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Dragon Ball Super: Broly

db super broly poster

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

The first movie under the Dragon Ball Super umbrella is one that sets out to take what was previously non-canon and adapt it into the main series. The most recent two Dragon Ball Z films; Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’, ended up being the start of Dragon Ball Super which is now well over 100 episodes into its own series and several volumes of manga as well. It was last year that the series took a pause, seemingly coming to an end, only for this feature to be announced soon afterwards. Over the summer it was revealed that the subject of the film would be the infamous Broly, a character created for the prior Dragon Ball Z films that is either a fan-favorite or fan-hated character, depending on who you ask. In that universe, Broly was the featured villain of three separate films, and according to this humble blogger only one of those three films was any good. Broly is simply an all style and no substance villain. He’s big, mean, and powerful, but he has no real motivations beyond wanting to annihilate the hero of the series, Goku, whom he despises because he made him cry when the two were infants. Yup, you read that correctly.

Finding out that Broly would soon be adapted for his fourth film and presumably brought into canon left me with mixed feelings. Those feelings quickly shifted to positive ones though as what reason did I have to really doubt series creator Akira Toriyama? Broly already had the look, and aside from the reason for hating Goku being quite lame, the rest of his origin was fine. There was enough of a skeleton there that could be fleshed out into something worthwhile. And after doubting that there was anything left in this franchise, I’ve been proven wrong time and again by the last two features and basically the entirety of Dragon Ball Super. Toriyama, and those working with him, seem to have a handle on what sets this world apart from others. It’s the humor, as well as the action, that makes it go. The series can’t stop to take itself too seriously, or else it will betray what it is. Anchoring the series on the Goku and Vegeta characters is also fan-service at its best. It’s their differences as characters that works so well. It meant taking away most of what once made Vegeta a villain, but Dragon Ball Super has managed to make him likable and understandable without also softening him too much.

dbs broly normal

Broly is re-introduced in this one as canon with a tweak to his base design.

Before I go any further, it is worth pointing out just where this film follows in the grand scheme of things. If you’re like me and have been following Dragon Ball Super via the dub that airs weekly on Toonami then you’re going to have some things spoiled for you. This film takes place after the events of Dragon Ball Super so far, so it’s after the Tournament of Power which has yet to officially begin. If you watch the Japanese dub of the show, then no problem as you saw the finale almost a year ago. For us just watching on a standard cable package, it means having the events of that tournament some-what spoiled. And I mean that very loosely as the setup for that tournament is that all of the universes who lose are destroyed. I don’t think any viewer expects the universe inhabited by Goku and his friends to be wiped out and have the story end there, so the fact that this film even exists is only the most mild of spoilers. The film doesn’t go into any detail about how that crisis was resolved, so I didn’t feel particularly spoiled by anything. Only the fate of one character would really count there, so if you want absolutely nothing else spoiled you may want to stop here as I can’t really discuss this film without mentioning that character at least in passing. There’s your final warning.

king vegetas court

King Vegeta’s court where Paragus is informed on the fate of his son.

Okay, with that out of the way we can freely talk about Dragon Ball Super: Broly! This is a review, not a synopsis like I did with my DBZ movie feature from last summer, so I don’t aim to spoil anything pertinent to the film beyond just going over the general plot and setup. If you’re a longtime fan, you’re probably most curious about how this new Broly (Vic Mignogna) equates with the old. He’s a different character, but it is also largely the same. The film begins several years before the present day when planet Vegeta was still a thing. In addition to seeing the early days of Broly, we’re also treated to something previously untouched upon and that’s the transfer of power over the universe from King Cold (Jason Douglas) to his son, Frieza (Christopher Ayers). It’s fun seeing that acknowledged, though it’s not particularly thrilling. Broly himself though is soon introduced as a baby, and like the prior Broly, he seems to have incredible untapped power. King Vegeta (Christopher Sabat) appears jealous that this child rivals his own infant son, also Vegeta (Sabat), and it may explain what he does next.

dbs kid goku

The flashback also contains a brief look at young Goku in a somewhat touching scene.

