Anime Reporter turns back the clock to the very beginning of Dragon Ball for part 1 of the series (Episodes 1-28).
For those who are only familiar with Dragon Ball Z, the most well known of the Dragon Ball series, it may be difficult to recognise the origins of one of anime’s biggest and baddest martial arts titans. The series starts with a twelve year old Son Goku (or just Goku in English), living on his own in the wilderness, with an orange ball that he believes contains the spirit of his dead grandfather. Goku is a joyful and high spirited lad who has little trouble in navigating mountains and forests or fending off great big beasties that live there.
Goku’s life is changed rather dramatically when Bulma, a determined teenage girl comes to Goku’s home looking for a mysterious item known as a dragon ball. It soon transpires that what Goku thinks of as his grandfather is actually one of these dragon balls and that if a person can collect all seven, then they will be granted one wish.
Of course, given the popularity and fame of the Dragon Ball anime, there’s an excellent chance that you’re already aware of these things and are likely just wondering if this anime is worth watching now that you’ve finished Dragon Ball Z and even Dragon Ball GT. The answer is not as straightforward as you may hope.
Dragon Ball is a lot more innocent than its offspring, with talking animals serving as main characters and quite a large portion of an early episode devoted to Goku trying to work out the exact difference between boys and girls (spoiler alert, he won’t work that one out for quite some time).
Fights and action abound, but they’re far from the light speed, five-episode long, tension fuelled battles that the later series would come to rely on. This really is the humble beginning for Goku and we see him struggling to push a rock three or four times his size. Fans of the adult Goku may recall his time spent training in one hundred times the earth’s gravity and regularly increasing his own power tenfold as just a natural part of episodes.
Well, before there were visible waves of testosterone and spiky golden power-ups, there was a funny story about a loveable sweet boy, who also happened to kick the tar out of some fairly oafish bad guys. The first arc of the series is concerned with Emperor Pilaf who would be one of Goku’s main rivals in hunting down dragon balls and would go on to make a comeback in Dragon Ball GT many years later. This arc really just serves as an introduction to the world of Dragon Ball and a few of the main characters.
The second arc, The Tournament Saga, is where things really develop their own personality. This is where Goku begins training under the tutelage of the irreplaceable Master Roshi. On the surface Master Roshi may seem like a senile old pervert and that’s entirely accurate. He also happens to be a martial arts genius who takes Goku and his competitive fellow student, Krillin under his wing. The Tournament saga is where we get the very first glimpse of Goku’s training increasing his power to extreme levels and it also introduces us to the martial arts format which is the trademark of Dragon Ball.
Considering the age of the series, the animation is remarkable. The new DVD features a remastered version of the original meaning characters and fights look as good as you think you remember them being 25 years ago. The animation stays true to the original style entirely, but freshens up the lines and colours to cater to a contemporary audience and the result is great.
Is Dragon Ball Part 1 a furious-fisted, high-flying martial arts extravaganza? No.
Is it a damned good example of classic anime and a sterling example of why Goku deserves to be one of anime’s most beloved champions? Absolutely.
Both story arcs are clever and incredibly entertaining. If you’ve only seen Dragon Ball Z and want to see its origins, Dragon Ball Part 1 will not disappoint.
If you’ve never seen Dragon Ball Z or GT, then Dragon Ball Part 1 is the perfect place to start anyway and these 28 episodes are a great start to an amazing series.
If you’ve already seen all of Dragon Ball, well, then you already know what we’re talking about. Part 1 should be a most welcome trip down memory lane.
Dragon Ball Part 1 is available on DVD from May 5th 2014 from Manga Entertainment.
Nostalgia Factor: 9.5
80% “sensational” – Dragon Ball Part 01 is a welcome journey back to the series that started it all, with a charm and humour all to itself. A treasure in any fan’s collection.