16 March 2020 | quiqueperezsoler
How the movie adaptation of Dragon Ball should be to introduce non-anime/manga people to this wondrous world
Very few times have I been able to convey the heart and describe the wonderfuly crafted story behind Dragon Ball to people who have never seen anime or read manga. It is definitely an art that requires the reader/viewer to see past the cultural differences and conventionalisms between Western (American and European animation mainly like Disney and DreamWorks) and Eastern Animation, and embrace the different approaches people make while telling the same kind of heartfelt and endearing stories.
Dragon Ball overall is a very long story divided in the so-called "arcs", an arc is a period of time where an enemy is introduced and developed while the main characters are meant to fight it culminating in a final confrontation in the end while they each complete their respective character arcs (growths). Dragon Ball was one of the first to introduce a repetitive yet coherent and well-crafted way of placing these "arcs" to make up the overall story. Some American and Western TV Shows' Seasons and Book Sagas work the same way.
Why am I explaining this? Well, because the main reason why Dragon Ball was really hard to explain to people not used to the Japanese way of storytelling (at least in manga) was that because there were so many enemies and so many characters being introduced in each one of them, you couldn't really tell the overall story in a few lines as you'll be missing important details that would explain the reason for these characters to be introduced or even their role in the rest of the story. While serially told stories like The Avengers movies have different villains too, these are merely unique to a certain character. In Dragon Ball there isn't much individuality to the characters, each have their own personality but they shine when they interact with the rest of the crew. And the enemies they face they face together, it's the same for all of them. (there are very few exceptions)
So what does this movie do right? It condensates many of the first arcs of Dragon Ball while keeping many memorable moments spanning from the first time Goku and Bulma meet (the sort of "main characters" of this story) all the way to one of the considerably big first threat the gang faces: The Red Ribbon. I wouldn't be spoiling much by saying this because for those who haven't seen it won't know what I'm talking about and those who know what I'm talking about it's because they already, well, know.
The movie has very gorgeous shots which surprises given the aesthetic of the anime and other Dragon Ball movies don't take a moment to do so and focus more on the action. There are shots of characters framed in landscapes that were really greatly captured and the expressions of the characters speak for themselves. Unfortunately the movie is not well dubbed in my mother tongue (Spanish) nor is it well captured in other similar ones for what I've heard (Latin Spanish, Italian) and I'm not sure why. Even as I watched it subtitled in Spanish the subtitles put words that didn't match the spoken ones and that could be annoying for some who haven't seen it and might want to know exactly what they are saying. Eitherway, this movie has a great balance of tone and diversity. The journey takes them to all sorts of different places like snowy mountains and warm beaches. Normally in Dragon Ball manga/anime there are so many things happening it takes a while until they get to a different setting.
IN CONCLUSION, this movie condensates the very best aspects that make the Dragon Ball story and anime great. It's a summarized version of the first arcs which may ignore some little ones or even some other character developments and moments but it however keeps the spirit of the story and the same characters. Not only does it respect many moments and the overall spirit and feeling the story conveys, but it was animated at the peak of 90s Dragon Ball traditional animation and it shows specially in the final battle. If there was ever a way of "adapting" the Dragon Ball manga/anime to a single hour and a half movie, this would be the right way to do it. Although it is still a Dragon Ball produced Dragon Ball movie so, not sure why this exists other than to, in fact, present the story to new comers. But basically this movie has it all, great portrayal of the characters just like in the anime/manga, splendid action scenes reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z anime as well as power ups, emotional moments and funny scenes. It just FEELs like a condensed DragonBallZ-anime-styled manga adaptation that, while different in some modified moments that serve this version of the story nicely, maintains the integrity of what makes Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball.
(Reason for not giving 10/10: Although the animation was spectacular and top notch like Dragon Ball GT's at its peak --which I'm one of the few who actually like it because I grew up with it and also the song played in the end credits almost made me cry of nostalgia-- I couldn't help but feel there were some stiff stills in some scenes and an overall drop of quality in the audio, at least in other languages that weren't Japanese. Also, the modifications and lack of certain moments had me a little estranged from this version of the story. But still, I believe it is the perfect glimpse of adventurous wonder of the real deal and a well, small-packaged enough taste for the average non-anime viewing people to get into the game)