Dragon Ball Z 30th Anniversary Blu-ray DISASTER!


Dragon Ball Z has been cursed by horrific
home releases for the longest time. It is 2019 and that doesn’t seem to be changing
anytime soon. A little while ago, we did get a glimmer of
hope with Funimation and Toei joining up and announcing a new Blu-ray release for the 30th
anniversary of the series. This was a big deal because for the first
time since 2009, they were offering a complete release of the series in its original aspect
ratio. And I say complete because although the Level
Sets in 2011 were also 4:3, they were cancelled after only a few sets. Today, we now have the first trailer for these
new 30th anniversary Blu-rays, and boy, do they look fucking terrible. This is a really hard subject to talk about
for a number of reasons: – The first is that YouTube compresses videos
to death, and it’s incredibly hard to put together a comparison that’s actually representative. It also doesn’t account for what viewing
size someone’s watching the video on – someone on a small screen is not going to be able
to see the intricacies of the remaster. – The second is that not everyone necessarily
knows what those intricacies are. What makes for a good remaster… what am
I looking for? – And thirdly, not everyone knows or cares
what Dragon Ball Z is supposed to look like. They don’t know what the background textures
are supposed to be, what colours all the characters should be, or even why fullscreen vs widescreen
even matters. So I want to take some time to talk about
that stuff. I want everyone to be on the same page here
so everyone understands 1. Why this matters, and 2. Why it’s so frustrating. So let’s kick off with aspect ratio real
quick. There are only two that really matter in the
case of this video: 16:9 and 4:3. 16:9 is widescreen. It’s what the screen you’re watching this
video on probably is – it’s what this video was created in – it’s the standard
modern-day ratio for TV. Your living room has a 16:9 TV in it right
now, almost certainly. On the flipside, 4:3 is the full-frame square
aspect ratio. It was the standard for TVs and TV shows back
in the day up until about the mid-2000s or so. Dragon Ball Z is of course a series from 1989
– it was storyboarded and animated with the intention of a 4:3 frame. While the movies were boarded with both widescreen
and fullscreen in mind due to theatrical showings, the TV series is strictly 4:3. If you deviate from that, you’re losing
a good chunk of the image that was intended to be seen. This was the big issue with Funimation’s
releases like the Orange Bricks and Season Set Blu-rays because they were cropped. You were losing huge amounts from the top
and bottom of the screen, only to gain a little bit on the sides that was never intended to
be seen in the first place. It only exists because the animation cels
are slightly bigger than the intended framing just to give a little bit of leeway for the
photography department. So on the positive side, these new sets are
in fact 4:3, and that’s been their big selling point this time around, because 1. They’ve been holding this hostage for about
a thousand years, and 2. They’ve released the series so many times
at this point that really this is about the only thing they can say is new. Unfortunately, for some reason, even though
these are 4:3, they’re still quite tightly cropped, missing parts of the image that were
visible in their previous fullscreen releases. I don’t know why… it’s a mystery. Funimation does things and they don’t make
sense. Who knew? Next, let’s talk about grain. Grain is a scary word for people not massively
into video, because grain equals not clean, and not clean equals bad, and that’s just
not the case at all. Every cartoon you watched back in the day
was shot on film and even now a very large majority of films are still shot on actual
film stock. Film comes with grain, and grain is an inherent
part of film, and therefore the image. Different film stocks have different levels
of grain – it’s something directors think a lot about because it goes a long way in
dictating the look of your series. While there are back and forth debates about
whether grain in animation is actually an artistic choice or just a byproduct of having
to shoot on film, one thing that remains objectively true is that grain holds detail, and is what
makes up the image. Even now, when shooting digitally, you’ll
still get digital noise because that’s just how video works. To remove grain, you can use digital noise
reduction – or DNR. It’s basically an algorithm that blurs away
the grain, approximating colour and detail information, and really everything that’s
a part of that grain. It’s very hit and miss when it comes to
its application though, and with live action footage in particular, you’ll generally
find people end up looking like weird wax figures. It’s not a good look. With animation, you can actually remove the
grain, and the results can often look okay. For example, with Dragon Ball Kai’s remaster,