Like the prior Broly, this one will find himself banished from planet Vegeta. His father, Paragus (Dameon Clarke), suspects the king did it out of jealousy, but the king claims he did it out of fear over what Broly is capable of. A power so terrible cannot be controlled and he could destroy them all. It’s hard to say what the truth is, but Paragus refuses to see his son exiled to a barren world alone. He steals a spaceship and chases after him all while swearing revenge on the king who did this to him and his son. We also get another peek at Goku’s father, Bardok (Sonny Strait), and even meet his mother, Gine (Emily Neves). It retcons the events of Bardock’s solo film a bit, and also shows us a softer side to the character which provides some context for how Goku (Sean Schemmel) came to be so different from other Saiyans. We also get to check in on a toddler Vegeta and Radditz, which is amusing, and see the destruction of planet Vegeta from another angle. There’s even a mention of a brother to Prince Vegeta that I was not aware of. I don’t know if that’s mentioned at all in the episodes I have not seen, or it could be a hint at something to come in a future movie or series.

dbs paragus

The design for Broly’s father, Paragus, is also still in-line with his old portrayal only now he’s aged up. He’s also still a dick.

After the lengthy setup, the film jumps to the present day and finds Goku and Vegeta sparring. They’ll soon find out that Frieza is up to not good, and his stealing of the Dragon Balls from Bulma’s (Monica Rial) lab is what sets the plot in motion. That will get all of our main players to Earth, including a now fully grown Broly and his father, where the action takes place.

snow clothes goku and vegeta

Goku and Vegeta showing off their trendy new winter duds.

To no one’s surprise, the majority of this film is action as the two heroic saiyans take on Broly. Broly is depicted as actually kind-natured this time around, but his power drives him mad. It’s a subtle change from the previous version we’ve seen, but it’s handled far better and this character actually has meaning. He’s a sympathetic character, much more so than before, and one the audience isn’t necessarily instructed to root against. His design is only a little different from his old one, but he has a slightly more refined look. There’s some grit there as well and he actually looks like someone who has lived his whole life in exile. He’ll find some sympathetic characters which help add to his story, and overall I think he’s a fine addition to the cast this time.

dbs god vegeta

Vegeta demonstrating his mastery of the Super Saiyan God form.

The action is the main attraction, and after the slow-paced opening I am happy to report that no action was spared as a result. This is a meaty film, and by its end you may even start to feel exhausted. It keeps upping the visual ante along the way though, so it never gets boring. New tricks are unleashed, some more abstract than others. My favorite was a first-person camera in the middle of the fight that really pulled me in. It sounds like a gimmick, but it worked really well to see the lightning-quick action unfold from such a perspective. It was also tastefully utilized, so it didn’t overstay its welcome. There’s plenty of big spots, and also some rather brutal ones. Nothing is gratuitous though, and overall if you’re a fan of action this is one satisfying and spectacular film. There is also less emphasis on fan-service this time around when compared with the last two films. There’s no effort to get all of the old gang back together and the cast is actually fairly trim. This one simply has a story to tell and a battle to feature.

dbs goku blue

The film is visually stunning, but there are moments where I felt like I was watching a cut scene from Dragon Ball FighterZ.

The film is still mostly done in 2D with digital hand-drawn animation, the design of which was handled by Naohiro Shintani instead of Tadayoshi Yamamuro who has done virtually all of Dragon Ball previously so all of the characters have a slightly altered look to them, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say they appear off-model. Those hand-drawn parts are delicious for the eyes and Dragon Ball has never looked better. The movements of the characters are so fluid and sharp, and the slightly muted color palette is reminiscent of the manga more so than the actual anime. Vegeta’s battle suit, in particular, uses a more navy color than a bright blue and Goku’s orange gi is just slightly pale. This being Dragon Ball, there’s also lots of bright greens and blacks and some cute character designs amongst the villains. There are instances of obvious CG, most noticeably when space ships are shown. It’s also still used in battles, but it’s less of a distraction than in past films. There are still times though when I felt like I was viewing a cut scene from a video game as opposed to an anime. I wouldn’t go so far as to say those moments were jarring, but the hand-drawn stuff is just so flawless that I wish they just tried to stick with that as much as possible.

broly vegeta snow

Arctic settings are among my favorites in Dragon Ball. The brightly colored characters just look great against a cool backdrop.

