Dragon Ball: The Path to Power is actually the 17th film to be released that is based on the Dragon Ball manga series. The film was directed by Shigeyasu Yamauchi, and it was originally released in Japan on March 4, 1996 at the Toei Anime Fair. This film was produced to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Dragon Ball franchise. The film has received a few North American home video releases. As of this writing, the film is currently only available on DVD as part of four disc Dragon Ball movie release.
The Path to Power has to be looked at as yet another "alternate timeline"; however, not only is it an alternate timeline to the anime series, it is also an alternate timeline to the three Dragon Ball films. This 80-minute film is yet another retelling of Dragon Ball. In this film, not only does Goku go through some of the events of the original 13 episodes (meeting Bulma, Oolong, Yamucha, and Pur-eh), he also encounters the Red Ribbon Army and goes through Muscle Tower; however, he doesn't befriend Sunono or the scientist, and he doesn't have to fight Murosaki.
Overall, I felt that the storytelling in this film was rather choppy, which turned the film into a complete mess. If this film is someone's first introduction to the Dragon Ball franchise, it would more than likely turn them off from the property, because it would be hard to follow. I really got the impression from the film that the director expected the viewers to already have familiarity with the Dragon Ball franchise through the anime series.
As for the animation, it was obviously made during a time when CG animation hadn't been refined yet. A number of the shots almost literally scream, "Look at me! I was animated with a computer!" I didn't like the "texture" of the characters when compared to the original anime; looking at the characters, they almost looked plastic. It was also rather obvious that the animators had become too accustomed to working on Dragon Ball Z by this point, because Yamucha's facial expressions were drawn in such a way that he looked more like Vegeta instead of Yamucha, especially when Yamucha would have a smug grin on his face. I was also a little annoyed that a decision was made to change Bulma's hair from blue to purple.
I saw this film on the DVD that is included as part of the Dragon Ball 4-Movie DVD box set. When this disc was included in the set, FUNimation didn't bother to put on any extras at all; they didn't even bother putting any trailers on the disc, either. In addition, this set was supposed to be remastered; however, I thought the video looked rather grainy. I can't really comment on the audio, since I saw it with mono Japanese audio.
Personally, I can only truly recommend this film for the die-hard Dragon Ball fans that must own everything on DVD, especially since this film is only available as part of a box set.
I wrote this review after giving a copy of the Dragon Ball 4-Movie DVD Box Set as a gift to my husband.