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Dragon Ball Season 1, Early Look/Review
By Marc | August 29th, 2009

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.

Categories: Anime Review, Early Looks, Reviews
  • Geoff

    Good review. I will be buying.

  • Danny Robertson

    Does this set have alternate angles so you can view the Japanese title cards, credits e.t.c?

  • penguintruth

    I don’t know if I should get this or wait for a domestic Dragon Box set release for the original series.

  • http://www.fanboyreview.net Marc

    No alternate angles.

    And as for waiting for a Dragon Box. No guarantee we’d get one, especially if everyone ‘waits’ for it.

  • penguintruth

    In other words, the more of these season sets that are bought, the more chance there is of a Dragon Box release.

    Ehhh, I guess I could get this set. After my money reserves fill back up from buying the first DBZ Dragon Box.

  • David

    I loved the review… Thanks for all the info we all wanted to know. I wish I could get this set, but, sadly I’m going to hold it off the Dragon Box in November. I did, of course, enter the content and am confident you will like my answer (hopefully), so maybe I might get it after all!

    Also, I’m actually hoping for a Dragon Box release of the series. Even if most people hold out on this release for the Dragon Boxes, we know FUNimation could possibly use that extra income to distribute the original DB series!

  • David

    Sorry to have another post, but I just wanted to inform you that FUNimation’s logo sort-of originates from some of the manga chapter title pages. When I say “sort-of,” I mean that they are very similar but are not exactly the same…

  • dlb

    Danny, there is no alternate angle for the original title cards, as well as for the original opening/ending credits. I was hoping for those.

    I also noticed a subtitle track (labelled “1″) that has no information on it!

    Were there “next-episode” previews originally that weren’t included on this release for the “usual reasons”? I don’t have the first Funi DB box sets (that started AFTER these eps.), how does this new one compare regarding tracks, credits, commercial cards?

    The whole DBZ box set snafu has made me hyper-critical, so i’ll be researching all over for possible extra letdowns like not including original changes to the intros/outros, commercial break cards, etc. that would make me stop at this 1st box and wait (as I did with the DBZ boxes) for a possible “better” release.

    Now the big questions are…
    – what will be so special about the new “box #2″ that will keep people from just picking up the rest of the series via the the 1st-release Funi DB boxes?

    – as everyone has picked up on already, will there be an english DB DragonBOX?

    – where’s DB movie 1? wasn’t it included on the Region 4 DB box #1? (i was just about to get it overseas from Madman when I found out about this new Region 1 box)

    Despite my needling, I am very happy to have this one 1st DB box in Region 1. Thank you for keeping it 4:3.

  • Amy

    penguintruth, I would wait for the Dragon Box Dragon Ball release. I compared screenshots with this version and the Dragon Ball Dbox. It looks like some of the video was cropped. So I’ll be holding out on this and getting the Dragon Ball Dbox if it ever gets released.

  • http://www.thedaoofdragonball.com/ Derek Padula

    Nice review. I just ordered the Dragon Box from Amazon, and will probably wait until the later seasons of Dragon Ball are released before ordering those. But the pictures you posted do look very nice and are much higher quality than any version I’ve seen before.

  • Christopher D. Jacobson

    Hey, cool. Thanks for the review and for all of the screencaps. I’ve been holding off on this, waiting to see what it looks like beforehand. Glad it looks pretty good and not the horrid abomination that the DBZ yellow bricks are. (Looking forward to the first DBZ Dragon Box, by the way.) I’m not so happy with the use of DVNR to scrub away the grain, but it doesn’t really look like it ruins or erases the artwork in any way, so that’s a plus.

    I own the previous DVD sets released by FUNimation, which are actually quite good, but I think I’ll buy this as well just to have the first thirteen episodes. I actually own the Australian release of those first thirteen, but the transfers were converted from NTSC I believe, rather than being native PAL; plus, my Oppo DVD player doesn’t upscale as well as the PS3 does, so I might as well buy this set.

    I wonder if FUNi will be releasing all the proper intros and endings for each episode. It’s frustrating how on the old sets, you got the same opening and ending for every episode throughout the entire series. It wasn’t supposed to be that way…

  • http://www.fanboyreview.net Marc

    Funimation wasn’t given the proper intro/outtro masters for Dragon Ball. They are giving us what they can in that regard.

  • Derek Duncan

    Hey. Just found out funimation is going blu-ray should i hold-off the sets for the ultimate blu-ray editions?

  • http://www.fanboyreview.net Marc

    If you are a DB fan, I’d get the sets.