The music composed by Norihito Sumitomo is also quite bombastic and in-time with the visuals. Some of the main themes, in particular Broly’s and a character I won’t mention by name as it would constitute a spoiler, include a chant in the song where the name of the character is spoken. It further adds to the fighting video game feel of some of the visuals and I’d consider it ludicrous if this were any other property save for maybe Mortal Kombat. It manages to add to the spectacle of everything. Also, some old favorites return though it’s worth mentioning this movie doesn’t feature an opening credits scene like the old ones. I kept waiting for it to pop-in, until I realized it wasn’t coming. It’s probably for the best, though I did kind of miss it.

dbs full power broly

If you’re looking for some of the old Broly you know (and love?) you’ll get that here as well.

Ultimately, I was left feeling like seeing Dragon Ball Super: Broly on the big screen was very much a worthwhile experience. This film was designed for that setting, and I really enjoyed my time with it. I was surprised to find it actually showing at quite a few theaters in my area, and further surprised to find many shows sold out. Thankfully, I was planning on seeing this alone as I couldn’t find two seats side-by-side anywhere. The machinations of the plot are pretty contained so if you haven’t bothered to watch Dragon Ball Super you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into this and and figuring out what’s going on, so don’t let that be an obstacle. If you ever cared about Dragon Ball, then you owe it to yourself to catch it on the big screen.

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Dragon Ball Z Movie Wrap-up – The Rankings

teaser gokuWell I hope you’ve enjoyed the summer feature this year at The Nostalgia Spot – Dragon Ball Z Movie Monday. We’ve taken a look at all 13 original Dragon Ball Z films in chronological order, run-through their plots, dissected what they did well and not so well, and now we’re going to rank them. It should be noted that this ranking is going to be rendered obsolete in just a few short months as on the way is the first Dragon Ball Super movie:  Broly! Yes, Broly. He’s coming back for a fourth movie appearance, but this time it’s different. Those Dragon Ball Z films he was in are technically not canon. Yes, series creator Akira Toriyama designed the character of Broly and the general back story, but he was never intended to be a “real” character, so to speak. With the 14th and 15th DBZ films, things started to change. Both Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ are now canon and were adapted for Dragon Ball Super. Since Toriyama is involved with Broly, it stands to reason that this will be an all new version of the Legendary Super Saiyan and for the first time ever he’ll be an actual part of the overall Dragon Ball plot.

db super broly

Broly’s coming back, whether you like it or not.

That’s all well and good, but before we can even think about that movie we need to sort out these other 15, of which 3 feature Broly. The core 13 are what we covered this summer, but I had taken a look at the two most recent films previously and made entries about them. Even though their plots are now part of Dragon Ball Super, they were released as Dragon Ball Z films so it feels right to include them in the rankings. Hopefully the first Dragon Ball Super movie will challenge the best of these, but for now, this is what I think of the fine fifteen:

Goten urinating

Lets kick this one off properly!

15. Broly – Second Coming – It’s kind of funny the first film on my list just so happens to feature the character of Broly. If this version of Broly were returning for a fourth feature, then I would be disappointed. Broly was fine in his film debut, but his return engagements saw the warrior reduced to an even more mindless fighting machine. Broly – Second Coming also stars Trunks and Goten, and it feels like maybe they weren’t ready to anchor a feature. Gohan makes his presence felt in the film’s third act, but he can’t rescue this one. Broly – Second Coming is perhaps the most dull, with the biggest rule-breaking ending, and is thus my least favorite. It’s not without some charm, so I hesitate to call it flat-out bad, but it will be a long while before I revisit this one again.

cooler surprised

Maybe this was a bad idea.

