Dragon Ball: Commander Red Saga - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 39.95
  • Running time: 202
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball: Commander Red Saga

By Chris Beveridge     February 02, 2006
Release Date: November 11, 2003

Dragon Ball: Commander Red Saga
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
The sinister Red Ribbon Army has tracked a Dragonball to a volcanic island and will stop at nothing to obtain the powerful artifact. As proof of their determination, a ruthless mercenary named Tao is hired to secure the Dragonball no matter the cost.

As Tao lays waste to the island, Goku begins the colossal climb up Korin's Tower. Legend says that whoever drinks the Sacred Water found at the top will discover amazing new powers! This bizarre journey may be the only way Goku can stop Mercenary Tao and save the Dragonball from falling into evil hands. As if this isn't enough, Goku has declared war on the entire Red Ribbon Army! With only a small contingent of his closest comrades, Goku prepares to charge headlong into the lair of the enemy, facing off with Commander Red and his legions of followers!

The Review!
While Goku continues to look for the special Dragonball of his grandfathers, the Red Ribbon Army sets things in motion to take him out entirely.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though it's a stereo mix it feels like an old mono mix that it probably really is. While it's not a bad mix it's showing its age in general and has some muffling and static to it at times. In general, it sounds much like I'd expect from this show based on other episodes that I've seen of it and Z. Even for its minor problems, it's still a pretty clear and understandable track that doesn't really detract from the overall show.

Originally airing back in 1986, the double disc set here contains seventeen episodes worth of the show. The first volume has eight episodes and the second one contains eight. The source material for this series and the others up through GT have always struck me as pretty poor in general with a lot of film grain being strongly visible. This original series is no different and that presents the usual problems associated with so much grain in that a lot of the areas of solid colors look pretty shifty and almost alive in how they move. Even still with all the problems associated with the grain and materials, there aren't any obvious real authoring errors here so the bulk of the issues just comes down to the source and that's never easy to fix, particularly with such an old show. Either there's good materials or there isn't.

Keeping in theme with other covers for this series, the Turtle logo is prominent on the front cover and we get the headshots of Goku, Violent, Commander Red and Tao Pai Pai to help represent various points of this show. The character shots look good and nice and clean with some smooth colors to them. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and a summary of what to expect from the major arc here. The discs features and technical information is scrunched down into a small strip and isn't all that clean to read, particularly with white on green and red on green. The insert has the front cover done up again without the corporate logos on them and opens up to a breakdown of all ten episodes with a brief summary of them. The back cover just provides boxart for other shows.

Using the style and colors from the front cover, we get a good looking static image with a bit of music playing along. With little on the disc other than the show, the menus are quick and easy to navigate and load. Due to the language selection layout being what it is for FUNimation titles where it has subtitles and languages set so specifically and that it adjusts what angle you play, we didn't try out players' presets and instead selected it manually. The only issue I really have with the menus is the episode selection piece. Since they use only the English version of the episode names, if you watch it in Japanese and try to figure out where you left off you're in a real pickle since there's very little similar between the two.

The only extras included on this release are a series of character profile sections.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a couple of encounters with the Red Ribbon Army and it's various commanders, Goku's not exactly fans of them but hasn't thought about them much while going to find the Dragonball that once belong to his grandfather and holding onto the others that he's acquired along the way. Commander Red on the other hand has been thinking about Goku a lot and has decided to put his money on the line to deal with it.

The Red Ribbon Army isn't quite in disarray after the previous encounters but they're not quite what they were in some areas. While the central headquarters with its massive tracking operation to locate the Dragonball's continue to operate well and is fully staffed, some of the field agents haven't had as much luck. General Blue has suffered some serious defeat at Goku's hands and his return to the base after traveling across the lands isn't exactly welcome. Violet's keeping mostly to the main headquarters after she gains her reward for a successful recovery of one of the Dragonball's found underwater but Yellow's got himself some serious problems. While almost securing one from inside a volcano, it erupted on the operation and flung it, along with lots of fiery rocks, all around the volcano so they have to go searching for it inside of a forest now.

The forest brings us to an interesting area of the world where there's a massive tower that reaches high into the sky. It's protected at its base by a man and his son of "native American" stylings as part of a group of people who have guarded it all these years. The myth is that a god created the tower and moved up there and has resided there ever since. Men who climb up it, if successful, can get a Super Spirit drink that will boost their strength to new levels. Many have tried over time to climb it but either fall off, die from starvation or other reasons. You can't fly up it either, you have to climb, because only if through your will and strength will you be able to reach it. So taking planes or helicopters won't help.

Yellow ends up arriving there first to try and take the Dragonball back but Goku ends up arriving not long after only to see Yellow and his crew of cowboy's trying to shoot down Bora, the big man doing the protection thing. His son, Oopa, is mostly hiding but both of them are impressed when Goku gets into things and takes the rest of them down which leads to a cautious friendship between the three as Goku explains why he's after the Dragonball. During this time as the three of them talk and relax a bit, Commander Red has decided to bring Goku down once and for all for what he's done and has hired the ultra expensive Tao Pai Pai, the deadliest assassin on the planet. An assassin so deadly that we see him kill by flicking his tongue at someone's skull which causes it shatter like glass. Now that's deadly and just a little bit disturbing to see. Even though he's asked to kill a kid, Tao Pai Pai is set to do it and in a creative manner, flings himself to where the tower of Karin is so that they can fight.

A good portion of the ten episodes here focus on the fight that the two go through and the kinds of tricks that get brought into play regarding the tower itself in order to boost up their levels and give Goku the growth that he needs in order to handle his next set of challenges. Goku's always in the mindset of just wanting to get stronger to defend his friends so it's not surprising that he gets a good boost now that he's facing someone quite deadly over the course of several days and a couple of encounters. The fight scenes between the two are quite fun since at this stage Goku, while powerful, still isn't anywhere near the top of the heap and gets taken down several times and has a real tough time overall with it and even loses some of his sense of humor and lightness during it.

Where the show gets a bit more problematic, and it's a recurring theme in several of these collections of episodes, is that once they get past this big arc and that really big long fight sequence, the rest of it just seems to go downhill. In this volume, it's the shift after the Tao Pai Pai piece where Goku decides to head to the Red Ribbon Army headquarters to deal with Commander Red once and for all. The problem is that Tao Pai Pai has already been the most powerful person coming from there and the others, Yellow, Violet, etc, just won't stack up against Goku at this point so he's able to run roughshod over the entire base with very little trouble. Even the big methods used to eliminate him you know just aren't going to cause a problem based on what he's been through before. This makes these episodes both anticlimactic and very drawn out.

As much as I enjoyed the inclusion of Bora and Oopa in the show and the more natural background given to them over the high tech foes of the Red Ribbon Army, what made it difficult to watch many of their scenes is the music that was used for it. Some of it is fine but there is one particular instrumental piece that's so Cowboy western influenced and used so many times during the quiet scenes where they pan the tower or the area in general that it practically drove me mad after awhile. It's not a stretch to imagine it being lifted easily from any number of western serials that were made.

In Summary:
With just ten episodes this is a fairly short arc but one that has some good material which brings the Karin tower to light and the trick behind all of it. Commander Red gets fleshed out pretty well over the course of it and we see a lot of how the Red Ribbon Army operates as well as getting the revelation of why he's seeking out the Dragonball's which I thought was just perfect considering all that went into the operation. Goku's fun in this set of episodes as well where he's got some serious challenges to face but his good nature and positive outlook has him working hard to overcome them. While I've come to like the older Goku we see later in the franchise it's still the ones with him as a young boy that I enjoy the most and this is no exception.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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