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Dragon Ball: Full Color – Freeza Arc Vol. #01 Manga Review

7 min read

Dragon Ball Full Color Freeza Arc Volume 1 CoverThe saga continues: Now in full color!

Creative Staff:
Story & Art: Akira Toriyama
Translation: Mari Morimoto

What They Say:
After his epic battle with Vegeta, Son Goku must obtain the wish-granting Dragon Balls in order to resurrect their fallen allies! Their search will take them all the way to the planet Namek, where the evil Freeza and his minions are slaughtering the Namekians in order to fulfill Freeza’s wish for immortality. What will it take to defeat this great evil?

The Review:
Technical:
Dragon Ball as a whole is one of those special franchises where even when the series has been released in its entirety before, they keep finding new ways to put just enough of a spin on things to justify yet another release. Preceding the Full Color releases, Viz has released the series in its standard volumes, and two separate omnibus releases (under the “Viz Big” and “3-in-1” editions). And with exception to the 3-in-1 release, each edition offers just enough of something to the table to re-interest consumers who’ve collected the series before.

So where do the Full Color releases fit into all this?

The Dragon Ball Full Color manga volumes were previously released in Japan, (hence the naming being “Dragon Ball” over “Dragon Ball Z”) back in 2013 starting at the Saiyan Arc, and only recently looping back to releasing the earlier chapters, referred to as the “Boyhood Arc” (ref: kanzenshuu.com). I bring this up not only as a reminder that this is the first Dragon Ball Viz release since the single volumes to have a direct Japan-release equivalent, but also as an excuse of sorts on Viz’s end as to the odd numbering/naming scheme. So far, Viz has released the Saiyan and (part of) Freeza arc in full color, with the Freeza arc resetting the volume numbering back to 1. However, to collect each volume by arc rather than number seems counter-intuitive, especially for something as long as Dragon Ball, creating too much of a pain on the consumer’s end to bother figuring out the order of the arcs. Sure it’s nothing major now, but assuming Viz completes the entire run of the series in color, there will be 20+ volumes to sift through—that’s four separate arcs, each with their own volume 1 to start off from.

As their name implies, the Full Color releases collect the manga in full color—coloring what were originally black and white chapters, or partially colored chapters gray-scaled back in their single-volume release. Similar to black and white movies being colorized years after the fact, these chapters being given a fresh coat of colors will more than likely irk some purists out there, especially when considering this is the only English release not to alter the Japanese sound-effects or word-bubbles (some bubbles were combined or re-sized in earlier releases for the sake of better fitting-in English text).

That’s not to say that the coloring on the chapters themselves was a hackjob by any means. On the contrary, you can tell some tender loving care was given when going back and coloring each chapter. Rather than being given standard flat colors, characters and scenery have been given proper shading, with backgrounds given slight gradients in a style very similar to how you would think the original author Toriyama would have colored them. Details and clothing originally all black also look to have been given more detail when colored in (ie: folds in clothing where an all-black coloring wouldn’t have shown that). Even the most minor of characters are on-point color-wise, matching the colors they’ve had in anime/videogame/etc iterations perfectly.

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Dragon Ball Z Volume 5 (left), Dragon Ball Color (right)

As for the translation, they match Viz’s previous iterations almost verbatim, with a few choice exceptions that will again probably irk some fans more than others. Of particular note is the swearing—any and all instances of characters swearing have been re-written for the sake of an “All Ages” rating. Cases of “bastard” and “damn” have been removed altogether and replaced with words like “rotten” or mere groans of annoyance. There is also one instance where a tertiary character’s name has been re-translated altogether (perhaps because it better retains the original Japanese pronunciation of the name?). Do these changes affect the overall story in any way? Not particularly, but it does serve as a bit of an annoyance to know that some form of censorship is at play with the Dragon Ball series, even in this day and age.

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Dragon Ball Z Volume 6 (top), Dragon Ball Color (bottom)

One last change to take note of are the speech bubbles. While they have been fully unaltered, it’s interesting to note that even with this release’s larger-than-standard size, some text has still been altered for the sake of better fitting into the speech bubbles themselves. Longer-running sentences have been re-worded for brevity’s sake, and while the original meanings are retained it’s just odd to see that even with the panels and bubbles being larger, type-setters are still met with the same problems they’ve always had.

Another factor to consider in this release is that while it nails the coloring aspect, there isn’t much else besides that. While previous iterations of the manga have had introductory author notes and ended with a chapter cover gallery, both of these have been removed from the Full Color releases, making for a rather abrupt ending when reading the volume from start to finish. Sure, this doesn’t alter the content of the story itself, but like the dialogue censoring, it’s odd for an older release to have them, only for this latest release not to.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you want to prove that Dragon Ball is more than burly space aliens beating each other up, introduce them to the early chapters on Namek.

Considering the finale of the Freeza arc, it’s easy to forget its humble beginnings, with the heroes leaving the Earth to resurrect their fallen comrades via Planet Namek’s own dragon balls. With Goku still out of commission after his fight with Vegeta, the story’s main focus is on the trio of Gohan, Kuririn, and Bulma who are shocked to find that Vegeta has arrived to Namek for the dragon balls as well. On top of that, they find that Vegeta looks to have brought some friends along in the form of Freeza and his army, who have also been made privy to the magical wish-granting orbs. Now presented with three very distinct parties all searching for the same thing, it’s a race to the end over all seven dragon balls—something that hasn’t been done since early chapters with a young Goku and the Red Ribbon Army.

What makes these early Namek-centric chapters interesting is that not necessarily everyone is aware of each other’s presence. Vegeta is slowly acting more rogue and disobeying Freeza’s orders, Freeza is systematically hunting down Namekians in their villages, and the humans are aware of both threats and keeping their chi as small as possible to prevent any detection. The whole aspect of being able to sense another being’s chi has been better fleshed out since its chapters prior, and it works to the story’s advantage. You have the powerful villains on one end, heavily reliant on chi readings based on their scouter devices, and the weaker humans on the other end, with the advantage of learning how to mask their chi. It all makes for this interesting game of cat and mouse among all the characters with an alien planet as the backdrop. And while the shonen-style fights haven’t been eliminated entirely, it’s obvious that they’re there more to better aid certain aspects of the plot rather than serve as a major driving factor.

With so many characters being introduced at once, and each of them serving their own selfish desires, the start of the Freeza arc is definitely one of the more smartly-written stories in all of Dragon Ball history, with characters sneaking about, double-crossing, and outsmarting their enemies in any way possible.

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In Summary:
The Dragon Ball Full Color releases definitely feel like two steps forward, one step back in terms of release quality. While the large size, intact SFX, and full color are a delight, slight dialogue censors and the lack of author notes and chapter galleries doesn’t make this a complete release by any stretch. But at the same time, this release doesn’t boast being complete in the first place, so you can’t exactly ding it for those points. If you’re a fan of the series and still haven’t picked up any of the volumes, the Full Color releases are definitely one of the better routes to go.

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

Age Rating: All Ages
Released By: VIZ Media LLC
Release Date: May 3, 2016
MSRP: $19.99

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