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New animation for the Dragon Ball franchise has been trickling out over the last several years, but it has always been elusive in terms of a proper home release. The 2008 Jump Super Anime Tour Special eventually received a DVD release (only in Japan), but only as a part of a paid, mailed-in order process through Shueisha. The 2010 Raging Blast 2 feature at least received an international release via the game disc itself, and while it later received a short Japan-only streaming session, it still kept its distance from a standard home release. The 2011 Jump Festa special Episode of Bardock went direct-to-streaming after the event, and then things went hush once more.
The re-launch of Saikyō Jump as a monthly compilation magazine in 2012 presented a unique opportunity for Shueisha. With one spin-off already receiving an animated adaptation, perhaps it was time to exploit that market back and forth in another way. The second monthly issue in 2012 announced that the March issue would come packed with a bonus DVD, which would include Episode of Bardock and Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans as a part of the nebulous “SSSS (Saikyo Super Saiyan Secret) Project” initiative.
Would the pack-in (which itself was not too far off from prior initiatives, such as One Piece winter gloves with the February issue) bring in even more of an audience, or would it just be a one-off purchase for fans to finally pick up a couple special features that otherwise floated in limbo?
|Originally Published:||Saikyō Jump – March 2012 issue|
|Released:||03 February 2012|
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I already-infamously predicted in our 2011-in-review/wrap-up podcast episode that, contrary to what common sense and prior productions would normally suggest, Shueisha would simply leave Episode of Bardock on the table with no official home release. In a matter of days, that prediction was (thankfully!) proven wrong.
The Saikyō Jump pack-in approach would at least give international fans a chance this time around, as opposed to the 2008 Jump Super Anime Tour Special, whose mail-in program required a Japanese mailing address — all you needed this time around was a credit card and a pre-order.
Episode of Bardock was originally published in comic form in three parts, with one chapter each included in the August, September, and October 2011 issues of V-Jump, Shueisha’s video game magazine in Japan. The story, tied with with an all-Bardock, all-the-time marketing blitz itself tying in with Dragon Ball Heroes and a re-release of the original TV special, followed Bardock into the past to explain the legend of the Super Saiyan. A new antagonist named “Chilled” is introduced (who appears to be an ancestor of Freeza), and a tiny bit of back-history is explored with regard to what may be the Saiyan home planet and how the Super Saiyan legend is passed down over time.
Our review of the manga version covers everything in detail, and the anime version does not stray too far from its base (with the added benefit of Ryusei Nakao voicing Chilled). In a nutshell, it was an adequate production that told a story that did not necessarily need to be told, but was a fun-enough 20 minute romp into the past.
The special does not gain any extra content from its original streaming version — no opening theme, no music over the ending credits, etc.
Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans re-makes and re-tells a story that originated back in 1993 in the Nintendo Famicom game Dragon Ball Z Gaiden: Saiya-jin Zetsumetsu Keikaku (“Side Story: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans”). One Tsufruian — the race that shared the Saiyans’ home planet “Plant”, which was later re-named “Vegeta” — has seemingly survived and is seeking revenge on the brutal race. After battling poisonous “Destron Gas” and ghost warriors on Earth, Goku and the others head into space to take on the Tsufruian Dr. Raichi and his revenge machine Hatchihyack.
(Side note for those of you who have seen Dragon Ball GT but not any version of this special: yes, you are reading that story correctly, and you are not crazy for thinking you saw something very similar.)
Unlike its disc-mate, Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans technically already received a home release, albeit only as a part of a video game. The shortened-remake of a feature that began as a Famicom game and laid dormant for seventeen years, like Episode of Bardock, is what it is.
To be fair, Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans did a few great things compared to its original versions (such as Bulma’s entrance and her gas-negating capsules cleaning up that glaring hole), but upon digging through the shiny exterior we still found what felt like a soulless production. Was it just because we already knew the basic story? Did we want more than just a bunch of dudes fighting against another strong guy?
It has always been difficult to articulate what about these features is lacking that special spark. Is it the slightest hint of Toriyama input that they need? That may be the case, since Toriyama did have at least some minor input on the scenario for the 2008 Jump Super Anime Tour Special, which always brought the biggest smile to our faces.
(We reviewed the original 1993 “Official Visual Guide” version of Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans back on Episode #0235 of our podcast, and the 2010 Raging Blast 2 remake just a couple weeks later on Episode #0238. We also reviewed the anime adaptation of Episode of Bardock on Episode #0282 of our podcast, in addition to our written review of the manga version. Those looking for a little extra depth on these features will find what they are looking for in those reviews.)
Music in both specials comes by way of franchise newcomer Hiroshi Takagi, keeping things nicely removed from any plagiarism concerns. It fits the tone most of the time, with just a couple pieces that feel like far-too-intentional emotional tugs (such as the triumphant tune toward the end of Episode of Bardock). All in all, we have no real complaints in this department.
So, in a nutshell, we have a cheap DVD that contains two special features — both of which that are at least worth a watch — that really did not have a “proper” home release before this. At least there is plenty of room to have it look nice, right?
Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans was produced in high definition, and was presented as such on the PS3 and Xbox 360 game discs. Episode of Bardock was likely also produced in HD, though the original streaming version online was 360p. The biggest loss with this release is the potential visual clarity, with DVD being limited to a vertical resolution of 480 pixels — so in that respect, we win one (nicer Bardock than seen online), and we lose one (Super Saiyans takes a hit).
