Dragonball Z: Level 1.2
by Jef Burnham
Now available on Blu-ray from FUNimation Entertainment.
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Level 1.2 collects episodes 18-34 of Dragonball Z with the set wrapping up a mere five episodes shy of the conclusion of the series’ Saiyan Saga. The bulk of the previous set’s 17 episodes revolved around the characters’, specifically Gohan’s, preparations for the prophesied assault on Earth by Saiyan warriors Nappa and Vegeta. Here at last, after a mere four episodes of training at the outset of Level 1.2, the battle between the Z Warriors and the Saiyan attackers is finally underway, and it’s perhaps the most satisfying and well-crafted of the series’ innumerable battles. The success of the battle, as I see it, owes not only to its structural complexity but to the numerous training scenes prior to the confrontation, during which we come to understand how much of themselves the characters have invested in the battle. It’s also during the pre-battle portion of the saga that we learn the history of the Saiyan race and watch Piccolo develop from Goku’s nemesis into the mentor of Goku’s son Gohan. The characters in the lead-up to the battle with the Saiyans are at their most relatable. This is why, if you’re looking to delve into DBZ, I strongly suggest you do so from the beginning (or even earlier if you can, with the original Dragonball).
Having sat through two sets of FUNimation’s restored, HD transfer of DBZ now, I continue to be impressed by the Blu-ray presentation. Watching DBZ in HD is seriously like watching it for the first time all over again. The painstaking frame-by-frame restoration the series underwent for this release (as explored in detail in Level 1.1’s special features) presents the original film elements’ inherently rich grain structure with such clarity that, if projected on a large screen, you’d swear you were watching a film print. This is about as true to the source elements as you can get, and it’s eye candy for film fanatics such as myself. In addition, the Dolby TrueHD audio mixes of both versions of the English dub match the enhanced visuals in intensity (the original Japanese dialogue is also included on these releases, but in the original mono mix). Indeed, FUNimation’s Blu-ray releases are the only way to own DBZ. I just hope we see an equally meticulous restoration of Dragonball in the near future.
Level 1.2 includes the Marathon Play feature, a common, and frankly necessary, feature on Dragonball Z releases. The Marathon feature plays the episodes non-stop without openings, closings, recaps, or titles to aid the viewer in traversing the series’ potentially off-putting 291 episode run a wee bit quicker. The special features on this set include the textless opening and closing, trailers for other FUNimation releases, and the Capsule Corp. Archives. The first entry in the Capsule Corp. Archives is “An Engineer and a Pen: Autograph Collection Part 1.” This slideshow features headshots of the English DBZ voice actors, signed to series producer/voice actor Justin Cook (I believe). The autograph slideshow is at least of interest to anyone who has never seen these actors before and would like to put faces to the voices. The second entry in the Archives is the incredibly disappointing “The Many Faces of Christopher R. Sabat.” I anticipated that this would be a featurette honoring Sabat, a diverse voice actor whose work with FUNimation found him voicing an impressively large number of DBZ’s key players, not to mention my favorite character in Yu Yu Hakusho. Instead, it turned out to be yet another, shorter slideshow. This slideshow, however, features a handful of Sabat headshots doodled on in various ways, most of which find his face altered to appear as one of the characters he voices. Hardly warranting an entry all their own in the features list, the Sabat slides could easily have been tacked onto the autograph slideshow.
The cover and spine art for Level 1.2 appropriately feature the Saiyan Prince Vegeta, looking angry as usual, and the collectible card highlights series protagonist Goku along with voice actor Sean Schimmel.
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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