a.k.a.Dragonball Z: The Dead Zone
a.k.a.Dragonball Z: Return My Gohan!!
a.k.a.Dragonball Z: Ora no Gohan wo Kaese!!
Garlic Jr. has kidnapped Gohan in order to summon the Eternal Dragon. His wish: eternal life. However, one does not go kidnapping the son of the world’s strongest warrior without inciting his ire. Son Goku will stop at nothing to get Gohan back… but can he defeat Garlic Jr. and his minions?
summary by Ender
Highs: Short and sweet; wonderfully choreographed action; Kamiya Akira
Lows: A bit too short; Gohan
I find a brilliant sense of irony that out of all the Dragonball Z movies that have been produced, the ultimate cream of the crop is the first one. Created when the series was still in its infancy, Movie I takes place during that now-forgotten time when the series still had the possibility of avoiding its now immortal pratfalls.
This movie doesn’t take it’s time talking about annoying androids or Super Saiya-jins; it goes straight to where all the action is. Okay, so the plot may be vapid, but for a film that’s only 45 minutes long, I’m not complaining. The moment the bad guys appear, that is when all the action starts and never lets up. Thankfully, this is before all that Super Saiya-jin garbage (this is the only film that fits into Dragonball continuity, by the way) so Son Goku, Piccolo and the others actually do fight and not stand around yelling and making funny faces. There was that thing about the running time, and this will be the only time you’ll ever hear this out of me in regards to a franchise flick like this: it was too short. I honestly wished, hoped, there were five more minutes added on. Just for the fights, of course.
Now, I’ve never really found this franchise to have bad voice acting, but there has to be something said here. Though I’m never one to criticize legendary seiyuu, Nozawa “Astro Boy” Masako dropped the ball with Gohan. He’s just too annoying; crying, whining and singing… not even Son Goku was this bad at his age. Thankfully, she shares vocal time with the voice acting king Kamiya Akira (City Hunter‘s Saeba Ryo, Macross‘s Roy Fokker). Kamiya is most notable for playing good guys, but here he completely yucks it up as the villainous Garlic Jr. You can tell that he really enjoys his role and provides more entertainment than this film deserves. It’s also very nice to hear him against Nozawa’s Son Goku; I wish more hero/villain combinations could be done like this.
There is nothing innovative about this anime, and it comes from a franchise that has 12 more movies than it needs to. But look at it this way: how often are there good Dragonball Z movies? While you’re thinking about the answer to that question, give this film a gander. You won’t be shaken to the ground, but you’ll at least spent your anime watching time well. And that’s what matters.
Highs: More lighthearted, less primitive…
Lows: … that is, until the end
The first movie in this long franchise does its best to mimic the style of Dragonball Z when it was more like Dragonball and less like… well, less like itself later on. Given my public history with this series, I found myself rather surprised as I enjoyed what very much resembled a good Toriyama Akira anime. And then I realized it showed the signs of being a bad Toriyama anime, too.
Dragonball Z Movie I knows it has nary a story to work with, so the running time is kept mercifully short. In fact, this anime cuts right to the chase from the first scene, so by the time the ending credits appeared I said to myself, “Wow, that was quick.” And I actually meant that in a good way. What helps is that the first half is filled with genuinely entertaining moments, including a hilarious scene involving hallucinogenic inebriation that was eerily nostalgic of my early college days. But I digress. Even most of the minor antagonists, as shallow as they are, exhibit personalities beyond the standard-issue grunting and shrieking we’ve all come to loathe with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.
The latter half is classic Dragonball Z. And I actually meant that in a bad way. The fight scenes are laden with overly caffeinated facial grimaces and patience-testing diatribes of machismo-fueled bravado. The inevitable grunting and shrieking ensues, followed by claims of, “I have yet to reveal my true power!” (why these characters refuse time and time again to just use all of their strength in the beginning and put the rest of us our of our collective misery is beyond me).
If you can stomach the action scenes devoid of any substance or originality, then there is a great deal to like about this movie. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Just promise me to use all of your strength from the get-go, okay?