Plot: In a different retelling of the Dragon Ball origin story, a powerful monkey-tailed boy named Goku meets a girl named Bulma. Long story short, they hunt down Dragon Balls together and along their adventures they come across a village that happens to have an incredibly sought after stone called Blood Rubies in its soil. They seem to cause terrible reactions in anyone who seeks them out, and Goku’s the only one who can save this village from total ruination.
Breakdown: Despite my nostalgic love of the Dragon Ball series, I never kept up much with the movies mostly because not many of them were aired on TV that often, at least where I live. I was able to catch a movie or two on Cartoon Network and I had one on DVD, but I never watched any of the original DB movies, only DBZ. I’m pretty excited, so let’s get into it.
I’m watching the second version English dub of this movie done by Funimation. This version is sandwiched between an earlier version done by a company called Harmony Gold which got its fame through dubbing Robotech, and the final version done by Funimation to show the movie in its entirety and clean it up a bit to match the dub that they eventually created. Harmony Gold’s version was apparently censored less than Funi’s first dub of it (surprising) and all of the names were changed.
Harmony Gold’s version of the dub was apparently not well received, though I will say from the clips I managed to track down that it was a pretty faithful adaptation, they even kept the original Japanese score. Despite this, they eventually lost their license to the fairly newborn Funimation. Apparently, the dub of this Dragon Ball movie was actually used as a pilot to launch the rest of the series, so you can actually thank this movie for giving us what we have today.
I haven’t been able to track down the full version of the Harmony Gold dub and I guess it might not even exist since it was only shown on TV and never released on VHS. HG also had the rights to the TV series, but no one seems to know how many episodes they dubbed and those episodes are also lost to the abyss. Basically the only information I have on the HG dub is the changed names, and I will include those in the review.
The opening theme song is not the same as the English version of the Japanese original OP as seen in the finished dub of Dragon Ball. I love the final product. It’s one of my favorite OP’s. This one is fairly good actually, except for the ending title card which looks friggin’ awful. It looks like it was hastily put together in MSPaint. The Harmony Gold version of the opening is available on YouTube and it’s an English version of the Japanese OP like Funi eventually created. HG, however, uses the actual Japanese score for it, which apparently Funi couldn’t get from Toei, and their lyrics were different.
Our movie starts off with a village countryside where the local farmlands are being dug up by soldiers in order to find blood rubies to give to the king. One of the villagers tries to stand up to the soldiers, but ends up getting beaten. As the soldiers leave, we get hints that the king wasn’t always a cruel tyrant and that he just recently became such. One little girl who I suppose is the daughter of the man who got beaten vows to show them who’s boss.
Cut to a quiet mountain area where we see our hero, little Goku. Most of the characters have different voices in this early dub, but they seem to do alright. Goku is voiced by Saffron Henderson instead of Colleen Clinkenbeard. From the list I see, she’s probably better known for voicing Sota from Inuyasha, Genki from Monster Rancher or Sherry from Zatch Bell. Also, in the Harmony Gold version of this movie, Goku’s named Zero.
This movie really seems to be a different version of the origin story. Goku talks to his grandpa’s four-star Dragon Ball and goes off to catch some fish. He kicks a giant fish in the face and goes off to bring it back home.
Meanwhile, Bulma is seen driving around the mountainside while tracking down Goku’s Dragon Ball on her “bleeper”….Yeah, I guess it took them a bit to come up with “dragon radar”. She also noticed that military soldiers are heading in the same direction and fears that they’re after the Dragon Ball too.
Bulma here is voiced by Maggie Blue O’Hara instead of Monica Rial. She’s Madison in Cardcaptors, Holly from Monster Rancher and Kitty in X-Men Evolution. Bulma’s name in the HG version is Lena….I don’t even know why they bothered changing her name since her name is on the front of her shirt.
She crashes into Goku on the mountain path and if you’ve seen the origin story in the TV series, it’s the same schtick only this time she tells Goku that his Dragon Ball is likely being stolen by soldiers. When they go to his home, they discover that his Dragon Ball is indeed gone with a single gold coin left in its place as a signature of the army.
Bulma decides to go after them and uses a DynoCap (if that’s what they’re still called) for a HydroJet which sounds more like a jet ski than a plane, but there it is.
They get into an air battle with the soldiers, but are ultimately blown out of the sky by a rocket launcher. I honestly don’t understand how Bulma survived that without a scratch. The entire jet blew up to tiny bits and she didn’t eject before it happened. Goku’s Goku so it’s understandable that he survived just fine, but how did Bulma survive?
