Saturday, 26 January 2013

ドラゴンボール 最強への道 / Dragonball: Path to Greatest Strength / Dragonball Movie 4: The Path to Power

This is something a little different from the other Dragonball movies I’ve seen: it was made in 1996 and was actually the seventeenth theatrical film in the Dragonball series as a whole – so strictly speaking comes after thirteen other films I haven’t seen yet. I thought it would be good to watch it now, because after all there won’t be any spoilers any more, and with it I can move on to DBZ. But I kinda wish I’d waited until after I’d finished and seen some of GT, because…yup, once again this was a retelling of the start of Dragonball. Probably at the time it was a great rush of nostalgia, but y’know, for me, it’s not that long since I saw those first episodes, and then they were all rehashed for the first Dragonball movie, though here the plot speeds along to the Red Ribbon Army arc, condensing it all into the Muscle Tower.

The most notable thing, really, is that the art is in the style Dragonball evolved to, with its distinctive eyes and more rounded faces. I have to say, I prefer the original aesthetic, which had more variety. Yamucha and General Blue in particular look very odd with Trunks’ face and proportions, and though it’s nice having Bulma with hair colour closer to Toriyama’s intentions, and the animation is obviously much more ambitious – in the climactic fight scenes in particular – generally I just feel it’s better to watch the original and this is a nostalgia trip that no longer boasts cutting-edge visuals. It makes me wonder if I’ll consider the first of the Eva remake like this when its visuals, too, are dated.

There’s also the fact that Muten Roshi’s voice actor, so instantly recognisable, had recently passed away when this was produced, and the replacement just doesn’t compare, especially when the scenes here are from when he was about the most powerful character yet introduced.

The story essentially covers once again the introduction of Goku, Bulma, Oolong, Yamucha, Pu-erh, Muten Roshi and his Umigame, and the Dragonballs. Skipping Pilaf, we more or less go to the Muscle Tower, where Metallic is given a makeover and Android 8 is given an inflated role. General Blue is given an ignominious end, no longer the formidable fighter of the original, and General Red is no threat at all, with only Staff Officer Black managing to be formidable. The ending is something a bit different, but let’s face it, no wish to Shen Long is ever going to match up to Oolong’s.

The long and short of it is that there was a time and place for this, and it’s probably more in line with what Dragonball Kai represents now. This doesn’t have the advantages of nostalgia nor up-to-the-minute visuals, so it serves only as a slightly-updated curio.

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