Thursday, November 17, 2011

We Gotta Blu-ray (Part 2)

ON THE LAST EPISODE OF KENTAI FILMS VS DRAGON BALL Z:

Kentai spilled his guts like a crying little girl over how much a cartoon about panties and punching aliens changed his life. What a loser! Can he redeem himself with a thorough and scientific review of the new FUNimation Level 1.1 Blu-ray?

BLU-RAY IS THE HOPE OF THE UNIVERSE!!
FUNimation, You Guys Are... All Right?

The final Dragon Box DVD set has been available for only a month. The last 23 episodes of Dragon Ball Kai have yet to even get a firm release date on home video in the states. It's truly a weird time to decide that RIGHT FUCKIN' NOW is the best possible time to release the first 17 episodes of Dragon Ball Z on Blu-ray, but I suppose a combination of the looming holiday shopping spree and the perceived thread of the "original" '89 version of Dragon Ball Z being seen as irrelevant with the completion of Dragon Ball Kai make their timing as smart as any...


Before I dissect the release for it's literal quality, I need to talk about the "Level X.Y" system. On the packaging they show a breakdown of what each set will contain, breaking DBZ down into 18 bite-sized Blu-ray chunks with 16-17 episodes each. Level 1.1 comes out on November and Level 1.2 comes out in December, with no set date for 2.1/2.2 (as of this writing, anyway). FUNimation is still performing this restoration work, and likely they will be for the next several years, so breaking them down into smaller chunks with a brief gap in between every two is actually pretty smart; it gives the illusion of these sets being inexplicably cheap, but by breaking those 18 sets into 9 designated "Levels" with a small gap between each half, they've given FUNimation more time to restore the show and buyers' wallets a little bit of breathing room. At the end of the day the MSRP is $45 for about 17 episodes, but with the magic of Amazon and big box retailers you can get them for less than half that... all things considered, I paid $1.25 an episode for "Level 1.1". Having experienced the pain of buying three episodes on a VHS tape for $20, and later four episodes on DVD for $30, I can't help but see this release as a damned good deal even at full retail. Obviously it's not as cheap as the widescreen DVD "Season" sets, no, but frankly that's akin to saying that a fresh cut of fillet mignon isn't as cheap as a McDonalds cheeseburger.

The packaging itself is fine. Gokuu, an orange stripe on the side, a bunch of goofy text hiding in the background including the cringe-worthy "Doragon Boru Zetto" romanization that not even the saddest weeaboo has used since '99, and English Goku's "I am the hope of the Universe!" speech that more or less signified FUNimation's upheaval of the English dub circa Cartoon Network's "Season 3" from around the same time period. I won't call this a nostalgia release, but they are tugging on shit that fans of both sides of the linguistic fence will recognize, and it's brilliantly evil. The discs are packed inside of a standard double BD keepcase inside a nonchalant cardboard sleeve, and there's nice little Chris Sabat/Vegeta profile card with a printed 'signature' inside for the dub fans - which seems silly, since Vegeta doesn't land until "Level 1.2" AND he gets the cover for that release. It's not exactly a classy chipboard affair like the Dragon Boxes, but other than the tacky prose floating behind the star of the show, it's perfectly fine.

Bonus features are limited, but include the expected "Creditless" Openings and Endings - which is almost completely redundant, for reasons I'll get into at some point. Aside from trailers for other FUNimation titles, the only real bonus feature - and it's short length perhaps belies its importance - is DRAGON BALL Z: FILM TO BLU-RAY (7:48), essentially an interview with the FUNimation video restoration staff, and the colorist who oversaw the FUNimation HD telecine... again.

Redemption time, come on - tell your friends!

"I was asked this past year to re-color correct and re-scan Dragon Ball Z. But in order to make that work we have to, obviously, find a starting point to try to match the colors of the film as the, uh, creative guys, intended it to be.

So what we did is, I got a hold of our telcine analysis films, called TAF, and what we do is we align the telecine to match the color information - the grayscale - and the detail of that film."

There's another bit that bears quoting, and you'll see why shortly:

"Now the prints at that time - you had a lot of grain, but in standard def[inition] the grain was kind of smushed over because you didn't really "see" the grain. And now we're taking to HD, it's looking further into the film we're seeing more resolution, and one of the byproducts for resolution in any film is grain - grain is what gives us the resolution.