Also, supposedly, the early Funi dub of this, the one I’m watching, is censored in some situations for pervertedness on the part of Master Roshi or Oolong later on, but why did they show the part with Bulma pissing herself if they were worried about needing to censor stuff? Were the 90’s more lenient with peeing yourself?
Their journey is taking them into the night, so Bulma decides to whip out a house DynoCap. Goku is amazed by everything in the house and Bulma is amazed by how much Goku smells. She finds out that he’s never had a bath before so she decides to give Goku a bath. Kid’s never had a bath. Great parenting, Gohan. After Goku has had a bath, she decides that she wants one now too.
She takes a bath and sees Goku is in the bathroom wanting to help Bulma wash her back since she doesn’t have a tail to do so and Bulma angrily kicks him out. Oh Goku, you dense little scamp.
We cut to dinner where Goku doesn’t really like the food that Bulma has prepared so he decides to go out hunting for some real dinner and Bulma accompanies him.
As they’re traveling, they hear a small girl yelling in terror as a Satan-esque monster appears. Goku jumps into action to protect her, but the monster doesn’t think much of him. They fight for a bit and the monster turns into some mecha thing. He challenges him by telling him to knock down the large tree beside him and laughs until Goku knocks the tree down with one punch. This scares the monster enough to transform into a bat and run off while Goku pursues him.
With one swift hit with his Power Pole, the bat is down and reveals himself to be Oolong, renamed as Mao Mao in the HG dub. Instead of Bryan Massey, he’s voiced here by Alec Willows who actually seems to have held the part in the Canadian/Ocean dub as Oolong for quite some time. His resume is quite long, but I really only recognize him as Mushin from Inuyasha.
They talk for a minute before Oolong realizes that they’re in HIS territory. Goku asks who HE is before they get attacked by machine gun fire. As the gun shots end, the shooter is revealed to be everyone’s favorite desert bandit, Yamcha.
Yamcha in the HG dub is known as….Zedaki? HG sure made some weird name change choices in that dub. Instead of being voiced by Christopher Sabat, he’s voiced here by Ted Cole who’s….known for…..Well, I really only recognize his work as Lee from Beyblade, so let’s give it that, but apparently he also did several roles on Death Note’s English dub, which I didn’t watch much of.
Yamcha jumps down with his sidekick/BFF Puar, known in the HG dub as SQUEAKER?! PBBBTTTTAHAHAHAHAHA!!…..Ahhhh, anyway. Puar here, instead of Brina Palencia is voiced by Kathy Morse whooooooo……Voiced some woman from Maison Ikkoku, and that’s basically it. Puar sounds really weird here. Like a British butler trying to imitate a woman.
Hhehehe, Goku calls Yamcha Lamb Chop. That’s funny both in the sense of meat and the sock puppet.
Anyway, Goku and Yamcha fight with Goku gaining the upperhand by extending his Power Pole (I really wish that’s the one thing that Funimation renamed later on, because practically every sentence including that thing sounds dirty) Yamcha loses his sword, but gets back up to hit Goku with a Wolf Fang Fist. And I gotta say the sound effect when he gets hit into the rock is hilarious. It’s like a parody.
Goku loses his Power Pole as well, but escapes the rubble to fight once more. That is until Bulma shows up which stops Yamcha in his tracks because Yamcha always loses his cool when confronted with a pretty girl.
His daze causes him to fall off the ledge and he tells Puar about his problem while Puar tells him about his broken tooth due to the fall. Yamcha freaks out at this because he thinks it means he’ll never get a date and he runs off.
After the fight, Goku, Bulma, the girl, Penny (Who is named Penny in both the HG version and here, but her real name is Pansy….I can see why they changed it.) and Oolong eat some dinner at Bulma’s DynoHouse. Penny tells them that she’s on her way to see Master Roshi, whose name is unchanged in the HG version, so that he can help save their town from being destroyed by the military.
Penny explains that the king, King Gurumes, known in the HG dub as King Gourmeth, though the Wiki’s kinda confusing about which is right because I know I hear Gurumes, used to be kind and gentle before he started mining Blood Rubies and she believes that the rubies come with a terrible curse. She explains how he’s essentially ruined the town and the surrounding landscape to mine for Blood Rubies and there’s nothing anyone can do about it since it’s a town of farmers against an army. What’s even worse is that he’s collecting the Dragon Balls and when he collects all seven he’s going to make a terrible wish. Goku and Bulma then come to the realization that the King must’ve sent those thieves to Goku’s house and agree to help Penny find Master Roshi.
