Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone is the first film released for the Dragon Ball Z franchise. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 15, 1989, between episodes 11 and 12 of Dragon Ball Z. FUNimation Entertainment, the U.S. rights holder for Dragon Ball Z, has released this film several times in several different formats.
At the start of the film, Piccolo is attacked by unknown assailants. Then, the unknown assailants go to Goku's home and attack Chi-Chi and her father, the Ox King. The assailants say they want the Dragon Ball on top of Gohan's hat, and they kidnap him before Goku returns home. With the help of Master Roshi, Bulma, and Krillin, Goku is able to locate where Gohan is.
Meanwhile, it is revealed that Garlic Jr. and his henchmen are the ones responsible for kidnapping Gohan. When Garlic Jr.'s henchmen retrieve all seven of the Dragon Balls, he summons Shen Long and asks for immortality, so he can take revenge for his father's death and rule over the world. Shen Long grants his wish for immortality. Kami and Goku arrive at the same time, and a fight ensues: Kami versus Garlic Jr., and Goku versus the henchmen. When it seems Goku isn't going to be able to win, Piccolo and Krillin appear to help even out the fight. The film culminates to an epic battle between Garlic Jr. versus a temporary team of Goku and Piccolo.
The film itself only runs for about 45 minutes in length, which is essentially equivalent to a "double length" episode. The pacing of this film is actually very natural, so it's a different viewing experience from watching the actual episodes of the Dragon Ball Z series. If the snail's pace of the anime series annoys you, then you might actually enjoy watching this film.
At worst, there is only one section that I felt was "time kill" (when Gohan eats a piece of fruit after being kidnapped by Garlic Jr., and he ends up getting drunk and singing a song). While I understand that they needed something to happen to Gohan so he would forget what would happen near the end of the film, I thought having him singing while he's drunk and seeing hallucinations was a little "over the top."
Even with its faults, this film is important to watch if you follow the anime series. Dead ZoneDragon Ball Z; if you don't watch this film before seeing these episodes, you could potentially become very confused.
The animation style for this film is a little different from what is seen in the Dragon Ball Z anime series. In some respects, you can still see some of the animation style from the Dragon Ball series that preceded this film. Also, the animation in the film is a little sharper than what appears in the actual television series.
If you're a fan of the Dragon Ball anime franchise, then this movie would be worth adding to your collection.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of the videocassette through the King County Library System.