S: Hello everyone! My name is Scott and welcome a blog post meant to replace a podcast that never happened. Due to tech issues, that podcast is most likely never going to see the light of day. Still, we should get some of our thoughts out about the dragon ball franchise out for everyone to see anyway. Thus we have this collaboration post. Yay, you should be all happy about this. At least pretend, ok?
To start this off, I think we should talk about how we’ve gotten into the Dragon Ball franchise as a whole. For me, I am just going to say Toonami. I watched it all on Toonami guys. Not only Dragon Ball Z, but Dragon Ball as well. Even GT when it appeared on some Cartoon Network thing. I was one of the kids playing DBZ on the playground. Then I should mention that I rewatch DB and DBZ a few more times on the internet before legal streaming became a thing. That’s why I feel like I know this franchise, except a lot of the movies, like the back of my hand. Also, I am watching Super on toonami right now, so I am far behind everyone else.
SJ: Hiya, Scott! Shoujo here! Thanks for asking me to contribute to this shindig; collaboration posts are so~ fun!! (*^^*) Sadly, that now missing Innominate podcast was super epic and flowed so naturally; it’s truly a shame that technology is out to undermine our motivations and lull us unto giving up our ambitions that it might become our overlord…
S: (SHHHH, you aren’t supposed to say anything about you know what…)
SJ: Wait. What?
In any case, long before I knew what anime was, my older male cousin would watch Dragon Ball Z on television grandma’s house after school. At first, I simply watched it in effort to be like him or to engage in something that he liked to do, but he quickly lost interest in the ongoing screaming matches and long drawn out battle sequences. I, however, found myself hooked, and… well, I mean, I had to find out “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT TIME ON DRAGON. BALL. Z!!!!” you know?
I used to pretend that the cast were my imaginary companions, jumping from couch cushion to chair cushion in the family room (don’t let mom see!) and pretending that I was of similar saiyan persuasion. While I’m not terribly interested in shounen fighters at this point, I feel incredibly nostalgic for the oft maligned title. And even as a child, was it any wonder that I watched DBZ for the relationships and emotions rather than the conflict? Even then I was shipping the characters. (And, oh my goodness, if I had a crush on future Trunks, who could blame me…?)
Im quite familiar with DBZ, though I’ve never been so inclined to similarly watch Dragon Ball (totally different tonally, you understand) unless it was to go back and view specific episodes for backstory (read: shipping) purposes. I’m casually watching Super here and there, but I’m watching on Funimation Now, so I’m still behind, of course. Granted, I feel that Super comes across as lacking in a few respects, but we’ll get to that, I’m sure all in good time…
L: Hello both Shoujo and Scott! I, Lethargic Ramblings (Leth), am also joining this collab and am definitely not the reason that it took so long for it to get released because I had everything written first. That’s definitely what happened, I promise all of you.
…Okay, that was a lie. I’m very sorry. Every delay was (probably) my fault. …But I’m here now to deliver my own thoughts on the Dragon Ball franchise, alongside my fellow Innominate Podcast members and their own takes on the series and its many arcs.
My “How I go into Dragon Ball Z” story isn’t particularly unique, and is more or less what you’d expect. I had no idea what Anime was, but I watched a lot of Cartoon Network and a result, came across the channels Toonami block. I’m not sure what Toonami was like in America, but in the UK where I’m from, it was a segment of Cartoon Network that started after a certain time and broadcast different programming from the usual stuff you’d see on Cartoon Network. Among these shows were programmes like Samurai Jack, Batman of the Future and of course, Dragon Ball Z. I had no idea what the show was about, but I was lucky enough to jump in shortly after it first started airing in my country, and I followed the show closely for many years. Outside of a few episodes, I watched the entire thing on the Toonami block as it came out and I even watched the few re-runs that occurred while the new story arcs were still in the process of being released.
Toonami was eventually scrapped in the UK, and with it any hopes I had of witnessing a rebroadcast of Dragon Ball Z, so I forgot about it for many years. But eventually while I was on vacation in America, I stumbled across a DVD box set for Funimation’s release of the series, and my inner child immediately scooped it up and bought it. It was really awesome to get into the series again, and it was this reuniting with Dragon Ball Z that eventually got me into the medium of Anime as a whole (mostly because Funimation’s DVD box sets had trailers for their other Anime releases at the time before the DVD menu would display. Thanks Funimation!). I still have that box set and have it on my shelf to this day, along with all the other ones that were released afterwards.
Outside of a few episodes, I never watched much of the original Dragon Ball or GT as it aired on TV, and the episodes I did watch were in the middle of major story arcs, so I had absolutely no idea what was going on at the time. Nowadays, I own both of those series on DVD too, as well as every single movie for each series in the franchise. I was committed okay?!
I’ve also watched the majority of Super too, although I watched it subbed which was… A little weird… I’ll get into that later.
