The title says it all. So I started on the original Dragon Ball before DBZ; many don’t know but originally Dragon Ball was a comedy. It’s interesting to see how the series evolved given it started out as a parody of Journey to the West, before eventually becoming the genre-defining global megahit it is today.
For those who may be confused; DBZ is the original run, DBZ Kai is the re-edit done in 2010 that cuts out all the filler and reduces it to strictly manga only content. Sometimes I can put up with filler but after getting through all 720 episodes of Naruto and N: Shippuden I have been…..somewhat less patient with filler. So I’m gonna review/blab about each arc on their own
So it was interesting seeing how quickly things went initially. 3 episodes in and Goku’s immediately dead. Goku and Piccolo vs Radditz was a great first fight, and it’s almost comical seeing Piccolo bang on about world domination when we all know he’s basically going to end up a stepdad for a good while. Gohan, that poor kid. He didn’t know what was coming, and the little runt was only 4 when his dad’s dead and he’s kidnapped by the big green angry guy claiming he’s going to destroy humanity, before said angry green guy dumps him in the wilderness and tells him to survive on his own. Ah the joys of youth…….not. Seeing Goku’s power ups pre-Super Saiyan was an interest, especially Kaioken. And when Vegeta and Nappa arrive? Oh boy does shit kick off. I feel Yamcha gets unnecessarily shat on; everyone made it out that he gets one-shotted and annihilated immediately, but he put up and a fight and actually won. It’s just then the little green cretin went and blew himself up cos he couldn’t just loose. And to be honest? I’ve never liked Tien, so if he stayed dead I wouldn’t have had any complaints. Everyone else in the Z-Fighters Squad has a thing. Krillin is the childhood friend, Yamcha is the butt of the joke, Goku is the protag, Piccolo the redeemed villain/visually different character and Gohan the kid. What’s Tien? He’s………a good guy? He’s a boring waste of space as far as I’m concerned. At least Chiaotzu has a more interesting design and personality (ok to a degree), why couldn’t he have stuck around? Piccolo’s sacrifice is genuinely sweet, having seen this big gruff brute become softened from training Gohan and make such a selfless move was great. Sure he’ll get revived eventually cos it’s DBZ but still.
So then we get to Goku vs Vegeta. And what a damn good fight it is, and part of what made this series so iconic. Seeing Vegeta as a full on villain was surprisingly not that different than normal Vegeta actually. Seeing Yajirobe be useful was a surprise……that’s the last time he’ll be relevant. Goku’s reason for letting Vegeta live was dumb but this is Goku we’re speaking of, he’s not exactly known for his good judgement.
This was probably my favourite arc of the series. The planet of Namek is an interesting setting, and the sidekick villains of the Frieza Force and Ginyu Force are a lot of fun and have a good range of power sets.
Vegeta’s lone wolf style during this was good to follow, as he is clearly still on the villain side of the good/bad spectrum. And yet when you see him break down at the end of his fight as he is brutally crushed by Frieza you can’t help but feel bad for him somehow
Frieza is easily my favourite villain in the series, probably because he’s one of the more multi-faceted. The way he is so petty and petulant but kind of has the clout to back it up, his final form (well for about 20 years) looks great and the style Chris Ayres takes when voicing him make him such an oddly compelling villain that you can’t help but love in spite of how horrific his actions are
And so we get to the big moment; Goku going Super Saiyan. One of the most iconic and defining moments in Shonen, it’s as glorious as expected. There’s not much to say really, it’s hard to define such a moment beyond the fact that it really is one of the best fights in anime. That sounds simple because…….well yeah. It is that simple really.
Hot take; I was slightly disappointed in this. OK calm down let me explain. The Android Arc was good, though it felt like there was no end to it as it went straight into Cell.
Cell himself is a good villain, if a tad one-dimensional; that sounds harsh, the guy has his aim and wants to be the greatest, and that’s it. And that’s fine, just not a lot to it. It was cool to see the Red Ribbon Army be brought up again and be Dr Gero’s motivation. The Cell Juniors were kinda bland, just generic little gremlin guys. The Ginyu Force had variety, something these guys lack.
But it’s not all bad, seeing Goku and Gohan bond during this time was probably the best part, seeing Goku actually spend time with him. My favourite part of the arc is probably the family day out. When the Cell Games Arc begin and we get Android 16’s death into Gohan going SSJ2 is almost as good as Goku going Super Saiyan, if just a tad below for me. Seeing everyone come together to take down Cell in the end was so satisfying to watch.
So why was this slightly disappointing? The music. The original song that played during Gohan’s SSJ2 transformation, Unmei no Hi, is absent. But most of all there was a version of this ending with a different Cell Theme playing during the finale that for some reason I can’t find anywhere and honestly I’d rather hear that version of the ending. But it’s still a great saga and plenty of brilliant moments for many characters throughout
Majin Buu Saga
I liked this more than expected given it’s reputation. Majin was an interesting villain. Yes he’s as one dimensional as Cell but the way he evolved was more intriguing for me. The weird mix of happy and horror he exuded, how he would murder millions, turn them into candy then jump around like a little child was disturbing to a degree. When Mr Satan manages to befriend Majin Buu with a puppy was surprisingly cute……until it got shot. Sure it gets revived immediately but Majin’s reaction? Oh boy. And he felt genuinely unstoppable at times made it intriguing
Goten and Trunks action in this was hilarious, especially with how Piccolo had to cope with it. Honestly this may be some of my favourite Piccolo moments in the whole series, Gohan had been a sweet kid who always listened but Goten and Trunks are cocky little shits who won’t listen to anyone. His sheer exasperation at just trying to get them to do anything he tells them had me howling. And in fairness Gotenks power set was crazy; the Kamikaze Spirit Clones (or whatever they were called) were insanely powerful and one of the more unique for the Saiyans.
I’ll admit this had it’s problems too, it’s nearly 70 episodes long for one arc and yes Gohan got screwed over in this but eh, I didn’t find the asspulls in this Saga any worse than the other arcs.
Overall this was worth it’s watch. What made it more interesting for me was having watched Dragon Ball, what I enjoyed was seeing all those characters from that original run come back for the final Spirit Bomb was gratifying to see; can Launch just come back full time, she was always a laugh. The way it ended with Goku just up and leaving again was a tad annoying, I would’ve liked Goku to instead invite Uub to live with him and not have Goku just up and leave Chichi for ages yet again. But eh that’s Goku for you to be fair. It goes without saying at this point but yes this is totally worth checking out whether or not you’re a fan of Shonen, but especially if you are a fan of Shonen.