After the more lighthearted Season 7 involving Gohan attending high school, becoming The Great Saiyaman and the return of Goku, Dragon Ball Z Season 8 has a much more villain focused plot and introduces us to the terrifying, yet playful, Majin Buu. Season 8 also brings us some of the most well known transformations and fights that the series is known for. Featuring a huge 34 episodes, does Season 8 hold up to the quality of past release? Read on to find out.
Spoilers ahead, so any new fans of Dragon Ball who haven’t seen the Buu Saga arc please move along to the visuals section. Along time ago the evil wizard Bibidi created a being of pure evil called Majin Buu who he then sealed inside a ball as he found Buu too wild to control. Eons later, his son Babidi is trying to resurrect Buu from his dormant ball by gathering energy. Thus, the third and final major villain of the Z series is born.
Majin Buu is no where near as intelligent or plotting as the former big bads and is perhaps the weakest of the villains in terms of character (definitely not strength wise), lacking any sort of back story that intertwines with the main heroes as the previous two villains did. You will either hate or love Buu’s childish personality but it plays a very interesting role towards the end of the season where we see both the destructive and innocent sides of Buu’s character, producing both heart warming and heart breaking scenes, sometimes in the same episode. Babidi is the brains of operation and helps further the plot along with his strong magical abilities while Demon King Dabura serves as some serious muscle who goes through some strange jealousy issues when Majin Buu comes along.
One thing I like is that at this point in the story, the Saiyan characters all know they are ridiculously strong. It is cool to see Goku, Vegeta and Gohan be self aware of the power creep the series has experienced as are the viewers and it is refreshing to see them have the upper hand on the enemy for a change, at least for half of the season. The characters (and fights of course) are what carries this show and the cast is very strong here apart from perhaps Supreme Kai, who is more often then not trembling in fear as opposed to being a calm guardian of the Universe which gets irritating quickly. Vegeta in particular receives some great character development that leads into events that occur towards the show’s end.
There is also a secondary story happening back at the World Tournament grounds as the Tournament is in disarray after most of the competitors have left. This is where most of the comedy comes into the arc, with Trunks and Goten posing as the fighter Mighty Mask to fight with the adults, 18 trying to get some cash and Mr. Satan trying to maintain his false representation as Earth’s strongest as well as the Announcer trying to get everything together. The lighthearted moments help break the tension between the more serious events and drama surrounding Buu and are a good laugh in their own right.
The transformations are definitely one of the strong points of the season. We get Vegeta coming under the control of Babidi in exchange for more power, Goten and Trunks performing the fusion dance to become the showboating Gotenks and of course, Goku demonstrating the infamous Super Saiyan 3 technique he learnt while training in Other World. At this point in the series many would argue that gaining a new power up to match up to an increasingly strong villain has become a little tired, but being the last arc in the series I think that plot point had just enough legs to see out the end of the show and there is no denying how epic some of these transformations are, both visually and in the changes they bring to the character’s personality.
Rivaling the transformation as the season’s strong point are the fights, which offer a good mix of epic and fun throughout the season. We get Vegeta absolutely dominating Pui Pui, an out of form Gohan taking on Dabura and then the one everyone’s been waiting for, the big rematch between Goku and Vegeta. This fight is as epic as they come, with beam clashes, fist’s flurries, big blows, characters flying into mountains and getting slammed into the ground. You also get Goku taking on Buu with his new Super Saiyan 3 form as well as a few other scuffles like Mighty Mask taking on 18 and Vegeta taking on Buu. Some cool new techniques debut in this season such as Dabura’s Stone Spit, Android 18 using Destructo Disk or Buu turning his opponent into chocolate. For those that like measures of strength, we also get some revelations such as Goku being stronger than Gohan when he fought Cell and Gohan actually being weaker than back then.
There is no doubt the quality offered by this Blu-ray collection is margins above its old DVD counterparts. The most noticeable difference in the remaster is the sharpness which has improved three fold thanks to the high definition offered by the Blu-ray format. The Majin Buu Saga has always looked better than past sagas of the show thanks to simply being newer and that has aided in the better image quality present here with Season 8 looking the best of any release thus far. A couple of comparison screenshots are below for you to see the drastic difference in quality for yourself. The DVD image is on top, Blu-ray on the bottom.
I’ve mentioned the cropping issue in all my prior DBZ Blu-ray reviews but it is important to a lot of fans so I will mention it again here. Dragon Ball is an old anime that was first broadcasted in the old 4:3 aspect ratio. In this release, the footage has been converted to 16:9 widescreen without the option to view it in its original form, resulting in about 20% of the original image being lost. The good thing is that Funimation have selectively cropped each scene in these new Blu-ray releases instead of leaving the crop confined to one spot for the entire run of the show like they did with the older DVD release, however this still does not eradicate the problem entirely. One awkward scene comes to mind where the tall Dabura is talking but the top of his head is cut off as the much shorter Babidi is also in the scene. That being said, scenes where the crop is awkward are few and far between and I would pick this over black bars on the side of the image.
