Dragon Ball Super: Part One
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For those who have not followed Dragon Ball lately, Dragon Ball Super begins with two sagas that retell and expand the stories of two very recent Dragon Ball Z movies, "Battle of Gods" and "Resurrection F." This set contains episodes 1-13, which is most of the Battle of Gods story arc. Episode 14 is the conclusion of that arc, but it is being held off until Part Two. While fans may be annoyed at this omission, in fairness to Funimation, 13-episode sets are pretty standard for anime, and for a long-running series like Dragon Ball Super (which currently has more than 100 episodes), breaking it into 13-episode releases is generally the norm.
Those who saw Battle of Gods will note that the animation quality of the first 13 episodes is a pretty huge drop from the higher-budget animation of the feature film. While it does not look bad, the animation's quality dip is noticeable by comparison. When the show aired in Japan, some episodes were even worse. This Blu Ray uses the video from the Japanese Blu Ray, which was cleaned up prior to release, so it looks better than it did when the episodes first aired on TV in 2015, but not great. As those who have been watching the series know, the animation quality gets much better after the first 30 or so episodes, so at least there is something to look forward to in the future.
The other thing that is somewhat unique is that because Battle of Gods exists as a film, there are several extra scenes and episodes in this set that feel more like anime filler. Some of them are fun additions, such as the slice of life first half of episode 2 involving Vegeta begrudgingly taking his family on a vacation. Other additions, such as expanding Goten and Trunks' presence, can get grating after a while. The film is generally better than its Super adaptation.
What is here is good fun, especially for long-time fans of the series. There is some great action, there are some genuinely funny moments, and it feels great to just settle in and watch some Dragon Ball again.
Somewhat notoriously, the Dragon Ball Z dub was oftentimes very different from the Japanese original. The entire score was changed, character names were altered, and characterization tended to be different. When Funimation dubbed Dragon Ball Kai (Z Kai in North America), it took a much more faithful approach to the series while retaining most of the original cast.
Today, Funimation is a very different company and is in a very different place than it was in 1999-2003 when Dragon Ball Z originally aired on TV. Dragon Ball Super received a faithful dub. It is interesting to watch the show with Japanese subtitles on to compare the lines being spoken in the dub to the lines from the original show. In Z, they were often different, whereas in Super, they are largely identical. Additionally, the cast is superb. While some fans will always prefer the original cast to the dub cast, all of the dub actors and actresses do a great job with their parts. Newcomers Jason Douglas and Ian Sinclair, who voice Beerus and Whis, respectively, are perfectly cast (as they were in the Battle of Gods film). Otherwise, the dub cast from Kai carried over to Super, and everyone does an excellent job with their parts. Whether you prefer Masako Nozawa or Sean Schemmel as Goku, the performances surrounding your preferred way of watching the show are a highlight of this set. Lastly, as expected of Funimation, the subtitles for the Japanese version are perfect. I believe they are a little more accurate than the Crunchyroll subtitles, but I have not compared the two enough to know for sure. Either way, they offer an accurate translation.
THE BLU RAY
This is a pretty typical Funimation Blu Ray, which is definitely a good thing. It has a shiny slip case that looks really nice. There are two discs, one consisting of 9 episodes and the other consisting of 4 and the extras. The episode listing is behind the first disc on the back of the Blu Ray insert. There are not any physical extras with this release.
The menus are clean and easy to navigate, with some animation from across the 13 episodes in this set playing on the top half of the screen and standard menu options on the bottom. There is also a Marathon Mode option, which omits the openings and endings and just plays the substance of the episodes.
The video and sound quality are great. Having just finished watching the Buu Saga of Kai, I noticed that the sound seems to be mixed a little better in Super. The video quality is crisp and clean, animation quality aside.
There are two extras on this set, which are sets of interviews with the dub cast about returning to Dragon Ball. The cast has been voicing these characters in games and recently in the two movies, so they were not really "returning" to Dragon World, per se, but the interviews and insights are still fun. These individuals are all experienced panelists at anime conventions, so they are great on camera. While there is not anything particularly special about these interviews, they're a good Blu Ray extra to check out. Chris Sabat's daughter is absolutely adorable in her extra with him.
Dragon Ball Super has finally begun receiving a home release, and it is (thankfully) exactly what fans would want. Fans of the Japanese version get a great package with an excellent subtitle track. Fans of the dub get a well-written, well-acted dub of the show. The contents of this particular release, frankly, do not surpass the 2013 Battle of Gods movie. However, Funimation did a great job with what it had and has turned out a fantastic dub and an equally fantastic Blu Ray release of Super. For fans of Super, this is definitely worth checking out.
For fans of Z who have maybe fallen out of Dragon Ball fandom over the years, I would also recommend Super. Unlike GT, Super tends to feel more like late-Z material, and the action gets pretty good later in the series' run. In fairness, Parts 1 and 2 of Super are really skippable in favor of their movie counterparts. That said, some of the extra material in the episodes is a lot of fun. If you like hanging out with the Dragon Ball characters, and haven't done so in twenty years since Z ended, this is a great way to fall back in love with Dragon Ball all over again. It's fun, sometimes silly, with great action, and is receiving a dub that is on par with how the Funimation of today localizes anime. It's worth watching, and if you see something here you like, it's most definitely worth sticking with going forward.