Dragon Ball & Dragon Ball Z (partially lost original broadcast audio; 1986-1996)
|Title card for the 1986 series.|
Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール, "Doragon Boru") is a manga that ran from 1984 to 1995. Composed of 519 chapters in 41 volumes, the manga chronicled the adventures of the monkey-tailed boy Son Goku as he searched the world for seven mystical objects known as "Dragon Balls", which would summon a dragon when brought together to grant a single wish. The manga's popularity helped codify many tropes of the newly-emerged fighting genre, and would quickly gain two anime adaptations by Toei Animation: Dragon Ball (which covered the first 194 chapters of the manga and ran from 1986 to 1989) and Dragon Ball Z (which covered the remaining 325 chapters and ran from 1989 to 1996). While the shows proved to be immensely popular with audiences, Toei ran into considerable difficulties when it came to releasing them on home video: they had already junked the audio master tapes for the entire series.
After the initial broadcast of each episode, Toei would wipe its audio master. This procedure was considered standard for the first two decades of the TV anime industry's life, as it was easier to broadcast and store optical audio, which is stored directly on the film reel rather than occupying a separate unit. However, production studios eventually started to retain their master tapes in the late 1970's, when TV stations began broadcasting shows with the master audio. The rise of home media in the 1980's further compounded this, motivating more and more studios to hold on to their masters to ensure the highest quality releases for consumers. Toei, however, was very skeptical about home media, viewing the sale of TV shows to children in a negative light. Adding onto the fact that 16mm film reels and magnetic audiotape reels occupied the same amount of storage space, Toei decided to continue wiping master tapes under the impression that they would be useless and voluminous if they were simply left in storage untouched. However, this attitude changed around the 2000's, when Dragon Ball Z experienced a boom in popularity in the United States, and Toei finally decided to unearth their reels for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z for DVD releases in Japan. Because Toei no longer possessed the audio they needed, however, all home media releases featuring the shows' Japanese audio utilized the optical audio taken from their film reels, which had undergone noticeable deterioration over the years. As a result, the optical audio is significantly lower in quality than before, featuring higher amounts of white noise & tin and sounding more muted than the master tapes.
Because anime studios usually didn't provide distribution copies of their audio masters for foreign regions at the time (as dubbing was the most popular choice back then), Toei has never made any efforts to recover the lost audiotapes. However, numerous individuals from the Kanto region were able to record each episode of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z on their VCRs and upload the audio of each recording online decades later. Because television broadcasts in Kanto were received directly from Tokyo Tower rather than NTT (which cut out high tones to block white noise), their audio was virtually untouched from the original masters, allowing them to be significantly clearer than the audio used for all other broadcasts & releases. Since this audio was taken directly from the original broadcast of the anime, it has appropriately been dubbed the "original broadcast audio." It is not known how much of the master audio has survived from this method, as all available recordings of it only utilize segments of each episode. It may also be quite some time before the master audio can be fully recovered, given how Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z ran for a combined total of 444 episodes (approximately 222 hours of runtime).