It's rather strange, the one thing that is most often missing from Dragon Ball/ DBZ/ DBGT product seems to be none other than
the Dragons themselves. While a few exceptions exist in Japan, 3D representations of the Dragons seem to be as elusive in
the real world as the Dragon Balls themselves are in the show. But Jakk's Pacific finally recognized the oversight and last
year they gave us the dragons from both DBZ and DBGT. Sadly, they don't quite live up to expectations.
Packaging - 4/10The dragons come in a box that is very similar to those used for the 9" figures. There are large windows in the front, side and top panels of the box, offering a good view of the figures inside. Various images of both dragons coil around the backgrounds of the panels while the features such as the bonus figure and "Real Feel Skin" are promoted as well. (How exactly do they know what real dragon skin feels like any way?) Only the back of the box is a real disappointment. I always like to see at least some information about the product and character show on the back. But that is completely lacking here. The DBGT two packs, 9" figures and even the Chibis (miniature deformed versions of the characters) are shown, but nothing what so ever about the dragons or the regular carded figures they go with. I also would have like to see more distinction between the packaging for the two dragons. While both dragons are on the box, the green DBZ version of Shenron dominates it. While that's fine for the box for that dragon, combined with their absence from the back panel it seems like the red version of Shenron has a significant lack of presence on its own box.
Sculpting - DBZ Shenron 5/10, DBGT Shenron 4/10Both dragons use the same body with a different head. The body is a pretty basic serpentine type dragon. (Think of a snake with a line of dorsal fins.) While serviceable, there can be some problems with the seams not lining up quite right where the three sections of the body are joined. And even when the alignment is accurate, the seams are still pretty visible. There are four arms attached in two pairs along the body. The are nicely sculpted except for the fact that they are a major indicator of the dragons' biggest problem; their midgets! Now I didn't expect to find that their bodies stretched to eternity as they seem to do on the show, but I was hoping for more than this. The body measures just over 17 inches from the neck to the tip of the tail. That should have been at least 24. The head sculpts turned out well though. The head for the DBZ version of Shenron is almost flawless, aside from being slightly out of scale with the body. The head for the DBGT version turned out almost as well, but I'm really unhappy with the way that the large yellow fins are sculpted. They stick straight out and up in such a ridge manner that they look like huge horns. Compared to the great job they did with the flow of the whiskers, the fins are sort of silly looking.
Paint - DBZ Shenron 3/10, DBGT Shenron 4/10As with the sculpting, the quality control for the paint seems to have been preoccupied with the heads. The DBGT Shenron looks great. The only thing I would like to have seen done differently is the inside of the mouth which is completely lavender. I would like to have seen the back and top of the mouth painted black and just the tongue painted in the lavender color. DBZ Shenron has the same problem, but his mouth is painted red. Jakk's did goof up on the DBZ Shenron though. They didn't paint the fins around the back of the head purple like they are supposed to be. But it is the bodies where the scores really suffer. The lines between the belly and scales and the scales and the fins are extremely poorly done. It is especially noticeable with the red and yellow color combination on DBGT Shenron's fins. The tan paint for the bellies of both dragons was also applied in a sloppy fashion. The seams in particular seem prone to clumping and or cracking.
Articulation - 2/10Each of the dragons has five rotating joints: one for each arm and one for the neck. But the arms are mostly ornamental in the first place and moving the heads without moving the bodies to match looks fairly silly. None of the articulation is very useful. But the real problem is with the bodies themselves. From inside the package, they appear to be bendable on a wire frame. They are, but the bodies aren't solid rubber like most bendies. They are soft hollow rubber which crimps easily when bent out of the original pose. And there isn't really enough slack available to bend them much any way. The existing bends from the factory can't really be straightened, just adjusted slightly. So in the end, what you see in the box is basically what you're going to get and all you're going to get.
Accessories - DBZ Shenron 7/10, DBGT Shenron 5/10Each dragon comes with a figure and seven dragon balls as accessories. The dragon balls are nice for two reasons. First, I think this may be the first opportunity to get all seven of the dragon balls and in one package. Secondly, Jakk's even got the color of the stars right. So you can tell which are the regular balls and which are the black star dragon balls for the DBGT version of Shenron. The figures that are included are a young version of Gohan with the DBZ Shenron and shrunken Goku with the DBGT version. I believe that the Goku figure is the same as the one released several times already as part of the Dragon Ball GT line, but this time with a pearlized paint finish. He is a pretty nice figure and with sixteen points of articulation, very well articulated. (The rotating elbows and rotating wrists are redundant joints though.) But it is still a figure we have seen many times before if you have been buying the GT figures. Gohan on the other hand, is a brand new version based on his time in the wilderness with Piccolo early on in the season. He is also even more articulated than Goku with eighteen POA. He has double jointed ankles (rotate & hinged), hinged knees, rotating hips, waist and wrists, double jointed elbows and shoulders (hinged and rotating) and a rotating neck. The only drawback is that the head sculpt isn't a great likeness of Gohan. The figure has an egg shape to the head where Gohan's head should be more round. The face also seems a bit too flat. Still, it is the only figure of this version of Gohan we've gotten.
Value - DBZ Shenron 4/10, DBGT Shenron 2/10It is amazing the difference a change in companies can make in a license. I started watching Dragon Ball Z back when the only figures on the shelves were the Japanese figures that had been produced by Bandai and imported here. I wasn't impressed. But once Irwin toys started producing their own figures, everything changed, and how! They stopped being the two or three POA statuettes that the Bandai product had been. And they started actually producing the characters I recognized. I was hooked after the first series. Sadly, Jakk's Pacific seems to have lost sight of the things that made the Irwin line so great. The selection has degraded to little more than wave after wave of the same few characters, often the same figures of the same characters packaged with different accessories. The decision to change the scale for the Dragon Ball GT products ended my interest in that line and now that the DBZ figures are changing scales as well it looks my collection is complete. But in the mean time, the dragons aren't a bad way to go out, just over priced. At a $10 price point, these would be worth picking up. Unfortunately the dragons will probably run you between $15 and $17 depending on where you find them and if you have to pay full price. Fortunately with the DBZ line running out of steam, most stores have been clearing these out. While I did pay full price for the DBZ version in order to get the Gohan figure, I found the DBGT set for under $7 at Target.
Happy Hunting:As I mentioned, some Target stores still have been carrying these, though they tend to be hit or miss for carrying the DBZ line anymore, and more misses than hits unfortunately. The one store that used to carry them dropped them in order to clear room for the new Star Wars figures. Aside from Target, Toys R Us is going to be your best bet if you don't mind paying full price. The green Dragon Ball Z version with Gohan is also available at Amazon.com.