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Dragon Ball Z Movie 1: Dead Zone Anime Review

Dragon Ball Z Movie 1: Dead Zone Box Art

Dragon Ball Z Movie 1: Dead Zone

3 stars / Theatrical Movie / Action / 10-up

Bottom Line

A quick, reasonably satisfying chunk of humor and action for fans and non-fans alike.

It’s Like...

...The goofy missing link between Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.

Vital Stats

Original Title

ドラゴンボールZ オラの悟飯をかえせッ!!

Romanized Title

Doragonbooru Zeddo - Ora no Gohan wo Kaese!

Literal Translation

Dragonball Z: Give Back My Gohan!

US Release By



Light Superpowered Action

Series Type

Theatrical Movie


45 minutes

Production Date


What's In It


Look For

  • Immortal Villains
  • Slapstick
  • Superpowered Brawling

Objectionable Content

  • Violence: 2 (moderate)
  • Nudity: 2 (moderate)
  • Sex: 1 (mild)
  • Language: 1 (mild)

full details

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Plot Synopsis

Gohan has been kidnapped by the evil Garlic Jr. He doesn't really want Gohan--just his hat with one of the Dragon Balls on it. Now, he probably should have just taken the hat and left the kid because Gohan's father, Gokuu, is coming for his son and he's not too happy...

However, can Gokou stop an enemy whose wish for immortality has actually been granted?

Quick Review

Switch to Full Review

Dead Zone is the first of many (13 in all, not including TV specials) Dragon Ball Z movies. This one takes place before the TV series, so despite a few continuity errors, it's not a bad place for Dragon Ball fans to get into Dragon Ball Z, or vice versa, and it's even set up such that non-fans can get something out of it. While this movie doesn't have a huge amount of plot, that's balanced by this is one of the funniest Dragon Ball Z movies, and the top-quality visuals. Despite its short length, this is a theatrical movie in both release and quality, with smooth animation and fight choreography that keeps you on the edge of your seat, as well as standout art direction.

Whether you're a DB fan or a DBZ fan or someone who isn't familiar with either, this movie is a pretty good bet. Although I won't say it was perfect, it had some unique factors and some great animation that made for a quick, reasonably satisfying 45 minutes.

Read the full-length review...

Full Review

Switch to Quick Review

Here we have the first of many (13 in all, not including TV specials) Dragon Ball Z movies. This one takes place before the TV series, though it was actually made at some point in the run of the show, which sort of makes this a prequel.

This is fine and good in and of itself, but this particular movie creates some inconsistencies with the beginning of the TV series. First of all, Piccolo meets Gohan seemingly for the very first time, yet according to this movie he at least saw him before that. Also in the TV series, during their fight with Raditz, Piccolo and Gokou find out they both train in weighted clothing. However, that seems to be some sort of rediscovery as they both realize that fact in this movie. Those two facts aren't terribly noteworthy on their own, but there is one glaring inconsistency in this movie and that's the subject of Gohan's hidden power. They see Gohan's power in this movie and they're naturally surprised, but Gohan shows his power in the TV series and they make a big deal out of it like they've never seen it before. I thought this was pretty poor writing on the movie's part and it wouldn't take that much more thought to avoid making any inconsistencies. I guess I'm digressing a bit, and there's not much more to say on that subject, so...

On to the actual review of the movie. For those of you who don't know, most of the Dragon Ball Z movies are just 45 minute to an hour excuses for higher-budget fighting without the staring down and general dragging on we expect from the TV series. Not that this is a bad thing--it's great for DBZ fans. But for anyone else not familiar with the show, the movies are a bad place to start. Except for this one that is, since it's a sort of prequel. Starting with this movie doesn't make you any more unfamiliar with the characters then you normally would be.

Now onto the actual review. Honest. The Dead Zone is one of the shorter DBZ movies (45 minutes) and therefore doesn't have a whole lot of plot. What's there isn't bad and carries you through the movie just fine. Garlic Jr. is a pretty good villain with an interesting past, though it could've stood to be explained more. Plus, I liked the fact that one of the DBZ villains actually got to be granted immortality. It's too bad that he was only around in this movie (well, there is that Garlic Jr. filler saga that wasn't even in the manga... most people don't count that...).

While this movie doesn't have a huge amount of plot, there are two things that help balance it a bit. The first is that this is one of the funniest Dragon Ball Z movies (second, granted it's not a close second, to movie #12). When you take Gohan as a naive, cute little boy and mix him up with three slightly bumbling minions along with the unique creativity Toriyama is known for, you get a couple very funny situations (well, one of them was a song...). The humour in this movie will definitely appeal to fans of the original Dragon Ball series. Nothing really raunchy, but there's a little toilet humour that will seem very familiar. This movie is actually a pretty good way for fans of Dragon Ball to get into the Dragon Ball Z saga. Actually, it can be vice versa also...

The other balance is the visuals. Despite its short length, this is a theatrical movie in both release and quality. The animation is smooth and the fight choreography keeps you on the edge of your seat. The character designs are the same as they've always been--except that they remain consistently detailed, unlike the TV series which has character designs that waver from good to very good and nicely detailed. The real standout in this DBZ story is the art direction. It's absolutely gorgeous, using many reds and golds that are not common in DBZ. The art in general, particularly the backgrounds and especially the very well done costumes, add a real Chinese look to this movie. This is definitely a plus considering Dragon Ball Z's Chinese origins. Coming back to the fighting for a second, many fans may be put off by the fact that this movie takes place before the TV series in terms of the fighting. It is true that, while they don't say it, the characters' power levels are low. But since the bad guys are more-or-less on the same level, you don't really notice it. These people still move lightning-fast and fight furiously and it looks great in this movie.