That's probably one of the most important things about this project is - trying to be as true, and honest, and do the proper "reproduction", if you will, of this film... I feel like we've accomplished making it look as true as it could possibly look."

Keep in mind this is the same guy who, five years ago, recorded this featurette where he defends cropping the series to 16:9, using automated grain/dirt removal tools, and "performing little to no color correction" on the prints themselves!


Everything that FUNimation did for the '06 DVD Remaster?
They basically did the exact opposite for the '11 Blu-ray.

Perhaps inadvertently, this new 7 minute piece has answered a lot of technical questions I've had from the very start regarding FUNimation's source materials and film lab. As you can just barely make out in the video itself, the telecine device appears to be a Spirit Datacine SDC 2000 - the same machine they used five years prior - and the 16mm prints themselves being scanned appear to be 16mm negatives, suggesting that FUNimation has second-generation Internegative prints, not third generation positive prints as I'd long suspected... but the prints they show in the previous restoration featurette of the OP footage appear to be a positive. It's really not enough information to go by definitively - no nice long shots of a film can saying "Master Positive" like Criterion showed off for Godzilla - but it'll suffice to say FUNimation has a mix of Positive and Negative elements at their disposal.

Why is all of this important? Every generation away from "Generation 0" (that is the, original camera negatives) introduces additional grain, print damage, color degradation and other analog woes, so while FUNimation has done literally everything possible with their G2-G3 prints, it'd be physically impossible to make them look as good as the potential lurking on Toei's G0 negatives. Now that's not to say Toei isn't pretty good at fucking up negatives all on their own, but perhaps that's another discussion...

Four Perfect Strangers... One Perfect Restoration?

The rest of the video talks about the restoration of each episode, admittedly in very broad and basic terms - dirt removal, splice fixes, flicker reduction, gate weave removal, all of that good stuff that prevents HD transfers from looking like chewed up grindhouse prints. There are numerous split-screen examples, some of which are legitimately impressive. It's a shame they keep cutting the damned thing like it's a super badass heist movie or something, because these four people pictured are the life-blood of this restoration. They ARE Level X.Y, when you get right down to it, and loathe as I am to give Fukunaga's crew any real credit, FUNimation restored the show the right way this time, and it's no small task for a single 90 minute film, much less 291 TV episodes. This involves manually painting away all debris and stains on the print, stabilizing frame jitter with complex algorithms... they basically do the same shit I do for free, except they have much better hardware AND they're getting salaries for it. I won't say I envy them - doing this stuff right is hard and often thankless work - but I have a lot of real respect for the work they're doing, and I have to say that, by and large, it's top notch stuff. Oh yes, it IS better than the similar "frame by frame" restoration that Toei gave the Dragon Boxes some eight years ago, but considering we already have the Dragon Boxes in North America, I guess it... kind of had to be.

The only part of that caused me to raise a brow was the following quote from one of the four FUNimation in-house video engineers:

"After the steady pass, the last couple of filters that we apply - the first of which helps reduce the flicker that's evident in our print, the second process is the grain and noise - in order to make this the truest representation possible of the original master."

...I'm sorry, I must have had a bit of crazy in my ear. Did you just admit, after everything even that idiot colorist Franko said about "grain being the resolution of film"*, which is absolutely a true statement by the way, that the final pass is a "grain and noise" pass? The audio actually cuts out after the word 'noise' - but the image speaks for itself:

IT'S A MOTHER FUCKING GRAIN REMOVAL PASS!!

I fully understand that DVNR has some legitimate uses in the post-production world. For one thing, a light pass of noise reduction can help an encoder not create ugly quant-based artifacts like macroblocking, and with FUNimation squeezing 9 episodes on each disc, you're getting an average bitrate of about 22-23 Mb/s, or just slightly higher than half of Blu-ray's full potential. Another issue is that because FUNimation is using second generation prints - rather than the camera negatives, or even new fine-grain interpositives - there are "extra" layers of grain on the material that aren't necessarily the most desired levels of grain available.

The DVNR isn't anywhere NEAR as destructive as it was on the '06 DVD remaster, and as we'll soon see it's actually left a very thick layer of relatively natural looking 16mm grain through this 17 episode set. Had they not said anything I probably would have given FUNimation the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the "weird" look to the grain - a slightly uneven, "patchy" look you could say - was merely the result of their compression, not intentional filtering. A shame they had to open their mouths and essentially spell out that they were doing something even their idiot colorist says, point blank, is a bad idea... but, fuck it. At least they aren't lying to us about it, I guess?

