While advertised and genuinely presented in the series’ original 4:3 aspect ratio, the quality of the video samples used appear similar to the company’s previous Blu-ray release of the Dragon Ball Z series from 2013-2014, which in addition to its cropped widescreen aspect ratio featured heavy digital video noise reduction and significant color adjustments. From what little we have to go on as presented in the trailer, it would seem that the “new” video master is indeed simply this same (or similar, or otherwise-related) base remaster, albeit no longer cropped to widescreen. It is not a “double-crop” of the existing Blu-rays, though it continues to exhibit the same over-saturation and digital noise destruction as seen in the prior sets.
Many fans have asked questions and expressed confusion over the cost of the set and what their pre-orders would “fund”. While a cost of $350 may be something that western fans are not used to dropping all at once on a single product, it is difficult to see how it would line up with the cost necessary to “fund” a faithful remaster while also including extras such as a hardcover art book and figure. The relatively-low cost is more in line with a release using existing footage from an automated “remastering” process. Indeed, FUNimation is clear on their own reservation page that this is not a “crowdfunding” initiative.
In addition, the latest trailer and marketing collateral (including direct email campaigns) continue to share two significant falsehoods / misleading statements about this set:
- “All of Dragon Ball Z in the original 4:3 aspect ratio in high definition on Blu-ray for the first time ever”
While this will be the first set that in its totality includes the full 291-episode-run of the Dragon Ball Z television series in its original aspect ratio in high definition on Blu-ray, it is neither the company’s first attempt at Dragon Ball Z in 4:3 in HD nor the company’s first release of a single set containing the entire 291-episode-run. The company’s “Level” sets, a release whose intent was to remain faithful to the original presentation (including its original 4:3 aspect ratio with a focus on non-destructive restoration and remastering), were cancelled in 2011 only two volumes in, with the company citing low interest and sales. These sets, however, immediately followed the faithful “Dragon Box” DVD release by a matter of only two months. Meanwhile, the Dragon Ball Z Kai series — a 20th anniversary “refresh” using the existing Dragon Ball Z video footage — was also seeing a television broadcast and home video release on DVD and Blu-ray. Separate from this, in recent years the company has worked with Amazon to distribute a set collecting all nine volumes of the 2013-2014 Blu-ray release in a single box.
- “North America’s first-ever, full-sized hardback artbook”
Viz released the first Daizenshuu (“Complete Illustrations”) back in 2008 in its original hardcover format, and recently announced plans to release the series’ Chōgashū (“Super Art Collection”) as “Dragon Ball: A Visual History” this fall.
FUNimation asked Kanzenshuu and its community for questions back in 2013 regarding the “season” Blu-ray sets. While the answers provided were extensive, they were that of a company continuing to do what they arguably do best: spin and muddy the waters regarding technical details, walk back previously-established initiatives, and ultimately not provide a faithful release of the series. At the time, we stated the following:
If you have been with Kanzenshuu (and its previous incarnations) for any amount of time, you know that we love this series to an obscene degree. We want what is best for the series, we want what is best for the fans, and we do actually believe that FUNimation wants the same thing. That being said, we continue to believe that the various Dragon Ball TV series are best presented in their original 4:3 production aspect ratio. We continue to believe that grain is an inherent part of the production method, and while its negative effects – primarily due to multigenerational copies provided to licensees – can be mitigated, it is also something that must be respected with care. We continue to believe that Dragon Ball is a product of its time, and was / is / forever will be loved exactly as that.
If the quality presented within this new trailer is indicative of the intended final release, this is just the latest example in a long string of releases from the franchise’s rights-holders — which unfortunately now includes its original Japanese producers — that are unable or otherwise unwilling to produce a worthwhile, faithful, archival-quality modern release of a series with such historical importance.
If the quality presented within this new trailer is not indicative of the intended final release, we have to wonder why it was even shown.
We cannot in good conscience recommend fans purchase this release.