14. Cooler’s Revenge – You will probably notice a trend amongst these bottom entries. The movies that just feel like one long fight do little to entertain me, and Cooler’s Revenge commits the sin of having Goku get taken out immediately only to sit on the sidelines for a large chunk of the film’s duration. No one wants to sit and wait for Goku to show up – not Cooler, and certainly not the fans. And the fights that do occur in this picture aren’t very engaging, but we do get some fireworks from Super Saiyan Goku and the transformed Cooler. It’s also his connection to Frieza that helps move this one past Broly – Second Coming.

Slug ears.png

Not the best?! I don’t want to hear it!

13. Lord Slug – Similar to Cooler’s Revenge, this one also has Goku get taken out for a large portion of the film. Unlike with that film though, there’s not a great reason for that to happen. Yeah, he gets hurt a bit, but it doesn’t seem like the type of injury that should knock Goku out of commission for such a long time. Anyways, Lord Slug gets to move past Cooler because at least there’s some interesting visuals here. A lot of fun backgrounds and the enemy designs for Slug’s henchmen are interesting as well. I also think the fight between Slug and Goku is a bit better than the one with Cooler, even if it features that goofy half Super Saiyan thing from Goku. This is also a film I look at and can envision it being better than it is with just a few tweaks here and there.

Bio Broly trunks goten

Swamp Thing got nothing on Broly.

12. Bio-Broly – It seems like this film is most often cited as the worst DBZ film and I can see why, on the surface, that would be the case. It returns Broly, but in an even weirder form than before that’s somehow even more mindless. There’s no Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, or Gohan, and overall the stakes are possibly the smallest they’ve ever been. On the other hand, Goten and Trunks get another crack at being the stars and they’re more entertaining here than previously. There’s a good balance of nuanced humor with the childish brand that sometimes rears its head and we also get a good dose of both Mr. Satan and Android 18. Perhaps best of all, there’s no silly rule-breaking ending involving the dead Goku this time and in the end we get a film that’s perhaps not super engaging, but it makes up for it to some degree with humor and charm.

13 trucker hat

Trucker hats rule.

11. Super Android 13! – Another extended battle movie, but this one ups the excitement by adding yet another Super Saiyan to the mix – Future Trunks. We also get more androids, which at this point in time felt a little like overkill since we already had five in the main series, plus Cell. Still, the android villains kind of work and given how secretive Dr. Gero was it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he’d have even more waiting to awaken. It’s just too bad they all have the same general programming of needing to kill Goku. For the English dub, Funimation actually took some liberties and gave Android 13 a little personality. It wasn’t much, but it was something. The fights are generally satisfying, though the resolution kind of “meh.” More than most, this one is all about spectacle.

Goku Vegeta Cooler.jpg

Dragon Ball Z Movie 6 – The Mega Powers Explode!

10. The Return of Cooler – Cooler gets to improve upon his debut by pairing up with a super computer and gaining a shiny, new metallic body. Vegeta also gets to debut in a DBZ film as a Super Saiyan, and for the first time ever, he and Goku team-up to take on Cooler. There’s actually some semblance of a plot here and it’s not bad. There’s a little mystery, and if Funimation didn’t decide to go with such an obvious title the actual re-debut of Cooler would have come as a surprise. The film just kind of loses me in the final act. It’s no Spirit Bomb attack at least, but it is kind of odd.

Tree_of_Might

In this one, Goku fights a tree.

9. The Tree of Might – If this were a ranking of best looking Dragon Ball Z films then The Tree of Might would be a contender for the top spot. It hits the sweet spot between the very soft, round look of Dragon Ball and early Dragon Ball Z while also bringing in more definition. The characters are all muscled-up and impressive looking, the special effects mesmerizing, and the battles don’t move at a super-sonic pace. More interesting enemy designs, the debut of Icarus, and even a Giant Ape fight! The actual plot is just what holds everything back as a planet devouring tree hardly seems like an interesting adversary. And then there’s the confusing Turles and the lack of a really great fight involving him. If Goku and Turles were able to wage an all-out epic battle then that probably would have vaulted this one up the list, but instead it settles close to the mid-point of our list.

dead zone gif

Oh yes, that’s the good stuff!