...did I speak too soon?!

The restoration special also includes the following comparison between the Dragon Box and Level 1.1 - cool, right? It would be except for one little problem - it's bullshit, for a number of reasons. First off, see that little oval-shaped tag in the bottom-right hand corner hiding underneath the "HD RESTORED" box? That's an EIRIN Certificate number, which are only given to theatrical movies approved for public exhibition in Japan. So, FUNi's "Clean" OP is from an archival print of the first Dragon Ball Z movie, or 'The Dead Zone', NOT an archival print that would have been used for the TV series. Secondly, the Dragon Box footage they're using has credits laid on top of it, which in 1989 would have been optically printed onto the film, causing further analog degradation of the print. Finally, the opening/ending footage would have been animated on 35mm and then resized to 16mm after the episode titles were applied - the larger format film makes including credits  easier, after all. The opening footage is, in terms of real-world resolution, the absolute worst point of comparison FUNimation could have chosen. A random scene from the middle of any episode would be MUCH more revealing in wither or not the FUNi HD remaster is a big step up from the Toei SD Dragon Boxes.

If that's the game FUNimation wants to play, fuck 'em. Kentai's here to make some REAL 1:1 comparisons using the American Dragon Box transfers. This is as real and accurate a comparison between the Dragon Box R1 DVD and Level 1.1 Blu-ray as it's going to get. No YouTube split-screens compressed down to 6 Mb/s, no 35mm footage shenanigans, and no goddamn smushy JPGs made without a clear concept of how to accurately represent the source. Just a flat-out old fashioned A/B Blu-ray vs DVD slugfest... just as Toriyama would have intended.

Samples were taken more or less at random from episodes 1-4. The Dragon Box images have been level-corrected to IRE0, resized to 1440x1080 in Photoshop CS3 using Bicubic, and then pasted into a 1920x1080 frame. The Blu-ray images are UNTOUCHED, saved as lossless PNG.

LEVEL 1.1 BLU-RAY On Top, DRAGON BOX DVD on Bottom:












Whew! Posting that many comparisons is enough to drive me crazier than usual...

*THE GOOD*

As you can see, the Blu-ray release might not be perfect, but still stands head and shoulders above the Dragon Box DVD in terms of image quality. Some (but not all) of the most notable improvements are as follows:

* The Blu-ray transfer has more of the frame exposed on all four sides


* The Blu-ray has much better outline definition and more visible 16mm grain

* The Blu-ray has substantially less gate-weave than the DVD

* The Blu-ray has, scene to scene, less print damage than the DVD

All of these are, in no uncertain terms, positive changes compared to the Dragon Box transfers. Broadly speaking, Dragon Ball Z looks fantastic in HD, and a hell of a lot better than I ever expected to see it outside of Dragon Ball Kai. Grain Removal processes or not, the show looks sharp as a tack and there's plenty of gritty 16mm texture left over from whatever filters FUNi has subjected their restoration to... I honestly expect that plenty of viewers who don't objectively love seeing film grain will be a little turned off by the way the new Blu-ray looks, but lucky for them virtually all HDTV's have built in DVNR settings they can experiment with, and lucky for us, FUNimation has clearly used a fairly light touch on the temporal dial. There's still some gate weave, flicker and dirt embedded into the prints, but compared to the Dragon Box, the results are still impressive.

One must keep in mind that this is a restoration of a 16mm low-budget TV series from multi-generational elements, not a Disney styled "trace the original frames, average in the backgrounds and let the computer sort it out" affair. Being able to literally see the hand-crafted flaws and gritty film texture without an excessive level of damage is something I personally adore. Mind you it's not as crisp and clean as Dragon Ball Kai, but Kai is a combination of the 16mm negatives, heavy handed digital tampering and brand new cuts of digital animation. Dragon Ball Z can't, and perhaps shouldn't look as "pretty" and modern as Dragon Ball Kai does. Dragon Ball Z has been preserved with just enough of the original production warts that there's no question we're looking at a title produced in 1989, but I think the minor level of analog issues baked into the materials only add to the authenticity of the experience. Yes, the show could still look better - but only if the original negatives were used, and given the same level of frame by frame hand-holding. FUNimation's given us what they've got, and they aren't exactly pretty, but somehow that make seeing them in HD absolutely gorgeous. It was David Lynch who, a few years ago, when questioned about the move from celluloid to DV and High Definition video, so eloquently said that "film is beautiful". Wither or not you agree with him will have every level of impact on how much you enjoy this presentation.

