The evil Dr. Kochin uses the dragon balls to resurrect his mentor, Dr. Wheelo, in an effort to take over the world. Dr. Wheelo, his body having been destroyed by the avalanche that killed him fifty years before, desires the body of the strongest fighter in the world as his new vessel. Believing Roshi to be the world’s strongest warrior, Dr. Kochin abducts Bulma and forces Roshi to surrender himself to save her. When Goku hears of their abduction, he goes to their rescue. Although this is the 10th film we have reviewed thus far on the site, it is actually the second Dragon Ball Z movie released during the series’ Japanese TV run.
Although it probably helps if you are already familiar with the characters and storyline of the Dragonball Z series, it is not a necessity. The animation of Dragonball Z has always focused on fighting, and this movie is no exception. If you’ve never seen this series and you’re wondering what you’re missing, this is a good place to start. The main thing to keep in mind is that the film is over 20 years old. The film was later re-dubbed by Funimation’s in-house voice cast and released again to DVD on November 14, 2006 in a box set titled “First Strike,” which included Dead Zone and Tree of Might. It was later remastered and released in a Double Feature set with Dead Zone on Blu-Ray and DVD on May 27, 2008. Goku, Krillin, Piccolo, Master Roshi and Gohan are all in top form. The fights here are great, and as mentioned before, have fluid animation. The voices are are alright but some of the dialogue is annoying.
Most significantly, characters who are entirely comic relief or nonexistent in the later movies, such as Kame-Senin and Kuririn, get a chance to have some halfway decent action of their own. Moreover, the threat they face is considerably different from their standard “super-buff martial artist from another world/dimension”, and while of course the problem will have to be solved by standard Dragonball Z [fighting], the solution will not be as easy as they first think, and the problem has some complications. The ending was extremely action-packed, and had more to do with energy blasts than fists, but it’s funny because everytime Krillin tries to attack the villain he gets easily smacked aside, and he’s the only one that happens too! Humor aside, Its main weakness is that the hardcore fan isn’t too sure of this movie’s place in the timeline. Goku uses some techniques from his time as a dead man, which means that the Saiyans should’ve already shown up, but Piccolo is still alive…let’s face it, though, these movies aren’t known for staying true to the series. Even as far down the line as Movie 6, there are still some issues that haven’t been resolved.
Final ruling: A fine piece of cinema this still isn’t, but there’s a reason this was the first movie that Toonami showed in their little DBZ movie block. Why? The fighting is intense, its the only movie dubbed by Funimation/Pioneer that’s actually a GOOD dubbing, and finally this the only movie out of the three that actually sounds good in Japanese without you getting sleepy when its halfway over like Tree of Might. It’s a little on the short side but that’s more than made up for with all the action crammed into it. From the opening frames of an icy wasteland, to the pounding drumbeat of the opening credits, to the simply awesome appearance of Dr. Wheelo, this movie is a standout amongst action animes. Most of the action takes place inside a huge fortress (which always offers limitless potential for coolness) before moving to the upper atmosphere for the climax. Check it out, whether you’re a DBZ fan or not, you won’t be disappointed.