Movie #1 Japanese Release: (The first movie had no "official" title in Japan) 7-89
English Release: "Dead Zone" 11-97

Gohan is abducted by Garlic Jr., an evil creature who wants the Dragon Ball on Gohan's hat so that he can wish for immortality, and avenge his father's death by taking over the world and making the human race suffer. Goku comes to save Gohan and arrives soon after Garlic Jr. has summoned Sheng Long and made his wish. Kuririn and Piccolo show up, and the three of them take on a group of henchmen, and finally Garlic Jr. himself. He creates a void to suck his adversaries in, but Gohan ends up knocking Garlic Jr. into it, where he will be trapped for eternity.

This isn't my favorite of the first three movies, but I like it a lot. Garlic Jr. and his henchmen are all really cool, and the art direction is stunning. There's lots of red and gold, and this, combined with the costumes, make it the most distinctly Chinese-looking movie (or episode for that matter) in all of Dragon Ball. For that, it is a success, since the Chinese aesthetic was one thing Toriyama was shooting for with the series. And the fight choreography? The best in all of DB is right here, it keeps you on the edge of your seat with your jaw in your lap. Hmm... On second thought, maybe this IS my favorite...

The Subtitled Version

Not much to mention here in the way of censoring, etc. since this is basically a direct port of the original Japanese version. While I am not fluent in Japanese, I could tell that the translation was almost dead-on, and certainly more accurate than a lot of fansubs floating around out there. All three songs are subtitled, the names are kept intact (Gyuumaou is subtitled "Gyuumaou" and not "Ox-king," Goku's surname "Son" is back, yay!) and even the battle cries are translated. The picture quality could not possibly be any better, and even if you own a first generation Japanese cassette, or a third-generation fansub, you will be amazed at how much better this movie looks. The box art is great, actually better than the Japanese box, which I'll scan and put up if I ever get it back from my friend, heh heh. Anyway, a superb job overall, but kind of uninteresting as far as the subject of this site is concerned. The dubbed version, on the other hand, is a different story...

The Dubbed Version

I popped the tape into my VCR, thinking that it was going to be exactly the same as the subtitled one, except for the English voices.

Boy, was I wrong, there were several differences. I immediately noticed something that I found rather distressing. This video was in stereo, and sounded absolutely terrific, while the subbed one had been in a faded, overexposed mono. I was unhappy about this because the dubbed version just sounded so much better, and I wondered why Pioneer had gone to the trouble of doing a stereo mix for the dubbed one, and not for the subbed. Granted, the original Japanese tape was in that same faded, overexposed mono, but only a total purist would want it kept that way if it could be improved upon. Not even I would go that far. I thought it was kind of unfair for the fans who had shelled out an extra 5 bucks for the subbed version to get sound quality that wasn't half as good, but oh well.

The next thing I noticed was that the opening "Cha-La Head Cha-La had a different translation than the one in the subtitled version! It wasn't as accurate as the one used for the subbed video, and the subtitles for the song were yellow instead of green (okay, okay, big deal, but I'm just trying to be thorough!) Anyway, I though that was truly wierd, and I was rather disappointed because I had really been hoping that all the songs would be dubbed. Pioneer usually does that for all dubbed versions of their anime, and it strikes me as kind of strange that they wouldn't do so for their "flagship" property, especially since this particular release would have such an unusually mainstream audience that wouldn't be used to Japanese music. Another reason I wanted a dubbed opening/ending theme is for the purposes of the TV series. If dubbed versions of the themes existed, then FUNimation would have no more excuses not to get rid of that god awful "Rock the Dragon" crap, and "Cha-La Head Cha-La" and "Detekoi Tobikkiri Zenkai Power" could then blast triumphantly across American airwaves. Now, we'll not only have to convince FUNimation to change the theme, but to go to the trouble of hiring a singer, etc. The inserted song, "Tenkaichi no Gohan" was also subtitled, rather than dubbed, which was very weird, for obvious reasons. I guess they didn't have to dub the themes, but come on, it really looks quite odd when a character suddenly starts singing in not only another voice, but another language. Oh well again.

