There isn’t a great deal to say about Dragonball Z: Rock the Dragon Edition. Spanning eight discs, the latest re-release includes the first 53 episodes of the series (comprising the Saiyan saga and roughly a third of the Namek saga) licensed by FUNimation in 1996. This would be the version that first aired in English speaking countries, with Canadian company Ocean Productions dubbing the voices and Shuki Levy composing a new score, complete with a rockin’ new theme song. This is Dragonball Z as it was first broadcast in the United States, so viewers who grew up with Sean Schemmel, Sonny Strait, Christopher Sabat, and Tiffany Vollmer will not recognize the people voicing their favorite characters. A ninth disc contains the Pioneer/Genon-produced versions of the movies Dead Zone, The World’s Strongest, and Tree of Might.
There are two fundamental problems with the Rock the Dragon Edition. First, FUNimation is banking on inciting nostalgia among a niche group of viewers who watched Dragonball Z before the company took the reigns from Ocean. I recognize that nostalgia is a powerful thing, but what FUNimation has done here is incredibly exploitative. It can be fun to revisit previous iterations of television shows and programs, but for a show that has been reissued time and time again, something like this shouldn’t exist. Its like getting a copy of the original 1977 screening of Star Wars, A New Hope. Its the same movie, though it lacks a lot of tweaks and modifications you are probably accustomed to.
The second problem with the collection is just how, to put it bluntly, lame it is as a commemorative product. If this work is intended to celebrate Dragonball Z’s English localization, why not offer substantial content? The DVDs are packed within a book filled with character profiles. This, to my thinking, is a complete waste of space. The sort of people who would spend money for this collection know who Goku is and can tell you the difference between Captain Ginyu and Raditz. There’s just no need for it. Beyond that, the book offers a production timeline, a response to the “Over 9000!” meme, a relationship chart, and the lyric sheet for the “Rock the Dragon” theme song. That’s it. Again, what’s the point? What fan doesn’t already know about such things? For $100, I expected something more special and unique. Instead, this reeks of being a shameless cash grab.
I enjoy Dragonball Z. I’m not ashamed to admit that fact. As silly and over the top it can be, the series offers a memorable adventure and, while I appreciate FUNimation celebrating the show’s roots, it deserves so much more than this overpriced offering. Even the most hardcore Dragonball Z fan is bound to find an absence of value. While its nice that those who cherish their VHS tapes have the chance to grab a DVD version, in the end it is just not worth it. Especially when there are more complete and better reissues on the market. Is reliving your childhood really worth spending $100 for an incomplete, low quality, and conservative version? Food for thought.