Dragon Ball Z Season 9 brings us the conclusion of the Buu Saga and also the end of the entire Dragon Ball Z series and the anime itself if you prefer to discount the Toei Animation produced Dragon Ball GT as canon. There are more fusions, more transformations, more battles and even another time skip to end the series. Featuring 38 episodes, does Season 9 offer the finale Dragon Ball Z deserves? Read on to find out.
Spoilers ahead, so any new fans of Dragon Ball who haven’t seen the final arc of the Buu Saga and don’t wish to be spoiled please skip to the visuals section. After an unfortunate event that provides a rather interesting social commentary on the actions of men, Buu has an anger induced meltdown causing him to transform into a much more sinister, slimmer form. From then on the plot focuses on how to destroy the newly formed monster, which encourages new transformations and new strategies, many of which fail.
The Z warriors are at their most powerful here and it is a real treat for the viewer. Gohan’s potential being unlocked through Elder Kai, Gotenks reaching Super Saiyan 3 and the most ridiculously powerful character in all of the series, Super Vegetto, the fusion of Goku and Vegeta gone Super Saiyan all reach awesome new heights. These transformations and how they occur are good fun to watch play out, but it can get annoying when the heroes continue to toy with their enemies instead of finishing them off, particularly Gohan who seemingly hasn’t learnt his lesson from fighting Cell.
The fights continue to be a strong point for the series and are pushed to new limits along with the fighters power. From the over-the-top creative super attacks of Gotenks to the punishing melee of Ultimate Gohan, the fights somehow manage to remain interesting and fresh after the series long run. Buu’s absorption techniques and the way he can warp his body also lead to a handful of interesting techniques. This is classic mountain smashing, planet destroying, energy blast firing Dragon Ball Z action.
While all the awesome power ups and fights are great, both the story and main villain is weaker here than in former arcs. The Buu Saga is often ridiculed for being contrived, overly long and contradictory (there are still debates to this day over which Buu form is the strongest) and rightfully so. The convenience of some characters not mentioning certain information or performing questionable acts (or not performing any act) makes you question Toriyama’s ability (or willingness at this point in the series) to craft a complete story and take into account past series lore.
The saga is also full of coincidences that only seem exist to forward the plot to the next transformation that will most likely fail again and unfortunately, these coincidences happens a few times within the saga. It can also be argued Buu is a rather average villain only bent on destruction, a far cry from the scheming, iconic villains of Frieza and Cell that always seemed to have a connection to the Z warriors past where as Buu does not. While his back story is revealed and is actually rather interesting, it really doesn’t help Buu become any more interesting of a villain.
On to the ending, the story of Dragon Ball Z has always depended on its well fleshed out cast and the ending does a fantastic job of giving each of those a proper send off, right from the final moments of the battle with Kid Buu. The Super Spirit Bomb Goku forms to take out Buu gives a reason to show characters dating back all the way from original Dragon Ball to the newer Z sagas so you can see where they have ended up. Vegeta’s character is resolved beautifully, finally coming to peace with Goku’s natural talent that surpasses his own and letting go of the anger that came with the rivalry.
The epilogue takes place ten years after the defeat of Buu and gives us a few more concluding revelations. Gohan has finally achieved his dream (or should I say his mother’s dream) of becoming a scholar and is married to Videl with a daughter of his own. Many of the Z warriors are enjoying the peace, relaxing with their families and even expanding them. Of course Goku is the main focus at the very end and his ending is perfect for him, despite being a rather selfish decision on his part that gives some credibility to the theory he is not the universe’s best father or husband.