Before I get into the acting, I want to review the U.S. treatment of this movie (a la my TV series review). There's not a whole lot to say as I'm very pleased with the treatment. Unlike Pioneer releasing the TV broadcast on video and DVD, they released the movies like they would release any of their anime titles. Dub and Subbed VHS and Bilingual DVD and all three were completely uncut. In fact, there wasn't even a cut dub released on video. Pioneer seemed to be in primary control of these releases and FUNimation's involvement seemed very minimal, at least according to the credits. It makes me wish Pioneer has sole rights to DBZ since they understand and care about anime.

Now we come to the acting. In Japanese, the cast has all the same voices (naturally) and the characters for this movie are cast very well, keeping up the uniqueness that I've always enjoyed in Dragon Ball Z. Akira Kamiya makes for a very interesting-sounding Garlic Jr. He voices the rather short enemy with a rather deep voice and while that may seem odd to some, it at least keeps up the non-generic casting DBZ is known for. Once again, as always, the actual acting is as good as its always been.

In English, the cast has all the same voices from the show, right down the minor characters like Ox-King (Gyuumaou in Japanese) and the characters with a very short screen time like Buruma. However, there was something different about the dub on this movie (actually all of the movies released by Pioneer) compared to the TV show. Now, don't get me wrong, I like the Ocean Group dubbing on the TV series, except for the writing, which was horrid. The dubbing on this movie was a real treat. I say treat because it was an overall higher quality then the TV series. Much higher. The script was accurate to the Japanese one, which means no lame dialogue or awkward sounding and looking cover-up lines, etc. Since the Ocean Group cast is made up of professional actors, giving them a script they can actually work with shows how good they can be. I feel the movie-dubs are a treat because this is exactly how Dragon Ball Z should be dubbed, except for the fact that they still use the changed names.

So, whether you're a DB fan or a DBZ fan or someone who isn't familiar with either, this movie is a pretty good bet for different reasons already mentioned. Although I won't say it was perfect, it had some unique factors and some great animation that made for a quick, reasonably satisfying 45 minutes.

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Related Recommendations

Being a sort of Dragon Ball Z prequel, it combines some of the flavor of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z into one package.

Notes and Trivia

As covered in the review, this movie takes place before the Dragon Ball Z TV series. The franchise is based on a popular comic series by Akira Toriyama.

This movie was among Pioneer's earliest DVD releases, and therefore the earliest anime DVDs, period. The original packaging was interesting; the disc was in a CD-style jewel case with a larger slipcover to make it the same shelf size as a "full sized" DVD case, theoretically giving you the choice of having a "standard sized" DVD case, or a more compact collection that only took up as much space as a CD. The packaging style didn't catch on, though, and Pioneer dropped it after a few releases.

US DVD Review

This is an interesting DVD. Since Pioneer is also a Japanese company, their U.S. outfit has access to the original (or at least very, very good) masters, which is why their DVDs are of very good quality. But Dragon Ball Z is owned by Toei in Japan, and therefore is not affiliated directly with Pioneer. So, this DVD proves Pioneer is worthy of their DVD fame, as it's as good as you could hope for. The video is very smooth and clean and the Japanese audio, despite being from mono source material, was remixed in Dolby Digital 2.0 and sounds better than Japanese DBZ has ever sounded. The English track, since it's very recent, does sound better. There are also two subtitle tracks, a Japanese one and a close captioned track for the dub. The menus look and respond good and have a fair amount of sound and a bit of animation. The extras are actually very good considering the fact this is an older, short movie. There's character information, for those not familiar with DBZ. Most of them play a clip from the movie (dub only). The one to get excited over are four rather long deleted TV sequences. The first two are from the very first DBZ episode where Gohan gets lost in a forest and the latter two are from Ep. 9 where Gohan meets a capsule robot. It's a shame this is the only disc that has those kind of extras...

Parental Guide

About appropriate for 10-up, maybe 13-up depending on your taste.

Violence: 2 - A good amount of fighting, but the blood was generally non-existent.

Nudity: 2 - Gokou's posterior near the beginning of the film.

Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - No sexual themes, though there was a gross yet very funny scene with Gohan and Kururin...

Language: 1 - Even the occasional harsher words weren't in this movie. Though the cursing was in both languages.

Staff & Cast

Original Japanese Cast

Son Gokuu/Son Gohan: Masako Nozawa
Piccolo: Toshio Furukawa
Buruma (Bloomer): Hiromi Tsuru
Kuririn: Mayumi Tanaka
Gyuumaou: Daisuke Kyori
Chi-Chi: Mayumi Sho
Kame Sennin Mutenroshi: Kohei Miyauchi
Kami: Takeshi Aono
Sheng Long: Kenji Utsumi
Garlic Jr: Akira Kamiya
Ginger: Koji Toya
Sansho: Yukinori Hori
Nicky: Shigeru Chiba
Narrarator: Joji Yananmi

English Dub Cast

Note: there are name changes in the dub. To avoid confusion, I will list them as is.

Gokuu: Peter Kelamis
Gohan: Saffron Henderson
Piccolo: Scott McNeil
Bulma: Lalaina Lindbjberg
Krillen: Terry Klassen
Chi-Chi: Lisa Ann Beley
Master Roshi/Kami/Garlic Jr: Dave Ward
Narrator: Doc Harris


Currently available in the US from FUNimation on bilingual DVD. Was previously available from Pioneer on bilingual DVD and dubbed or subtitled VHS, all out of print (although you can still probably get them used for a couple of bucks at Amazon, if you're desperate).

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