Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods Blu-ray Anime Review

Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods Blu-ray Anime Review

Dragon Ball Z: Battle Of Gods

More of this, please.

What They Say:
Following the events of the Dragon Ball Z television series, after the defeat of Majin Buu, a new power awakens and threatens humanity. Beerus, an ancient and powerful God of Destruction, searches for Goku after hearing rumors of the Saiyan warrior who defeated Frieza. Realizing the threat Beerus poses to their home planet, the Z-fighters must find a way to stop him before it’s too late. Only Goku, humanity’s last hope, can ascend to the level of a legendary Super Saiyan God and stop Beerus from destroying Earth, and possibly the entire universe!

Contains both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is a bit awkward because of the theatrical and director’s cut. With both English language mixes, we get an English 5.1 track using Dolby TrueHD. With the Japanese side, we get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for the theatrical cut while the director’s cut is done in a stereo TrueHD mix since it didn’t have all the elements done that way. Which, of course, means my track of choice is the weakest of them all. It is interesting to do some minor comparisons with it as you can hear the 5.1 mixes bumping things up nicely, having more bass overall and definitely some better throws to the rear channels. But I also liked the stereo mix in a kind of throwback way as it let me just enjoy it in how the old movies were presented. Silly, but hey. All four tracks are well done overall though in the sense that they’re clean and problem free and there are no encoding issues with them. The 5.1 mixes definitely work the forward soundstage well and you get a good sense of impact in the fight scenes and some of that does carry through to the stereo mix.

Video:
Originally in theaters in March 2013, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The release comes with separate DVDs for the theatrical and director’s cut while the Blu-ray has both versions on it. We watched the director’s cut for our review, which has twenty additional minutes of material. I hate trying to pick out what’s new and not, so I just went with the fullest version. Animated by Toei Animation, we get a film that is bright, vibrant and colorful with a great look to it that comes through beautifully. There’s a strong and solid color field throughout and nothing noteworthy that’s distracting or noticeable during regular playback that would be a detriment. The film really leaps off the screen in a great way and the transfer brings all of it out with the depth of color, the background details we get and the high fluidity of the action sequences.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with an O-card that replicates the case artwork itself. The front cover is a hugely busy piece where the top half gives us the battle between Goku and Beers while below the logo we get the larger cast image which has a very manga-like feeling in a way. Both sides are colorful, and it is really, really busy, but it manages to work for this kind of show in a way. The back cover is a little more traditional as we get a largely black cover with a look at the powered up Goku along the top while the right side has a decent array of shots from the feature. The differences in the two versions are laid out clearly as are the extras. The premise is also well handled overall, though the text could have been a touch brighter. The technical grid breaks down both formats well, especially as there’s a lot of things to cover here, and it does get a bit tight but still functions well enough. The case itself replicates all of this with the only difference being there’s artwork on the reverse side that shows a starscape with one of the Dragon Balls taking up space along the right side.

Extras:
This release does come with a few extras, though I kind of expected more of the promos used on their YouTube channel to show up as well. The first extra is some behind the scenes filming of the feature with seeing the actors in the booth while the second piece delves into their roles and shows off more of the dubbing process overall. These, plus a great clean version of the ending sequence that shows the manga being paged through, runs about thirty minutes overall. Surprisingly, there is no commentary track here either, something that I thought that the actors would be keen on getting involved in.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Seventeen years after the last film/special, Dragon Ball Z has finally returned with this 2013 feature. My own experiences with this franchise are awkward and out of order in a lot of ways, having experienced the Dragon Ball Z saga in anime form itself first and with three episode per DVD releases, which made the whole thing a trying experience. What changed my negative perception of the franchise over the years though was going and reading the original Dragon Ball manga and really enjoying that in a great way. That in turn made me enjoy the original anime series, which is still my favorite as I like young Goku. Dragon Ball Z isn’t my favorite, nor a lot of the movies, but I’ve grown to enjoy it overall. With this film, what we get is the continuation of the story overall with new material that looks utterly fantastic.

Seriously fantastic.