We have often poked fun at Japan’s inability to produce decent-looking DVDs — with this particular franchise, one need look no further than the Dragon Ball Kai DVDs, especially compared to the Blu-ray release of the same show. Muted colors, inconsistently low bitrates, and strange audio encoding options have been the norm.
Much like the content of the specials themselves, you win some and you lose some with this bonus Saikyō Jump DVD. Though progressive on the game discs, Super Saiyans (as well as Bardock) are interlaced on the new disc. Especially coming from digital productions, there is really no need for this. While not a terrible deal-breaker, the interlacing does introduce a tiny bit of extra noise that does not have to be there.
Thankfully, the video bitrate hovers right up there around maxing out the entire way through. Even on slow-motion scenes, we are talking roughly high-8s to 9 Mbps. For such a low-content disc, it is great they decided to just max it out. Everything looks bright and clear, though a tiny bit soft at times.
That all being said, tossing a high bitrate at the video stream will not give you great results if you throw garbage material into it. Sadly, the footage crumbles under the weight of its own motion in the more detailed fight and action scenes. The final battle between Super Saiyan Bardock and Chilled really exemplifies this, with macroblocking distorting everything from the clashing fists to the characters’ own faces:
Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans does not seem to have any of these gross macroblocking issues, even in its higher-action scenes, leading me to halfway wonder if Shueisha simply re-encoded their online streaming version (yes, a regular ol’ Flash video file) for the disc.
The audio treatment is about on par with the video: serviceable, but nothing extravagant. Both Episode of Bardock and Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans receive stereo AC3 tracks at 192 kbps, so there is no upgrade to surround sound (standard from what we have seen on these productions), and nothing too crazy for additional bitrate allocation.
One somewhat major downgrade in the audio department is that Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans, despite being encoded in a stereo track, is actually just a mono mix (which we confirmed by inversing one of the two tracks, which canceled out the audio completely). This is not the case with the feature as originally presented on the Raging Blast 2 game disc. Whether this was an authoring mistake or some sort of conscious decision is unknown, but is certainly a questionable one. Episode of Bardock does not have this audio issue, and appears to be a standard, proper stereo mix.
Perhaps the biggest win for the “convenience factor” of this disc is that it is actually region-free, despite being printed with an R2 logo on the front. Pop it in your NTSC-capable player, and you are good to go!
Many extra pack-ins for these types of releases will be separate from the magazine, included in an additional plastic bag (such as the One Piece gloves in the February issue, or the One Piece cardboard stand-ups in this March issue). This bonus DVD, however, was included as an insert directly within the pages of the magazine.
For such a cheap cover price, Shueisha could have just left it at that. They do deserve credit, however, for including a full-sized printed cover also within the pages of the magazine.
While it unfortunately has a crease in the back from being folded over itself, the cover is perfectly sized to be dropped right into an empty DVD case — you will just need to bust out a pair of scissors to trim the right-most side, since it is not perforated.
Once you have it all nicely trimmed, it fits perfectly in a standard-sized DVD case.
The DVD really is basic in all regards — after an unskippable intro listing the “Saikyo Super Saiyan Secret Project” and promoting Saikyō Jump itself, a static menu presents you with selections for the two features and a short bit of extra material.
Much like the “Special Selection DVD” and its trailers for Dragon Ball Heroes, this bonus disc includes the latest trailer for the card-based arcade fighter — the latest update features Super Saiyan 3 Broli and Hildegarn.
An additional trailer promoting Ultimate Blast (which was released internationally as Ultimate Tenkaichi) for the PS3 and Xbox 360 is also included.
While not exactly a part of the DVD, the Saikyō Jump issue does come with a fold-out poster for Episode of Bardock which uses the same style as the manga version’s cover (yellow background with Bardock and Chilled showcased).
We joked fairly often leading up to this release that we were not buying a magazine with a pack-in DVD — we were buying a DVD that incidentally came with a bonus magazine. When it is actually put in perspective, we honestly just paid somewhere around $6 for a magazine filled to the brim with content (including a full-color Dragon Ball SD chapter) and a DVD with two Dragon Ball specials on it. Can you really go wrong at that price?
Even with questionable video quality and a mono audio mix on one of the specials, no, you still cannot go wrong. We have to put a little asterisk next to our decision, though, because you can get a better version of Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans (subtitled, in high definition, with stereo audio) if you shell out for Raging Blast 2. Hopefully we can get a proper HD release of Episode of Bardock as well, be it a stand-alone Blu-ray release, or perhaps also tied in with a video game down the road.
So then we are really just left with the enjoyment levels of the specials. At the end of the day, do I just want more from these features than the producers are willing to put into them? Perhaps. They are still entirely fun viewings, though, and that price really is a steal.
Assuming you managed to snag yourself a copy, that is… because this issue ain’t hanging around store and online retailer shelves for long.
The March 2012 issue of Saikyō Jump was published by Shueisha in Japan on 03 February 2012. MSRP ¥480.
Due to its monthly publication, back-issues of Saikyō Jump can be difficult to track down (and are, indeed, sold-out via most online retailers).