What's less factual and more a matter of opinion are the accuracy of the colors. FUNimation hasn't exactly been shy in calling the "Level" Blu-ray release the original director-approved color scheme, but how did they come to that conclusion without Daisuke Nishio's involvement? The answer Franko gives us is the existance of Telecine Analysis Film, essentially celluloid test patterns that give a colorist the Kodak-approved "official" range of color that should be available on the appropriate film stock. It's not a be-all end-all point of reference like, say, a director approved Answer Print or actually having the film makers themselves on hand to look the process over since all sorts of things can go wrong between shooting and the final product, but it's a substantially better starting point than letting Franko just eyeball it and make shit up on the fly, which, by the way, is exactly what they did five years ago.

"But aren't the Dragon Boxes perfect?" you ask. Well, even old-school Japanese fans who have vintage first-generation recordings of the original broadcast as a point of reference AREN'T CONVINCED. Even by using the incredibly scientific method I like to call "holding the DVD cover up next to the screenshot", it becomes easy to see that the Dragon Box - while certainly better than anything FUNimation has ever given us before! - is visibly oversaturated. Gokuu's orange gi practically glows with firey passion, and his flesh has an uncomfortably pink hue. Also take note of the sky and the shading of the clouds in the last few screenshots - on the Dragon Box it's an unappealing shade of teal, while on the new Blu-ray transfer it's a much more neutral shade of blue with happy, fluffy white clouds. For the last several images in particular, I can't say with any level of historic certainty that the Blu-ray transfer is "better", but I know it looks a heck of a lot more naturalistic. If I had to guess (and you just know I do), I'd say that Toei pumped the saturation up on their DVD transfers, likely to give the image just a little more "pop" and make Dragon Ball Z look as bright and appealing as it could, regardless of the damage it might have been doing to the colors as a whole.

Where it gets confusing are the caps from the first episode. Check out Raditz' hand, or the shot of Gokuu jumping through the trees. Once more the DVD looks oversaturated, but here the Blu-ray looks too dark, obscuring shadow detail and clipping whites, similar to someone adjusting the contrast on a TV set. That's a little strange, isn't it? That the first episode looks notably worse than the next 16 or so? Well, according to episode #0278 of the Daizenshuu EX podcast, the FUNimation print of Episode 1 - which has been used since the original American broadcast in '96 - has always looked worse than the rest of the first "season" (Japanese episodes 1-36)! Their best guess is that FUNimation's print for the first episode, for whatever reason, is an extra generation removed from the rest of their initial run of Toei sourced 16mm prints. Is this true? I don't know, and Mike "VegettoEX" himself admits he isn't sure either... but for only a single episode to look substantially different, and for every prior incarnation of it to have had the same problems, it's as good an explanation as any I could theorize. Even with these contrast based anomolies the Blu-ray is a marked improvement over the Dragon Box, so while it's possible that some future episodes will look worse than others you can be reasonably assured that the Blu-ray quality will continue to topple the DVD.

The audio is actually even trickier one to categorize. I'll point everyone to THE FULL DISCUSSION on the Daizenshuu EX message board, and summarize it as such:  the original broadcast of Dragon Ball Z used the master "Cinetape" audio format. The Dragon Box and new Level Blu-ray are based on the optical soundtracks matched to their respective 16mm prints, and optical soundtracks simply aren't of an especially high quality to start with. It's assumed that Toei hasn't kept the Cinetape masters, though this has never been confirmed. In any case, the DTS-HD Master Audio (16-bit) for the original Japanese and two English tracks - one in 5.1 surround with the original Japanese score, and one in 2.0 stereo with the American broadcast music. You'll have to forgive me for considering the English dub for this show a no-man's land, but the Japanese audio... well, it sounds about as good as it ever has on home video. It's muffled and a little overly bass heavy, but it doesn't sound bad for being a vintage mono mix sourced from optical elements. It's been preserved as well as it can be, under the circumstances, so I can't imagine anyone remotely familiar with Dragon Ball Z's Japanese mix being too upset by the quality we get on Blu-ray. Much like the variable contrast and heavy grain on the video end, the limiting factor isn't FUNimation's work, it's the audio elements themselves.