Dragon Ball Talk
S: I know that shoujo mentioned not getting into Dragon Ball, but let’s out about it anyway. I feel like I have some words to share about it. If this was a few years ago, I would say that I enjoyed Dragon Ball so much more then Z. You know how those elitist stage things work. Right now, all I think about is how each of them different. Well, at least until King Piccolo entered the mix. That’s something that I would call the proto-Dragon Ball Z portion of Dragon Ball. The transition from DB to Z felt kind of natural in some ways.
Still, I did like the early stages of Dragon Ball quite a bit. The First of the North Star parody first few episodes were a lot of fun, but I like how the show was focused on goofy gags with goofy characters and pretty grounded fights. You know, because this was before could fly. The focus was instead on martial arts techniques and goofy character interactions. You know, because there weren’t stakes back in the day. While the focus was on Goku and him saving the day, the other characters got a lot more development then they ever did in Z. Those characters were just window dressings and reminders to everyone that the original Dragon Ball happened. Though, the conversion of villains to team members that happened in Z did occur in DB first, so there is that.
The road to Dragon Ball Z happened immediately after the tournament fight between Tien and Goku. You know, the death of Kururin was what shook everything up. It lead to Dragon Ball’s first serious arc which lead to a lot of drama and the dragon ball’s first ever use to bringing back a lot of the cast back to life. An event that happens a lot in Dragon Ball Z as well. Yeah, there was Mercenary Tao and even dealings with the Red Ribbon Army (Android 8 was here too) that had some dealings with what happened in Z, but Piccolo and Piccolo Jr were the first villains that actually felt like Z villains. Either way, I had a lot of fun watching Dragon Ball. The same yet different kind of fun that I had with Z.
L: I didn’t really get into Dragon Ball until years after I first finished Z on Toonami. I was never able to catch the series at a decent point while it was airing and it never seemed as “epic” or “grandiose” as Z, and therefore didn’t really appeal to my childhood self who was obsessed with earth-shattering Kamehameha’s and moon-sized Spirit Bomb’s.
Nowadays however, things are quite different. While I still prefer the larger scope and more serious tone of Dragon Ball Z’s story, I also really appreciate the original Dragon Ball for what it is. The earlier parts of the series present an awesomely fun, wacky, hilarious, low-stakes story about a dumb-but-strong kid going on an adventure with a varied cast of equally weird and quirky characters. It’s a fairly simple story, especially by today’s standards, but it’s held up surprisingly well after all these years and is still damn good fun in many places with some excellent comedic timing and moments of parody that just work so damn well.
Of course, Dragon Ball also ups the stakes later on, with the likes of the Red Ribbon Army and King Piccolo story arcs being some of my favourite moments in the fighting Shounen genre to this day. I especially loved the Red Ribbon Army arc because seeing this one little kid taking on an entire army and its leaders by himself and succeed is one of the most awesome things ever. Do I even need to elaborate on why it’s such an amazing story arc?
S: Nope, nope. 😀
L: Like Scott, I also appreciate that the original Dragon Ball series provides some much needed screen time and character development to many of the franchises side characters, such as Yamcha, Tien and Krillin. While many of these characters are still present in Z, they were unfortunately sent away to sit on what I’ve always referred to as “the bench of forgotten characters” in favour of newer additions to the cast which has never sat too well with me.
And while the fights themselves never quite reach the insane, planet-shattering scale of those from Dragon Ball Z, they’re still great in their own right. There’s some really memorable and awesome fights, and some of them even involved quite a bit of strategy compared to the power-based battles of Z which is something I’ve always been a big fan of.
S: Exactly! I love the fact that the fights in Dragon Ball are more grounded and focus on martial arts and techniques. While the DBZ fights are amazing, there is something to be said for fights that can be solved by throwing something out of the ring.
L:Overall, I really like Dragon Ball as a series, and I’ve grown to appreciate it a lot more over the years. It’s an excellent “Part 1” to the series and while it may not quite reach the epic, intergalactic, “the universe is at stake” scale of Dragon Ball Z, much of it’s charm comes from its more simple, levelheaded story. It’s a great fighting Shounen series in its own right and if you’re a fan of Dragon Ball Z and have never had the chance to get into it, I strongly recommend you do so.
SJ: I do wanna throw out there again that I *have* watched bits of Dragon Ball, mostly for the fluff and relationship backstories if I’m honest. This includes the sweet, sweet bancho fan filler. ❤ Ah, yes, my ship. Lovely GokChi has such awesome highlight in the filler. (If you make a case that it isn’t present in the manga, I will insist that they still love each other just as much and it is EVIDENT FIGHT ME.)
Dragon Ball Z Stuff
S: If we are talking about Dragon Ball Z, we need to start with the beginning right? You know, when the entire world of Dragon Ball was shakened up again? The introduction of the idea that Goku wasn’t from this planet and the cast wasn’t ready for space stuff yet. Their opponent they faced first was the weakest of the DBZ universe, yet our Z crew couldn’t eat touch him without sacrifices. Scary stuff.