As far as the dubbing itself, I noticed that it seemed to be of a lower quality overall than that which appears on the TV series. It was all the same voices, but they just weren't directed as well... or something... I can't put my finger on it. It might have had something to do with the script, which was not only a much less faithful translation than the subbed version, but rather clumsily-worded at that. The names were like the TV version (Gyuumaou was Ox-king, Goku lost his surname, Sheng Long was Great Dragon, etc.) Peter Kelamis' Goku was flat and unconvincing, and David Ward's Kame Sennin was nothing short of nightmarish. Just two or three lines were enough to make me positively nauseous. It was however, sweet music to my ears to hear everyone saying "die" and "kill," and Chichi even said "What the HELL do you want?" at one point, which was a bit out of character for her, but still very cool nonetheless. They would never get anywhere close to saying that on the TV series. It was also kind of a thrill to hear the English voices over the unbelievably superior original Japanese musical score, it was a taste of the way things might have been had FUNimation not decided to bring in those talentless "musicians" with their Casio keyboard to score the TV series with their cheap, underproduced music.

Anyway, after all of this, I thought that I pretty much knew what to expect for the rest of the video. I knew I didn't have to worry about censoring, and I thought that nothing else bad about the English TV series production could possibly seep into the video releases. But I was wrong about that as well. At one point, I heard a sound effect that sounded a little "unfamiliar," and when I realized what was happening, my heart sank. THOSE STINKING FUNIMATION FOLEY EDITORS WERE ADDING THOSE F**KING GOD DAMNED RIDICULOUS HANNA-BARBERA SOUND EFFECTS!!! My god, are they TRYING to ruin DBZ in whatever way possible?? These FX are so mind bogglingly annoying and inappropriate! WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY THINKING?? Everytime I heard one of those stupid sounds I would cringe, and there were plenty of them, believe me. Oh, this was angering beyond belief, FUNimation had defied all odds to find a way to screw up even the movies.

So overall, I found the dubbed version quite, um... frustrating, actually. Great stereo sound that should have been used in the subtitled version, undubbed songs that should have been dubbed, and oh man, those sound effects, they're enough to drive you insane!

The Cartoon Network Airing

I never thought I'd see the day, but all three movies were aired on Cartoon Network on consecutive Fridays starting at the end of January. And for some inexplicable reason, in reverse order. "Dead Zone" was shown Friday, February 5th at 4 p.m., the last in a series of "Toonami Movies."

Before I get into how Cartoon Network handled the movie itself, I wanted to say a few things about the promo. Yes, the promo. Most of the time this wouldn't matter, but this case is a little different. In my opinion, CN did something very special with the advertising for all three of these movies, and it deserves special attention. As I have said in the past, CN makes the absolute BEST commercials/eyecatches for all of their programming, and they really outdid themselves in this case.

Basically, the issue is that they hired Don LaFontaine to narrate the ads for all the Toonami movies, including the DBZ ones. "OK, who the HFIL is that?" you ask. Well, you may not know him by name, but you know him. He's only the NUMBER ONE VOICE-OVER GUY IN THE BUSINESS! If you've ever seen a movie trailer (and who hasn't?), whether in a theatre or on TV, you've heard his voice, it's that simple. I'd go as far as to say that he is probably one of the most often-heard voices in the English-speaking world, (or at least in America). There isn't a single person reading this who hasn't heard him speak at one time or another, and most of you do on a daily basis whether you notice it or not.

Alright, maybe it doesn't matter to many of you, and you're wondering why I'm making such a big deal out of this, but you have to remember where I'm coming from. I remember watching DBZ five years ago in its raw form, having absolutely NO IDEA that the series would ever be shown on American TV, let alone the movies. It was this weird, private thing that was all mine. It was something from another world, one that was very different and separate from the one I lived in. It was disorienting enough when I heard the characters speaking English for the first time. And then this... it was just so wonderful and STRANGE to hear the words "Goku" and "Dragon Ball Z" coming from the mouth of the man that (for me) singlehandedly represents American media promotion. It just made me realize how much this "private thing" of mine has become so mainstream.

Onto the movie itself, I'll get the good out of the way first. It was rather tearjerking to see that the original background music was left in, and I was thrilled knowing that millions of fans of the NA dub had been treated to it for the first time the week before in "World's Strongest," and again here. Not only that, but characters were "dying" and "killing" again! Oh, thank Kami! Cartoon Network isn't a bunch of puritan weirdos!

Anyway, that's the happy part. But it was altered, of course.

First of all, I was hoping against hope they wouldn't do this, but my worst fears were realized. The original opening/ending themes were cut, and replaced with "Rock the Dragon." This was done with all three movies. Oh horror of horrors! Well, I can't say that I'm surprised. For those of you who caught on to the show through CN, now do you see what I mean about that awful song?