*THE BAD*

Of course, this set almost couldn't exist without some caveats. Assuming the color balance is right, what did FUNi lose going from the Dragon Boxes to Blu-ray?

* OP footage is "clean"/ED footage has only main staff and English cast

* Japanese title cards have been replaced with English episode titles

* Next Episode Previews are not included

Remember how I said the inclusion of the "textless" songs was a moot point? Yeah, there's no credits during the show's opening itself - not even token "Animation by Toei, English version by FUNimation" or anything like that. You just straight up get the clean version of Cha-La Head Cha-La, which is fine, I guess. English credits are provided over Detekoi Tobikiri ZENKAI POWER, which includes only the main English dub cast and none of the Japanese actors. Main credits (producer, director, composer, etc) are given their due, as are many of FUNimation's staffers. Frankly my kanji knowledge is piss poor anyway, so while I do appreciate having things like the original cast list and episode directors on the Dragon Box, actually "reading" them requires a lot of squinting and kanji look-up on my part. It does make including the same exact OP footage as "bonus features" a little silly, but not anything to get upset about. And before I forget to mention it, the first opening  is actually from the first Dragon Ball Z theatrical movie - but not to worry! The footage is absolutely identical, barring the EIRIN Code number on the title card. The second opening won't appear until "Level 1.2", so I can't say yet if that'll be sourced from one of the movies as of this writing.

The replaced title cards, however, make me wince every single time I see them. Now I KNEW they would be there, and I guess if you watch the show dubbed in English - which is likely how a great number of consumers do - it's not at all an issue. If, however, you watch the show in Japanese you'll be treated to seeing THE NEW THREAT on-screen, while the narrator and subtitles call the episode "Mini-Goku is a Sheltered Boy! I am Gohan." It's jarring, but not outside of the norm for an American anime release, and is likely one of those stipulations that Toei would want to see in place anyway to prevent Japanese fans from satisfying their immense Dragon Ball lust with "cheap" American imports... not that anyone on the fence can't probably download a decent quality 720p rip of these transfers anyway, I suppose. What makes this doubly frustrating is that we know FUNi has access to the title cards because the single DVDs from '99 or so had them as an alternate video angle! In a horrible twist of fate, FUNimation gave up the alternate angles right when they got their shit together and figured out how to encode DVDs that didn't look like pixelated asshole, so while it was (at the time) something of an acceptable loss, it does suck to know that I have the original title card on DVD and now have these on Blu-ray.

Speaking of which, the Next Episode Previews - or "NEP", as fans more hardcore and jargon loving than even myself have come to call them - are MIA, too. Not that this should be a surprise; it's been pretty well documented that nobody outside of Japan got the previews on vintage 16mm elements, and the only reason the FUNimation broadcast version had them was because FUNimation basically created new previews on their own. I actually like the way the previews were put together, since they'd always have Nozawa playing Gokuu/Gohan and giving an in-character summary of the events to come, but they're always non-essential bits of footage we have from the next episode anyway, so it's not a big loss. I'd have loved to see them included solely so I could hold the Blu-ray up as having usurped the Dragon Boxes, but I can't say I'm weeping tears of blood over their loss.

And what of the technical prowess of FUNimation's encoding? It's on a regular basis that I diss a release for poor compression or wonky audio and all sorts of similar issues, and I have little reason to hold back on this one. To be perfectly honest, I'm split down the middle on the encode:  With an average bitrate of roughly 22-23 Mb/s (individual episode depending), the transfer is a major improvement over the DVD, but is perhaps unexceptional as a Blu-ray. The image of Raditz' hand gripping the side of his space pod should tell you everything you need to know; the image is consistently "grainy" to be sure, but it's also prone to pretty blatant macroblocking and patchy break-up when the grain overpowers that relatively meager bitrate. The only saving grace is that, because the show is consistently covered in a thick layer of grain, the macroblocks tend to "blend in" to the moving layers of analog movement better than screenshots can properly show. The artifacts are there, and if you're sensitive to MPEG-4 blocking you'll likely see them without too much of a struggle, but they're substantially easier to pick out when you hit the pause button than they are when it's actually playing at 24 frames a second.