One of the things we’ve seen with a lot of older properties getting a new life with either new adaptations or continuations is that the more varied style over the years from properties that date back awhile is that they stand out all the more here. The evolution of anime in terms of character designs is definitely an interesting one and I really love the way films like this stick to what the designs always have been but they get a whole new kind of polish and clarity here that lets it stand out beautifully. This film gives us all the characters we’re familiar with and want to see and the new characters fit in easily with them. The higher production values don’t make them look cheap, as might happen when working with older designs, and what we get is something that says this is the way to present them. Though I’d seen plenty of clips prior to this release, it doesn’t prepare you for how beautiful and colorful this looks in full high definition.

The premise for the film is one that is rather straightforward, but it’s the small moments that will delight overall in seeing your favorite characters presented in this way. While life has gone on, there are things across the universe that move on as well. One such thing is the most powerful creature in the universe, Beers the Destroyer. After a thirty-nine year slumber, he’s now been awakened by his associate Whis in order to deal with a supposed prophecy that Beers learned about. His role as the Destroyer in this universe is one that’s interesting, and it gets a neat little touch towards the end about a successor, but there’s some good ties to the past here as we learn how he had gotten Vegeta’s father to kneel years ago before him and that he inspires great fear in many, such as Kaio and the others on that particular level. Beers is fully presented as a dangerous opponent of an unprecedented level, a problem this franchise has always had to deal with, but it provides good nods to Frieza and others that we’ve encountered over the years.

With Beers curious to see if the prophecy of a Super Saiyan God existing, he discovers what happened to the Saiyan homeworld and zeroes in on the group that appears to have survived on Earth. It’s no surprise that he ends up there, though with a quick detour beforehand on Kaio’s tiny world where Beers has an intriguing history as well. It’s here that Goku gets his first encounter with him and we get to see exactly what kind of power level that Beers has in relation to a highly powered up Goku. With Goku, we get what we’ve always gotten; a man who wants to face tougher and tougher opponents based on his own abilities. That’s been one of the things about him that’s a great thing as he wants to do it on his own strength. He’s not looking to be the strongest, as he’d be lost without a goal, and he’s not doing it in order to be a ruler or use it to abuse others. He’s simply a fool that loves a good challenge and fight.

What ends up happening is that Beers ends up on Earth where Vegeta is only to discover that all our familiar characters are there to celebrate Bulma’s latest birthday. That gives us an excuse to have a lot of characters there and have fun, only to get all properly panicked when Beers reveals why he’s actually there. What’s fun is that before that, we get child-Pilaf and crew trying to steal the Dragon Balls that have been brought there and seeing how they end up getting mingled into things. Having spent so much time away from these characters when it comes to new material, it was a good way to reconnect with most of them, their connections and some of the minor nudges along the way, such as with Videl. A lot of them don’t get more than a couple of lines while others are a little more involved, since the biggest focus of course is on the more primary characters.

With the director’s cut, what we get are a couple of smaller fights along the way, from Goku’s first attempt to Vegeta training and then realizing the scale of what he’s up against. All of it pushes us towards the eventual fight between Goku and Beers with the fate of the world in the balance. The fight sequence is really strong in its choreography and the way it plays out, especially since we get an opponent that Goku can’t just train harder to deal with. There’s a really good look at his characters here in how they discover how to power up to fight him and how Goku goes through with it but realizes even more about himself. Those who have watched for decades with these characters know that this is very true to the character and it completely fits with what he does here and his reasons behind it. And it does the great thing of going through with the fight but not to the expected conclusion.

In Summary:
For me, what made this film work, is the combination of the appeal of the animation itself and just getting to spend time with these characters again. While we do get the larger threat of the world blowing up, so much of this film is relaxed because it’s Beers and Whis enjoying the birthday party and all of its food, all while Vegeta is freaking out. This party atmosphere works perfectly, at least within the director’s cut where things have more time to unfold, to just ease into it and give it room to breathe. I’ll easily admit I wasn’t expect much with the film when I started because there’s been a mostly bad history with Dragon Ball Z films and how enjoyable they are. But this is the turning of the corner as it has me really looking forward to more original stories if they’re done with this style of animation and fun. They won’t change the world but they’ll extend my enjoyment of the property and the characters just a little bit more.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0/5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes: Battle of Voice Actors (English audio only), The Voices of Dragon Ball Z: Unveiled (English audio only), Textless Closing Song, U.S. Trailer

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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