“Those who run to the apes to explain our behaviour are chuckle-heads too dumb to know their arse from a hole-in-the-ground.” – W. H. Auden.
When Dragon Ball Z was released on DVD by Manga Entertainment in July 2012 there were four main reactions from people in the UK. The first was that of either mild interest or total indifference. The second came from fans of the series who were over-the-moon that one of the most influential anime had been released. The third came from people who did not really care about the UK release as they had already imported the discs from the USA. The fourth was of people who thought: “I’d like to watch it, but I rather watch everything in order and see the original Dragon Ball first.” I fall into this last group.
But at last, the original Dragon Ball is out, and people can experience the animated adventures of Son Goku right from the beginning. It is also interesting in that this is one of the few anime from the 1980s that Manga Entertainment has released. As far as the British anime industry is concerned, this is almost pre-history as very little from this time or earlier is released over here.
For those who are new to Dragon Ball, the story begins with a boy called Son Goku, who, amongst other things, possesses great strength, the tail of a monkey, a magic pole which can extend in length, and a mysterious ball left to him by his late grandfather. One day he meets a teenage girl called Bulma who is something of a good mechanic. When she finds Goku’s ball she reveals to him that it is one of seven “Dragon Balls” which are scattered across the world. It is said that once you collect all seven, you can summon Shen-Long, the mightiest of dragons, who will grant you a single wish. Bulma already has two, and Goku decides to follow Bulma, carrying the third on his person.
The story not only follows Goku and Bulma’s journey to find the other Dragon Balls, but also their encounters with many strange people. These include Muten-Roshi, the pervy “Turtle Hermit” who is a great master of martial arts and later begins to teach Goku; the bandit Yamcha, who plans to use the Dragon Balls to cure himself of his fear of women; and the evil Pilaf, who seeks the Dragon Balls so he can wish for world domination.
This collection contains 28 episodes and is split over two story arcs. The first introduces us to the main characters and concerns itself with the search for the Dragon Balls, while the second sees Goku and another boy, the shaven-headed Krillin, training under Muten-Roshi to take part in the Tenkaichi martial arts tournament. If you are familiar with the manga version, which has been recently re-released by Viz Media, the events of these episodes cover Volumes 1-4 and some of Volume 5.
Dragon Ball is certainly a very fun series. It combines action and fighting with humour, although some might be put off by what might be seen as vulgar comedy. There are jokes about farting, sex and so on. There is also a fair bit of nudity. Not in a sexual sense, but Goku does get his kit off quite a bit. The fight scenes tend not to drag as they may do in other shonen series. So far most of the fights are contained in a single episode at a time. One fight however goes over three episodes.
Regarding extras, the central ones are profiles of the characters and a dubbed version of the movie Curse of the Blood Rubies, which is a short retelling of the first story arc. There appears to be no subtitled version of this film.
For those who love Dragon Ball Z this is a must buy, just so you can experience how it all started. If you are new to the series, then it is a chance to get acquainted with one of the anime greats.