Movies / Animé and Toons

Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1

By Chris Zimmerman
December 21, 2011 - 08:49

Many comments have been made about Funimation’s constant milking of Dragon Ball Z. Every year seems to herald a new release that improves upon the last, whether it be more episodes, a new dub, or less filler. From a business perspective it is hard to argue their motives, Dragon Ball Z as a property has displayed an appeal and staying power beyond normal anime standards. Since crossing over American shores in 1996, the series has consistently been featured on TV in prominent time slots, and has moved countless merchandise from games to T-shirts. The series is one of the few anime to cross over into the mainstream and has held its own ever since.

It’s been awhile since Funimation garnered flack for their lackluster restoration effort of the original Dragon Ball Z. The unorthodox widescreen transfer coupled with bleached colors raised the ire of many fans, especially when compared to the efforts of the Dragon Box sets. However, for nostalgia purposes, the season sets were the perfect choice for those who grew up with Dragon Ball Z on Toonami thanks to inclusion of the original dub and Bruce Faulconer’s music track. For better or for worse, Funimation recognizes the demand to see this version on Blu-ray and that, given a proper restoration attempt, those fans would be willing to give the company another chance.

Dubbed Level 1.1, Funimation’s latest effort spans the first 17 episodes of the first arc. This will probably raise a red flag for some, but more on this later. Rather than recount the content of the set, time would be better spent examining the technical merits of the transfer. Truth be told, the transfer is what Funimation is banking on to sell the release. Much of the ads associated with this release have made comparisons of the HD upgrade to the previous film stock. The good news is the transfer is head and shoulders above the company’s previous attempt. The colors pop off the screen, with grain and saturation kept to a minimum.  While this probably isn’t the best image clarity the series has seen, the digital upgrade is on par with the Dragon Box sets. Funimation also made the wise move to port over the bevy of audio options available on the season sets.

Now for the less than good news; the episode count is half that of the season sets. For the rice paid, this will almost surely turn off some fan’s interest in this release. Unquestionably, the most common attribution to the first arc is the climatic showdown between Goku and Vegeta. What we get with this release is all the build and no delivery. The episode count also makes the amount of filler all the more noticeable in that the plot moves at a remarkably slow pace to the point that the majority of these episodes revolve around the group training for the impending fight. Despite fun side stories like the saiyans rampage on another planet, the lack of resolution hurts the appeal of the set.

Once again, Funimation fails to deliver any substantial Dragon Ball specific bonus features. Besides a trivial featurette detailing the remastering process, there is little else here aside from trailers. This treatment of Funimation’s cash-cow is bewildering. At the very least, wouldn’t a commentary from the voice actors or a retrospective be feasible? Why should consumers continue to plop down their money for what they already own without any other incentive?

While the transfer is beyond what Funimation had given fans with the previous season sets, there isn’t much else for those who already own the series. Those new to the product won’t mind having the episodes in HD, though Kai would be a better choice as a point of introduction. With so many other options on the market, this new release comes off as another money grab until the company can think of some new way to release the series.


Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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