Thursday, January 28, 2016

Road to 508: DBZ Movies 5-6

Coola is without a doubt my favorite Movie villain for the sheer nostalgia of Movie 5 being the very first DragonBall Z Movie that I ever watched. Funny enough, the main reason I chose to buy that Movie on that 2002 Summer day wasn't even because it was a DBZ Movie, but rather because it came with 3 Coola Main Personality cards for Score's Collectible Card Game. But even with all of the nostalgic feelings, when I popped these on in Japanese, I was very intent on remaining completely un-bias towards this review.

So first up is DragonBall Z Movie 5, "The Incredible Strongest vs. Strongest." I'll admit, I was a bit worried heading into this. Ryusei Nakao is the entire reason that I even began watching the franchise in Japanese and while I absolutely love his Freeza, I was worried about how he would handle playing Coola. Masako Nozawa has always been brilliant at differentiating between the various characters that she plays, and I was hoping for the same from Nakao. Despite thinking that Nakao did a wonderful job making Chilled from "Episode of Bardock" sound different, this Movie was released in July 1991, right during Nakao's run of playing Freeza in the TV Series. So I had my worries that Coola would just sound like Freeza Mach II rather than the completely different character that I've always viewed him as thanks to the years of Andrew Chandler playing the role opposite Linda Young's Freeza.

Thankfully, I can say without a doubt, that Nakao delivered in more ways than one. What Nakao does with Coola is present a deeper sounding voice somewhat akin to his Second Form Freeza voice. But it's not so much the voice itself that sets Coola apart from Freeza. Rather, it's the manner in which Coola holds himself. Contrary to Nakao's faux-polite Freeza who goes from the smooth-talking Prince of the Cold lineage to a whiny, insane brat when things go bad, Coola is presented in a far more mature manner. Coola really comes off as an older brother who is tired of his brother's antics and his father's preference to his younger brother despite his (Coola's) clear superiority. Hell, this impression is only heightened when you take into account that we learned (Thanks to Resurrection F) that Freeza never trained a day in his life. Meanwhile, Coola has clearly spent his time trying.

One thing I was disappointed with is Coola's voice in his Final Form. I enjoyed how FUNimation's Dub had Andrew Chandler deepen his voice in addition to a pretty interesting filter that his put over the voice to compensate for Coola's mouth cover. The Japanese version simply chose an airy, sort of metallic filter that made it sound more like Coola was standing in a large, empty ballroom. Not very impressive. But the 11 year difference between those two recordings could have presented a difference in technological ability for stuff like that.

Finally, there is one last thing that I think needs discussion. Aside from the randomly inserted jokes that essentially defined the greatest problem with FUNimation's DragonBall scripts of that time, this Movie was adapted relatively faithfully. EXCEPT FOR ONE AREA. The original Japanese script had Coola recognize Goku as the Saiyan that he allowed to escape all of those years ago from practically the moment he saw Goku. The Dub on the other hand, chose to have Coola not remember that moment and wonder how Goku managed to escape Planet Vegeta's destruction. It wasn't until the very end of the film, where Coola is being incinerated against the Sun that he remembers that he chose to not to shoot down Goku's ship. I'm normally not a fan of the Dub changing the script as my fanboy rage equates such an act to heretic-level actions. However, this is one case where I think it was for the best. While it doesn't present much effect through the bulk of the film, Coola's final moments are completely heightened in intensity by this change to the script. For years, that Dub dialogue not only gave me chills and made my hairs stand on end, but actually defined this entire Movie for me. I was genuinely upset to learn that it was only a Dub line and had no place what-so-ever in the original.

Overall, I prefer the Japanese version of this Movie as the Dub has begun to sound downright strange to me over the recent years. But those last moments for Coola will always live on in my head with the Dub's dialogue.

Next up is DragonBall Z Movie 6, "Clash!! 10,000,000,000 Powerful Warriors." Given that I just gave my thoughts on Nakao's Coola in the above paragraphs, I've decided to use this Movie's discussion to give a second round of thoughts on one of the Z-Fighters. Back when I reviewed the 23rd Budokai, I had a number of negative things to say about Toshio Furukawa as Piccolo. While they were not all negative, it was probably the most critical I've ever been of a character that is (or becomes) a Z-Fighter. However, upon watching through much more of his performances since then, in addition to another solid one in this Movie, I must retract a number of my negative remarks. Despite what I used to think, a deep and gravely Sabat-like voice is not needed for Piccolo. While I still can't really say the voice is the greatest for the attempted heir to the Daimao throne, as his character is during the 23rd Budokai, I do feel that Furukawa's Piccolo exemplifies most of all the essence of an intelligent warrior who is truly suited for the role of a mentor as Piccolo comes to take on. As a result, Furukawa has become my definitive Piccolo voice.

