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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

3 Theories to Fix "Resurrection F"

With the recent Home Video release of the latest DragonBall Z film, "Resurrection F," I was given the opportunity to watch the movie for the first time since I saw it in August during its theatrical run. While all of the enjoyment of the great aspects of the film came rushing back, so too did the horrific power imbalances and discrepancies. It would take an absolutely blind fan to claim that there were no problems with Resurrection F. While the film is enjoyable despite its problems, as someone who used to spend his days trying to make accurate and detailed Battle Power lists, these inconsistencies make me writhe in an irrational fanboy rage.

So, to fix these power problems, I came up with some personal solutions. Theories. Head-Canons, if you will. While this should go without saying, these theories are by no means fact. Although they are not impossible, they are also not steeped in any real evidence from the film.


Problem #1: Freeza states that with training he could obtain a Battle Power of 1.3 Million.

What's Wrong?: During the battle on Namek, Freeza's Battle Power has already been stated to be "Over 1 Million" in his Second Form. While some fans have taken the Resurrection F line to mean 1.3 Million in his First Form, this would also be a problem as he was able to defeat Gohan in a single blow. Both Piccolo and Gohan claimed that there is no way they could defeat Freeza based on his First Form Ki alone.

The Theory: Freeza actually meant that he could increase his power by "1.3 Million times." A bit of a stretch, yes. But considering the unimaginable scale Goku, Vegeta, and Freeza are on in Resurrection F, this doesn't seem so implausible. Especially when you consider that Freeza admits to not putting forth an effort to actually train. Is it really so hard to believe that he may have slacked off in his education as well? Maybe he has trouble with multiplication. Lord knows that the Evil Emperor can't tell time.


Problem #2: Piccolo and Shisami fight on roughly even terms. Shisami even seemed to have the edge.

What's Wrong?: Near the start of the film, Sorbet states that Shisami has power to rival that of Zarbon and Dodoria. Which means that at an absolute maximum, Shisami should be equal to Monster Form Zarbon, which could not be any higher than a 40,000 Battle Power and that's being very generous. Zarbon would more-so sit around 32,000-34,000. There's no way that a fighter with that kind of power could go toe-to-toe with Piccolo, whose power is well above that of the the Artificial Human Arc Super Saiyans.

The Theory: In order to aid in his training, Freeza decided to take a sparring partner. Shisami, being the strongest member of the Freeza Force at the time, was chosen. While no match for Freeza, 4 months doing nothing but training with him increased his power exponentially to the point of being able to fight Piccolo.


Problem #3: Goku's chest is pierced by Sorbet's Ray Gun when he is off-guard.

What's Wrong?: I don't care how off-guard Goku was. I don't care if Freeza states that being off-guard causes even Goku's body to go soft. There is no way that even in the greatest depths of any imaginable hell should Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Goku be able to be felled by a mere Ray Gun used by the likes of the weakest of Freeza soldiers.

The Theory: The Ray Gun was infused with Freeza's Ki. It's stated to have been Freeza's plan from the start to have Sorbet fire at an off-guard Goku should the need arise. So taking that into account, it's plausible to believe that Freeza put a bit more effort and thought into his Plan B. While a normal Ray Gun shouldn't take down Goku, one infused with a single condensed shot of Freeza's own energy could.


So, there you have it. My 3 theories that attempt to fix up the major power discrepancies within Resurrection F. I hope you enjoyed this read. Until next time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Way Past Cool" Additions in "3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2"

As someone who has played Sonic the Hedgehog games since 1993 and is also a huge fan of the 16-bit Era, purchasing M2's 3D-upgraded port of "Sonic 2" was a no-brainer. I'm not going to waste my time reviewing this game itself as it needs no defending or reasons to purchase based on the game's merits alone. However, what should be made of note is a few of the nice little features that the 3DS port adds.

First off, one of the features is one that some fans may not have known about. That being, the port showcases a few minor visual differences between the original Japanese and International versions. By selecting "Japanese" in the game's settings, you can play the game as it was originally presented in its Japanese release. While the differences are minor and do not effect gameplay, they are none the less neat.

Take the above comparison for example. As you can see, while the version that those of us in English-speaking countries played refers to the character of Miles "Tails" Prower by his nickname of "Tails," the original Japanese refers to him by his actual name of "Miles." While some may not find this to be a big deal, I found it somewhat jarring to see.

Additionally, M2's port features a couple of extra modes that both new and old fans can enjoy. There's "Ring Keeper Mode," which lets you start each Stage with 10 Rings and makes it that you only lose half of your Rings when you take damage. There's also "Super Sonic Mode," which like the name suggests, lets you play through any level or the entire game with the ability to transform into Super Sonic at the beginning of every Stage. Each Stage even starts you off with 50 Rings so that you can make the transformation with your first Jump.

Despite being a game that I've played since before I began Kindergarten, I've been obsessively playing 3D Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as though I've never seen the game before. It's an absolute must-own for any Retro Gaming fans.