What They Say :
Goku’s epic journey begins here! Goku may be small, but this fearless warrior packs a punch as powerful as any on the planet. Left alone after his grandfather’s death, this unusual boy is happy to spend his days hunting and eating and eating some more. But everything changes on the day he meets Bulma – a bossy, blue-haired beauty with boys on the brain. Together, they set out to track down the seven magic Dragon Balls and make the wish that will change their lives forever. And that’s just the beginning! Goku also spends some time on Turtle Island where he and Krillin study martial arts under the legendary Master Roshi. The old hermit may not look like much, but if his new pupils can find him a woman, he’ll make sure they’re ready to rumble at the upcoming World Martial Arts Tournament! This epic box set contains the Emperor Pilaf Saga and First World Martial Arts Championship Saga. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese with English subtitles.
The DVD release has a 5.1 Dolby Surround track along with a standard 2.0 Japanese stereo track. The English track is good as most 5.1 releases are, which is always recommended for a remastered track as well – no probs with the sound being in sync with the subtitles, whilst the video quality is excellent – unfortunately there isn’t an option with the previous releases for marathoning it compared to the DBZ/GT releases but as Dragonball was only a more recent release dubbing wise compared to the other series it is understandable.
Set up much differently than the DBZ and DBGT releases, discs 1 and 2 have Bulma in the top right, Goku in lower left whilst discs 3 and 4 have Krillin replacing Bulma on the top right whilst near Krillin or Bulma clips of the episodes do play on a blue background with a distinct Chinese theme/look. The selections on the middle and they are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras – easy to navigate from the main menu and from the show itself. One interesting thing is it has two sets of subtitles, dubtitles and the original subtitles for the Japanese release.
Each disc has a selection of character profiles as the characters increase, so whilst many are repeated per disc (like Goku and Bulma) you get more and more as you increase the discs, ranging from Yamacha, Roshi, Oolong, Puar, Krillin, etc. On disc 3 we had trailers for Madlax and Planetes as well.
The one big extra is on the first disc, which is in fact the first Dragonball Movie, Curse of the Red Rubies. Interestingly it is in English only (no subtitles), and also the original Ocean dub and not the Funimation dub that the series uses. It is pretty much a retelling of the Pilaf saga of Dragonball but an abridged version, changing the initial villains from Pilaf to a man named King Gurumes. Here, instead of Pilaf wanting the Dragonballs to rule the world, Gurumes has been cursed with insatiable hunger and wishes to use the Dragonballs to remove it. It basically gives the villain more of a motive as we see his guards causing havoc and destroying cities for blood rubies to keep his hunger at bay, whilst a little girl named Penny goes and looks for help.
After that, it is pretty much the Dragonball saga – with Bulma meets Goku, then meeting Oolong, fighting with Yamacha and Paur, meeting Master Roshi, learning the Kamehameha and getting Nimbus, searching for the Dragonballs, and it leads to this two unusual people to meet in terms of Goku doing what is right to try and save this land. It is pretty much a shortened version of the first 10 episodes, with a different antagonist, a much more moralistic ideology, and a happier ending so to speak.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Surprisingly until this review, I have not seen the original Dragonball. DBZ I got into as a teenager as it aired in the UK, whilst GT aired after it – a fan of Z and not a fan of GT, the origination of Goku was something I saw in various flashback segments and clips in DBZ, so I had to wonder what the original series was like.
Turns out, surprisingly good. It gives a good introduction to a number of characters and whilst it doesn’t do too much outside of a few small things in terms of Goku’s past, it does get a few characters together and see what Goku was like in the very VERY beginnings of his training.
We are quickly introduced to our initial two main characters, we have Goku, a young boy who is living on his own for some reason other than the fact he used to have a grandfather, and Bulma, a young woman who is searching for something called the Dragonballs who have the ability to make any wish come true. From a radar that she has got/made, she locates one of the Dragonballs from Goku’s location, but because of the dangers around and because Goku is actually quite a fighter, Bulma asks him to tag along so can find the rest of the Dragonballs whilst she has a reliable, if not really matured or knowing the ways of the world, bodyguard.
It starts off as an adventure to find the Dragonballs, with a minor antagonist for this arc (who would resurface briefly in GT) as Pilaf, an emperor who is not exactly high on best employer of the month cards. He wishes to get the Dragonballs for world domination…whilst Goku wanders around with Bulma wondering about shoes, and not fussed with girls or getting naked much to Bulma’s infuriation of her practically babysitting. It is obvious Goku has a caveman like mentality, but that does suggest that he is not exactly normal…
The first few episodes bring forth some Dragonball collecting, along with meeting some cast who DBZ fans will know – the one that gets the most development is Master Roshi, an old martial arts master who plays a big role coming up, but here is the supplier of the Nimbus Cloud that Goku rides on (as only someone pure of heart can ride it)…and also supplies the dirty old man stereotype with his nosebleeds as Bulma teases him to help get his dragonball…
It also helps introduce a few other characters that weren’t really used much in DBZ, and in fact I wondered what their purpose was – in the original Dragonball though, the character Oolong the pig was a shape shifter who eventually joins them on their journey thanks to some blackmailing and trickery from Bulma, and later we also meet Puar, another shape-shifter but cat companion of Yamcha. It’s interesting considering that in DBZ Yamcha is almost like a running joke in terms of the power ratings yet he is officially the first Z fighter that Goku properly meets. And it is also funny in retrospect both his embarrassment with cute girls and of course his relationship with Bulma, especially considering what happens in DBZ in regard the Bulma/Yamcha pairing. Hindsight is a funny thing indeed…
The first arc is basically Goku somehow able to do the Kamehameha after Master Roshi took 50 years to perfect it whilst, some silly antics involving giant carrots and eventually Pilaf succeeding to take the balls of them – only for the dragons wish to perform something completely different thanks to an assist from Oolong…the conclusion is rather silly to be honest considering it lasting 13 episodes, though it does also showcase Goku turning into his ape form for the first time so along with the first aspects of his fighting capability and introducing a few characters, it was a good way to introduce us to Dragonball.
