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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Stories of the Top 80 Anime: Dragonball

8. Dragonball is the world famous anime that swept the world about a decade ago. It's probably the most recognized and well-known anime in the world. However, it's long since been surpassed by other fighting series, like One Piece and Naruto. The plot to Dragonball was always pretty shallow and haphazard. The humor is nowhere on par with One Piece. The fighting less complex and interesting than Naruto. The only thing Dragonball has that they don't is badassness. When it comes to badass yells, badass beams, badass angry looks, badass energy auras, badass transformations, or badass Anything, the unparalleled source is Dragonball. As of yet, no one has dared to match Dragonball for people shouting in enraged fury into the air while giant yellow or blue currents shoot out from them in every direction and the earth starts shaking and cracking underneath them. There is something so primally satisfying when you watch Dragonball and the fireworks start flying.

When Goku powers up upon returning to Earth from his training with Kaio-sama, the scene is so amazing and memorable that it has become a worldwide meme. "Vegeta, what's the scanner say about his power level?" Nappa asks.

Vegeta responds, with a yell of fury, smashing his own scanner, "IT'S OVER 9,000! AND STILL RISING!!!"

This is Dragonball. This is why we all love Dragonball. A scene like that has never appeared elsewhere, and if it did, it would only work as a homage to Dragonball. It feels like Dragonball has permanently carved out its claim to fame, and that is the beauty of its simplicity, the sheer power of their power levels.

The season long fight with Frieza, surely the longest duel in recorded artistic history, is the stuff of legends. Even though the planet only has a few minutes left to live, there are still 10 or so 24 minute long episodes describing that portion of the fight. Dragonball is so epic it has no need of puny dimensions like time. Only Dragonball could have pulled off a genuinely interesting and exciting fight, between the same two people, for an entire uninterrupted season. It's mind-boggling how exciting such a story would have to be. Dragonball isn't watched, it's experienced. You have to just sit back and start enjoying it -- there's nothing to analyze.

Dragonball, the original series, was done on a low budget in the deep past of the 1980's, and thus is almost unwatchably bad. Its plot was also a mix of low-brow humor, mythological references that really make no sense given the series, and fights between weaklings that wouldn't satisfy anyone given Dragonball's future claim to fame.

Dragonball Z was where the series really picked up. The fight between Goku and Vegeta at the beginning is perhaps the best fight in any anime. There are more stellar fights soon after, like Goku vs. the Ginyu squad, Goku vs. Frieza, Trunks vs. Frieza, Gohan vs. Cell, Goku vs. Majin Vegeta, and Gojeeta vs. Buu. But once whole galaxies were being destroyed in the course of a single fight, the series really had to come to a halt, or there'd be nothing left to narrate. By now, it was inconceivable for the Z fighters, the Saiyans in general, to lose to any other power in the universe. Even Cell and Buu stood no chance except for their absorption of Saiyans into themselves.

Even so, the anime decided to continue an entire filler series after the manga finished, called Dragonball GT. Apart from some fun, weaker level fights between robots and Pan, Goku's granddaughter, the entire series was weak. There was really no point to continue with the level Saiyans had reached by the end of Z.

Goku's transformation into a super-saiyan in the middle of his fight with Frieza is an epic scene in all of anime. There is one thing Dragonball does well, and that's badass poses and looks and shouts and powerups. Goku going SSJ, suddenly getting spiky blond hair and blue-green eyes and extra muscles everywhere, is as good as it ever gets. The white supremacist in me always leaps for joy when a Saiyan transforms into an aryan, the ultimate physical form. ^_^.

Recently, a new series called Dragonball Kai edited Dragonball Z down to size, getting rid of a lot of unneeded filler, gave it blu-ray wide-screen graphics, and a new music track and voice acting for some roles. It was a welcome replacement for Dragonball Z, but it has stopped at the end of the Cell Saga, instead of covering the Buu arc as well, which is inexcusable. How can Dragonball Kai become the 'official' version of Dragonball when it's missing such a huge portion of the story? Hopefully someday they'll finish what they started with Kai, but I doubt it. If they were going to do it, now was the time, not later. In any event, up until the Buu arc, I advise everyone to watch Dragonball Kai, not Z, because it is a vast improvement.

Even if Dragonball is someday forgotten or disrespected, it was an inspiration to new generations of manga writers, like the creator of Naruto, and got many people interested in anime in the first place. As a progenitor, its legacy is forever secure.

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