Anime Talk's Guide to Dragon Ball
a bi-weekly column by Don Houston, John Sinnott and Chris Tribbey
Dragon Ball Z fans have reason to rejoice. Six years after Pioneer released the first DBZ DVD in an edited, dub only version, FUNimation has put out the first three shows as they were meant to be seen. In celebration of that, we've come up with the Anime Talk Guide to Dragon Ball on DVD, a handy guide that will help you figure out what order the discs should be viewed, and what box sets contain which discs. Not only that, but we also have reviews of the latest anime DVDs, Holly's bargains, a list of upcoming releases, and a few things to look out for in the near future.
One of the more interesting releases of the recent past was Daphne in the Brilliant Blue: Initiation. Reviewers Don Houston and Chris Tribbey agreed that this futuristic drama had enough humor, adventure, and half-dressed female bounty hunters to please even the most discerning fans as it showed the trials and tribulations of Maia, a fish out of water when life throws her a series of curves, sign up to become an apprentice private investigator under the guidance of two very different women.
Wolf’s Rain looks great and has one strange story: Wolves that can look like humans journey to find a paradise only wolves can find. A futuristic setting with warring humans is the backdrop to our heroes’ trip, which is both entertaining and weird. Volumes six and seven has us at the end of the wolves’ trip, and despite a poor script, these DVDs were quite enjoyable. The only problem here is the serious lack of special features.
This column saw the return of a DVD Talk favorite, Gungrave: The Protector, where the continuing adventures of Brandon Heat (AKA: Gungrave) showed his new undead status providing him the power to fight Millennion’s massive hordes in order to seek revenge but also to protect someone from his past. The stakes get raised when the inner circle decides to stop the threat he poses to the organization but you'll have to watch the DVD to find out all the gory detail.
An interesting recommendation this week comes in the guise of a horror based shows third volume, Requiem from the Dark: Pain of the Damned, where a traveling scribe, Momosuke, follows three demonic characters that travel the roads of medieval Japan trying to judge their fellow monsters for acts that cause friction between them and the humans of the time. Loosely based on the tale of The 100 Stories, the manner in which the series evolves made me want to go out and get the initial two volumes of this Geneon release that will wrap up with the next disc.
Breasts, magic, and a dork. For so few elements to work with, its a wonder Maburaho is this much fun. If you're looking for a solid story or a real action anime, go elsewhere. This story is about a society based on the ability to use magic, and a boy who can only use it eight times before he dies. Make that seven. No, six. Hess a pathetic loser, but his lineage to powerful wizards and witches now has all these hot girls after him. They make this show very enjoyable, with cute voices, cute bodies, and an almost fanatical show of affection for our boy non-wonder.
The first volume of Fullmetal Alchemist was mostly back-story, setting our young boys Edward and Alphonse on their sojourn to replace what they’ve lost … namely an arm, a leg, a full body and their mother. Now that the boys are on the road, things are really starting to speed up. The second volume finds our boys in the hands of the state alchemists, in the path of a strange killer, and faced with some true horrors of alchemy. This show is being universally praised for its high-production animation, fun characters, and wild story about a world where alchemy is the law of the land. A solid action adventure in an anime world full of bad ones.
Speaking of action adventure shows, FUNimation has released the 10th movie in the long lived Dragon Ball series: Dragon Ball Z - Broly: Second Coming. Broly, a super powerful warrior last seen in the 8th film, The Legendary Saiyan, has come back to Earth spoiling for a fight. Trunks, Goten and Videl try to stop him, but is there anyway these three kids can take on someone who almost beat Goku? There is if they have all seven Dragon Balls.
Of course the thing that really has DBZ fans excited is Dragon Ball Z - The Vegeta Saga Volume One: Saiyan Showdown. This disc presents the first three episodes of Dragon Ball Z, uncut and uncensored with a Japanese (or English) soundtrack for the first time in Region 1. See how second, more popular, chapter in Dragon Ball all began. This exciting volume reveals Goku's origin and introduces the Saiyan race. A disc every DBZ fan must have.
An interesting third volume in a series this time was Cybuster: The Divine Crusaders. The story follows a group of rebels as they seek to return a government agency’s mission to reclaiming the Earth after a terrible man-made holocaust. Those in charge of the agency seem hell bent on becoming a military force so the rebels, led by pilot Ken Ando (a hothead of sorts), employ a mythic giant robot to battle the ever increasing numbers of technologically advanced enemy. Fans of retro-anime will find this one especially pleasing since the “feel” of the show is much older than the series itself and there were many nods to the Gundam Universe by the creators.