The second half however is where it gets more traditional and also gets more fun – mainly in the debut of everyone’s favourite human punchbag, Krillin. Whilst we do get small moments with Yamcha and Bulma elsewhere, the focus is actually Goku and Krillin both trying to get trained by Master Roshi. Roshi, again is a bit of a dirty old man but after a few episodes of this, along with getting a young woman as a surrogate mother/lady with a split personality so that Roshi never takes advantage of her innocent side Launch, they get trained by him. And whilst there is a lot of silliness (Krillin trying to cheat when finding a stone, delivering milk) his methods are surprisingly adapt when it comes to toughening their bodies, increasing their strength despite now actually showcasing any techniques bar Goku managing to pick up the Kamehameha. It is also where Krillin and Goku start their long term friendship, at first Krillin kind of took advantage of the naïve Goku but that was because of his own cowardly insecurities, and part of this series is him getting rid of that, which ironically also makes things a lot more sense wise in certain episodes in DBZ on how close Krillin is to Goku, and the start of this friendship (especially when Krillin defeats a few bullies in the tournament that taunted him before he came to train with Master Roshi) and it is quite nice to see how this friendship actually began, considering the difference of power levels even right to the end of GT the friendship was always there.
The last part is the fact Roshi enters the boys into the Budokai, the World Martial Arts Tournament. Unaware to the boys, and despite a lot of investigation from Yamcha, Master Roshi also enters under the alias Jackie Chun in disguise, mainly to see how well the boys have developed through his training. The two are the youngest in the tournament, but manage to surprise everyone despite fighting giants who haven’t bathed in years and dinosaur-humanoids. Whilst Yamcha seems to be hit with his joke status early as he gets defeated by Chun, Krillin and Goku both make it to the semi finals. Krillin loses to Chun, though would have won if Chun/Roshi hadn’t been forced to use his Kamehameha (alerting Yamcha that it is Roshi, who uses a few tricks like a fake family tree and even Goku’s semi final opponent in disguise to try and prove him wrong), leading to Goku vs. Roshi in an unknown student vs. master battle. It is actually a very entertaining fight which won’t spoil who wins, but it does end rather silly…so it doesn’t lose the comic aspect of the Dragonball spirit.
As this is the first season of the original Dragonball series it feels much more like a martial arts story – Goku here is coming of age and doesn’t feel as annoying as he would in his younger form as he did in GT or how Goten and Trunks would be like in the later seasons of DBZ – there is a pure innocence about him because he has no clue about the world and has no ego to be concerned with – he is inquisitive, wants to make friends, has no knowledge about the troubles but wants to learn. You get interactions with characters (including his future wife – his meeting with Chichi almost certainly means there is something going to happen down the road), the start of a long term friendship with Krillin and see how it began (And Krillin still being the lovable coward back in this time period as well but shows that he is a hard worker and close to Goku’s level at the start…of course things would change) – even the fact Bulma and Yamcha had a relationship which was happening at the beginning of DBZ before things changed. It is one of the few series that not going into it but knowing what would happen in its more famous sequel that really appreciated the things that would happen – the fact that these mascot characters Oolong and Puar did have a purpose in the original series actually makes me understand them more in the sequel, plus also that Master Roshi whilst still a perverted old man, you are told why he hasn’t really changed yet is a wise master and whilst his training methods are a bit interesting, the fact he wants to see how far Goku has come, knowing he will almost surely surpass him in the future. The Roshi/Chan battles were the most fun when he fought Krillin and Goku in particular and the fact for all his pervyness he is a kind old man whose methods are solid and strong.
In short, it was great to see how the Dragonball franchise began and evolved. There are a lot of silly and cheesy moments, and the way it ended after a tense battle just showcased it wasn’t (at the moment) taking it that seriously, but the beginning of how Goku and company evolved, how Roshi was important, how Bulma and Yamcha met, how Krillin and Goku met, the beginning of their training and techniques, it all added up to a really entertaining package, and whilst there will be more serious moments later on I’m certain, this is definitely a perfect way for those like myself who didn’t know how it all began to enjoy and see how it works in the future with DBZ.
Dragonball is an entertaining package which lets you see how some beloved characters came to be and how it all began. Whilst the searching for the Dragonballs arc was very silly it did allow us to meet some classic characters and how some friendships and training were formed, the Tournament arc was very entertaining and allowed almost everyone to have a moment as well as form some of the friendships that would continue for the future in DBZ and even GT. A great introduction to a classic franchise.
Content Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: May 5th, 2014
Running Time: 700 minutes
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.