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"Dragonball Z: Dragon Box 6": The Spiritual Evolution of a Hero?

Years after the Cell Games, Goku’s family and friends have moved on without him. When the hero returns to Earth for a day of fun and martial arts, the Z-Warriors end up having to save all of humanity. Can Goku save the day as he usually does? The bigger question is, should he?

At this point in Dragonball Z, we’re at the end of the road. There’s only one more set of these Dragon Boxes to be released; these episodes take us beyond what will be released in Dragonball Z Kai, and the final villains of the series have been revealed. No major hero characters will be introduced, no major changes to the status quo will be made, and many plot points will be retreads of old ones. Goku will fight Vegeta again, the heroes will try to save the day without Goku, there will be new techniques learned, and the villain will wish destruction upon the Earth. It’s all tried and true, and has honestly begun to show the weariness of Akira Toriyama. While the seven-year time skip and the removal of Goku as a major player start this arc strong, fans demanded his return, and the only characters to truly change in seven years were Gohan, Trunks, and Goten, who at the end of the day is way too much like his father to be a unique addition. Surprisingly, for a show focused on blowing up planets and punching people into bloody pulps, this box set actually features character development.

With most Dragonball Z releases, the same thing can be said: there’s no real big character development outside of former bad guys (Piccolo, Vegeta, Android 18) becoming heroes or otherwise neutral side characters. In the case of this set of episodes, there’s the rare but always intriguing moment with Goku becoming more serious to match the intensity of the fight. Traditionally, he’s approached a new opponent with excitement and drive; he’s challenged by the match, he loves learning new and different fighting styles, and the like. It’s what he lives for. With this fight against Buu, he’s a changed man. Since he’s only gained a temporary reprieve from death, he acknowledges that this isn’t his fight. In fact, while he could possibly take out the enemy, he leaves it as a learning experience for the next generation of heroes. They’ll need to step up and take on their own battles, or else humanity will never be able to fight for itself. It’s the same argument that Superman runs into every once in a while with a moment of introspection; if he’s saving everybody, he’s not letting them take care of themselves, and humanity becomes to reliant on him. He has to let one fire or criminal go so the firemen and police can tackle the problems. It’s honestly one of the more cerebral and stoic moments of a series which can too often be plagued by “good versus evil”, and gives the storyline a bit more of an importance beyond the standard hero sacrifice. It’s the choosing not to fight that makes more impact than the sacrifices during the fight.

This serious aspect is somewhat disquieting. As he’s put the fate of the world on these two children (and trusting his allies who once fought alongside him to take on teaching duties), he has to resort to yelling and discipline. It’s like the moment when you realize your cool uncle and your dad do fight and don’t get along, and he’s not always there to bring you a present. While it adds a facet to his character that’s rarely had any depth, it’s a dark side that, ultimately beneficial, shakes things up a bit. In comparison, the super-powerful villain of this set (beyond the puppet-master waiting to have his strings cut) is awkwardly happy and sweet. Many–accurately if a bit crassly–have compared “Fat Buu” to a person with mental deficiencies. It’s a character who is loud, goofy, looks a little odd, doesn’t know his own strength, and doesn’t know the ramifications of his actions. It’s not an enemy like Vegeta (powered by pride), Freiza (striving for control and stability), or Perfect Cell (searching for physical perfection and driven by a biological need to fight). Buu is purely a knife that’s aimed at innocents, and a later episode (in the next set) manages to exemplify the point perfectly: a knife could be used to stab someone, sure, but it could also be used to cut free someone from burning wreckage. Once it’s taken care of and in the right hands, it can be used for a greater good.

As with previous Dragon Boxes, a lack of on-disc extras, almost typically disappointing from FUNimation, are balanced out by the incredible Dragon Book. Volume 6 has the standard episode guide with titles, summations, and images. It features more profiles, more character relationship charts, and character designs, smartly making sure to give focus to all the one-hit-wonders of this set. Racial guides to the Saiyans and Namekians is a nice bonus as well. While the contents of the book are either incredible simple and common knowledge (Trunks is Bulma and Vegeta’s son), or incredibly obscure and minor (“Punter” is the name of the fighter Krillin beats in the Tournament). The box and this book are some of the best presentation and special features that FUNimation has brought over to America, and continue to make this the definitive release of the series, no matter how many times and variations of the show have come and continue to be announced.

The Dragon Boxes will stand as the definitive version of the series on DVD. If you get these, feel free to throw out any others. While the only story elements that pay off in this set are for long-time fans of the series, that’s how this series works: You won’t even be looking at volume six of seven if you haven’t watch all preceding 209 episodes.

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