it’s not bad. Some minor texture is smoothed away from backgrounds,
but the only real negative is that the image is left looking a bit blurry. On the flip-side, you can also do it terribly,
and that’s Funimation’s Blu-rays, both with this set and the last one. In fact, their approach is more or less identical. If you’ve seen the season sets, then you’ve
more or less seen what this set is being advertised as. They’ve wiped away the grain with a pretty
terrible noise reduction solution that has left behind this horrible, horrible smeary
look, where the lines look they’re drawn with watercolour paint. They’re very aware they’ve fucked up the
clarity, because they’ve then gone and applied a sharpening filter to the image, which hasn’t
done anything beyond flattening the frame into the most unappealing detail-less blob. Somehow this is so bad that the line clarity
on a DVD is better than the Blu-ray. I would rather watch my Dragon Boxes originally
produced back in 2003 than these sets. That’s how bad this is. Lastly, the colour, the contrast, the dark
detail. Dragon Ball Z’s colour design is not this
super saturated, contrasty, punchy crap that Funimation and fan remasters would have you
believe. It’s pretty subdued on the whole – it’s
not running around screaming with blisteringly red gis, or crazy royal blue skies. It’s pretty restrained on the whole, and
you can see that in its purest form on the actual animation cels. When Funimation do what they do and jack up
the colours and contrast, they obliterate the dark detail in shadowy areas, and blow
out the skin tones into pasty white ghosts. They destroy any sort of nuance the colour
design had by turning everything into what might as well be primary colours. All of these points combined is why this release
is so frustrating. Sure, it’s 4:3, but that doesn’t matter
if everything within that 4:3 frame is destroyed. It’s especially frustrating because they’re
talking about this as a “once in a lifetime” release. They want a minimum of 3000 people to pay
$350 to even make this set, and then they’re limiting it to 6000 copies. They’re portraying it as this one-off special
superfan ultimate collector release, but the contents are entirely deaf to what people
have been saying about their video treatment of the series for over a decade. They have missed the point so hard, that is
blows my mind they have the nerve to even parade this around like the holy grail. Toei made some bizarre missteps with their
recent movie releases, but the problems are miniscule compared to what we’re seeing
here. And the Bardock remaster that broadcast on
TV from them looked fantastic. As a result, I cannot even begin to understand
what their thought process is here. The only thing that crosses my mind is that
what is in that video today is not representative of what they’re trying to sell. If that is the case, then thank the gods. But if that’s true, then that thought process
makes even less sense to me… for two reasons that are pretty closely linked:
The first is that this is being aimed at a hardcore audience, and by using footage of
something they strongly hate, all that’s going to do is create bad press. Hardcore fans get mad, they tweet about it,
and suddenly fans who weren’t super in the know are suddenly aware that it’s something
to not buy. The second is that this is a crowdfunded project. They want our money to even make this thing. It does not make sense to me to avoid creating
a single clip as a proof of concept to your potential audience. That is not expensive. 20-30 seconds of high quality remastered footage
that represents the product is going to have that minimum goal met within hours. The trade-off there is more than enough. As it stands, we have this weird trailer that
insults hardcore fans, that casual fans don’t care about, and only really appeals to small
section in the middle who either don’t understand what they’re buying, don’t understand
enough about video, or just want to collect for the sake of collecting. It’s ridiculous, and this is the third time
they’ve done this within the space of 10 years. I urge everyone to not support this release
until they come out and tell us exactly what this remaster entails. Tweet at Funimation and tell them this is
not acceptable. Either they’ve missed the point, or they’ve
failed with their marketing. If this is being touted as a once in a lifetime
release, we need to make sure they do it right. Thank you so much for listening. If I sounded angry, it’s because I am. I’ve been in this fandom long enough to
be experiencing massive déjà vu with this nonsense, and I’m so sick and tired of it. It’s so frustrating to have friends be like,
“Hey, what’s the best way to watch Dragon Ball Z”, and I can’t just point to a single
release without having to explain 20 fucking things because nobody will do it right. I’m gonna go lie down. I’ve missed you guys. Thanks for listening… bye bye.

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