*THE BLU-RAY*

I honestly wasn't sure what to make of FUNimation's announcement that their Blu-ray Remaster would be a brand new 4:3 scan from their archival elements with a 'real' frame by frame remaster... should I be excited that they're making up for their butchery of the "16:9 HD Remastered" Season DVD sets? Appalled that they were announcing them before either the Dragon Box or Dragon Ball Kai releases were even finished? I'm still not sure how I "feel" about this set sitting on my desk, but I can tell you that it looks and sounds pretty goddamn good, and it was surprisingly cheap. Exactly where on the "Owning Dragon Ball Z" spectrum you fall under should probably dictate how you treat this release, though:

Are you an OCD videophile who doesn't even want to touch a DVD anymore? Get it now. You're only fooling yourself by imagining that Toei's 2003 Digibetas with ghosting and oversaturated colors are "good enough".

Do you only own the "Season" widescreen DVDs and think they look "okay"? Skip it. This release is simply not for you, unless you want to empty out the Season DVDs and use them as ninja stars... which, actually, sounds kind of fun, doesn't it?

Have you been holding off on the series for too goddamn long? Consider buying the first Dragon Box as a reference of what you're actually missing, and then buy this as a litmus test. The second Dragon Box is already selling for $200 on Amazon, so your window to snatch up the whole show for MSRP or less has basically closed behind you.

Already own all 7 Dragon Boxes and are considering this release for the upgraded video? Well, how much shelf space have you got? The Dragon Ball Kai "Season" box set was almost the same price as buying Parts 1 and 2 together anyway, so unless you can't stand the thought of waiting between volumes or you absolutely need to keep a smaller footprint on your DVD shelf, there's probably not much incentive to wait another year to get "The Complete Level 1". That said, if you're just doing it to make FUNimation wait for your money after being such a dick about announcing this release before the last Dragon Box even came out, I can't say I'd blame you.

The Blu-ray has some niggling little annoyances, but on the whole I think this is by far the best looking and sounding presentation of "The Greatest Action Cartoon Of All Time" we've ever had. In the forseeable future, this is as good as it's going to get, and while I'm not convinced it's the best thing I've ever put my meager finances towards, I find myself oddly satisfied with the set sitting next to my Dragon Boxes. Dragon Ball Z in High Definition is a delicious treat for someone who cut his geek-teeth on (at times) literally unwatchable VHS tapes he bought back before eBay was a publicly traded company, and while I still can feel the aftershocks of that boundless rage that consumed me when FUNimation's initial "HD Remaster"came to light... well, that's all in the past. These sets, though a couple steps removed from ideal, are pretty fucking decent.

History does tend to repeat itself, I know, and I have little doubt that at some point before "Level 9.2" is released Toei will announce their own epic restoration of the series for Blu-ray... but how long will it take? Will it be caked in detail-smearing DVNR like the Galaxy Express films? Will you be willing to pay Japanese prices if their restoration is immaculate? The R2 Dragon Box release set Japanese fans back 100,000 yen each - that'd be $2,600 with today's exchange rate - and I can't imagine a new High Definition release would be any cheaper. FUNi's release will finish off with a retail price of about $810, and if you're a smart shopper odds are you'll get it for close to half that price.


Besides, we NEED that money. For bourbon.

So, there you have it. Pigs have flown, Hell has frozen over, and FUNimation has created a High Definition version of Dragon Ball Z that eclipses the Dragon Boxes... I'd say more, but it's clear the world is about to end, so I'm going to make peace with my family, eat a whole bunch of gummy bears, and have exactly as much sex as I can before the world simply ceases to exist. Because this, dear friends, is surely a sign of the end of days...

Unless, of course, the world keeps on spinning. In which case I'll probably be back sometime later on in the week.

-SPARKING!!-

*That's not entirely fair, I suppose. For all I know Franko's a smart guy - but, seriously, go watch the feature from the '06 16:9 DVD. He says "you'll see more!" when literally talking about cropping 25% of the film away. It's madness. MADNESS!! So either he is (or was?) an actual moron, or was really good at faking it five years ago... I'm not certain which would be more sad.

