You may not want to believe it, but the Japanese Dragon Boxes are not quite as “perfect” or “complete” as you might think. You may have thought you would never see that written on this website, but it is true. It is actually something we have mentioned in our extensive Dragon Boxes pages in the “Home Video Guide“. While we love our Dragon Boxes to death, there are some things that really should have been included with the release, and of course others that we only wish were included. On top of that, there is something a bit fishy about the episode presentation. Did they actually get it right? Let us take a closer look at some of this rare footage and see what exactly we have been missing out on!
History of the Dragon Box
Before we jump into the heart of the feature, it is important we establish a little history. Though we anticipate many visitors of this website already know what a “Dragon Box” is, there is a chance you do not. Back in 2000, Toei Animation posted an online poll on their official website asking fans which of their properties they would like to see get a home video release. At the time, it was merely to gauge fan interest, and to somewhat justify any expensive remastering processes these releases might involve. When all was said and done, Dragon Ball ranked somewhere amongst the top five requested anime series. After that a couple of years went by and most fans had all but forgotten about the poll.
In November 2002, Toei announced it was going to be releasing the Dragon Ball Z TV series. The announcement stressed that they were remastering the series by going back to the original 16mm film masters, performing an actual frame-by-frame restoration, creating a new master film, and be releasing the series on commemorative limited edition pre-order-only DVD box sets — basically, a top-of-the-line “perfect” release, the likes of which the series had never seen anywhere in the world. Shortly after the announcement, Toei launched the official Dragon Box website which featured a “Q&A” about the remastering, promotional photos, and a pre-order form.
The very first Dragon Box was released 19 March 2003, and as they say, the rest is history. Of course, the official Dragon Box website was rehashed for every Dragon Box release, providing new details, promotional photos, and ordering information. Unfortunately, the website is now defunct and has fallen to the depths of the bottomless Internet wasteland, never to be seen again.
So now that you know how the Dragon Boxes came to be, let us take a look at what exactly Toei forgot… or lost. So, is this really the perfect release of Dragon Ball?
Proper Episode Presentation
One aspect that was highly touted about the Dragon Boxes was a complete episode presentation, which is amazing! Not only was it the first time the episodes had been released on home video in Japan, but it was actually the first time complete episodes had been released anywhere in the world. Each episode came with its proper opening and ending credits, and next episode preview. However, for reasons officially unknown, Toei decided to slightly rearrange the proper episode presentation order from how they were originally aired on Fuji TV. It is worth noting that this is not really a “complaint” — it is simply a description of the adjustment. With that said, here is the order in which episodes were originally broadcast:
For those of you that own the Dragon Boxes, even domestically through FUNimation’s re-versioning, you know that this is actually not the order in which the episodes appear on said releases. The episodes on the Dragon Boxes were re-arranged in the following order:
While it is not that drastic of a change, it is still not exactly how they aired. While it would have been nice to see them arranged in the original broadcast order, it is a little too nit-picky to really complain about it. It should be noted that Toei has done the same thing with other anime series’ releases, such as with Fist of the North Star, Galaxy Express 999, and Captain Harlock. In cases like this, the next episode previews were most likely moved to conform to modern anime series which show the previews following the ending credits. Most every modern anime has switched to the format featured on the Dragon Box to ensure fans will stick around to (1) highlight the featured artist performing the ending theme song and to (2) see the sponsor cards shown immediately after the episode previews.
The first option is the most likely reason, being that up until the end of the 80s all anime had theme songs created specifically for that series. It was not until the early 90s that anime began to showcase “featured” songs. So, in a brilliant business move to help promote the “featured” ending theme song and hopefully boost sales of its CD single, the next episode preview was moved so that it would follow the “featured” ending theme song. That way if you wanted to know what was going to happen in the next episode, you had to watch and listen to the ending theme.
Here is a comparison between Dragon Ball Z episode 243’s original broadcast order and its presentation order as found on Dragon Box Z Vol. 2:
The following are not items that necessarily should have been included, but for the sake of being complete they will be listed here. Most people may be aware that Dragon Ball GT had sponsor cards, but did you know that Z did as well? That’s right, Dragon Ball Z was sponsored. However, while we cannot confirm that the series had sponsor cards during its initial broadcast run, it did at some point. You will notice that they are not too fancy, with a simple blue background and a listing of the sponsors. An announcer would say, “Here are the sponsors” in a monotone voice, and that is about all there was to it. There was no music played, and the cards themselves were static.
