Dragon Ball Z Movie 01: Dead Zone (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, June 10, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What They Say
Gohan has been kidnapped! To make matters worse, the evil Garlic Jr. is gathering the Dragonballs to wish for immortality. Only then will Garlic Jr. be able to take over the Earth in order to gain revenge for the death of his father.

Goku rushes to save Gohan, but arrives at the fortress just as Garlic Jr. summons the Eternal Dragon! Krillin and Piccolo try to help Goku, but their combined powers are no match for Garlic Jr., who creates a "Dead Zone" to suck the heroes into oblivion! Suddenly, Goku begins to show his hidden power, but will it be enough?!

The Review!
Garlic Jr.'s set to conquer the world with eternal life but he made the mistake of kidnapping Gohan first.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this movie in its original language of Japanese. The included mono mix for the show is pretty much what we've come to expect from the franchise in general, which means that there's often a bit of distortion and noise when the characters get at a higher level in volume and it really does feel like a mono mix in that there's a slight tunnel feeling to the way it's projected. It's a decent enough track all told and something that fans of the series are certainly used to by now. The included English mixes are noticeably different in this regard and come off better but they have their own issues such as the music being different.

Originally released back in 1989, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Overall, there's practically no way that this transfer would be worse than the original one done by Pioneer back in 1997 just due to the changes in authoring styles and so forth. The print here looks good and is relatively free of blemishes and avoids most of the grainy feel that much of the TV series exhibits. The actual animation is no different than how the series itself is done though so it's very much in keeping with the same color palette and the overall feel. Colors are nice and solid without much in the way of shifting or macroblocking in the large sections. There's a bit of aliasing here and there but the biggest thing most will notice is the occasional nick or scratch.

Using a similar style to the TV series release of the previously unreleased material, the foil style paper works nicely here with the reds and silvers that make up the lower half where Goku is exploding with power and balances nicely against the upper half that has Garlic Jr. and mostly dark colors. The foil paper used again just looks really nice here and helps the title to stand out, as does the logo they use. The back cover is laid out well though it avoids the use of the technical grid but at least the information is fairly easy to find. The summary covers the basics of a very basic movie, the discs features are clear and there's a good showing of shots from the show and artwork that makes good use of the foil. No insert is included in this release.

Done in a faux letterbox style but with torn edges, the inside artwork is a good looking static piece of Goku along the right and others to the left of him that are done more lightly. With a bit of music playing to it, it's a decent looking menu with no animation on it but it fits well for the show and is easy to navigate and use. Access times are nice and fast and we had no problems with it in going through the various submenus. As usual, we ignore the player presets we have and do this manually due to the nature of the discs labeling and order of their language options.

The only extra for this release is a full length commentary track with various voice actors/production people for this release. The track is very much dominated by the voice actor for Garlic Jr. who continually shushes everyone so they can hear a lot of his favorite lines – from his character. There are a couple of interesting bits here and there as there usually are in almost any commentary track, but this one was just rife with in-jokes, messing with other actors who aren't there and just things completely unrelated. This was almost a challenge to listen to.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nostalgia hit hard with this release for obvious reasons. It was my first Pioneer anime DVD I ever bought back in 1997. Looking back at that "review" which was when we weren't even a real site but just a piece of personal web space with an email account, it reminds me just how much things have changed in the last eight years. That version was one of my first real exposures to the Dragonball Z franchise outside of a few episodes seen partially on TV and it was my first chance to sample the Japanese track. But it was part of the edited release that was the norm back then for the franchise and with the episodes that Pioneer had gotten through a deal with FUNimation.

So now in 2005, the rights are back, the release has been given a special uncut edition and it's finally back on the shelves and not in a jewel case. And even more interesting for me, I'm much more familiar with the show now that much of this actually made sense whereas back then I had seen really nothing. Knowing the characters, having read the first series manga and knowing the backgrounds and more, this re-viewing of the first movie certainly made it more enjoyable, though it is just an extended (or rather, short) fight sequence that's self contained.

The premise is straightforward in that Garlic Jr. has decided to seek revenge at long last on Kami for his father's death by acquiring the seven dragon balls. It's been several hundred years of built up anger and the pint sized villain has work hard to build up a small coterie of powerful warriors to work with him. In order to ensure a smooth victory, he has them eliminate some of the powerful people around the world with Piccolo getting taken down first and then off to a few others. Before they can deal with Goku though, they end up kidnapping his son (unknowingly) to use for a bargaining chip of needed and return to Garlic Jr.'s lair. Interestingly, Garlic Jr. is able to sense massive potential in Gohan and decides that he'll be worth keeping around in order to raise him for his own needs.

Naturally, Goku won't stand for this and after figuring out that all the dragon balls are being hunted down at the same time, he heads off to where they are but is just a bit too late. Garlic Jr. has acquired them all and been granted his wish of eternal life. In order to save Gohan though, he has to defeat Garlic Jr. and ends up with a bit of help from some of his friends, such as Kami and Piccolo. This then covers the next… oh, save three-fourth's of the movie really. It's a fairly substantial fight sequence that shifts at first between the three subordinates while Garlic Jr. and Kami go over their histories and then it moves on to the fight with Garlic Jr. himself. In a way, this is better than the TV series since it finishes out in 41 minutes even with opening and closing credits as opposed to seven or eight episodes for a particular fight. Garlic Jr.'s not a bad villain but he does come across as particularly average but is comical just for his height and the forceful voice.

In Summary:
As a self-contained movie, it's not bad but still requires some knowledge of the franchise in order to actually enjoy it on any level other than a couple of guys beating the snot out of each other. It's good to finally have this movie out again in proper full uncut form (yay for animation about drunk kids) and cleaned up over its previous release. This is a pretty easy one to add to the collection as it's the one started the series of movies and specials and it's a nice prequel to the Z part of the series for Gohan. This is also a release for me that brings things full circle to when I first got into DVD so it has a weird form of nostalgia for me.

Japanese 1.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,English Commentary Track

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Dragon Ball Z