Apparently I’ve settled into a once a year pattern with Dragon Ball. I have all five seasons, and I’ve viewed them all, but it’s taking me a long while to write about them. That’s ok, as sometimes this blog becomes too video game centered and it’s nice to have something like Dragon Ball to fall back on when I want to post about something other than gaming.
Because these seasons are not actual seasons, season 3 of Dragon Ball picks up right where season 2 left off with Goku trying to defeat the evil Mercenary Tao. In order to do so, he has scaled Korin Tower to enlist the help of Master Korin who’s training is said to make the most formidable warriors even stronger. With Korin’s help, Goku is confident he can topple Tao and avenge the death of his friend, Bora. Korin, the dimunitive cat-like creature, seems unwilling to offer much assistance to our young hero and the ensuing “training” Goku goes through contains a heaping dose of comedy for the viewers, which works well following the rather heavy close to season 2.
The over-reaching conflict of the first part of season 3 is still General Red and the Red Ribbon Army. It is they who hired Tao to take out Goku and eliminate their greatest obstacle in recovering the seven dragon balls. Goku will have a satisfying encounter with Tao following his training with Korin and then go on to assault the home base of the Red Ribbon Army to put a stop to them once and for all. It’s here Dragon Ball settles into its pattern of Goku easily dispatching most foes before tasting defeat, training with a powerful warrior, and then returning to topple the previously unstoppable. There’s a lot of good action pieces, and the whole Dragon Ball gang gets involved which is nice after the Goku heavy season 2.
Following the end of the Red Ribbon Army conflict, the heroes seek out the help of Fortune Teller Baba in order to find the final dragon ball so that Goku can restore Bora to life. It turns out that Baba’s services come with a steep price that can either be paid with money or blood, and since Goku has no money, he opts for the latter. Baba pits Goku and his pals against her warriors, and if he wins, she’ll help him. Most of the matches here exist for comedic relief as the first combatant for Baba is a vampire and another, invisible opponent, is defeated when Master Roshi’s nose explodes with blood to cover him at the sight at Bulma’s breasts. There is one serious fight between Goku and a masked man who turns out to be someone very important to Goku and is a mostly entertaining affair.
Following the Baba portion are a bunch of filler episodes of Goku traveling the world and helping people along the way. These are the most boring sections of Dragon Ball for me as it’s just Goku and he’s usually not given anyone to play off of. He tends to encounter these overly nice and kind characters and he tends to work better when paired with the impatient types like Bulma and Krillin or the perverse like Roshi. Along his travels he does encounter Tien Shinhan and Chiaotzu for the first time who will play a bigger role going forward. They’re depicted as talented and powerful fighters who lack character, which makes them natural foils for Goku.
The final act of season 3 covers the World Martial Arts Tournament once again, with the natural goal of pitting Goku against his newest rival Tien. There are several lesser characters inserted into the tournament for comedic relief, but the main players are mostly the same from last the time: Goku, Krillin, Yamcha, and Jackie Chun, with new-comers Tien and Chiaotzu. Master Crane is the one who trained Tien and Chiaotzu and it’s revealed early on during the tournament that he is the older brother of Mercenary Tao. It’s the clear the two did not have much love for each other, but pride dictates that Shen must avenge the death of his brother at the hands of Goku. This just adds another layer of conflict to the main tease of the tournament. Unfortunately, because of FUNimation’s arbitrary end points for its seasons, the bulk of the tournament falls to season 4 giving season 3 a mostly unsatisfying conclusion.
Season 3 of Dragon Ball, as defined by FUNimation, might be my least favorite of the five, though season five is also a bit slow. It’s very top heavy with the early part being fairly entertaining but the last 15 or so episodes are a bit of a slog. For whatever reason, Dragon Ball (and it’s successors) are bogged down by a lot of filler episodes and a great many of them found their way into season 3. The seasons preceding it were not absent of them, and the ones to follow aren’t as well, but they just felt less entertaining here. Hurting it too is the fact that the main enemy, the Red Ribbon Army, is never really billed as a credible threat to Goku outside of Tao. At no point during Goku’s assault on the RRR HQ am I lead to believe that he might actually fail. This tends to be one of the problems of the show as Goku’s enemies are either woefully under-powered or obviously over-powered. The exceptions usually end up being the final matches in the martial arts tournaments, but unfortunately, that falls to season 4. That said, there are some nice moments on season 3 and there’s also a good dose of comedy. Some fans could probably skip it entirely if they’re mostly interested in the biggest fights the series has, but if you want the full Dragon Ball experience there’s still some must-see episodes contained here.