The rest of the alterations are as follows:

  • For some incomprehensible reason, the entire opening of the film got canned. Oh, you know, the part that SETS UP THE ENTIRE MOVIE, where Piccolo is attacked and (seemingly) killed by Garlic Jr.'s henchmen. This was just inexcusable. The scene is essential to the overall plot, and its removal only leaves the viewer confused since this incident resonates and is mentioned throughout the rest of the movie. Besides, "Dead Zone" is WAY too short as it is, why on EARTH would any sane person remove footage? By my watch, it ended at 4:48, leaving more than enough time, too much in fact, for the minute and a half that was cut. I really want to know what was up with the decision to take it out.

    **UPDATE** All three of the movies have since been converted into episodes, and are now shown within the run of the normal series. In the episodic version of this movie, the opening scene is now shown. When the movie is rerun in movie form, however, it is still cut for some inexplicable reason. Oh well, better there sometimes than not at all, I guess.

  • Chichi's line: "What the hell do you want?" was cut. No big deal, I would expect that from even the most lax censoring body. Geez, I was surprised enough when I heard it in the video version.

  • Goku's butt was censored with those digital underwear that we've come to love so much. That suggests something I'd rather not face, but I'll get to that in a minute.

  • "Gohan no Tenkaichi" was NOT cut! INCREDIBLE! History has been made folks, Masako Nozawa's voice was played on national television! I was beside myself when Cartoon Network came through for us here, rather than deciding that American viewers "wouldn't be able to handle a Japanese song."

    But there's a downside, a big one. The song's subtitles were actually REMOVED, contrary to any sort of rational thinking. WHY?? In both the dubbed and subtitled videos, the subs were there, but not in the broadcast version, which I will never understand. Someone actually had to make the conscious decision to go to the trouble of getting the master tapes and editing in the unsubbed footage. Why on Earth would they NOT WANT people to know what the lyrics were?? A lot of people missed out on a very funny song, for no reason I can possibly imagine, and I find that really upsetting.

  • The scene of Gohan peeing on Kuririn's head was cut. I was disappointed here as well, because I really wasn't sure if CN's standards would require that this be snipped.

  • Piccolo: "Try to imagine how it'll feel to live unable to do anything with all that power you posess...then you'll know what Hell is really like." Yep you guessed it, the last seven words of this line were cut.

  • Kuririn: "Kami, what happened to Garlic Jr.?" Kami: "He fell into the Hell he created, and he will live forever there. And I can assure you now he wishes he wasn't granted eternal life." The first sentence of the line was deleted, along with the "and" in the second. The result is kind of funny; the lines still make sense, but since his first sentence was cut, it almost seems like Kami is avoiding answering the question directly.

Overall, "Dead Zone" didn't live up to the standard set the week before by "World's Strongest" in terms of editing. Then again, that's only because there was more "objectionable material." But to remove the opening scene? The subtitles? That just plain sucks!

The editing makes me worry about the third season. What has been done with this movie is just too much like syndication all over again. Except for mentioning die, kill, and showing punches to the face, it's the same crap we've been dealing with the whole time. We've got the unnecessary digital underwear, the snipping of "bathroom humor", and the deletion of important scenes. The cuts seem trivial in the context of this one, individual movie, but each represents a larger truth: that material of this type will continue to be edited in upcoming episodes.

I know it sounds like I'm accentuating the negative, and I am, but there's a reason for that. I think the airing of the movies, with the original music and all that other good stuff intact is a tremendous step forward for DBZ in America, and I'm thrilled to pieces at the advances that were made. But it's still not perfect, and that's what I want.

So my final thought is actually a question: Who decided how this film, (and the other two for that matter) would be broadcast? I don't remember where I read this, but CN said that they simply played the movies as they received them from FUNimation, and had no part in the editing process. I'm not sure if I believe this. After all, since everyone's editing standards are different, wouldn't FUNimation have to consult with CN to decide what would and wouldn't make the final cut? On the other hand, other CN shows seem to have no problem with naked butts, urine, and even light swearing, so why were they not OK here? And besides, the nonsensical, illogical, inconsistent nature of some of the editing is FUNimation's trademark. Maybe it was them calling the shots all along? Oh well, in any case, I'm still hoping for the best from season three.