What anime column would be complete without a fan service title to titillate those of you into more mature themes? Such was the conceptual basis for Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite 2, the second in the series that centered on a young heir, Taro, as he lives in a mansion with scores of attractive (and busty) young women, all dressed in French maid outfits with the sole desire of serving him in any way he sees fit. While the driving concept was downplayed (since he’s a gentleman that would never take advantage of their infatuation with him); those of you into the “guy surrounded by many willing babes” story will revel in the panty shots and other adult themes here. It’s all in good fun but most guys should appreciate the idea behind the series where wealth, women, and a perfect situation are handed to Taro on a silver platter.
A series that warranted a rental status, on the other hand, was Dragon Drive: Friends in Need and Dragon Drive: Emerging Evil. Set up with elements of a virtual reality world meeting a Pokemon styled contest, the series focused on a group of young players who train their genetically created “dragons” to fight in a series of contests that ultimately seems to be only part of the show this time. The side threads involve some of the secondary characters as they go on quests but they were subordinate to the main premise. If you like this kind of show, I’ve seen far worse but rent it first to make sure it’s for you.
Another series that we started reviewing midstream, Petite Princess Yucie: Love and Light, also appeared to have enough merit to try out as a rental but lacked the meat we liked to see in a series that focused on a supernatural contest between girls from various kingdoms, set in another place and time, to win a tiara and become the leader of them all. The intended audience appeared to be young girls even though ADV Films gave it their 12+ rating due to excessive violence but there didn’t appear to be anything that bad in it.
On the down side this time was a show that tried to be a mixture of a youthful Charlie’s Angels, a Japanese 90201, and the infamous Super Gals series all rolled into one; Debutante Detective Corps. Needless to say, the show fell rather flat in what appeared to be a pilot for a series that never happened. The premise was that the five richest girls in Japan all marshaled their extensive financial resources to solve crimes and protect Japan but it was more of a whine-fest of bratty kids trying to one up each other. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, pass this one up for something more interesting.
The final OVA volume of Black Jack shouldn’t have ended this way. Morose and a little boring, Biohazard is a sad way to end the 10-volume saga of our miracle working doctor. From one of the greatest minds in anime, Osamu Tezuka, Black Jack was a great ride to this point, with the mysterious Black Jack solving both strange crimes and strange diseases. Unique direction, a solid English dub and a good cast of supporting characters made this show an all-around great time. But the final hour is a disappointing way to end such a great saga. Better to check out the entire series than base your opinion on the final act.
Scheduled for release on Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Scheduled for release on Tuesday, May 10, 2005
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Road-side bombs, tribal wars, intense hostage rescues. It’s not on CNN, it’s anime on DVD. Yugo the Negotiator has no big names behind it – you probably wouldn’t recognize a single name behind this production – but with everything going on in the world right now, this title has garnered a lot of interest.
Yugo is a stud negotiator who’s never lost a hostage. But when a woman comes calling, asking him to save her father who’s been taken by a rebel group in the Middle East, he may be getting into more than he can handle. This intense action drama is split into two settings, with episodes done by two different studio: Pakistan and Russia. This show has extra significance for the Japanese … they are the most kidnapped people in the world, after all. Current events make it just as intriguing for everyone else. It streets May 24.
NINJA SCROLL TV COMPLETE COLLECTION
Jubei, you rule.
If Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex is the best modern TV series adapted from an anime feature, Ninja Scroll: The Series has to be a close second. And some would say it’s better. Urban Vision is releasing the complete collection on May 10.
Based on the hugely popular 1993 movie, Ninja Scroll: The Series of course manages to do a lot more over 13 episodes than the movie could do in an hour and a half. Several years have passed since the events of the movie, and while the Eight Devils of Kimon were defeated by our drifter ninja Jubei, the Kimon clan is still around, and still up to no good. Set in feudal Japan, Jubei is still a ninja for hire, a nearly unstoppable force with a sword, ready to serve the highest bidder. But when a young woman named Shigure crosses his path, Jubei finds himself filling the role of unwilling hero. Shigure is “The Light Maiden,” a prophecy woman who is the only one who can unlock the secrets – and treasures – of the much sought-after Dragon Stone, a powerful artifact that grants unspeakable power.
Animated by studio Madhouse, Ninja Scroll: The Series is a high-end, fantastic production of violence and gore. There may not be a set rating for these DVDs, but you don’t want your children watching slimy, nightmarish worms with fans eating at the innards of a poor farmer, or a giant, mechanical monster literally cutting swordsmen off at the knees. This series is as violent as anime comes, and that’s keeping with the original movie. Man, that’s why we LOVED the original movie.
The production was overseen by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the director behind the original feature, and the application of modern anime techniques makes the series look sharper, but no less entertaining than the movie.
Dragon Ball Z is a fun series and one of the first anime shows to be broadcast on the Cartoon Network. But there is a problem collecting the shows on DVD, it can be hard determining what order to watch the DVDs. The publisher didn't put volume number on the spine (though this mistake was corrected for the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT series) and they didn't release the shows in order, so release dates don't help much. Some on-line stores assign volume numbers to the series based on the order the show originally aired, some give volumes based on the order that they were released, but most don't assign volumes at all. Add to that the fact that some volumes are sold separately and as part of a boxed set and figuring out what to get can be confusing.
