Dragon Ball Z Vegeta Saga 1 – Saiyan Showdown


Rating: TV-PG for cartoon violence and brief nudity

Sean Schemmel as Goku
Stephanie Nadolny as Gohan
Christopher Sabat as Piccolo and Turtle
Cynthia Cranz as Chi Chi
Kyle Hebert as Narrator
Justin Cook as Raditz
Jakie Cabe as Sabertooth
Sonny Strait as Krillin
Tiffany Vollmer as Bulma
Mike McFarland as Roshi

Special Features:
Goku vs. Vegeta Featurette
Follow the Nimbus Cloud
Dragon Ball Z trivia
Funimation Trailers

Box Starter Set also includes Goku figurine

Other Info:
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Soundtracks: English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English 2.0 Stereo, Spanish mono, Japanese mono
Subtitles: English
Regions: 1, 2, and 4
Running Time: 75 Minutes

Dragon Ball originated as a shounen manga (boys’ comic) by Akira Toriyama serialized in the magazine Shounen Jump. It has spawned three TV anime series and a multitude of movies and direct-to-video releases. Vegeta Saga 1 – Saiyan Showdown collects the first three episodes of Dragon Ball Z (the second TV series), which first aired in Japan in 1989. This is the first uncut version of these episodes to be available commercially in the US. It is available in two forms, the DVD by itself and a “Starter Set” with a box for the rest of the DVDs and a Goku figurine.

From the DVD cover: Earth’s peace is forever shattered by the hostile arrival of an alien mercenary whose evil knows no bounds. This new menace’s campaign of terror begins by ruthlessly beating Earth’s greatest hero within an inch of his life. Complicating matters is the shocking revelation that there is more to this sinister invader than meets the eye.

This is the story in its full uncut glory. This is the ultimate Dragon Ball Z!

The Episodes:
Dragon Ball Z has gained such a cult following over the years that it makes sense to split this review into sections for fans and non-fans.

For non-fans, don’t let the fact that this is actually the start of the second Dragon Ball TV series deter you. Most of the characters are holdovers from the first series but the narrative in these first three episodes does a decent job of setting the stage.

Likewise, don’t be deterred by the fact that Dragon Ball Z is 291 episodes long – or 97 DVDs, if Funimation sticks to three episodes per disc. The TV series is broken up into several mostly self-contained story arcs or “sagas” that can be digested individually.

But don’t expect a lot of deep plot and characterization, either. In Dragon Ball Z, the emphasis is squarely on the fighting, and what character development exists is mainly shaped by the battles. This is a series squarely aimed at ‘tween boys, and the creators know their audience well (though it has attracted a following among older anime fans as well). Dragon Ball Z has become (in)famous for its epic fight scenes, some even spanning multiple episodes.

Don’t expect resolution, either. As befitting such a long series, this first disc introduces the characters and establishes the plot – and then promptly ends on a cliffhanger. In brief, Goku (the hero of the first series), having defeated his archrival Piccolo five years earlier, has gotten married, settled down, and has a son. While at a reunion with his old master and other old friends from the first series, he is confronted by a new enemy, Raditz, who has an unexpected connection with Goku’s past. Raditz unexpectedly defeats Goku easily and kidnaps his son. Goku must make a difficult choice of allies to get his son back, since it is clear he cannot defeat Raditz alone…

For parents, this uncut version is more violent than the edited-for-TV version, though in a cartoony way, and there are brief scenes of child nudity. Any child old enough to watch the 1978 Superman movie is old enough for this (indeed, there are quite a few parallels between the two).

For fans, this disc marks the beginning of the long-awaited uncut release of the series in the US. This can be a mixed blessing. Older fans will appreciate the establishing shots that set up the atmosphere and characters for the show, but fans with shorter attention spans may just wish to get on with the action.

Video quality is mixed. Of course, with a 16-year-old TV series the source material is going to show its age. On this disc, the first episode is noticeably more grainy than the other two, though all three show some graininess. The English 5.1 soundtrack, on the other hand, takes full advantage of the format to create a nice, spacious sound stage.

The Extras:
Funimation’s past anime DVDs have not been known for their extras, especially the TV series. This disc decisively breaks the pattern.

The following bonus features are included on the DVD:

Goku vs. Vegeta Featurette: This is a 30 minute mini-documentary featuring interviews with Sean Schemmel (Goku), Christopher Sabat (Vegeta), Robert Bricken (editor of Anime Insider), and a large number of Dragon Ball Z fans, about the legendary rivalry that made the series a phenomenon. It’s also a sign this disc is really aimed at the fans, since Vegeta hasn’t even been introduced yet.

Follow the Nimbus Cloud: This is a neat feature for those who remember watching the edited version of Dragon Ball Z when it first aired. It plays any of the three episodes with a nimbus cloud icon in the upper-right corner signifying footage that was cut from the edited release.

Dragon Ball Z trivia: Test your Dragon Ball Z knowledge. Also aimed at the longtime fan, since it covers events long beyond this first disc (and even contains spoilers for the upcoming battle between Piccolo and Raditz…)

Funimation Trailers: Trailers for other Funimation anime releases such as Spiral, Dragon Ball Z, Lupin III, and Gunslinger Girl, plus a promo for the US edition of Shounen Jump, which is serializing the original manga.

The Starter Set also includes a Goku figurine. It’s very impressive for a freebie; well-detailed and quite posable with twenty degrees of freedom.

The Bottom Line:
With the start of this DVD series, Funimation finally gives Dragon Ball Z fans what they’ve been waiting for: the original series, uncut, in both English and Japanese. This is also a decent spot for aspiring fans to jump in and get their feet wet – as long as they know what they’re getting into.