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Dragon Ball Vol. #01 Full Color Saiyan Arc Manga Review

6 min read

Dragon Ball Full Color Volume 1
Dragon Ball Full Color Volume 1
An old classic gets a bright new coat of paint.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Akira Toriyama
Translation: Mari Morimoto
English Adaptation: Gerard Jones

What They Say
Son Goku is the greatest hero on Earth. Five years after defeating the demon king Piccolo, he’s grown up and had a family – he’s married, and he has a child, Son Gohan. But what is the real reason for Goku’s incredible strength? A visitor from outer space arrives bearing terrible news: Goku is an alien, and the visitor, Raditz, is Goku’s brother! When Raditz turns out to be a ruthless killer, Goku must fight his incredibly strong brother to save his family and the entire human race. A surprising alliance may be Earth’s last hope: Goku will team up with his old enemy Piccolo – archenemies united to save the world!

Originally released in Japan as “Dragon Ball Full Color Comics,” this new, trade-paperback sized edition presents Dragon Ball fully in color for the first time!

The cover here is an image a battle-worn Raditz standing before a massive, angry Goku, all placed over a border surrounding a plain green box. It’s a decent cover, but the box makes it look a tad cheap, as do the rainbow letter in the “full color” part of the logo. The back cover uses a similar design, this time placing a synopsis in the box with Raditz next to it. The way the text reads is unfortunately the book’s biggest issue, as it clearly uses the rather old translation from Viz’s previous editions. It casually drops Japanese and Chinese terms here and there and adds notes for pronunciation and explanation of differing names on the one hand. But on the other hand, it does things like having Son Goku referred to as “Son” at one point and giving Piccolo a wishy-washy old-timey accent. It’s kind of a weird mix, sometimes feeling like the translator was striving too hard to stick to the original version, and at other times going overboard in the complete opposite direction. It’s certainly serviceable, but it’s definitely a shame that Viz didn’t take this opportunity to provide a new translation. Honorifics are not used, and in a bit of an oddity for a Viz release, the sound effects are left entirely in their original form, with a translation guide for them provided at the end of the book. The book also has an impressive size to it, significantly surpassing even the Viz Big editions and allowing the reader a great look at the artwork.

Of course, the biggest difference is the color, and it’s absolutely fantastic. The paper quality is great, and the colors really pop off the page. The coloring job is great, and breathes a ton of new life into the artwork. At its worst it looks simply like cels from the anime, but between the vast environments, strong blast effects, and even some definite effort put into defining the time of day, there are a great number of stunning scenes presented by the book. Outside of the color, the book has a solid look about it, though it is obviously a little old school. With the already charming artwork and the added bonus of color, this is both a book with a stunning look to it, as well as an absolute rarity in the world of manga.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Five years after the events of the original Dragon Ball, a small spherical spaceship lands on Earth. Its passenger, apparently looking for someone named Kakarrot, soon finds and makes a fool of Piccolo. Meanwhile, the gang reunites at the Turtle Hermit’s house, only for Goku to reveal that he shockingly has a four year old son named Gohan. Before they can do too much catching up, though, the alien arrives and refers to Goku as Kakarrot several times before he reveals himself as Raditz, a member of the Saiyan race and Goku’s older brother. Apparently the Saiyan race is a warrior race, and they send out their young to practice conquering weak planets, but when he hit his head as a baby Goku ended up forgetting his mission. Furthermore, he reveals that their home planet of Vegeta was destroyed by an asteroid, and now only four Saiyans (including Goku) remain alive. As such he’s come to recruit Goku to help conquer a particularly stubborn world, but when Goku refuses he beats our hero down and kidnaps his own nephew, telling Goku to kill a hundred humans by tomorrow if he wants him back.

Since they’ve both been embarrassed and beaten by the powerful stranger, Piccolo and Goku form an uneasy truce and track him down. Even their combined strength proves insufficient to so much as scratch him, though Piccolo’s new ultimate attack does cause him to dodge in a hurry. Just as Raditz prepares to finish them off, Goku is able to cripple him by holding his tail, though unfortunately our hero is too valiant and falls for his brother’s pleas for mercy. Just when it seems all hope is lost some unexpected help arrives in the form of Gohan, who is able to unleash a massive burst of power along with his anger, though since it’s tied to his emotions it isn’t good for much more than a quick distraction. With the last opening left, Goku grabs Raditz and has Piccolo use his attack to finish them off together. As they lay dying, Piccolo mentions the Dragon Balls as a means of reviving Goku, and Raditz transmits that information to his partners, who are even stronger than the dying Saiyan warrior.

With the incoming threat looming large, Piccolo takes charge of Gohan’s training, and Goku remains in the afterlife in order to train with Kaio, the lord of worlds. Will their intense training provide them the boost they need to take down these new foes, or is Earth doomed to fall beneath the powerful Saiyan warriors?

In Summary
As the start of the classic Dragon Ball Z, this book leaves a solid impression. You may be a bit out of the loop if you don’t read the original Dragon Ball first, but even as a standalone this volume still makes for a pretty fun read. It’s pretty much all fights and training, but it has a nice style to it and it’s interesting to see a battle in which the heroes are completely outclassed. The revelations about Goku’s true nature are a bit heavy handed, but fortunately they come with a nice intimidating villain to deliver them. However, as most readers are probably already familiar with the plot, the question remains as to how this specific version fares. And fortunately, the fresh color and large size make this easily the definitive edition, significantly trumping even the already nice Viz Big editions. It’s a shame that they didn’t update the translation to help set it apart even further, but even so this is the version to get for people looking to get into the series, as well as old fans looking to experience the classic story in a new form.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A+
Text/Translation Grade: B-

Age Rating: All Ages
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 4th, 2014
MSRP: $19.99

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