Since FUNimation has started to release the first 67 episodes in uncut (at last!) we thought now would be a good time to create an organized list of all the Dragon Ball DVDs. This contains DVD for the three series, listing them in the original broadcast order and included the episodes that are contained on each volume.
This was the first Dragon Ball series, though it wasn't shown in the US until after Dragon Ball Z broadcastswas over half way through. These DVDs are two disc sets, and so they cost a little more than the single DVD volumes of the other series. All 153 episodes in the series available in region 1.
Dragon Ball is the story of a young kid named Goku. He’s a strange little guy with a tail who is very strong, and can fly on a magic cloud (just like the Monkey King from the Chinese legend.) At the beginning of the story he meets up with Bulma, a young lady who searching for the seven Dragon Balls. Whenever anyone has all seven balls together, they can summon the Great Dragon who will grant them a wish. Goku teams up with Bulma and together the pair meet many characters, both friend and foe, along their journeys.
The show is very light hearted in
tone, with Goku meeting every villains threat to kill him with a smile.
There is a lot of fighting, but Goku manages to treat it all as a joke.
Needless to say, it was extremely popular.
Dragon Ball Movies:
At the end of the King Piccolo story line, the Dragon Ball series ended and Dragon Ball Z started up. Though the manga was known as Dragon Ball throughout its whole run, DBZ continued to follow Toriyama’s comic.
Taking place five years after Dragon Ball ended, we finally get to find out Goku’s origin. In the intervening years, Goku has gotten married and even has a child, Gohan. He’s meeting his old friends for lunch when something unexpected happens; an alien warrior crashes their party. This alien, Radiz, explains that Goku is one of the last surviving Saiyans, an race of mercenaries who specialize in exterminating all life from a planet so that they can sell the world to rich buyers. Years ago they sent a baby to Earth to kill all life there. That baby was Goku, but a hit on his head made him forget his mission. Now the Saiyans have come back to claim the Earth as their own.
Dragon Ball Z has a different tone and feel than Dragon Ball. It is a much more serious show, action oriented, with longer battles. Goku’s opponents are no longer comic villains, but fearsome monsters with the power to take over the Earth. There is still a vein of humor running through the series, in fact the humorous aspects are one of the show’s best features, but the stakes are higher and the fights are more difficult.
Though this series ran for 291 episodes
in Japan, when the show was brought to the US though, it was edited for
TV. Some of the edits were so extensive that the show was significantly
shorter and wouldn’t fit properly into a half hour time slot. To
get over this problem, they spliced episodes together so that they would
be the proper length. The upshot is that the first 67 episodes of
the Japanese series were condensed into 53 episodes for American TV.
These 53 edited shows were originally released on DVD by Pioneer in dub-only
versions. FUNimation has released volumes 18 and up, and these include
the original, unedited Japanese versions. They are also re-releasing
the first two story lines in their uncut versions, with different titles
to avoid confusion.
1) There are two versions of this DVD. The original printing contained episodes 106-108. Episodes 109 and 110 were available on a Burger King promotional VHS tape. FUNimation was planning on releasing the BK episodes on a separate DVD, but instead remastered the two Trunks volumes (correcting subtitles and some minor errors) and included the BK shows on the second DVD.
Dragon Ball Z Movies
All of the Dragon Ball Z movies
that have been released are available in an uncut version with an original
language track. Movies 4-9 have also been released in edited dub
only versions. Pioneer released the first three movies, and FUNimation
is responsible for movies 4-9.
This series was not adapted from a story written by Akira Toriyama like the previous two series. After the success of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, the producers wanted to continue with more shows. They obtained Akira's permission to animate new stories of Goku and created the 64 episode (with one special) series Dragon Ball GT. (The GT stands for Grand Touring.)
This show starts off seven or eight years after Dragon Ball Z ends. Emperor Pilaf, the first person who gathered the Dragon Balls in the first series, brings them together once again. Though he wants world domination, he accidently wishes that Goku was a young child again, the Dragon complies, and a young Goku, along with his granddaughter Pan and Trunks set off on a new series of adventures.
When FUNimation dubbed this series
for american TV, they started with episode 17, figuring that was the best
way to get to the action quickly. The first episode that was aired
in the US was a capsule review of the first 16 episodes. Now that
shows 17-64 have been released, FUNimation is going back and dubbing episodes
1-16 and releasing them as the "Lost Episodes."
Dragon Ball GT: Lost Episodes
This series consists of the first
16 episodes of Dragon Ball GT that FUNimation skipped when dubbing
the series for American Television.
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