"Dragonball Z" The Glory of Trunks
After thirty episodes of having the good guys fight against a single bad guy, it’s about time Dragonball Z spiced things up a bit. Luckily, a certain purple-haired time traveler is about to appear…
Previously, the Z-Fighters still alive had traveled to Namek to acquire their Dragonballs and revive their dead comrades. However, Vegeta and the mighty Freeza stood in their way. Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta teamed up to drive off the evil tyrant, but even with Piccolo powered up and joining the fray, they couldn’t lay a scratch on Freeza. Luckily, Goku fully healed and joined the fight, giving Freeza his first challenge in a while. However, after Freeze killed Vegata, gave Piccolo a near-fatal wound, and destroyed Krillin, Goku had enough and transformed into a Super Saiyan. He easily defeated Freeza, but Namek exploded moments later, leaving Goku missing (though not dead) somewhere in the universe.
A year and a half later, our heroes sense the presence of a revived Freeza and his father, King Cold, coming to Earth. While Gohan and the others prepare for their inevitable demise, a mysterious boy arrives out of nowhere and does the unthinkable: He transforms into a Super Saiyan and kills Freeza and his father effortlessly. He even knows where Goku will eventually land. When Goku reunites with his friends and family, the boy takes him aside and tells of his origin as well as the future. In three years, two ruthless Androids will appear and kill everyone, wreaking havoc on the world. So the Z-Fighters begin training in earnest.
After the incredibly lackluster Freeza Saga, it’s nice to get back to a time when Dragonball Z was good. You can even sense the change as the Trunks saga begins. The wonderful coloring, the great designs, the ease with which Trunks defeats Freeza: it all signals a change in the series and washes away almost all the awfulness of the previous saga. Characters other than Goku get some spotlight time and actually assist in defending the Earth, and none are really cheated out of a fight the way Krillin and Gohan had been before. For the first time since the series’ start, there’s really a feeling that most of the good guys are on equal footing. Sure, it’s pretty obvious Vegeta and Piccolo are much stronger than the others, but it doesn’t feel like Tien, Krillin, and Gohan are as weak as they were before.
The new characters also do their part to refresh things. Trunks is a wonderful new character who interacts extremely well with the other established characters. He doesn’t really get much screen time with Goku, but few characters in this series do, since in most of the series so far Goku has either been training by himself or fighting by himself. Anyway, Trunks has some good chemistry with Vegeta (which is crucial given Trunks’ origin), but he also has some good conversations with Krillin and Tien, which is a unique and welcome combination. I wish he and Gohan had interacted more, what with Trunks’ history and all, but I guess that’s what the History of Trunks is for. Androids 19 and 20, though not spectacular, also provide some decent entertainment, and while neither make a truly lasting impression, I do like 20’s cunning during the last half of the set. It’s rather refreshing to see the bad guy actually trying to outwit the much-stronger good guys, since up until now it’s been the other way around.
However, the true standouts on this set are the two strongest Androids: Android #17 and Android #18. Unlike Vegeta and Freeza, who just want to be the strongest and rule over everybody, these two just want to have fun. Their mocking of the Z-Fighters is wonderful, and their brief fight with them is so much more enjoyable than the vast majority of the thirty-episode Freeza fight, and the Android fight barely lasts one episode. Their attitude toward the current situation is also fun in that they take their time getting to their destination instead of speeding right away and forcing our heroes to rush under cover. Though I do wonder why, if they want to keep Goku safe, the Z-Fighters take him to Roshi’s instead of, I dunno, anywhere else. Anyway, 17 and 18 are quite a bit of fun, but Android 16 doesn’t really get to do much here. For most of his appearances, he just stands there looking at birds and doesn’t take part in the action. That will change next volume, but here he just seems like window dressing.
Every box set has to have a weak point and this set is no exception. Luckily, it’s actually rather easy to skip it: it’s the first 10 episodes on the set, which fans will know as the Garlic Jr. Saga. Now, Dead Zone was quite a fun movie, but its TV series sequel is just downright awful. The fighting is really boring, the villains aren’t interesting at all, and Garlic Jr. just doesn’t have that maniacal magic he had in the movie. Not to mention the story is utterly awful and the subplot of Kami and Popo traveling to the Shishinken in order to deliver the Holy Water is all kinds of stupidity. Yes, it does give those two something to do and this story allows our heroes to win without the help of Goku, but that only works if the story supports it. Just because Goku doesn’t appear doesn’t mean a story is automatically good, it just means Goku doesn’t appear, obviously. Looking back, the only real positive thing I have to say about the piece of dreck known as the Garlic Jr. Saga is that Gohan’s shield is given some visual flair instead of the usual perfect circle. When that is an arc’s greatest strength, you know you’ve got problems.
Unfortunately, the Garlic Jr. Saga also comes with the hideous animation from the Freeza Saga, complete with bland and pale coloring and unimaginative storyboarding. Luckily, the first section of the Cell Saga refreshes the color palette, adding some purples and browns to the endless shades of light green and teal that plagued the previous sixty or so episodes. It may be in part due to the change in character designs, but the animation teams really step things up during this saga. Trunks’ entrance is a sight to behold, and the Androids all have wonderful animation. Thankfully, the various Super Saiyans also finally receive some good animation, making them look as cool as they are. However, not everything is perfect, as some episodes have weaker animation and some of the SS shots are Freeza Saga-bland (Vegeta vs. Android 19 is a good example). As with the other sets, the widescreen is back and the animation is still somewhat bright, but by now I’ve gotten used to it so it doesn’t bother me as much. Though we’ll see whenever I actually get an HDTV.
When this saga was first dubbed, it was the first time the FUNimation cast had truly settled into their roles, so much of the original dub is similar in quality to the earlier redubs of the first three seasons. The only real changes are Kyle Hebert as the narrator and a de-modulation of Android 19’s voice so that now one can actually understand what he’s saying. Everyone else sounds normal, which is a good thing or a bad thing depending on your taste. The script isn’t quite as awful as the third season’s, but there are still some glaring inaccuracies and still way too much talking, but it does have some really great lines, my favorite being Vegeta’s “The sleeper has awakened! I am the prince of all Saiyans once again!” The Japanese cast performs at their usual level, though I’m still not a big fan of Masako Nozawa’s adult Goku, and the Japanese music again makes the dub seem even better, especially during an early episode where we get to hear an instrumental version of the first opening theme, “Head Cha La.”
Unfortunately, the extras remain mostly the same. The set comes with a booklet featuring the various characters and episode summaries, along with trailers and textless songs on Disc 6. It would’ve been really nice if they had included some of the kickass Toonami promos from back in the day or some cast auditions or a retrospective featurette or something, but alas we get nothing of the sort. And to top things off, we still have the hideous orange blob packaging. Why can’t the people who designed the packaging for Trinity Blood, Basilisk, or Solty Rei design the packaging for this series?
Overall, after a disastrous third season, Dragonball Z gets back into the good stuff with the Cell Saga. Just remember to start watching at the end of Disc 2, skipping the Garlic Jr. Saga.
Dragonball Z: Season Four includes episodes 108 through 139.