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Dragon Ball: The Complete Season One

Everybody knows Dragon Ball Z, the super-charged anime series that introduced generations of  fans to the world of Japanese animation. What a lot of people might not know, is that Z is only the  part of the story. Before that it was plain old Dragon Ball, based on the first part of Akira Toriyama's bestselling manga. DBZ followed the grown-up Goku, but when the story began he was  a monkey-tail-sporting feral child, living alone in the wilderness since his Grandfather passed away. His peaceful existence is interrupted by a teenage girl named Bulma, who is searching for the  legendary Dragon Balls. According to the Legend, whoever gathers all seven of the titular spheres will have one wish granted by the great dragon Shen-Long. Young Goku is persuaded to tag  along and help Bulma on her quest, but unsurprisingly, they're not the only one after the Dragon Balls!

If your only experience of the Dragon Ball franchise is Z, then you're in for quite a surprise. While the later series focussed on super-powered action, the first series was a very different prospect. The early stages of Dragon Ball are a light-hearted comedic action romp. There's much less emphasis on action - you'll find no battles that last for episodes on end here. Instead it focuses on adventure,with the quest for the balls taking centre stage.

There was also a much greater emphasis on humour, with much of it played for laughs. Akira Toriyama's original manga was incredibly funny, and it translates well to the screen. Surprisingly, the humour is pretty bawdy, with plenty of toilet humour and cheeky jokes. A great deal of mileage is got out of the fact that Goku has yet to learn about the birds and the bees and had never even seen a girl before he met Bulma. Added to the pre-pubescent Goku's complete lack of body-modesty, it's always surprising what was considered suitable for Japanese kids in the 80's.

Later in the volume Goku competes in his first World Martial Arts Tournament, and the action steps up a notch. This is where the manga -and by extension the show- first lays down the groundwork of transforming into the series it would later become.

Although this series was aired in Japan first, it only made its way to the US and UK after the success of it's sequel series. It had an airing on Toonami in the noughties, but this is the first time that the series has been available to UK fans in it's entirety, completely uncut. Like the previous Dragon Ball releases, this is a beautifully restored, value-packed edition worthy of adding to the collection. Naturally the animation is a little dated, but from our vantage point of 2014, there's little difference between this and Dragon Ball Z or even Dragon Ball GT. The dub leaves a little to be desired, with a few examples of toning down the original that will annoy purists. But the original language version is included so it's churlish to complain.

There's also a nifty extra in the form of the 45-minute "movie" Curse of The Blood Rubies. It's an alternate retelling of the first few episodes, that adds new animation and characters. It also comes in the form of a dodgy TV edit, so it's more of a curiosity than anything, but it's a nice addition none-the-less.

This is a must-have for any Dragon Ball completist, but a great buy for more casual fans as well. Goku's early years might not be quite as dramatic as his adult adventures but this is just as entertaining in its own right. Thoroughly recommended.

DRAGON BALL: SEASON ONE is available on  DVD from MANGA UK from May 5th 2014,  and is  also available from FUNIMATION in North America (Content may vary). Some episodes are also available STREAMING Via HULU, [US] and  FUNIMATION [US].