EDIT: One of the Dragon Box comparison images appears to be M.I.A, and I'm afraid I've long since deleted it from my hard drive. Thanks, Photobucket.

41 comments:

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

D'oooooh. That grain filtering pisses me off. I understand there's more grain there than there should be, but eliminating it creates some really displeasing effects. I can only hope that I won't really notice the patchiness when the picture's in motion.

Regardless, it looks like a good transfer, and definitely beats the shit out of the Dragon Box transfers. I just hurt so much inside seeing that screenshot of the English title card, and knowing I'll have to put up with that every.single.episode.

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

Also...

Mind you it's not as crisp and clean as Dragon Ball Kai [...]

Clean, well, maybe. But crisp? I have the first Kai set and it's terribly hazy. I'd say there's even less clarity than on the Dragon Boxes. Of course, I only sampled the first few episodes, but new digitally-animated intro aside, it looked terrible.

Kentai 拳態 said...

"Crisp" might not have been the best adjective here I admit, but based on the first few HDTV rips I saw of Dragon Ball Kai back in '09, Toei's restoration brings out colors and stability that FUNimation's materials simply don't possess.

Kai is certainly soft at the master level due to the heavy pass of DVNR to make the show's 16mm grain structure more or less disappear, but it also looks clean in a way that FUNimation's prints never could. Kai has been manipulated to make Dragon Ball Z look almost like a modern digital program - it, essentially, tries to isolate the original outlines and show a wider range of colors without the "distractions" of the analog medium it was originally captured on.

Toei's heavy handed digital processing does nothing for me, but it'd be untrue to say that Kai doesn't side step a number of the issues associated with multi-generaitonal film prints. Kai isn't sharper or more film-like, but it is "prettier", if only in a weird superficial way.


I can's stand the new episode titles, believe me, but FUNimation abandoned the alternate angles about the same time they learned how to encode DVDs that didn't look like utter pixelated shit (2006/2007 I guess). It was a compromise the entire consumer base was willing to take, and it seems neither side has looked back since. It's frustrating we have to make any consessions, of course, but English title cards is pretty much the standard from FUNimation - even their BD release of Dragon Ball Kai has English translated title cards, don't they?

Jefferson said...

Should I NOT be mentioning that only a little more than a week ago, I won (and received) Dragon Boxes 1-5, nearly mint, for only $120 + shipping?

The current state of eBay and anime DVDs just aint what it used to be...for the sellers that is ;)

Jefferson said...

All of this attention you've been placing on Dragon Ball Z has really sparked my curiosity about the show. Never watched much of it in all of my days as a fan of "an-ee-may". Owned a few of the movies on LD way back, and had a few raw, 2nd-gen VHS caps off of Japanese TV...But the impression it's had on you (and many others) has made me feel like I've been missing out on something special. Only a few discs in with my sons, and so far, I can honestly say I'd like to keep going...even though finishing the show appears to be as serious an undertaking as traveling the full length of Snake Way.

Kentai 拳態 said...

Jefferson: As a seller myself, about all I can say is "Ugh". And thanks for readin'. :)

I certainly hope your sons are enjoying the show, and I'd say try DBZ up through at least episode 35. The show really starts to hit its stride once Vegeta shows up on Earth, and I fell in love with the show watching the Earth warriors struggle and fall in their bid to protect the planet. Sure it's all pretty silly, but it's sincere, too, and you don't see that as much in over the top entertainment as I'd like to see.

I probably sound like a 'tard saying this, but watching Kuririn stand over Vegeta and Gokuu beg for him to stop - not for the reasons most would expect, either - is a genuinely sad moment for a show most people categorize as goofy, and not unjustifiably so. Toriyama's characters and universe are defined and well rounded enough that even a one-note gag character like Kuririn is allowed to have a pang of fury and regret. I wish I could say that for most programs targeted at viewers about one-third my age.

When my interest was most piqued the anime was (largely) unattainable, but I watched all 13 of the movies/2 TV specials, and familiarized myself with the manga from that point forward. As such I can't say I'm familiar with all 291 episodes as I'd like to be, but as the theatrical films are all weird thematic recaps of the TV sagas anyway, I'm not that far off the mark.

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

OT (if you don't mind), but curious what your thoughts are on these Poultrygeist Blu-ray caps.

