Dragon Ball: Red Ribbon Army Saga - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B-
  • Video Rating: C-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 39.95
  • Running time: 346
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball: Red Ribbon Army Saga

By Chris Beveridge     September 27, 2004
Release Date: February 25, 2003

Dragon Ball: Red Ribbon Army Saga
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Contains the entire Red Ribbon Saga on DVD!

Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime as Goku begins his search for the mystical Dragon Balls! But - his quest quickly turns into more than he ever bargained for. Goku soon finds himself facing deadly ninjas, powerful androids, and horrifying monsters, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of the devious Emperor Pilaf and the dangerous Red Ribbon Army. Both Emperor Pilaf and the Red Ribbon Army desire to harness the amazing power of the Dragon Balls for their own selfish gain. Goku must be faster, stronger, and smarter than those that wish to see him destroyed. The race for the Dragon Balls begins now!

The Review!
Goku's search for the Dragon Balls gets into high gear as he competes against the Red Ribbon Army to find them.

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 nine. 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. The materials here also look a bit darker than normal which doesn't help the night time scenes look any better since the grain works against that as well. 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, Pilaf and Murasaki 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 seventeen 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 extras included on this release is a series of character profile sections.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having recently gotten into the entire Dragon Ball series via the manga, I decided to jump into the anime side of things once more and try it out with a new look on the entire franchise. While I'm not able to start at the beginning, I started with the arc that got me more interested in the manga than I had been before.

With the first tournament concluded and everyone ready to go their own way, Goku heads off once more to find the Dragon Ball of his grandpa's once more so that he can have that bit of closure in his life. Of course, it's never going to be easy for Goku and finding this particular Ball. His search for it is complicated over the beginning course of these episodes by another group that's looking for them as well called the Red Ribbon Army. Unlike the manga, which went right into the arc and started with Goku coming across the village where the Army has set up its residence and kidnapped the mayor, it provides a number of filler episodes that provide more action scenes for the Army in general but also adds more fluff.

I'm no fan of fluff and some of the fluff here I just didn't like how it tweaked things from the original, though it's understandable that the narrative has to be expanded for this kind of show. Pilaf enters the show once more as he searches for the Dragon Balls as well and through a quirky bit of fate, the Ball they're after ends up in the stomach of a giant lizard bird that Chi-chi's father ends up killing for a big village feast based on Goku and Chi-chi getting married. Pilaf decides that the best bet is to just be forward and go right in and try to get the ball so he gets one of his underlings to dress up as Goku and pretend to be him while they figure out where the Ball really is. Naturally, Goku's actually nearby since he's searching up the same Ball and he runs into Chi-chi outside of the village and the two get some good time together. It's not a bad little side plot but since it brings in the characters earlier than we would have seen them before and it brings in the Army earlier than before as well, it feels like it's pre-empting some of the things from later in the show.

Once past all the Colonel Silver and Pilaf material, the show goes right into the real Red Ribbon Army material and I just enjoyed it a lot. Playing out very closely to the manga, Goku arrives in the remote village where the mayor has been kidnapped and the townspeople have been dragged into searching the area for the missing Dragon Ball that they want to get their hands on. Once Goku gets a feel for things and adjusts from the blistering cold of the area, he offers to help by rescuing the mayor. Held captive in Muscle Tower, an imposing five story building, he simply bursts his way in and starts working his way up the levels. Each level presents a different kind of threat and he has to work through the various challenges before he can reach General White and get the mayor freed.

The challenges he faces in the levels are a lot of fun to watch, from the basic round of thugs inside the bottom floor to the "master ninja" who just has no luck against someone as innocent and naïve as Goku is. The only villain I didn't really care much for as a villain during this arc is the Android Number 8 since it's playing up such an obvious Frankenstein riff. I even liked the Terminator ripoff better than this; at least that one is a bit more timely. Murasaki's the best of the villains here since his fights are so frustrating for him and comical to the viewer and often to Goku as well. The only downside to the villains here is that when we finally get to General White, he's such a non-threatening villain other than his use of guns, and even that's weak after the Terminator rip-off, that he doesn't really strike you as much of a threat against Goku.

The show really matches the manga in terms of style and its overall look and feel while adding some of its own little touches to it but when it comes to the actual arcs it's pretty faithful from what my memory tells me. The episodes surrounding them though aren't exactly pieces I found myself all that interested in nor did I find many of them really adding much to things. They're not unexpected since there's time between the manga and the animation and they had to fill things out a bit here and there but some of the episodes just didn't seem to fit well.

In Summary:
While the show didn't knock my socks off like the manga did once I got into that, it's definitely gotten me interested in slowly picking up more of the collections and checking them out. The large number of episodes per set is both a plus and a negative since it's good to have so much handy but it's bad when you start marathoning since it all starts to blur after not too long. This release is good for what it is and I doubt there's all that much better for quality materials, though I'd love to see a full clean and remastered version done some day. Dragon Ball hasn't made any changes to my feelings on the Z saga, but I'm definitely looking forward to checking out more of the young Goku sagas.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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