That's it for this entry. Next up will be either the Bardock TV Special or the beginning of the Artificial Humans Arc. Until then!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Road to 508: The Garlic Jr. Arc

Ah, Garlic Jr...Main villain of the first and one of the better DragonBall Z Movies. A character whose backstory, plot, and immortality could create one of the greatest battles in Anime history. The great Son Goku taking on the Immortal Garlic Jr. once again. Alas my fellow DragonBall fans. Instead we are treated to a poorly paced, Goku-less story that is only worsened by its random fluctuation of all of the character's power. Although I will say that sitting through this story in Japanese is much more bearable without the Dub's lame jokes and iffy, circa-2000 acting.

However, these blogs are mostly about the voices and Garlic Jr. is voiced by the one and only Shigeru Chiba. In my most recent entry, when I reviewed Movie 1, I stated disappointment with Akira Kamiya's Garlic Jr. performance. Knowing Shigeru Chiba for his wacky vocal antics in roles such as: Kuwabara, Emperor Pilaf, and Fist of the North Star's Narrator, I was hyped to hear a Japanese Garlic Jr. that falls in line with the way I perceive the character. Unfortunately, I was greeted with a performance along the lines of Kamiya's. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with this, but I really think that the English Dub has a better perception of Garlic Jr. vocally. To me, Garlic Jr. is a lunatic and an immature Daddy's Boy. Someone who was probably spoiled thanks to his father's power and now whines because he can't obtain the same greatness that his father once had. Chuck Huber's FUNimation voice perfectly exemplifies this and to me makes him my go-to Garlic Jr. It's a real shame because I think Chiba could have done some great things with this character had he played it differently.

Normally, I don't cover non-Toriyama side villains in these Blogs as they tend to just run together as lame and generic bad guys. However, I feel the need to discuss Daisuke Gouri as Vinegar. Not for the character, not for comparison to the Dub, but rather simply to praise the late, great actor. I haven't had the opportunity to really discuss him much in my recent entries and although he has some more prolific characters coming up in the next Arc, I fear they may be lost in the shuffle of other character discussions. Daisuke Gouri was and always will be remembered as the iconic deep voice that defined a generation of Anime and its fans. It's hard to walk two feet into the world of 80's and 90's Anime without hearing his booming and commanding voice. His portrayal of Vinegar is no different. He takes an otherwise forgettable character and makes you pay attention every time he's on the screen. While the Dub attempts to replicate this tone, the weak, early-FUNimation acting makes it come off as goofy rather than anything Gouri presented.

That will do it for this entry. Next up is DragonBall Z Movies 5 and 6. Look forward to it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Road to 508: DBZ Movies 1-4

It's time to dust off my notepad and press onward because today I am giving my thoughts on the first 4 DragonBall Z Movies through my first Japanese-language watch through. This entry will follow the same format as my thoughts on the 4 DragonBall Movies. In other words, I will focus primarily on the voices and acting of the main villains in each of the 4 Movies. While some of the side villains do have legendary Seiyuu voicing them, the characters themselves are generally unmemorable, one-note characters. I don't feel that they need much vocal analysis, let alone comparison to an English Dub. Additionally, as I've noted in prior entries, my preferred version of the franchise has been the Manga for years. Which is the reason why I have never compared the Japanese script to the English script. Simply put, the Japanese script has been no shock or stranger to me as most of it is prevalent in the Manga. However, in the case of the Movies, with no corresponding Manga, this was my introduction to the original script. While I would like to highlight comparisons and my feelings on the differences in future Movie analyses, I don't find that necessary here. This being because my primary remembrance of the Dub Scripts for Movies 1-3 has always been the Ocean Dub, which have an incredibly accurate script. So, without any further delay, let's delve in...