L: The Saiyan Saga starts off Dragon Ball Z with some really shocking stuff that does a really great job at selling the idea that Z is aiming to up the stakes and scale of the story tenfold compared to the original Dragon Ball.
First we learn that Goku is not of this world and is actually part of a race of super powerful space pirates called “Saiyans” (which is why he’s so crazily strong) and secondly we find out Goku has an older brother in the form of Raditz, who also happens to be a bad guy. And he’s far stronger than Goku in just about every way.
We’ve got all kinds of twists and turns happening right off the bat. Goku, who was established as the strongest and most unstoppable fighter in the world at the end of Dragon Ball is suddenly outmatched in power by this new villain. Piccolo Jr., Goku’s arch rival and sworn enemy, decides to team up with him to defeat the new threat, feeling threatened himself. Goku’s son, Gohan, has some kind of hidden power that might just surpass that of his father, which was unexpected and awesome at the same time. And while Goku and Piccolo manage to defeat Raditz together, they’re unable to do so without Goku sacrificing himself. It took the main character dying for our heroes to overcome the first villain in the series. If that isn’t an indication of “the stakes are getting higher” I’m not sure what is.
And of course, that’s just the beginning of this story arc. Raditz’ comrades, Vegeta and Nappa show up and cause all kinds of havoc, tearing just about every member of the original Dragon Ball cast who decided to combat them to shreds with little to no effort. This was back before Dragon Ball Z became infamous for bringing back characters at the drop of a hat, when it actually seemed possible that some of these characters who had already been revived previously would never have the chance to live again. And with Piccolo also dying, the Dragon Balls themselves were also erased from existence, which made things even more dire. When viewed in the context of the time that this arc first came out, it’s honestly incredible how daring the storytelling here really is. It’s not every day you see an arc where a large number of heroes are killed off in such a quick succession by one villain, especially in a fighting Shounen series.
S: You have a natural ability of saying what I want to say with a lot more detail :D.
L: And of course, this arc also introduces the iconic villain, and later hero, Vegeta, who did an amazing job taking the place of Goku’s eternal rival from Piccolo. Even after eventually becoming a good guy, his rivalry with Goku always remained intact, and served as the focus of one of the best character relationships in the series. This arc started it all through one of the most impactful and awesome battles in the entire series: the original Goku vs. Vegeta fight. This fight is not only one of the most iconic in the series, it’s also a really personal battle of two opposing ideologies clashing together in an explosion of pure awesomeness. It was a real struggle for Goku, but seeing him barely come out on top was so darn satisfying and it made me excited for what was to come next. And what came next? Something even better! But I’ll get to that later on…
SJ: As one might imagine, I love this arc for its family implications. Radditz was Goku’s brother, after all, and the lengths that Goku goes to save Gohan (not Gotham, autocorrect)—even teaming up with untrustworthy Piccolo—really speak of a father’s enormous love before Goku’s saiyan vices caught up to him in the worst ways with each new influx of power (which is a theory I will fight people over and that TOTALLY needs to be addressed later in this post).
It’s the arc that sparks Piccolo’s parental feelings for Gohan, even though they started off as anything but, and the beginning of a relationship so meaningful to the rest of the iconic series deserves major recognition.
I also really love this arc for what must be happening off screen; think about ChiChi. Her whole world has been rocked. She is, she believes, married to the strongest man in the universe. She loves that. Nothing can touch him, nor their little family (which extra content leads us to believe was quite happy). Suddenly, however, that isn’t true anymore. Her sweet Gohan is kidnapped, Goku is DEAD, and honestly… just imagine it. Imagine what that feels like for a young wife and mother to deal with so unexpectedly. Two of three people she loves most in the world, gone, out of her reach or aid. And she has Ox King, yes, but she truthfully doesn’t have much in the way of friends as she dislikes (at least at this juncture) the Z Warriors for the dangerous past they represent and their questionable role modeling for her childlike husband. She and Bulma haven’t yet become as close as they will when their (eventual, in Bulma’s case) husbands become friends…
DBZ seems simple at times, but so much must be going on behind the scenes of this shounen fighter, and I love DBZ as much (or maybe more??) for what it doesn’t *directly* say as (than) for what it does.
Just something to think about.
S: Shoujo, why do you always have a much more valuable insight compared to everyone else here? You are just right about everything. Especially with the off screen material that I would have never imagined. Poor Chichi :(.
L: I did not consider any of this. I can’t even begin to imagine what probably happens behind the scenes of the the series… It’s really something to think about and really brings some interesting discussion to the table. I feel bad for Chichi as well…
SJ: Haha! I wouldn’t call it more valuable, Scott! Rather, I have a shipper’s fangirl-ing heart and an viewing eye for relationship development, even in a shounen fighter. 😛 That’s why I love DBZ!