Wow, it’s been a long trek to get this on DVD. It’s kinda ironic that the last bit of all the original Dragon Ball/Z/GT related animations we finally get uncut are the first few episodes of the series (not including the 2008 special or Kai in that, purely all the originally released stuff.)
This is where the king of shonen anime started over twenty years ago. How does it stand up to it’s bigger brother Dragon Ball Z? Let’s take a look.
Starting with packaging, this is the same packaging anyone who has the DBZ orange bricks, or the DBGT green bricks is used to, just blue. Basic digipak with a slipcase. I’m not a fan of digipaks, but it does the job well. The logo on the slipcase is Funi’s own Dragon Ball logo (if it in fact is Japanese in origin, I haven’t been able to find any evidence of it’s use prior to Funimation.) The logo comes across good on it’s blue background with a nice clean picture of Goku on the front cover. The logo is also embossed on all four sides of the slipcase. There’s a ‘digitally remastered’ tag on the front, but I’ll go over that when I go over the video quality. The packaging does the job with a decent cover design.
The menu is clean and crisp, although much like the GT menu, for some odd reason, a 4:3 show, get’s a 16:9 menu that has black bars ADDED to it to make it appear even wider. There isn’t anything specifically wrong with this, it just looks a bit strange.
Now, onto Dragon Ball itself. Dragon Ball is very odd to review in that, I’ve been waiting a long time for this release. I remember being introduced to DBZ through ancient raw tapes (having no idea what it was until much later), waking up early to catch the original dub of Dragon ball at 5:30am as a kid. Re-watching it now, it’s easy to see why. Dragon Ball is a delight. While a bit aged, it is far more entertaining than Dragon Ball Z. It is superior to it’s more well known ‘sequel’ in almost every way. It’s about characters on an adventure. It’s filled with comedy and action. It’s the exact show you just want to sit back and relax and enjoy. It’s just plain fun. While characters may not be fleshed out as much as they may be in a high class drama, you know exactly what each character is up to and what they are thinking and you can’t help but smile at how they act. From Goku being an innocent little kid, to Oolong and Roshi’s perversity, to Krillin just being that lovable little bald kid, I found myself enjoying every moment like I was a little kid (also, ‘points up at picture’ MONKEY!) The set has the first 31 episodes, which gives you the initial arc introducing many of the main characters, Goku and Krillin training for their first tournament, the tournament itself, and the very beginning of the plot of the nefarious Red Ribbon Army. The value of this set is amazing for a show so good. It’s a must buy for shonen fans. If you aren’t a shonen fan, and don’t like Dragon Ball Z… give Dragon Ball a chance, you might get a bit suprised.
It can be hard to judge video quality for old shonen animation. The video quality on the set is relatively good and is even encoded as progressive (480p.) There are minor flaws in the video that crop up once in awhile due to the age of the material. It actually looks far better than I expected. My main issue is ‘digitally remastered’ being on the box. Applying what appears to be a digital video noise reduction filter as they did on the Z and GT set to artificially make the picture appear ‘cleaner’ produces a few instances of line issue, but it’s very rare. Whoever was in charge of the dial for the noise reduction used a much lighter touch than we saw on Z (which suffered numerous problems) and GT (which while not having major problems generally appeared ‘fuzzy’). There are definitely a few rare occasions where I noticed an issue, but to be fair, I was looking for them. It’s definitely the best we’ve ever gotten Dragon Ball before and despite some DVNR issues, I have no major complaints about the video, and found it relatively well done (and to reiterate since someone will ask, yes, the video is uncut, including what is arguably early Dragon Ball’s most famous scene.)
The set has two audio tracks. A 5.1 Dolby English dub at 448k, and a 1.0 Dolby of the Japanese at 96k. The dub audio is quite clear, which sort of contrasts with the music and effects which clearly sound much older, but it works well. The Japanese audio track is a smidge louder, and is quite nice to finally get the first 13 episodes on DVD with Japanese audio.
The dub for Dragon Ball is very good. It’s far more of an attempt to be true to the original than the Z or GT dubs. Ironically it was likely done this way because, while you have some degree of mass market appeal with Z and GT, it is a much harder sell for Dragon Ball, even edited down as it was for Cartoon Network (the version featured here is the uncut dub that previously appeared on DVDs, and for the first time in North America, that includes the first 13 episodes.) The cast used is Funimation’s Dragon Ball Z cast, minus cast changes for character ages. The dub uses the original music (including dubbing the intro and outtro song for the English track) and isn’t rewritten en masse like Z/GT. There are some rewrites for jokes or other elements, but these generally mesh well. It’s a very enjoyable dub.
As for extras, there aren’t many. You get clean versions of the intro and outtro, which are exactly what you expect them to be. You also get a 23 page booklet with character profiles and artwork, and basic summaries of the episodes in the set. Nothing big, but I’m not sure what else would be expected.
Dragon Ball is basically where modern shonen anime got it’s start, and it’s easy to see why so many shows seem to follow from the path it set. The show works very well, even more than twenty years later. I recommend all shonen fans give it a look, and anyone else who wants an enjoyable time to give this show a change, because it’s just plain great.
Show: A (The start of modern shonen anime, Dragon Ball is amazing, and you need to watch this show.)
Packaging: B (Decent quality digipak. It has good art, and looks relatively nice.)
Video Quality: B (Good video quality, a few issues due to age, and a few minor issues due to DVNR that may or may not be noticeable to most people.)
Audio Quality: B (Relatively clean audio for older content, Japanese track’s voicework isn’t quite as clean due to age.)
English Dub: A- (The dub is quite good, a few elements have been changed, mostly to add jokes, but they work well.)
Extras: C (Clean intro and outtro, and a basic booklet. It’s not alot, but it’s above the bare minimum that was expected.)
Overall (not an average): A (Not perfect, but the content and general quality makes it come close. The show itself is good enough that it’s worth a look almost for anyone).
Gallery under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 640×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via IrfanView’s batch conversion process as MPC-HC takes screen captures at the resolution the video is stored on the disk. The menu screencap was stretched to 853×480 to show at it’s proper resolution also.)
Dragon Ball – © 2005 BIRD STUDIO/SHUEISHA, TOEI ANIMATION. ©1987 TOEI ANIMATION CO., LTD. Licensed by FUNimation® Productions, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.