Dragon Ball Movie 1: Curse of the Blood Rubies (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The first of many movies to come, the Curse of the Blood Rubies tells a different tale of how it all began
What They Say
Greedy King Gurumes is destroying his kingdom - and his stomach - with an insatiable hunger born of his maniacal quest to collect the cursed Blood Rubies! His only hope for survival lies in harnessing the wish-granting power of the seven magic Dragon Balls. Standing in his way are Goku, Bulma, Master Roshi, and a cast of unlikely allies who will join forces to prevent the king's sinister wish from being granted!
FUNimation has a pretty standard set of mixes here in the audio department that won’t really surprise anyone. They’ve included a single English language track here done as a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. For fans of the original Japanese language, we do get something of the short end of the stick with a measly mono channel mix done at 96kbps which pretty much underwhelms, particularly in comparison to everything else on the disc. We predominantly listened to the Japanese mix and had no problems with it throughout regular playback.
Originally in theaters at the end of 1986, Dragon Ball is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Having not seen the Japanese release of it, I can’t say how close this is to the original, but this feature looks really good when taken into the context of the previous releases from FUNimation and the age of the show. It’s not completely clean or anything, there are noticeable areas of blocking and banding to be had at times, generally with dark areas, but overall it’s far better than what it could have been. Not fantastic, there’s no way this show could look fantastic I think.
The Curse of the Blood Rubies is in a standard sized clear keepcase that uses the same kind of layout as the other movies and even the TV series box sets. The left side has the vertical strip that has the logo and film name against white while a blue box along the bottom says what number movie it is. The bulk of the cover is given over to an upbeat and colorful image that has Goku, Yamucha and Bulma together with lots of blues and whites bursting out from behind them. The back cover lets the villain take the section along the top while we get a good strip of images along the left with Shen Long wrapped beside it. The rest is given over to a clean white section that has the logo and a summary of what to expect. The technical grid along the bottom is simple but effective even if it is far too small with the black type on white. While there aren't any show related inserts, the reverse side artwork has a blue filtered image of Shen Long across it that's appealing.
The menus for this release are the same across all five volumes as it uses the blue from the TV series packaging along with the same kind of shot of Goku in child form as its center piece. The menus are done in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and they fill out the screen nicely and it looks nowhere near as garish as the previous set did. In fact, everything looks really good here. The layout is straightforward with navigation along the bottom which includes the marathon play option. Submenus load quickly and the language menu details the options quite nicely, even if it doesn’t observe our players presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the TV series debuted at the beginning of 1986, the end of 1986 featured the first theatrical film for Dragon Ball. Not surprisingly, the film series is one that didn't adhere to what the TV series was doing and went its own direction in adapting the manga by Akira Toriyama. Having just rewatched the TV series over the last year through FUNimation's release of the sets, I was really curious to see how the first movie would go as it's long been hard to find for a number of reasons. A lot of what defines the Dragon Ball franchise is here but it deviates in a few ways while still retaining the same look and feel of the TV series which makes the disparities all the more boggling.
The story of Dragon Ball is easily familiar as we're introduced to young Goku as he travels the lands and ends up running into Bulma, who is in her quest to find the seven Dragon Balls that will grant a wish. The first meeting of the two doesn't exactly go well since he's not familiar with anything lived his few young years in the mountains with his now dead grandpa, and his first instinct is to destroy the vehicle she's driving and then to be completely shocked that she's something called a girl. Having never met one, he doesn't know what to make of it, but he's distracted by the fact that his special Dragon Ball that he has was just stolen by some mysterious people who quickly ran off with it. The two join forces for obvious reasons.
What those two are up to are stealing all the Dragon Balls they can find as part of King Gurumes' needs. Gurumes has grown powerful recently and has had his troops ravage the lands in search of jewels. They've destroyed the area thoroughly in their search for the “blood rubies” that are buried in it as they feed the hunger that he has, but it hasn't sated it anywhere near completely. His hope is that the Dragon Balls will cure him once and for all, but neither he nor his troops are aware of the special powers they have as he just wants to fully ingest them all.
The journey that Goku and Bulma end up going on has them meeting other familiar faces, such as Muten Roshi and Yamucha, along with a couple of our favorite transforming sidekicks as well. With it having a runtime of just about fifty minutes, everything is naturally compressed and it moves pretty quick as it goes along. The meeting with various characters has less impact, particularly with Muten Roshi, as he Goku basically picks up his kamehameha with the snap of his fingers and then gets on his cloud and heads off to fight. Some of the humor is definitely kept, especially with my favorite transformation and the whole pafu-pafu sequence with the false Bulma. Dragon Ball doesn't offer any real twists or surprises here, but it is an interesting take on a short-form telling of the origin.
With it being what it is, I had hoped that they would also try to differentiate from the TV series in terms of style as well, but that's not to be. It keeps very closely to what the designs there are so the characters are instantly identifiable and similarly detailed. The backgrounds are about the same as well but the quality of it is a notch or two up over the TV version as it's a bit more fluid but not by a whole lot. It's noticeable enough if you look at it, but otherwise it'll look like a slightly more polished version of the TV series.
With this movie long being out of reach for many, I was really curious to see what it would be like. Having just finished off the TV series not that long ago for the original series, it definitely was interesting to see how they approached the re-telling of the origin in less time while still trying to convey a lot. The change of Pilaf to Gurume largely makes sense in the way they're telling things here, especially with the destruction of the land, but I would have still preferred to have seen Pilaf since he's cute. But for doing a story that has the Dragon Balls being invoked in the space of fifty minutes of first discovering more about them, changing this definitely makes sense. Curse of the Blood Rubies is a movie definitely worth checking out for the Dragon Ball fans and the release is well done overall.
Japanese 1.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 48
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Dragon Ball