This one has been a long time in coming. It's no secret that the Dragon Ball
franchise has been treated rather poorly when it comes to American releases.
Rights-owning companies have bought and sold the series over the years,
resulting in a single, horribly edited DVD release of the first 13 episodes,
impossible to find box sets and even an airing on a Saturday morning animation
block. But after nearly two decades of legal wrangling and uncertainty,
FUNimation is finally collecting the groundbreaking series into a series of
uncut DVD box sets, much like they just did with Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball
GT. And all I can say is that it is about damn time.
Since more American fans are accustomed to Dragon Ball Z and GT, the first
chapter of the "trilogy" warrants a quick explanation. The series picks up with
young Goku living alone in the woods after his Grandpa Gohan has died.
Eventually a teenager named Bulma shows up looking for a Dragon Ball that Goku
just happens to have. The pair then sets out together to find the rest of the
wish-granting balls and the adventure begins.
Dragon Ball on it's own is a fantastic series, but a lot of DBZ fans might
not be interested. Whereas DBZ is all about power levels, energy blasts, aliens
and Super Saiyans, DB is more of a lighthearted comedy with some fighting thrown
in here and there. This could be a bit hard to adjust to for some, but those who
stick around will see that these episodes are every bit as entertaining as the
show's more action heavy sequels. And hey, even if the show isn't your cup of
tea, it is still worth watching for the origins of some favorite DBZ characters.
Here are a few examples:
- Ever wonder why Master Roshi is referred to as a great fighter when he
never actually fights in DBZ or GT? You'll see him in action here.
- In the dark on why Piccolo hates Goku so, so much? This series sheds light
on their conflict.
- Where did Yamcha, Tienshinhan, Chaotzu, Bulma, Oolong, Krillin and the
rest come from? All the things you'll find out by watching this series.
This first box set (Season One) contains 34 episodes, which is roughly the
first two story arcs. The first involves the exposition of the series, the
characters and the first major villain, Emperor Pilaf (eagle-eyed GT fans will
recognize him from the very beginning of that series). The second introduces
Krillin, Goku's lifelong best friend, and has them entering the World Martial
Arts Tournament (Budokai Tenkaichi). Neither arc is particularly fast-paced, but
they do set up the series for some of the more interesting events to follow, not
to mention the fact they provide the basis for all of Z and GT. This is a
must-own box set for fans of any of the three separate shows.
With Dragon Ball's spotty history when it comes to American releases, those
on the fence about this release might be wary to pick it up based on what may or
may not have been done correctly. Rest assured; FUNimation has finally, FINALLY
done the series some justice. This set contains the uncut episodes with both
well done subtitles AND an English dub track. It is also presented in 4:3 aspect
ratio, exactly as it was originally seen on TV, and the masters have been
cleaned up somewhat to provide a very good, if not perfect, picture. The DVD
packaging itself is nicely done, with some semi-new artwork throughout. All in
all, if you want to see Dragon Ball, you really can't miss by starting with this
Before we wrap up, I feel the need to add a small disclaimer. At this year's
Otacon (anime convention), FUNimation announced their plans to begin releasing
DBZ in the "Dragon Box" format starting this November. These mega-sized DVD sets
were previously only available in Japan, and are widely accepted by the Dragon
Ball community as the gold standard of all the releases over the years. While
FUNimation has only confirmed the release of the DBZ series and DBZ movie Dragon
Boxes, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT are almost sure to follow in the next few
years. No one knows how long it will be before these releases see the light of
day, but you may want to consider waiting for the better version. Just don't
hold your breath.
There are a ton of reasons to go and buy this set today. Dragon Ball: Season
One is the first time the first 13 episodes of the series have been available in
America without censoring, there is both a new dub track and reworked subtitles,
it provides a basis for the fan-favorite DBZ and it's a very, very good show on
it's own. I'll end with this I've been a huge DBZ fan since roughly 1995-96
and since then, I've amassed a mammoth Dragon Ball collection. Everything from
DVDs to toys to books to my very own Scouter can be found in my home. But for
the first time, I've been able to add the first 13 episodes of Dragon Ball to my
collection in a format that isn't tantamount to a fork in the eye. Finally.
(Note: We'll see
you back here in a month or two from the reviews of the first DBZ Dragon Box and
Dragon Ball: Season Two. Can't wait!)