Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure (1988)

Film: Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure (Doragon bôru: Makafushigi dai bôken)
Release: 1988, Theatrical
Starring: Ceyli Delgadillo, Meredith McCoy, Kent Williams
Directed by: Kazuhisa Takenouichi
Previous in the series: Dragon Ball: Sleeping Princess in Devil's Castle
Next in the series: Dragon Ball Z: The Dead Zone
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Taking place a year later, Goku and Krillin has finished their training with Master Roshi and is going to the big city to prove themselves in the international martial arts tournament. Meanwhile, a child emperor has lost his queen and is gathering the legendary dragon balls in order to find her, little aware that his advisor has sinister purposes of his own

Hans' thoughts:

Presumably this movie takes place in the same version of the Dragon Ball universe where the two previous films takes place, as once again we have a retelling of, this time not only one but two major story arcs from the main comics with a series of changes made to make it work as a film. The story lines combined are what is known among fans as "The 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai" and "The Red Ribbon Saga" but with major changes in what amount of involvement different characters have in the plot and what position they have. Most notable are the changes done to the characters of Tien and Chiaotzu. In the original comics, Tien and Chiaotzu made their first appearance as competitors in a martial arts tournament being misguided into cruelty by their ambitious master and rival of Master Roshi, Master Shen. In this version, Chiaotzu is the child emperor of the nation where the tournament is held, Shen is his deceiving advisor and Tien serves as his bodyguard, on top of that, what in the series and comics is known as the Red Ribbon army owned by the devilish Commander Red is in this version the royal army of Emperor Chiaotzu, with Mercenary Tao Bai Bai serving as it's general and Master Shen serving as it's behind-the-scenes commander. Blue does make an appearance as well, but in this case he serves as a lieutenant rather than a General.

However in spite of all these changes, the core feel of the story is actually kept very much intact. Characters still play the same role as they did before but in a vastly different setting and it makes for a interesting "what if..?" scenario. This story, while not entirely humorless, does have a more serious tone but it differentiates from Sleeping Princess in Devil's Castle by actually giving a sense of high stakes. The martial arts tournament also gives the opportunity for more action scenes, but (perhaps thankfully) the focus is quickly shifted to giving us a main villain in the form of Mercenary Tao. Tao was the first character to actually start killing people in the series so having him here makes for a really badass bad guy. His motivations are purely based on bloodlust however, so perhaps for the sake of substance Master Shen is there as well as the one pulling the strings. 

Oddly enough this movie doesn't use any original characters at all to the point of keeping scenes from the original story arcs you wouldn't consider all that important. The most obvious one would be the inclusion of Goku's journey to Penguin City, for those not in the know, Penguin City was the setting for a comedic series called Dr. Slump that the author of the original comic book Akira Toriyama had done before he went on to create Dragon Ball. In the comic, Goku travels to Penguin City while fighting the villanous General Blue of the Red Ribbon army. There he meets some of the characters from Dr. Slump comic series and is even assisted by them in the fight. This is somewhat kept into the movie, as Arale, the superpowered main character of the series stays around to spectate a battle between Goku and Mercenary Tao throughout their second battle. It was meant as a easter egg for the fans of Dr. Slump in the original manga, so keeping it in a movie adaptation is one thing, but putting her on the poster is a really strange choice. Why they did this is anyone's guess but my bet is that it was done for marketing reasons.

Most of Goku's normal allies, while definitely present throughout, takes a major backseat in this movie. This is mainly Goku's adventure and it is mostly focused on having Goku overcome his struggles by himself. This makes the other characters mainly serve as expository characters and most of their scenes involve comic relief. Honestly though, if it wasn't for the cheerful music and bright colors some of the moments in this one actually becomes pretty serious so I'm glad they at the very least decided to leave the other characters in the movie. The Red Ribbon Army saga of the comics is one of my favorite comic book plotlines out there, so take it from me when I say that all the changes made to the story actually doesn't take you out of the experience. Instead it's a fun movie and perhaps one of the best Dragon Ball movies out there, Z or otherwise included.

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