In this first of thirteen Dragon Ball Z films, villain Garlic Jr. (Akira Kamiya), who would return to wreak further havoc in the television series directly following the excellent Frieza Saga, makes his debut with a diabolical scheme to gain immortality via the dragon balls and to avenge his father, who was defeated by Kami's (Takeshi Aono) predecessor and banished to the so-called "Dead Zone." With the help of his three wacky henchmen, Garlic Jr. succeeds in gathering all seven dragon balls and is granted his wish for immortality. It's up to Goku (Masako Nozawa) and friends to put an end to this sinister plot.
Firstly, you should know that, in the Dragon Ball Z chronology, Dead Zone precedes the entire series and the arrival of Raditz. Secondly, I'm a huge fan of the Dragon Ball Z series and was known to throw tantrums if I missed even a single episode during my early teens. It was only in a recent bout of nostalgia, however, that I rewatched the entire series in its 291-episode, uncut, uncensored, remastered glory. I had never seen this film before, however, and I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to disguise my disappointment any longer.
Dead Zone is a disaster of a film, but, considering its forty-one-minute runtime, it should come as no surprise. It would need to be at least twice as long to be worth even half its weight in excrement, but I'll be frank: I'm glad it wasn't longer because even forty-one minutes was a feat of endurance on my part. With zero character development, an uninteresting and downright annoying villain, and a story any six-year-old could have written on a napkin in under two minutes, the only conceivable reason to see this film is if, like me, you were curious about where this Garlic Jr. character came from when he seems to come out of nowhere in episode 108 of the television series.
The corny antics and the terrible pacing really do a number on this film.