Dragon Ball: Saga of Goku (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Andrew Tei
Review Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2000



What They Say
The Akira Toriyama epic!

Deep within the core of the Earth a fire rages. Within the heart of this fire dwells the Eternal Dragon, a magical beast of limitless power that can be summoned from his fiery lair only when the seven magic Dragon Balls ? now scattered over the face of the Earth ? are found and brought together. When the seven magic Dragon Balls are united, the Eternal Dragon will appear before the adventurer who brought them together and grant that person a single wish.

Then, once more the balls will be scattered to the four winds, and the dragon beast will return to his fiery lair until another brave or foolish soul rediscovers the balls and tries to bring them together again.

Now meet Goku ... a brave, innocent young boy with incredible powers, who is plunged into a mystical adventure in exotic lands. This normal little boy (if you count having a tail as normal, that is) and his collection of screwy friends are looking for the 7 almost mystical Dragon Balls with which one can summon a charmed Dragon who will grant a single wish!

See the adventure that launched the entire Dragonball Z series!

13 great episodes plus the full-length pilot feature!

The Review!
Akira Toriyama?s Dragonball comes to the US, in this highly edited version from Funimation. We only get the English dub though in this release, and it has been edited for television. Considering Dragonball is one of those starter shows for anime fans, so it definitely deserves a looking at.

Audio:

I?m betting the original Japanese release was mono, but Funimation provides a stereo English sound mix for the show. While most of the sound is directed towards the front sound stage, there Is some directionality. In a few speaking scenes, the sound mix actually takes advantage of their being left and right speakers. There was no noticeable sound distortion.

Video:

Funimation just slapped these episodes together without a care it seems. First of all, there is no time counter for the thirteen episodes. To pour even more salt on this wound, there are no chapter stops within the episodes. Amazingly, all the openings and endings for the US version are intact. The Curse of the Blood Rubies has a time code though. Another problem I had was episode three, where my player crashed during the opening. It would do this repeatedly. In order to watch it, I put the DVD in my PS2. The PS2 basically just skipped over the badly encoded parts of the opening, and got through to the episode. On the second DVD, during the last three episodes the encoding would just get off sync every once in a while and I?d have to stop the episode and press play again to correct it.

The episodes themselves seem a little soft and grainy it?s encoding, but this is a show from 1986. This probably isn?t a result of the encoding process, but the original source material. Bulma?s blue hair leads to a lot of macro blocking that can be seen in her hair. It?s still better than what you would see on cable. 156 minutes of video is squeezed onto volume one, and 181 minutes on volume two. It?s not very surprising at how low the quality of this encode is.

Packaging:

This two volume DVD release is packaged in a box featuring our band of heroes and two villains from the Curse of the Blood Rubies mini feature. Blue and orange are the primary colors used to color the package, and the DVD slip covers. Goku takes the main focus of cover. The artwork used on front of the DVD cases themselves look slightly low in resolution. The back of the box lists all the episodes on the DVDs, and seven screen shots from the episodes.

Menus:

After a swirling Dragonball, the menu opens up with half the screen being static featuring characters from the series, with a selection of video clips playing in the background. Music from the opening is used. On the main menu, there is access to a ?play all? button, episode index, extras, and trailers for other products from Trimark Home Video. The episode index features video for each episode plus the number of each episode. Transitions between menus are very slow and during the trailers menu I could hear sound distortions. The second DVD has separate menu for the Dragonball episode and the Curse of the Blood Rubies.

Extras:

The extras on the DVD are very limited. There are English subtitles for every episode and the feature, plus Spanish subtitles for the Curse of the Blood Rubies mini-feature. In addition, there is a Dragon Ball Quiz, which consists of a question and three possible answers. Answer correctly and move on, otherwise you get thrown back to the beginning of the quiz. Your reward, a screenshot of Goku. Not much of a reward.

Content:

This is a dub only release of the starting episodes of the Dragonball saga, and the tone of these episodes are very different that the Dragonball Z episodes. The large fights aren?t present here, so a different crowd would be interested in these episodes, and I think a lack of the original Japanese language track here is detrimental.

Goku is a young boy living in the jungle by himself after his grandfather has passed away. He?s received martial arts training, is incredibly strong, and has a tail. His quiet life is about to end when, Bulma, a young girl, finds him during her search for the seven Dragon Balls. The Dragon Balls allow the summoning of the Eternal Dragon who will grant one wish. Bulma needs the wish to get the world?s best boyfriend. She?s not that selfish, really! Goku?s grandfather left one of of the Dragon Balls with Goku, and Bulma already has two. The two go off on an adventure to find the rest.

Bulma and Goku have radically different personalities, as we have the city slicker and the country bumpkin partnered together. Goku has no knowledge of how society works, and no idea what taking a bath means. This leads to some great scenes, which some very obvious editing by the part of Funimation to cover Goku?s privates.

In addition, there is another group led by Emperor Pilaf who wants the Dragon Balls. Pilaf though wants the wish to enable him to rule the world. Of course, Pilaf is incompetent and his two henchmen are just as bad. After a while, the bandit Yam-Cha enters the picture and he?s also after the Dragon Balls, to help him overcome his shyness of women.

The first volume gives us the introduction to many of the characters in Toriyama?s Dragon Ball as our starting pair search for the Dragon Balls. Roshi, the turtle hermit, Oolong the shape shifting pig, Yamcha, the Ox-King, and Chi Chi all get introduced during the first volume. The humor in the episodes is simplistic with fart jokes scattered around for the kiddies. We even eventually get Bulma in a bunny girl outfit.

With the second volume, we get away from introduces character, and into the final arc after Pilaf?s group steals all the Dragon Balls. Yamcha, who was working separately, is forced to join with Goku, Bulma, and Oolong to stop Pilaf with nothing, but a pair of underwear? The ultimate fun end to this arc though is ruined after Funimation makes an edit that changes a pair of panties into just underwear with a very annoying digital edit also.

I thought the cast was pretty well put together for this, especially if you accept that the release is purely targeted for kids. ?Children?s Animation? is clearly marked on the outside of the packing. Having never heard the original Japanese voices, I can?t make much of a comparison.

The Curse of the Blood Rubies is a horrible hack job that splices what I believe to be an episode together with footage from how everyone joins up. It is retelling partially of how Goku, Bulma, Oolong, and Yamcha join up. I would recommend just skipping this part of the DVD, and just watch the thirteen episode of Dragon Ball.

At an MSRP of $29.99, thirteen episode dubbed is a pretty good deal, though only for a US Dragon Ball fan. Funimation?s dialogue and digital edits would get on most people?s nerves. Considering you can get the Dragon Ball Z movies unedited, I don?t know why most people would bother with this release.

Features
English Language,English Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba 3109 player/Sony PS2 for episode three, Toshiba 36? Cinema Series via component, Pioneer VSX-810S receiver, Cerwin Vega front speaker, Pinnacle center and rears




Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: D
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Other
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 338
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Dragon Ball