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 and the removal of the ‘low bit rate’ effect. The Majin Buu Saga has always looked better than past sagas simply by virtue of being newer and being drawn with more detail and that has aided in the better image quality present here, with Season 9 stealing the crown for best looking season. A couple of comparison screenshots are below for you to see the drastic difference in quality for yourself with the DVD image on top and 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 was first broadcasted in the old 4:3 aspect ratio but has been converted to 16:9 widescreen for this release without the option to view it in its original form, resulting in about 20% of the original image being lost. In the Blu-rays, Funimation have selectively cropped each scene instead of leaving the crop confined to one spot for the entire run of the show like they did with the older DVD release. This obviously does not eradicate the problem entirely however the selective cropping is a much better solution, with one such example being the above shot where you can much more of Goku’s face now.
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 and a more natural look. You can see the rocks and the light around the Kamehameha really benefit from the new remastering process as opposed to looking blurry.
The new box art which is featured at the top of this review showcases the events of Season 9 well and even manages to get Mr. Satan on the cover for once. You can link this cover up with Season 7 and Season 8 to form a mural that covers the events of the Majin Buu saga which is great 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 Stereo and 5.0 options come through crystal clear and the Japanese audio, while obviously suffering from its age, does sound better than it has in past releases.
The Japanese and English music track both have some great highlights here and I recommend watching the Season twice with both soundtracks so you can hear the best of both worlds. On the dub, tracks such as Buu is Fighting fit perfectly with the out of control villain and the theme that accompanies Gohan returning to Earth brings even more epicness to the scene. More sombre scenes like Elder Kai giving his life are given appropriate backing tracks that again aid in involving you more emotionally with the scene. The Japanese audio track is also terrific, always matching the action on screen and able to stir just as much emotion as the Falconer soundtrack. Where as the DVD release had a lot of issues with audio ‘warping’ constantly, 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 are at their best in Season 9, with some extremely well delivered lines from the cast that nail that bad ass tone, Super Buu’s “you’re missing the point” and Gohan’s “fight you, no, I wanna kill you” are particularly memorable. 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 of the series original audio.
I always like to give my two cents on the menu song and I am pretty happy with it this time around. My only complaint is the background scenes of Hercule wandering around the desert that accompany it are a very poor choice for the track (and in general, especially for the final Blu-ray in the set).
Season 9 brings the extras big time, featuring an entire disc dedicated to bonus features. This time we have two standard interviews featuring Josh Martin (voice of Majin Buu) and Chris Rager (voice of Mr. Satan). In addition to that, we get a feature titled From East to West: Dragon Ball Z’s Epic Journey and another feature titled “A Completely Serious Discussion About the Comedy of Dragon Ball Z” which is six members of the main voice cast including Chris Sabat literally goofing around for an hour in a free interview format.
Personally even though there was more on offer here I wasn’t a big fan of these extras which is a shame as I have highly praised the interviews and special features on all past seasons I have reviewed. Josh Martin’s interview was particularly dry and he didn’t seem to share the love for his role as many of the other cast did which made his interview rather uninteresting. Chris Rager’s interview is easily the highlight, he shows a great appreciation for the role and reveals a lot about his past, how he got into the role as well as his inspiration for where Hercule’s voice came from. The entire interview is a pleasure to watch.
While the extras in previous seasons were always full of behind the scenes information about the show and the actors, these features are sorely lacking in that kind of information. The East to West special was mainly reused clips from previous interviews spliced together with fan accolades from various anime conventions that didn’t really have much substance (although the Goku/Gohan father son cosplay was touching and also good for a laugh). Perhaps it just didn’t appeal to my type of humour, but the hour long Comedy of Dragon Ball Z feature isn’t that funny even though the actor’s are trying really hard to be.
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. Unfortunately the Blu-ray release is the old physical episode guide featured in the old orange remastered DVD box is completely absent.
Dragon Ball Z Season 9 is a worthy send off to the popular series. While the story falters in some regards that will stick out more to the most loyal viewers and those that love to search for plot holes, the strong personality of the characters and the still excellent transformation and fight sequences will keep you in your seat until the end. The special features aren’t as interesting as the ones included in past releases but the amazing visual and audio quality of the main content more than make up for this. If you don’t mind the transition to the widescreen format, this Blu-ray collection is how you should experience Dragon Ball Z.
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