However, by the time Dragon Ball GT began airing, the sponsor cards had been spiced up a bit with GT-related images used as a background and some music was added. The music was either an instrumental of the opening or ending theme, depending on when that specific sponsor card was shown.
In addition to the sponsor cards, Dragon Ball Z also had “goodbye” cards that appeared after the sponsor cards. These were a little nicer, but they still had no audio and were simple static images featuring the phrase “Jikai otanoshimini!”, or simply, “See you next time!”. Dragon Ball also had a similar “goodbye” card that featured Bulma, and again had no audio. Unfortunately there’s no confirmation at this time as to whether or not Dragon Ball GT had similar cards, but it’s possible they did since both of the original series had them.
While it would have been nice to see these included on the Dragon Boxes, it is not something that is typically done for anime home video releases. However, for the price these sets cost, these “goodbye” cards would be something they could have easily included, assuming they are still around and have not been thrown away. They could have been included in the Dragon Books, since they are simply still images with no music anyway. It is not typically done, and you cannot really expect them to include all these minor things… but it just would have been really nice if they had.
Next Episode Previews
Now that we have established the proper episode presentation order, it is time to touch on a very important subject: Next Episode Previews. Three of the most glaring flaws with the Dragon Box releases involve next episode previews, specifically the ones that are missing! For unknown reasons that will probably never be divulged, Toei omitted the next episode previews for the first episode of Dragon Ball, the first episode of Dragon Ball Z, and the second Dragon Ball Z TV special. Fortunately, Toei did include the next episode preview for Dragon Ball GT, which was listed as a bonus on the GT Dragon Box. In light of this, we did what we do best and tracked down all of the omitted previews!
The preview for the first episode of Dragon Ball, “Bulma and Son Goku”, is probably one of the rarest Dragon Ball-related videos ever. It aired 19 February 1986 with the last episode of Dr. Slump – Arale-chan, replacing the series’ typical next episode preview. Even though it was technically aired with a different series, it really should have been included on the Dragon Ball Dragon Box. You will note that the preview is a bit different from the typical Dragon Ball preview, with a different logo screen, different music, and Goku saying a different opening line: “Ossu! Ora Son Gokuu tte ba! Yoroshiku na!” (“Heya! My name’s Son Goku! Nice ta meet ya!”) instead of his normal, “Ossu! Ora Gokuu!” (“Heya! I’m Goku!”).
Dragon Ball Episode 001
Narrated by: Son Goku
Heya! My name’s Son Goku! Nice ta meet ya!
Have you all heard of the Dragon Balls? They say that they’ll grant any wish if you gather all seven. I’ve got one; it’s a keepsake from gramps.
This weird girl called Bulma came here and asked me to go search for the others with her. Gee, what should I do?
“Dragon Ball: Bulma and Son Goku”
Look forward to it!
Similar to the situation with the preview for very first episode of Dragon Ball, the next episode preview for the first episode of Dragon Ball Z was also omitted from the Dragon Box releases (again, for reasons unknown). The preview originally aired on 19 April 1989 with the last episode of Dragon Ball. Note that the logo screen uses the background from what would become that used with the typical Z episode previews, but still uses the Dragon Ball logo rather than that of Dragon Ball Z. It also maintains the original Dragon Ball preview music, making it a very unique preview.
Dragon Ball Z Episode 001
Narrated by: Son Goku, Son Gohan, & Chi-Chi
Goku: Heya! I’m Goku! Let me introduce my son here.
Gohan: Heya! I’m Gohan. I’m four years old. Someday…
Chi-Chi: The world these days don’t need the martial arts! You gotta study!
Gohan: Someday, I want to become a great scholar!
Goku: Starting next time is a new program where Goku and son save the Earth. Dragon Ball Z! Be sure to watch it!
Of all the TV specials, this is the only one without its preview included on the Dragon Boxes. The preview for the 2nd Z TV special originally aired 17 February 1993 along with episode 175 of Dragon Ball Z. As you will see in the video below, the preview included a short preview for Dragon Ball Z Movie 8, “Burn Up!! A Close – Intense – Super-Fierce Battle”, which premiered 06 March 1993. Assuming Toei has misplaced the full preview and possibly only has access to this one containing the extra movie preview could explain why the preview was omitted, but something would have been better than nothing.
