Dragon Ball Z: Level 1.1
by Jef Burnham
Now available on Blu-ray from Funimation Entertainment.
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With the release of Dragon Ball Z: Level 1.1 on Blu-ray, DBZ at last receives the home video treatment that such a beloved and iconic (if polarizing) series as this deserves. A meticulous, frame-by-frame restoration and a revised English dub make this the essential Dragon Ball Z release, as much as I’m sure those who’ve invested in the multiple previous versions hate to hear.
The majority of the sets in this series of DBZ releases will include 17 episodes of the 291-episode series. The 17 episodes collected in this set account for the majority of the build-up to the confrontation between the Z fighters and Saiyans Nappa and Vegeta. The series opens here as Goku and the gang are celebrating their fifth year of peace following the defeat of King Piccolo in the conclusion of Dragon Ball. Their peaceful existence is disrupted, however, when an alien warrior named Raditz, of the Saiyan race, arrives on Earth and reveals himself to be Goku’s brother. When Goku refuses to join him in intergalactic piracy, Raditz kidnaps Goku’s four-year-old son Gohan as leverage. Goku teams up with former foe Piccolo to face Raditz, and once the battle is decided, the defeated Saiyan reveals that two more Saiyan warriors, each stronger than him, will arrive on Earth in one year’s time (they don’t, in fact, arrive until five episodes after this set wraps up). The remainder of the set follows the fighters as they train in preparation for Vegeta and Nappa’s arrival.
Already, here, the series’ trademark propensity to drag simple events on for far longer than seems humanly possible becomes apparent. To some, this aspect of the narrative structure is a blight on the series as a whole, while, to others, it is part of the charm. Me? I fall somewhere in the middle, I suppose. On the one hand, I find myself occasionally aggravated by the whole affair. On the other, it takes me back to my childhood in the early 1990’s when I would wake up extra early to catch DBZ’s Saiyan Saga on Fox when it originally aired (we’re talking pre-Cartoon Network here).
Special features on this release include trailers, a textless opening and closing, and a featurette about the painstaking HD transfer. In the featurette, narrated by Kyle Hebert of course, it is discussed how the original film elements were re-scanned, color-corrected and underwent a time-consuming frame-by-frame restoration to remove dust, debris, blemishes, and tape marks, in addition to being run through numerous filters to stabilize the image, etc. The resulting visual presentation is spectacular— free of debris with vibrant colors, and a gorgeous rendering of the original prints’ rich film grain! The image is so clear that you can even make out individual brushstrokes in the watercolor backgrounds. Level 1.1 comes out heads and shoulders above the debris-covered, desaturated presentation of DBZ Kai, and it’s every bit as breath-taking as Funimation’s HD transfers of Yu Yu Hakusho.
The cover art for the release is incredibly simple with Goku flying toward the foreground of the image and the title down the left-hand side. Also featured is a power meter in the bottom, left-hand corner that represents a pretty cool gimmick to connect this series of releases, whereby each subsequent release will add another notch to the power meter until the final set achieves full power. The set also includes a collectible card highlighting the character of Vegeta and voice actor Christopher R. Sabat.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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