We cut to Yamcha listening outside who goes back to his hideout where he explains to Puar that he’s going to steal the Dragon Balls while the King and the others are preoccupied with each other. He also says that he’ll use the wish to get over his crippling shyness around women so that he can get a date.
By the way, I dunno if this is the dub or the original version’s fault, but this movie has some lame-ass transitions. Like imagine Star Wars transitions with bright fuzzy lines.
They get to Master Roshi’s house (Holy crap, that was quick. I mean, I know they have a speedboat but wow.) where they’re slightly confused over the fact that Master Roshi’s an old man with a goofy shirt and a turtle shell on his back. Master Roshi here, instead of being voiced by Mike McFarland is voiced by another Mike, Michael Donovan, whom you may know as, wow, a hell of a lot of ‘extras’….errr…..Maybe you know him as Suikotsu from Inuyasha or Sabretooth from X-men Evolution?
Master Roshi implies that the group is going to try to kill him for his shell, but Penny explains the real reason and Master Roshi yells back behind the house that they seem nice so Yamcha seems to be wrong about them.
Yamcha appears and tells them that they’re lying to try to trick him before Bulma, realizing Yamcha’s weakness, nuzzles up to him which makes him run off screaming.
In order to test if they are lying or not, Roshi calls the flying nimbus which won’t let anyone ride it unless they’re pure of heart. Goku passes the test with ‘flying’ colors.
Bulma realizes that Roshi has a Dragon Ball and Roshi says he’ll give it to her. Hm? No need for her to flash her unmentionables? Maybe that was censored.
The soldiers are then seen spying on them and they discover that the group has the final two Dragon Balls, so they decide to bomb the crap out of Roshi’s island and send out something called ‘pickpocket missiles’ which are just little robots with grabber claws, to retrieve the balls. They manage to get one, but Oolong, yeah Oolong, saves the other one from being stolen. As the soldiers mount another attack we see that Roshi is pissed about being attacked, so he gets Master Roshi on their asses, buffs up and launches a Kamehameha wave at the incoming missiles to destroy them all.
Penny tells Roshi about her situation, but they’re interrupted when Goku tries to do a Kamehameha wave and succeeds on his first try to destroy a rock, which baffles everyone especially Roshi who claims it took him 50 years to learn it.
Roshi tells Penny that he’s just an old hermit and Goku is way better suited to help her since he’s so OP. He also tells her that she has the power within herself to help her village and they leave.
Bulma and the other arrive at the palace, which has turned into a desolate wasteland, where they’re met with air attacks from the royal army. A fight ensues against the group in one of Bulma’s planes and Goku on his flying nimbus. While planes fight the group, one of the big bulky soldiers fights Goku while riding a flying disc and sporting a double-sided mace.
Bulma and the others get shot down and crash into a stone pillar, yet they’re all miraculously fine again.
Goku gains the upperhand by slicing his hoverboard thing in half which means Goku just attempted murder, but this is DB world so he’s fine. His mace turns out to be able to shoot out a chain which wraps around Goku’s neck as they both slam into the palace wall.
Yamcha is seen infiltrating the palace as well on his hoverbike thing and fights off soldiers. He gets to a room filled with blood rubies and grabs an armful before trying to escape the building. Wait, I thought he wanted the Dragon Balls to make his wish, not the blood rubies. Eh, whatever.
More soldiers are seen running down the hall, but they run at the sight of a horrible monster which turns out to be Oolong. They hear more steps and hide to let Oolong scare the guards, but Oolong is scared and screams at the sight of another monster before him who also screams at his sight, but it turns out to be Puar using the same technique as Oolong to protect Yamcha.
Gunfire bursts from the hall and hits Yamcha straight on to which Puar replies “Hope those rubies shielded him” which is a pointless line that ruins any modicum of tension for that scene. He kicks the gun out of the soldier’s hands and shows that indeed the rubies did block the bullets which I think is kinda BS but whatever.
He knocks her goggles off to show that she’s actually a beautiful woman who shouldn’t have hair nearly that long while in an army. Her name is originally Pasta named to Aldevia in the HG dub and to Raven here; she’s been one of the two soldiers who have been harassing the group, the other being some bulky guy who is fighting Goku.