2nd Dragon Ball Z TV Special
Narrated by: Son Goku & Son Gohan
Goku: Heya! I’m Goku! Next week is an hour-long great service! “Dragon Ball Z Special: Defiance in the Face of Despair!! The Remaining Super Warriors, Gohan and Trunks”! It’s the story of the future which Trunks came from. Watch it for me, okay?
This spring vacation, we’ll be running wild in a movie again! “Burn Up!! A Close – Intense – Super-Fierce Battle”. We’re holding a lottery to invite 1,000 people in 500 groups!
Gohan: Here’s the address!
Considering how much the Dragon Boxes cost, it is a shame Toei could not include these long-lost gems…
Along with the 2nd Z TV special preview, many others included short previews for upcoming movies, along with other movie ticket lotteries. Often there would be a string of episodes in a row that would include the preview for the same movie, which would inevitably shorten the length of the actual next episode previews (from 30 seconds down to 15 seconds). Unfortunately, none of these were included on the Dragon Box either. Instead, all of the episodes (except those mentioned above) feature their full-length next episode preview created for all subsequent re-runs of the series.
Here is a comparison between Dragon Ball Z episode 147’s original broadcast preview and its preview as found on Dragon Box Z Vol. 1:
You will notice that a couple of scenes and lines of dialog, specifically Piccolo’s, have been cut from the original broadcast preview to make up for the inserted movie preview. Again, these would have been nice little bonuses to include on either of the Z Dragon Boxes, or even the movies Dragon Box.
Main Series Credit Scroll
The second most glaring omission from the Dragon Boxes was the main series credit scroll that was included with Dragon Ball GT episode 64. To most it is known as the ending to Dragon Ball GT episode 64, but it was actually a video montage shown before the actual ending. The credit scroll included credits for each of the main cast members and main staff. Besides Masako Nozawa (Goku, Gohan, and Goten), there was one credit per voice actor, with their most well known character listed. It should be stressed that the voice actor credits were geared more toward the voice actors and not the characters themselves. For instance, Daisuke Gōri did the voice of Mister Satan, but is listed in the credits under Gyūmaō. Yuko Minaguchi voiced Videl, but she is listed under Pan because she was in all 64 episodes of GT. If they had listed each character voiced by each voice actor, they would have needed a much longer montage than the one shown below.
Unfortunately this main credit scroll was omitted from the GT Dragon Box, even though it is still being used in every GT re-run on Japanese television. We know it still exists and that it is still being used, as is evident from the clip above, which was taken from a re-run of GT shown on Animax (a comparison video from the Dragon Box was not included, as it is the exact same as that shown above, although without the credits). Why was it not included on the GT Dragon Box? It is understandable that Toei probably wanted to showcase the montage without the credits, since it has never been available creditless before, but why not include the original broadcast version as an extra?
Our Main Wish List
The following list highlights some of the items that we wish would have been included on the Dragon Boxes. We of course cannot list everything that could have possibly been included on these releases, simply because there was so much additional material created over the nearly twelve years that the series was on the air. Also note that these items are by no means listed in order of importance, but rather in order of their original broadcast dates.
Movie Overview Special
This “Movie Overview Special” is often referred to as the 3rd Dragon Ball Z TV special, but this name can be quite misleading since it is nothing like the Bardock or Trunks TV specials. It is also more often than not incorrectly referred to as the Fuji TV year-end special, which you can read about below. This overview special is a compilation of footage from the movies, hosted by Goku and Gohan, who are wearing tuxes. The special itself, as stated by its title card, was entitled, Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Battle!! The Three Great Super Saiyans – Special (ドラゴンボールZ 極限バトル!!三大超サイヤ人 スペシャル). You will recognize the majority of that text as the title to Dragon Ball Z movie 7, which was actually the setting they used for the special itself. We know that the special aired at some point after the movie, as Goku notes this in the special. Other sources have noted that it aired sometime during the Cell Games arc of the series, so we can confidently say it aired sometime after 11 July 1992, probably between episodes 148 and 160, all of which aired just after the movie’s premiere, but are still part of the Cell arc.
