So, I’ve decided to take up this 30-Day Anime Challenge I came across over on a neighboring blog. Granted, the way I’ve set things up, it’ll be more like something every Friday instead of something every day, so this looks to take a few months. It does mean I can put more time and reflection into each of the topics, which is good since I’ve not thought that much about most of them. I’m hoping you will enjoy this little journey as much as I will.
So, Day 1: The very first anime I watched.
That one’s easy.
Well, ok, I’m not positive this is the first anime I ever watched, but I first became aware of “anime,” as something distinct from the other cartoons, while I was watching this, during its first season on Cartoon Network. So, I’m going with this one.
Now, I hadn’t seen any of Dragonball, and didn’t until much later, so I had a completely clean slate to work with. My tastes were also… we shall say, “easier to please.” I liked the action and what I now know as over-the-top drama. I liked the characters, particularly young Gohan and Piccolo, the tough guy with green skin. Goku was the most important guy, of course, being the most powerful, so he embodied the idealism. Vegeta was a villain for awhile, and how he managed to win Bulma’s heart and her hand in marriage, I will never know (then again, she does have a thing for bad boys…). Krillin was the little (literally) sidekick who was supportive and brave but also the butt of the jokes. Everyone else was just kinda, “meh,” in my book.
Most of all, I liked the music. I’ve since learned that this was not the original music aired in the Japanese broadcast, but an American version, with a lot of all-new compositions. I don’t know who composed the first season’s music, but they did very well. Most of the credits I’ve seen for later seasons go to Bruce Faulconer, though he did have help, I believe. Major kudos to everyone who worked on this soundtrack, I still love it! Every day, when I sat down to watch this show (much to the chagrin of my sisters and parents), it was the music I was looking forward to the most.
With all that said…good grief, how overdone can things get?
They had to make each villain so much more ridiculously powerful than the last that it got flat-out absurd. Vegeta had the power to destroy a planet (he was a villain at first, before he reformed and joined the good guys). Frieza had the power to destroy planets easily. The androids could toss even super-saiyans (Frieza’s worst nightmare) around like rag dolls, and Cell aspired to end the universe. Majin Buu’s raw power was such that he could scream and shatter all the dimensions of reality. Seriously?!
In other franchises, you can have healthy debates on which villain would win, but in DBZ, it was no contest, and would never be a contest! Just bet on the latest one, he can squash all the previous villains put together with nothing more than his pinky! Actually, there was one villain in Dragonball that used his tongue to dispatch a previous villain.
The worst part was that the good guys didn’t win against these cosmically-powerful enemies by use of their wits. They won only by scrounging together as much raw power as they could possibly get and throwing it at the bad guys! Not an invalid approach, mind you, but when you have three hundred episodes to work with and the cleverest thing you ever see is, “make them look this way and hit them in face,” it gets just a touch old.
They even took thirty episodes to defeat Frieza! A span of five minutes was lengthened out to ten episodes!
It was a soap opera for young boys!
I haven’t seen the revamped version, Dragonball Z Kai, but I hear it’s a condensed version. I’ll probably get around to seeing it someday, if only to revel in the streamlined storyline.
Then there’s how flat the protagonists are. Goku’s outlook is idealistic, but also simplistic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a grand thing to have heroes who are for the clear and simple good and against the clear and simple bad, but it made for some very shallow characters. I, and most others, liked Vegeta and Piccolo so much because they did not subscribe to “the good” just because. They were the deepest, most complex characters of the entire, substantial cast. And they were also the ones who started raising questions, such as when Vegeta mercilessly kills the already-defeated members of the deadly Ginyu Force, and Goku starts preaching at him, and Vegeta counters with a fairly reasonable what-if scenario: what if sparing them meant they would threaten his son Gohan’s life in the near future?
Since virtually all of Goku’s friends are enemies-turned-friends, that, also, got old. Though it does make it easy to see why Goku would think, “I defeat them and they stop doing bad things.”
Since I had a number of these problems even while watching the show, it says something that I kept watching for the soundtrack. Namely, the soundtrack is awesome! (the American version, I mean. I hear they’ve done a version of the show with the Japanese soundtrack, and somehow that one did not do so well for me)
Were I simply reviewing this show, I’d probably give it a C, or maybe a B, three-ish stars out of five. It’s simple, easy to follow, though with a plot surrounding the fights that is impressively complex for the fights themselves being just “hit them really hard!” It, or at least the version I saw on Toonami, has very little in the way of profanity or innuendo. As it doesn’t have the things I automatically deduct for, the problem is only in what it lacks: smarter fights, a more reasonable power scale, and better, more condensed storytelling.
I can’t say I’d enjoy the show as a whole were I to rewatch it, but I did enjoy my first run through it. As a teenager.
And the best line ever in the show was nowhere in any of the fights:
Gohan is saying they need to keep their identities and abilities secret at this tournament they’re entering, so the media doesn’t bombard their lives.
Vegeta replies, “I don’t see what the big deal is. When the reporters show up, I’ll blast them.”
To which Bulma, his wife, must say, “You behave!”