Dragon Ball Z Season Eight

What They Say

The fate of the universe hangs in the balance!

The forces of good and evil have converged upon the planet Earth, and the fate of the universe hangs in the balance! The evil wizard Babidi has traveled across the galaxy on a quest for revenge, hoping to fulfill his father’s thwarted dreams of universal domination. Meanwhile, the Supreme Kai has come to enlist the aid of the Z-Fighters in an effort to prevent Babidi from completing his plans and awakening a monster of unimaginable terror – Majin Buu!

As Goku and the Z-Fighters descend into Babidi’s lair, they are confronted by an army of powerful minions, led by the Demon King Dabura himself! Can our heroes resist the wizard’s dark magic and battle their way through this host of villains before time runs out? With each passing second, more energy is gathered for the sleeping Majin Buu. And should this creature of pure evil be awakened, all life – everywhere – will be extinguished!

While the majority of the season is focused on the main characters either trying to stop the awakening of the evil being, Majin Buu or theorizing ways to destroy him after he’s predictably awoken, the season manages to distinguish itself from the very similar Cell Saga storyline from Season Six of Dragon Ball Z by focusing on character development and building towards the entire series’ conclusion in Season Nine.

With the series finale looming on the horizon, a lot of the cast of characters are given moments that reflect on where they’ve come from and ultimately where they’re headed.

Surprisingly, while the previous season focused almost exclusively on Gohan, the character is removed from the main storyline fairly early on in Season Eight only to be brought back in later episodes for what is essentially a drawn out training montage arc in Otherworld in a very similar fashion to what happened to Goku way back in Season One. Instead the focus of the season tends to shift between the three Saiyans; Vegeta, Trunks and Goten and even Mr Satan.

Vegeta really gets his moment to shine as a hero here and the relatively new child characters, Trunks and Goten who were only introduced in Season Seven steal almost every scene they’re in with their enthusiasm, innocence and eventual ability to fuse into the singular being, Gotenks.

Something that comes as a complete surprise is the attention given to Mr Satan, who had essentially been comic relief up until this point and is now shown expressing genuine compassion (for the monstrous Buu no less!) and determination to save the planet himself instead of just taking the credit as he had done after the fight with Cell.

There are some impressive fight scenes here and the plot does progress but the focus of Season Eight really is about giving all the characters a moment to shine before things get really serious in Season Nine. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact one of the most memorable episodes in this set was one focusing almost entirely on the female characters of Dragon Ball Z and Master Roshi as they go in search of the Dragon Balls.

Dragon Ball Z has always been about the characters and Season Eight is a fantastic reminder of that.

Blu-ray and Special Features

As with the previous season sets in this release of Dragon Ball Z on Blu-ray, the picture has gone through a massive remastering process which has upscaled the show to the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio for modern television sets and removed a lot of the noise and discoloration that has naturally affected an animated show of this age.

While there where rare instances of rushed restoration in previous sets, a significant number of episodes in the first half of Season Eight feature noticeable digital smudging and blurring that’s hard to ignore and negatively affects the viewing experience. It’s unclear if this subpar image quality in these early episodes is due to FUNimation’s restoration but it is worth mentioning that the animation itself in these same episodes is also of a lower standard than the rest of the series and makes one wonder if TOEI outsourced these episodes’ production to another studio (something TOEI is known to do) which could have resulted in lower quality source image for FUNimation to remaster.

The audio in these Dragon Ball Z Blu-ray sets continues to impress with the usual original Japanese audio mono track (English subtitles are also included) and the new remastered Dolby True HD 5.1 English audio track which features a mix of the English voice actors and the original Japanese background music.

In an age where a lot of classic English dubs are being forgotten in favor of new, modern redubs (see the recent rerelease of the classic 90s anime, Sailor Moon for example) it’s great to see the inclusion of a third audio option featuring the original US English broadcast version that so many fans grew up with in the West. It may still be in 2.0 stereo but its addition to the set says a lot about the respect for fans and awareness of Dragon Ball Z’s legacy that FUNimation has.

Previous sets in this release have featured some fantastic interviews and documentaries and Season Eight is no exception with two separate interviews with series voice actors, Kyle Hebert and Kara Edwards and an insightful look at what goes into adapting a Japanese series for a Western audience.

Kara Edwards’ interview is particularly rewarding as she recalls when the entire Japanese and US casts of Dragon Ball Z were united for an once-in-a-lifetime gathering at an anime convention. Her recount of the experience is genuinely moving as are her reflections on voicing the character of Videl whom she relates to on a very personal level.

Who Should Watch?

Despite its violence, Dragon Ball Z is usually an all-ages anime series. Season Eight however features several rather shocking instances of high level violence such as a head exploding and an elderly couple and dog being shot and killed in cold blood. The visuals themselves aren’t particularly gratuitous or graphic (the exploding head is partially covered by a tree and the couple are shot at a distance) but the violent concepts may be shocking for younger children.

Overall

Dragon Ball Z Season Eight picks up where Season Seven left off and sets the stage for the final season, Season Nine which rounds out the series as a whole.