She throws numerous bombs at the group which causes a rock to nearly fall on Bulma, but Yamcha saves her, prompting her to cuddle him, making him scream.
Goku beats the bulky guy by……extending his pole…..which causes him to burst through into the throne room (or the THROWN room! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA….ahhh. Yes….) At that same moment, the other group has broken into the throne room as well.
We see the King who is doubled over in pain, crying for the last Dragon Ball. His eye nearly explodes and he transforms into a big monster.
He and Goku fight and Goku uses his Kamehameha, but its surprisingly to no avail (so that means Roshi’s part was pointless?)
However, Bulma realizes that the Dragon Balls are in his stomach, so she decides to throw the final one in his mouth to see what happens. The balls glow and Shenron emerges from the King’s stomach and mouth (I’m sure Shenron really appreciates that….)
Shenron actually has a pretty good voice here. It’s not nearly as booming as the final one, but it’s mysterious and unnerving. Shenron is called The Dragon God in the HG dub. Here, he’s voiced by Doug Parker as opposed to Christopher Sabat. You may know him from….uhh, The New Adventures of He-Man as Prince Adam and…..Vulcan from Zoids?
Shenron grows impatient as the group stays silent in his presence instead of making a wish. Before Bulma or Yamcha have a chance to make a wish, however, Penny asks is she can make her wish instead. She wishes that her village’s land was peaceful, beautiful and vibrant again forever. Shenron grants the wish, but says that there will never be true peace in the village as long as the rubies are beneath its land, so it removes the rubies and sucks them into the sky.
Shenron leaves and Goku watches his grandpa’s Dragon Ball shoot off across the sky. Penny thanks the dragon for granting her wish, but Bulma laments over losing her chance to wish for a boyfriend and Yamcha laments over losing his chance to wish for a girlfriend (I thought you wanted to wish for the ability to talk to girls without crippling shyness?) and Yamcha and Bulma put two and two together and look at each other as if to say “hey, why not?”
Gurumes emerges from the rubble…naked (he’s censored by the rocks) and says he feels better but he’s still hungry so Penny gives him an apple. The king tastes it a loves it, apparently never having had an apple before. Penny’s dad scolds him by saying that’s one of the many things he nearly wiped out in his tyranny and the King feels guilty.
Goku gives the coin back to Raven and says that he’ll have to start the search for his grandpa’s Dragon Ball all over again, calls the nimbus and flies away on it, ending the movie. Meaning that, indeed, Roshi’s part was completely pointless other than to obtain the final Dragon Ball.
Art: The art and animation are basically on par with the start of the DB series. It’s no masterpiece, but I like Akira Toriyama’s art style and the animation isn’t that bad. That title card bit, though. Sorry, Funi.
Music: I like the OP, which shocked me, and the BG music. The ED is just a different version of the OP.
Voice acting: Despite it seeming odd for anyone who knows the show with a different dub, and the DB franchise has been dubbed tons of times, even in English numerous times, it may sound odd, but no one really sounds ‘wrong’ and the voices grow on you. The acting in itself is also pretty good. Roshi’s not as animated acting-wise as his final VA is, but since his part was moot, I guess it doesn’t really matter.
Bottomline: Overall, this movie’s fine. I mean, despite being a Dragon Ball movie, there’s no real good fight scenes involved. And, hell, Bulma’s the one who actually saved the day since Goku’s Kamehameha failed. It also gives an alternate take on the start of the series which may irk purists. However, it’s still a fun ride and a good watch for DB fans. The story’s not great, in fact it’s kinda cliché barring the parts with Goku. We don’t get very attached to Penny as she doesn’t have much of a personality. She’s a strong, determined girl, yeah, but she’s not much else. Also, the king’s not much of a villain. Barring his political power and army, he himself is not a big threat, and he’s defeated really quickly.
Additional Information and notes:
DB Movie 1: Curse of the Blood Rubies was directed by Daisuke Nishio, who also directed Dragon Ball and DBZ. The screenplay was written by Toshiki Inoue who also wrote Ranma ½, Kiba and Death Note. The story itself was written by the creator of the DB universe, Akira Toriyama.
This movie was animated by Toei Animation, and English dubs of the movie have been distributed by Harmony Gold and Funimation, who currently owns basically all English DB licenses.
Runtime: 50 Minutes
Recommended Audience: Well, no swears, no nudity, no sex, but there’s peeing, some violence, a weird eyeball scene, but that’s about it. 8+