A retelling of Dragon Ball's origins, this is a different version of the meeting of Goku, Bulma, Oolong, and Yamucha. They are all looking for the dragon balls for different reasons when they cross paths with an evil king named Gourmeth, who is also looking for the dragon balls.
Toriyama Akira's Dragonball franchise is one I've looked at before. I've also looked at two films associated with it: Fusion Reborn & Battle of Gods. This time, we're going to kick off film festival week with a look at one of the Dragonball era films, Legend of Shenron. It originally aired in late 1986. Yes, the same year that Dragonball itself started airing. So, let's see how it compares to the others we've looked at.
We open with soldiers destroying buildings and fields while terrorising the citizens in order to mine rich stones. Clearly, the most creative name for valuable stones ever. We then cut
to a pair of the soldiers meeting with the king. He stays in the shadows, but still manages to look grotesque. He orders them to find the rest of the dragon balls. We then cut to the beginning of Dragonball. Yeah, the whole scene where Goku goes out to catch a fish and then bumps into Bulma, mistaking her vehicle for a monster. There is, however, a difference. In this one, his dragon ball is stolen by the king's stooges, forcing him to go with Bulma and give chase.
Therein lies the biggest issue with this film. About half the running time is devoted to reiterating different scenes from the series proper with only minor differences. Except that the series proper took its time with them and gave you time to acclimate to the major characters they had before introducing you to more whereas this film throws one encounter after another at you. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the idea was to bring in new viewers to the anime. The problem is they don't give you enough about these characters to make them worth your time. If, on the other hand, this is for fans of the series then it shouldn't be repeating all this information. Sure, there are differences but it's also a lot of wasted time that could be better devoted to fleshing out the film's narrative. Which gets pretty rushed when you factor out the repetitive scenes. The humour in this is also pretty mediocre. You get some funny scenes, but you also get comedic moments that represent the worst of Dragonball's jokes. IE: Muten Roshi and Oolong are perverts and a urine joke.
Honestly, the characters are recognisable. You aren't going to look at Goku, Roshi, Yamch, Bulma or Oolong and think that they're out of character. That being said, the film doesn't do a good job of conveying the charm that the cast had, overall, in the series proper. Most of these characters get a quick introduction and hen don't do all that much. There's almost no reason for Yamcha & Pu'ar to be in this at all. It's very much focused on Goku & Bulma. The main antagonists are pretty dull. They're basically equivalent, in terms of characterisation, to the villains who show up for one episode of the show and get beaten with ease.
The artwork is pretty much on par with the artwork in the series proper. The backgrounds can be sparse but the character designs are nicely done and distinctive. The action scenes are well done. Actually, the best action sequence in the film might be an aerial dogfight with actual planes. Which is odd for something Dragonball related. The climactic sequence, in contrast, is kind of weak.
The vocal cast is just as strong as they were in the series proper. Tsuru Hiromi, Nozawa Masako and Furuya Toru all deliver fine performances. Koyama Mami is also in this, although she's playing the villainous pasta rather than Lunch. Suzuki Tomoko takes a break from voicing random young girls in supporting roles to voice Pansy, a young girl who needs help. The music is also the same type you get in the main series. It's pretty good.
There really isn't any.
So, that's Legend of Shenron, the first film in the Dragonball franchise. It's not very good. It suffers a lot from its need to reintroduce characters, presumably for new audiences, at the expense of the film's narrative. If you're a big Dragonball fan, you might enjoy it regardless but, for myself, I give it a 4/10. It's weak, but not bad. Tomorrow I'll continue film festival week with a look at Futari wa PreCure: Max Heart film 1.
Having seen this movie, I now understand why the Dragon Ball movie "The Path to Power" (which I watched before this one) is labelled as an "alternative version" to the beginning of Dragon Ball - it essentially does the same thing as this movie, but went about it in a different way. Both of them bring some of the core characters of the franchise: Goku, Bulma, the turtle guy and the pig etc (these guys don't even need names to be honest). The production seems to be higher for this movie, as the animation looks clearer, but this could be because I watched a lower
quality version of the other movie. The cast isn't too bad overall, I've definitely seen a lot worse. On the positive side of the fence, Goku is a likeable character with all his innocence. On the negative side there's Bulma, who is quite annoying with her stereotypical "annoying highschool girl" voice and attitude.
My comments for "Curse of the Blood Rubies" is mostly the same as the ones for "The Path to Power". They share the same dodgy voice acting (along with the rest of the Dragon Ball franchise), and the same mediocre animation and character designs (again, along with the rest of the franchise). What's more, just like "The Path to Power", this movie is also a cut above the average Dragon Ball movie because it puts commendable effort into the story so is not completely centered around the fighting. The result is a vaguely interesting adventure story with battles that doesn't drag on and on and on. Compared to "The Path of Power", the story is actually not quite as good. However, overall, I rate this movie slightly higher because the other one gets dragged down by the inappropriate fan service, whilst this movie is more friendly to the targeted audience due to lack of fan service, so just about manage to keep its head above the 6/10 threshold (which is equivalent to like a 9 or 10 relative to other Dragon Ball movies).
The Dragon Ball anime has been the source of two different movies, which are two different retellings of Dragon Ball's beginning, the other being 1996's the Path To Power. Shen Long no Densetsu. or Curse of the Blood Rubies is the first one, and it is fast and furious. The movie is only 51 minutes, and the next two are shorter.
First, the characters are normal, unchanging rocks. Goku shows almost no emotions other than happiness and confusion. The other characters are pale and stiff.
The story is that there's an evil king that rules over a land searching for Blood Gems or whatever they are. Their
military steals Goku's Dragon Ball, and from there, the story begins to converge from the official Dragon Ball timeline. According to the DB encyclopedia, it is an alternate timeline. The ending is nice, but the rest of the story is simply brushed over. The pacing is incredibly fast, and it was over before I expected it.
The art's great; Especially Kame-sennin's Kamehameha, which causes all the ships to blow up. A younger me would say, "Whoah!" and I would definitely agree.
If you are trying to watch every second of DB, then watch after finishing the anime, as it is interesting to see another version of the story. However, I wouldn't recommend this for anyone else.
If you are like me you don't mind non-canonical movies. Especially within the Dragon Ball realm. You understand they cannot logically happen, but still enjoy them. This movie is a retelling of the first arc of Dragon Ball. It's not just a shortened down version of the television series. It takes tons of liberties with characters and progression points.
With non-canonical movies you can enjoy them because they are their own thing. This isn't it's own thing though. It's just a worse version of the television series. The story moves to fast and no one really develops. The villain barely gets enough air time. The finale
is mediocre. The voice acting (dub) is not as good (although it's not entirely terrible).
I can't see any reason to watch this over the actual Dragon Ball series.