Part of me thinks, "...Well, Troma flicks will always look terrible, I suppose," but another part severely doubts that this is the best this could possibly look. It was filmed on 35mm after all.

Either way, I guess I don't see myself picking it up unless I see it for five bucks or less.

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

...Because I already own the DVD. (The special, numbered, three-disc set.) If I didn't already have the film, I'd go for it. Although unlike Terror Firmer and the first and fourth Toxic Avenger films, this one doesn't really hold up well on repeat viewings. Same with Tromeo & Juliet, oddly enough, which I once considered my favorite, but after watching it several times in the span of only a couple years, I really burned myself out on that one.

Kentai 拳態 said...

I'm not impressed by those POULTRYGEIST caps - detail is only marginally increased from what I'd expect from an SD master, and the lack of any fine grain suggests it's been given some form of temporal processing. It doesn't look great, and if you already have the ridiculous 3 DVD Special Edition I wouldn't respect you any less for not supporting a merely "okay" looking re-release.

That said, Troma's seemingly given up on releasing their films in HD completely. Their last slew of releases was last summer, and not even the release of Darryl Lynn Bousman's MOTHER'S DAY 'remake' could get them to release what's (inexplicably) one of their most popular titles on the format. Best Buy was taking orders for SURF NAZI'S MUST DIE back in May, but it disappeared without any explanation before the supposed release date.

I wouldn't be shocked if we see a 30th Anniversary release of Toxie just on principle, but I think Troma is a good indicator that indie labels selling old-school B-movies are just not a valid business model anymore.

On a semi-relevant note, holy shit, have you seen caps for the Full Moon release of SUBSPECIES?! If that's not an upscale, then there is no Devil, because even he wouldn't stand for that bullcrap.

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

The Blu-ray.com caps are sure terrible. [url=http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/screenshot.php?movieid=26241&position=12]Even the subtitles are pixelated[/url].

I've never seen the film, though. I feel like now I should rent it. D:

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

Oooooops. I can do proper linking, I think.

Kentai 拳態 said...

In the current climate of sparkly gay vampire romance I suppose that SUBSPECIES is uncomfortably prophetic. There's also a brief scene of locals parading in "traditional" costumes that almost surely served as the inspiration for the similar sequence in HOSTEL PART 2, and feeling that might be one of the most horribly underrated horror films of the last decade, that was interesting to see.

But seriously, don't waste your time. Angus Scrimm's cameo is nothing short of embarrassing for everyone involved, the Richard Band score is positively grating, and I can't even claim the film has anything notable in the way of gore or even moody atmosphere. Anders Hove tries to inject some menace behind his obviously uncomforable fang proesthetics, but it's all for naught... his haggared face and stage-worthy body language are reduced to a sputtering Dime Store Nosferatu. At best, the film begat a slightly more interesting sequel in which the heroine is enslaved by the vampire and has to come to terms with her growing bloodlust - but I didn't stick around for the third film, so even that must not have been very good.

I generally liked all of Full Moon's earlier "Tiny Terrors" films leading up to the DVD era (at which point they got so cheap even Roger Corman would have shook his head in disbelief), not to mention anything they made with Stuart Gordon, so I'm not totally blind to the charms of cheap DTV garbage. Subspecies is just bad - even for garbage.

Christopher D. Jacobson said...

That's a shame. I love Castle Freak which I believe was by Full Moon, but Gordon kicks ass so it's his show really.

I saw a film of theirs called Hideous! which I thought was gonna be awesome judging by the trailer and Basket Case-esque special effects, but I rented the disc and found it really boring. Glad I didn't buy it.

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Anonymous said...

Holy fuck. Lol @ the spam bots above.

Anyway, I still love reading these old blogs from you Kentai. I pissed myself when you said "I know Franko's a smart guy - but, seriously, go watch the feature from the '06 16:9 DVD. He says "you'll see more!" when literally talking about cropping 25% of the film away. So either he is (or was?) an actual moron, or was really good at faking it five years ago... " lol what do you think about him now with cropping/DNR'ing their season sets to hell? :P

I would tap that Brittany Smith chick though, god what a babe.

Lmao I found her Linkedin -

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brittany-smith/51/216/4ab

She's also apparently in some weird show on youtube with some faggot looking queers wearing those hipster cock monkey glasses. hahah check it out.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJUJY86ysNRGOkzLwxj3ATw

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