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Special thanks to forum user arromdee who pointed us to what is the oldest English-language coverage in our “Press Archive” right now: a review of Harmony Gold’s English dub of the first Dragon Ball movie from the Winter 1991 issue of Markalite magazine (beating out the Summer 1991 Animenominous feature article by just a couple seasons).
In this brief review from the “ShortTakes” column, Mike Kure describes the relatively faithful adaptation from Harmony Gold, also commenting on the series’ and film’s colorful cast of characters and humor:
Harmony Gold deserves credit for putting this little gem together. Though I’m sure it’s no easy thing, it may be easier to translate an action-adventure film because the stress must be on the visuals. But DRAGONBALL, which also concentrates on characterization and humor, must have been a more difficult job. The task becomes even more perplexing when you take in account that it’s Japanese humor that needs to be successfully translated into humor that we Americans can understand and appreciate. Fortunately for us, Harmony Gold manages to pull it off beautifully.
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Harmony Gold dubbed the first and third Dragon Ball films as a sort of backdoor pilot for the television series, which they also briefly began production on. After Harmony Gold dropped the series, FUNimation picked up the license and began syndicating the original Dragon Ball television series in 1995 before moving on to Dragon Ball Z in 1996; check out some of the articles from Protoculture Addicts in the 1990s for an early look at FUNimation’s attempts and strategy.