by Chris Shepard

Dragon Ball Z

Movie 1: Dead Zone

Dragon Ball Z Movie 1
Gohan, the son of the strongest fighter on Earth, is kidnapped for the Dragonball attached to his hat. When someone gathers all seven of these dragon balls, the eternal dragon will appear to grant the discoverer a single wish. Goku, enraged that someone would kidnap his own son and terrorize his family, sets off to defeat the evil Garlic Jr. who kidnapped his son while taking out any evil minions who get in his way. But can he defeat a demon that plans to become immortal?
This being one of the first Pioneer anime DVD''s released, it has a pretty shoddy case. It''s a big rectangular piece of cardboard, shaped like a standard DVD case, which contains a hole at the bottom where a jewel case slides in and out. The entire packaging aspect looks terrible and is easy to damage. Thankfully, Pioneer only released about half a dozen DVD''s like this before wizening up and moving on to the standard keepcase.

The actual image chosen for the cover, although cool and mysterious in a way, is rather grainy. This is especially true on the characters'' skin. A little touching up would have been nice although it''s still a lot better looking than many other cases I''ve seen. Finally, it would be wise to skip reading the synopsis on the back. It gives out way too many key elements of the plot down to the very last three minutes of the movie.

This disc stacks up very nicely in the way of extras. While there are standard character introductions with clips from the movie and advertisements for the TV series on VHS, the best inclusion has to be the deleted TV scenes. The length Pioneer went to include these extras amazes me even to this day. What we get are four TV scenes that were unfortunately hacked out of the syndicated version created by Funimation and Saban. These aren''t just a bunch of clips strung together of guys getting punched in the face and blood spraying everywhere either, they are much more than that. These are four long scenes, presented in their original Japanese with English subtitles, which were cut from the domestic version. The first two, while slightly dull, are of Gohan wandering around in a forest which took place during the first TV episode. To an extent, I can even see why they wanted to edit this out for the American audiences since very little action takes place. However, the next two clips have much more worth. These two clips contain practically an entire episode. They deal with Gohan accidentally falling into a cave where he meets a grumpy, broken down robot and eventually befriends it. It can be touching for the DBZ fans that appreciate the non-fighting episodes, which do come up every now and then. Big ups to Pioneer for including it! Now for the actual movie…

One problem with this Movie, as with the entire Dragonball Z series, is the laughable stupidity of the villains. Why kidnap Gohan, thus guaranteing his father''s wrath, when they could have just taken his hat? It would be nice if the scriptwriters took the time to create intelligent villains. But hey, whom am I kidding? This is a Dragon Ball Z movie. It''s an excuse for fighting on a higher budget.

And what an excuse for fighting it is! If you don''t like to think too much during your anime and you just want to enjoy the action, there''s a good chance you''ll like this movie. With Dragon Ball Z''s non-traditional style of fighting, containing characters jumping and flying all over the place while firing destructive energy balls at each other, it''s a unique little action romp compared to other titles available. Furthermore, due to the time constraints of a movie, the action never slows down. Gone are the five-minute pauses as the camera pans around the scenery while the non-fighting characters decide to become narrators. Just a few of the things that plagued the TV series a little too much, dragging it on while testing everyone''s patience. True the movie doesn''t contain quite as much drama nor the same feeling but that isn''t its purpose. It''s just a short 40 minute movie that wants to entertain you with a simple story and lots of action.

While the quality of the animation during the TV series seems to be subpar at times, the animation here holds out real nice as long as you keep in mind the time it was made in. With characters moving at intense rates and using all of their aerial skills, the choreographing can be quite amazing at times. This is especially true when three or four of the characters all get on screen at the same time and start fighting each other. The characters aren''t as "powered up" as they are later in the series and therefore battles are fought a lot more physically and rely less on whose power beams are strongest. The color palette is quite unique as well, containing many bright gold and red colors in the background and on the characters, which keeps things looking vivid and interesting. Nothing truly spectacular ever happens during this movie but it remains visually pleasing throughout.

One thing I must compliment Pioneer for is the dub track. The stereo surround sound job sounds amazing compared to its original Japanese counterpart. It''s unfortunate that the Japanese track could not have had the same treatment as well. The actual dubbing done by the Ocean Group is good although I had a tough time getting used to Goku''s voice. He sounds exactly like the stereotyped "surfer dude" every single time he says something in an aggressive tone. Fortunately though, he never really speaks longer than a quick sentence while battling so he never becomes too annoying. Dub fans should be happy.

If you''re already a fan of Dragon Ball Z, this one''s a no brainer. It never strays off from the "action, action, action!" formula that works so well for the series and if you already know about the show and have favorite characters you like to see in action, you''ll enjoy it all the more. New comers to the series who enjoy action anime will be able to get something out of this as well. It takes place at the very start of the Dragon Ball Z series (the second Dragon Ball series) and can serve as a good introduction to it all. It''s an easy to enjoy title. However, due to the complete lack of plot, it''s hard to actually rank this as great. It''s either going to become your guilty pleasure or it''s not. By now you should know where you stand. If you''re a DBZ fan: definitely, action fan: something to check out, strictly cerebral: stay far away. An above average action romp.
Production Info:
Overall : C+

+ Action is choreographed very well. Great DVD extras.
Plot is thrown together and is basically just an excuse for fighting.

Director: Daisuke Nishio
Screenplay: Takao Koyama
Music: Shunsuke Kikuchi
Original story: Akira Toriyama
Character Design: Minoru Maeda
Art Director: Yūji Ikeda
Animation Director: Minoru Maeda
Director of Photography: Motoaki Ikegami
Producer: Kozo Morishita

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Dragon Ball Z Movie 1: The Deadzone (movie)

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