The colours, brightness and contrast here are perfect and the grain removal is spot on. The new release does not suffer from any type of over saturation like the DVD releases but colours still manage to pop on screen. Lines are sharper and cleaner, colours are not over saturated and light and shadows are visible where they previously were not, allowing for more detail on screen. Even backgrounds benefit from the remastering process as you can see with the clouds below which now look more like a water colour then just a blur.
The original box art (featured at the top of this review) showcases the events of Season 8 very well and looks great to boot. You can link this cover up with Season 7 and Season 9 to form a mural that covers the entire Majin Buu saga which is a nice touch especially for those who love their physical collections.
The audio options presented here by Funimation are excellent and should not leave anyone disappointed. The default audio is set to the Funimation English dub with the original Japanese Audio track and is presented in True HD Dolby 5.1 surround sound. All the intense battles, ki blast and yelling sound loud and clear in this release. You also have your original broadcast dub soundtrack done by Bruce Falconer and the original Japanese mono broadcast to select from as well.
The Japanese and English music track both have some great highlights here and I really recommend watching the Season twice with both soundtracks so you can hear the best of both worlds. On the dub, tracks such as Dabura’s Theme fit perfectly with his menacing presence and the fight tracks are full of energy. Also of note are the epic Super Saiyan 3 theme as well as Gohan’s theme when he pulls out the Z sword, among others. The Japanese track is no slouch though as the soundtrack always fits the action on screen and can stir just as much emotion as the Falconer track can. It also better utilizes silence as opposed to the always on Falconer dub. Where as the DVD had some ‘wonky’ parts in it’s audio, there is no such error here.
As for the voice acting, you again have the choice of the Funimation English dub or the original Japanese vocal track. The dub voices for newly seen characters such as Dabura, Babidi and Buu are all done very well. The King of the Demon World sounds like he came straight from Hell while the child like Majin Buu sounds like a kid on a rampage, fitting his personality perfectly. I’ve always loved how the voice of Gotenks is conveyed with both actors talking at the same time and that still holds up well many years later.
The old voice actors also deserve some praise here, showcasing the experience they have gained over the shows run, with Chris Sabat giving he’s all as Vegeta who has some great moments in Season 8 and Sean Schemmel also deserving of a clap for his Super Saiyan 3 transformation scene. I can’t really comment on the Japanese vocal track but I have no complaints about what I have heard of those performances. All this voice work shines through with crystal clarity thanks to the remastering process.
My only negative on audio is a very small one, and that is that the menu song isn’t as catchy as the previous two releases although it is by no means a bad menu song and fits in with the style of previous themes.
The extras in this Blu-ray release continue to impress and they are actually the first thing I watch now whenever I get my hands on the new season. This time around we get a 25 minute chat with Kyle Hebert who voices Adult Gohan, Pikkon and the Narrator among other small roles; another decent sized interview with Kara Edwards who voices Videl and Goten and lastly a look into the process Funimation goes through to bring anime and other properties to the states from Japan. These interviews are all insightful, charming and reveal some awesome information about the early days of the series. Watching Kyle Hebert get to talk about his dream job and how much he appreciates it is endearing.
The special from Funimation is particularly interesting, showing us the ‘Style Guide’ for Dragon Ball Z which involves character artwork (many of which you will recognize from different promotional material), character biographies and rules for how characters are not allowed to be represented (e.g. images can never be flipped or characters can never be cropped). You also get some interesting insight into one of the most infamous dub lines in it’s Over 9000!!! Funimation actually had to fight for two months to use the popular line on merchandising as the Japanese staff did not want any more attention drawn to the dub error. If you’re into the business side of things or just love behind the scenes stuff in general, this extra is for you.
Apart from the big extras, there is a short U.S. trailer and a text less opening and closing segment. The ‘next time on Dragon Ball Z’ segments are missing from this release, however the previous episode recaps are present. The one negative with the extras is that there is no physical episode guide such as the one featured in the old orange remastered DVD box sets but the extras here more than make up for that absence in my eyes. There is a seemingly unnoticed error in the Kyle Hebert interview where the same clip plays twice over different audio, however it is a small mistake and the clips only serve to fill time between questions anyway.
Dragon Ball Z Season 8 continues the trend of excellence of the later season Blu-ray releases. The episodes here contain some of the most epic fights and transformations in Dragon Ball Z history and there are a lot of big moments, particularly for Vegeta. The visual quality is amazing, the sound quality is amazing and the high quality extras are the icing on the cake. If you don’t mind the transition to the widescreen format, this is the definitive release of the original Dragon Ball Z so far. Bring on Season 9!
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