First up is DragonBall Z Movie 1, "Return My Gohan!!" Akira Kamiya is no stranger to performing over the top vocals via his roles as Kenshiro and Kogoro Mouri. With myself being such a huge fan of his work in those roles, I was really hyped to hear his performance. Unfortunately, I was treated to nothing more than a typical villain voice. Garlic Jr. is a character that's small in stature and DragonBall is a franchise that has always given its villains memorable and (at times) quirky voices. Frankly, I really expected Kamiya to give an over the top performance akin to either of the English Dub voices. Taking my pick, I'd say Chuck Huber of FUNimation's in-house Dub is the superior Garlic Jr. voice. It's fun, quirky, and really fits well with some of the outlandish Garlic Jr. facial expressions throughout the film. Kamiya's performance is perhaps a perfect example of stellar casting mixed with poor directorial choice. Oh well, at least Toshio Furukawa was able to aid in defeating his self-described "voice acting rival."

Next is DragonBall Z Movie 2, "The World's Strongest Guy." Playing the role of Dr. Uiro is Kouji Nakata and he gives a stellar performance. He does everything that both major English Dubs did not. Nakata gives a sense of age and wisdom behind Uiro's psychotic tendencies, while still giving a sense of natural flow and tone to his voice. Nakata's voice never seems forced and gives for a much more interesting interpretation of the character than his English counterparts. Additionally, Kouji Yata, who plays the role of Dr. Kochin does a wonderful job of blending the mad scientist element of his character, with an almost decrepit and deformed element to his voice. Which is something that the Dubs really missed out on. Watching Movie 2 in Japanese really gives you a completely different vibe for its two main villains and just goes to show how much a voice can alter your perception of a character, even with a solid script.

Speaking of a different perception, DragonBall Z Movie 3, "A Super Decisive Battle for Earth," features Masako Nozawa playing opposite herself in the role of Tullece. This was the single most fantastic experience watching these 4 Movies in Japanese for the first time. Masako Nozawa absolutely shines as she really shows just what a good actor can do while using very similar voices on one heroic and one villainous character at the same time. Listening to Goku and Tullece speak to each other in Japanese finally gave me a sense of what I've only read about in snippets from the Film's staff. Listening to Nozawa play Tullece truly gives you a sense of what this Movie was trying to do. That being, it shows you what Goku would have been like had he not hit his head as a child. Nozawa's Tullece truly is an Evil Goku and not just a visual copy as watching any Dub might give you feeling of. Dub fans are really missing out by sticking with only the Dub because both the Ocean Dub and FUNimation Dub utterly dropped the ball by not having their respective Goku's play Tullece.

Finally, DragonBall Z Movie 4, "Super Saiyan Son Goku." Playing the role of Lord Slug is Yusaku Yara. Unlike my praise for the prior film, I don't have much to say in regards to Yara's performance. While it's by no means a "bad" performance, I feel that he fails to make his "Old Slug" voice and his "Young Slug" voice sound like the same person. To me these feel like two completely different voices and don't really share a common thread that makes you feel like one is just a youthful version of the other. To be honest, I truly thought it was two different voice actors through my entire viewing. Brice Armstrong on the FUNimation Dub side of things does a brilliant job doing what his Japanese counterpart could not. Armstrong's flow as the character plays really strong and his acting is a standout performance in a Dub that is otherwise filled with very bad, early FUNimation acting. Brice Armstrong gets the win here.

Also, while not a major role, I should note that this is the very first time Naoko Watanabe plays the role of Chi-Chi. She succeeded Mayumi Sho, who left the role to take care of her newly born child. Watanabe's first outing as Chi-Chi was not a very impressive one. Her entire performance sounded like a bad impression of her predecessor and really failed to capture the down home charm that Sho brought to the role. I honestly didn't know who I was listening to upon this viewing as it sounded nothing like what Watanabe's voice would become and certainly didn't sound like Sho either.

But, despite the negatives that I have listed in regards to the Japanese version of Movie 4, it was still much better to watch without all of FUNimation's lame jokes thrown in. Despite the Dub's script getting the general story down-pat, it is otherwise absolutely littered with jokes and puns that really take all of the suspense out nearly every scene in a Movie that's not too good to begin with.

So there you have it. My thoughts upon watching the Japanese version of Movies 1-4 for the first time. While I'm not positive what my next entry will be about, I'm leaning towards the Bardock TV Special. So, until next time!

