z. Over a decade ago it reinvented the perception of anime on TV with its run on Toonami. It had a theatrical movie based on its predecessor. I’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least seen something influenced by the franchise’s near-500 episode run.

That said, it’s with the 41 episodes in this set that the series started to earn its nickname “Drag On Ball”. They are not much more than an extended game of cat and mouse. Each faction has all of the Dragonballs at one point, and each faction manages to lose the Dragonballs; each doesn’t know the password to call upon the mighty dragon, gets a wardrobe change, loses and gains members on its side, gets powered up … and it all goes on for 40 episodes. Sure, there’s a fair amount of fighting, but the series manages to spread out a three-way stalemate for a very long time. The major annoyance is that, for half the box, people are anxiously awaiting Goku’s arrival so he can defeat Freeza, and everyone’s waiting on someone to call the Eternal Dragon to get a wish done. Then Goku shows up for one fight before being incapacitated, and the Eternal Dragon shows up for one episode and doesn’t even meet all his goals. While it adds a bit of drama to not have everything go as expected, it’s anticlimactic and annoying; halfway through the saga, you just want it to make some sort of advance.

As part of the Dragon Box set, this collection comes with a hardbound art book and episode guides alongside the six dual language, uncut, Japanese-scored episodes. The Dragonbook covers everything from episode synopses and character designs to trivia, quotes, and jokes, and it could easily sell on its own for a few bucks. It is easily the best extra so far this year, and it’s what sets the Dragon Box above the currently available season sets. Otherwise, the discs come only with a trailer.

Should you get it? The ultimate collector will find it the best release to hit America. For the uninitiated, it may go a little too deep into the minutiae of a 20-year old series. And newcomers to the series may want to keep any eye out for Dragonball Z Kai, the Japanese remastering and reediting that cut 291 episodes down to a tighter and nicer-looking 100.

While I gave Dragon Box 1 a high recommendation, I’m not so enthusiastic about the second box. Even aside from the quality of the episodes, too much depends upon the viewer’s own needs and desires for me to simply recommend it as a purchase. Still, it is the best release of these episodes as of early 2010.

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