The video shown below on the left is a ten-minute clip of the movie overview special as originally posted on YouTube by Ramza, who has since taken the video clip down. He did note on YouTube that he had removed the opening animation (“CHA-LA HEAD-CHA-LA”) at the beginning to try to show as much of the special as possible, down from its one-hour time slot (the special itself running under fifty minutes or so). The video on the right is a higher quality capture originally posted on YouTube by DBM, but the actual clips from the movies originally shown have all been removed, leaving only the narration scenes with Goku and Gohan.
While this is not the most exciting overview special, it is still neat to watch, especially if it were in DVD quality. Even if there was not enough room for it on the second Dragon Box Z, it easily would have fit on the movies Dragon Box — the last disc of the box contained the 10th anniversary movie, and that wass it, leaving plenty of open room.
Fuji TV Year-End Special
On 31 December 1993, Dragon Ball Z hosted a Fuji TV year-end special entitled, Looking Back at it All: The Dragon Ball Z Year-End Show! (全部見せます 年忘れDRAGON BALL Z!). Goku, who is dead, decides to teleport back to Earth to spend New Years with his family, and while he is there they decide to take a look back at what all had happened in Dragon Ball Z that year. The special covers the Cell Games, as well as the Afterlife Tournament. At this point in the series Goten had just met Goku for the first time, so it is nice to see them bond as Goku recounts their adventures. Gohan does note at the end of the special that the adult division of the 25th Tenka’ichi Budōkai will begin this next year, indicating that the special did air at the end of the year… but the snow covered landscape in the video really gives that away too.
Without it being included on either of the Z Dragon Boxes, it is doubtful that it will ever be officially released. It is somewhat sad that this footage was never included on either of the boxes, and it would be understandable if the footage was lost or caught up in another company, but as far as we know it is sitting in Toei’s film archive, still having never been released. For the longest time it was actually listed on Toei’s website as being in their film archive, but has since been removed for some reason.
The Making of Dragon Ball GT
This behind the scenes look at the making of Dragon Ball GT aired sometime around the beginning of the series, if not just before GT began airing. This six-minute clip starts out at Toei Animation studios in Tokyo, Japan and gives a quick walk through of what goes into making a single episode. It highlights (in order of appearance) story boarding, key animation, xerography, coloring, photography, and finally the recording studio. After that, everything is pieced together in post production and the episode is sent out to the TV stations for broadcast.
As someone who is really into the behind the scenes stuff, especially anything that is production related, it would have been a dream come true to see this included as an extra. If they had anything like this for the original two series, it would be great to see those as well. It is things like this that would have been a nice addition to the Dragon Boxes, especially for those that did not live in Japan when the series’ were aired, or are too young to really remember.
The Making of the Dragon Boxes
Finally, there is one thing that most people who own the Dragon Boxes would have liked to seen: a making of video about the Dragon Boxes. A behind-the-scenes look at the remastering process and what all went into it from start to finish. The only thing they really included along these lines was the original aged 16mm footage of the 2nd Dragon Ball Z opening animation so you could compare it to the Dragon Box footage on your own. They did include a one-page look at the film remastering in the 2nd Z Dragon Book, but that was it, and it was not much.
All they had to do was turn on a video camera while they were working on it. It would have been super cheap and quite easy to do. What makes it even worse is that we have gotten way more documentation about the Dragon Ball Kai remastering process than we ever did about the Dragon Boxes. Apparently it is not as much of an issue to document Kai‘s remastering process and interview the staff as they work on it. Shame on you Toei!
I know I must sound like a broken record by now, but seriously, for the price of a single Dragon Box, every major piece of footage should have been included. That doesn’t mean I am going to give up my Dragon Boxes. They are mine, forever, even though they are lacking a little in the extras department. In the end, they are still more than anyone could have imagined when Toei first asked which series fans wanted to see on DVD. And luckily for us, fans in Japan decided to record these long-lost gems all those years ago.
So the question still stands: is this really the perfect release of Dragon Ball? Well, yes and no. While it is not absolutely perfect, it is by far leaps and bounds ahead of any release the series has ever seen! It is damn near perfect, and I still love them to death, but these little omissions do leave something to be desired.
Translations by: Herms
Research Assistance by: Corey, Jim Grue, & kei17
Videos by: billgoldy3, Ramza, DBM, & Hujio