The Future of "Road to 508"

My favorite series of entries that I do on this Blog is one that I've slowly worked on for YEARS now. "Road to 508" is a series that I've done in which I watch the entirety of the DragonBall franchise through in Japanese. No skipping filler. No fast-forwarding through long power ups. The reason that I started this project was because I've always been a huge fan of the Manga. It's always been Manga or nothing as far as discussing "canon" goes and I mean that to the very wording of a line. So that being the case, in the past I always just stuck with the Dub when watching the Anime. I figured that there was no point in watching it in Japanese when I knew the original story via the Manga and the Dub voices had such nostalgia for me. Additionally, I now had the option of watching the Dub with the original Japanese music. Of course, over the past half-decade, that opinion has vastly changed and my primary way of viewing DragonBall is in Japanese. But when I first started this, it was for a desire to finally discover DragonBall's animation in all of its original glory.

It's funny, I've continued my "Road to 508" watch through and am basically done with the entire Z-Era, save for a few of the bad Films. I've written my notes on everything I've watched, yet I haven't written one of these articles in a long time. This backlog of notes and lack of actual writing has caused a problem. That being, 508 is no longer the total amount of episodes in the DragonBall franchise. With DragonBall Super currently 17 episodes into its Japanese broadcast and no knowledge of what the final episode count will be, this causes a problem for the name of my blog series.

In the end, I'm just posting this small entry right now because I plan on finally releasing a new one sometime this weekend. All I want to say is that, despite DragonBall Super, I will continue to refer to the series as "Road to 508." Consider it the road to the end of DragonBall's original/un-revived run. Look forward to the next entry very soon!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Reliving Memories with Panini's DBZ TCG

When I first became a DragonBall fan 13 years ago, I also immediately became interested in the DragonBall Z CCG (Collectible Card Game) that Score Entertainment was releasing at the time. Some of my greatest memories from my first couple of years of DragonBall fandom came from collecting those cards, building and enhancing decks, and battling with those decks. Hell, after I watched my first episode of DBZ and instantly fell in love with the series, I went out and bought a pack of cards (my first ever pack). In that pack I got a Foil version of this card, which I thought was just the coolest damn thing. My young pre-teen self quickly declared it my "lucky card" and placed it in my wallet. That same card has been in every wallet I've owned since and still is to this day.

The bottom line is that I have nothing but fond memories of that game and when it completed its run with the final expansion of their DragonBall GT era, I was deeply saddened. After that, Score Entertainment tried to revive the game from the beginning of DBZ, but that flopped and was finished by mid-2006. Then Bandai tried to release a CCG in 2008, which also flopped rather quickly. I tried my hand at both of these other card games, but was sorely disappointed by both their gameplay and lack of availability in stores. So when I was Christmas shopping in late-November last year and saw that the company "Panini" was trying their hand at reviving DBZ cards, I was very skeptical. I saw a number of Starter Decks and Booster packs on the wall at FYE, but decided to pass on the game. I simply didn't want to waste my money again on a game that would flop within a year.

Back in April I was at a Target and my wife, Michelle, noticed that the packs of cards mentioned that you could get Main Personalities like "Tenshinhan." Not "Tien," but rather "Tenshinhan." The fact that any North American DragonBall merchandise outside of Viz Media's book releases, the Dragon Boxes, and Subtitle tracks would use anything but Dub terminology really threw me for a loop. I mean we live in nerd society where pretty much any minor alteration that a Dub makes to a series is scrutinized beyond all belief...EXCEPT DRAGONBALL. That's right, here in 2015 the common fan still believes FUNimation's Dub of DragonBall Z to be the epitome of awesome and will damn anything that strays away from their Krillins and Special Beam Cannons to hell. So the fact that this random Card Game chose to use a non-Dub name made me immediately purchase a pack.

Upon opening it, not only was I treated to a Tenshinhan card, but I quickly noticed that this new TCG really was very reminiscent and faithful to the one from my youth. A few months later, after seeing "Resurrection F" in theaters, I decided to cash-in on my hype from that night and buy some Starter Decks to play the game. I got one for myself and one for Michelle. We got Goku and Vegeta as our MPs, respectively. Although I was honestly hoping for Piccolo as he was the MP that I got in my first Starter Deck back in 2002, I was still happy to have Goku.

Once we began playing I was treated to a huge kick of nostalgia. The game plays pretty much just like the old one, with a couple of minor alterations here and there to help along the flow of the game. Now I'm not really interested in giving a formal review, but in short...The game is not only fun, but truly captures the essence of DragonBall as best as a Card Game possibly can. Between cards that attack and block. Cards that are physical attacks or Ki attacks. Not to mention technique cards called "Drills" which essentially represent the fruits of your training. In the end, you'd be hard pressed to find an Anime based TCG that better represents its source material than this game. I really hope that expansions and support continue because we are having a blast playing.