8. Dead Zone – It’s rather appropriate that the debut film, Dead Zone, is right in the middle. I consider it a good measuring stick for all of the DBZ films. It has a simple, but effective plot revolving around the kidnapping of Gohan and a villain out for revenge and immortality via the Dragon Balls. That villain is Garlic Jr., who gets to follow a typical villain mold for this series in that he’s not imposing to look at, but he’s hiding a monstrous transformation. The fight choreography is top-notch and probably the best the series had. Watching Goku dodge the blade attacks of Garlic Jr’s minions is easily the film’s most fun visual. There’s also the odd drunk Gohan sequence that’s pretty amusing by itself, and we even get a pee joke. The film kind of falls apart in the final act, a common occurrence sadly for these films. We’re teased a Goku vs Piccolo fight that never gets going, and Garlic Jr. is defeated in a very anticlimactic fashion by Gohan. Basically, Gohan powering up alone pushed Garlic into the Dead Zone? I don’t know, it’s still a lot of fun though.

Bebi_Burori

Legendary Super Saiyan? More like Legendary Cry Baby.

7. Broly:  The Legendary Super Saiyan – Broly peeks on our list at number 7, which isn’t half-bad (literally). His debut film was the longest at the time totaling over 70 minutes and it utilizes its time well. It moves at a methodic pace teasing the emergence of Broly and then devotes a sizable portion of its run time to the actual fight. Where it stumbles is with its odd handling of Vegeta and, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the resolution to the actual fight with Broly. His defeat just feels cheap. I don’t know what would have worked better since they kind of wrote themselves into a hole considering how powerful Broly is, but surely something better could have been utilized. Nonetheless, it’s still fine and this is how a Broly film should function where the plot revolves around him, but doesn’t necessarily require him to do much aside from just being there. The other characters move the narrative and provide the context. Oh, and his origin is great aside from why he hates Goku. I think that aspect of his origin was supposed to be funny, but it just doesn’t fit here.

vlcsnap-00003

You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!

6. The World’s Strongest – The second DBZ film still feels a bit like an odd duck. It is somewhat rooted in the spirit of the original Dragon Ball, and bringing Master Roshi back into the fold is certainly welcomed by me. The sci-fi nature of the plot is slightly out of place for Dragon Ball Z, but less so when you consider some of what was featured in Dragon Ball. If the villainous duo of Dr. Wheelo and Dr. Kochin were given ties to the Red Ribbon Army then they would have felt right at home. Like Dead Zone, it gets a lot out of its visuals. The fight choreography is again top-notch, and the big finish with the Spirit Bomb works since it hadn’t been done before. I love the arctic location and the humor infused into it. Even the whole premise of the film, a couple of long dormant scientists mistaking Master Roshi for the strongest fighter in the world, is pretty amusing and the Metal Gear-like Dr. Wheelo is certainly an interesting opponent from a visual perspective. This is just another fun DBZ movie that moves at a brisk pace and is able to squeeze everything that’s charming about early DBZ  into it in a satisfying manner.

pudding 1

When a god asks for pudding you give him pudding!

5. Battle of Gods – The return I had no idea I cared about. Battle of Gods both resurrected Dragon Ball Z as an anime brand and launched Dragon Ball Super. It introduced the God of Destruction, Beerus, and his godly attendant Whis who have become some of my favorite characters across all of Dragon Ball. Beerus is not only an all-powerful god, but a cat. We’ve seen cat creatures before, but Beerus is able to subtly weave in cat-like behavior into his mannerisms that’s so entertaining. The film also brings together basically everyone from DBZ as far as the earthlings go, and it’s heavily reliant on comedy. So much so that it comes at the expense of action, which is where some fans seemed to be let down. That and Goku’s Super Saiyan God form was fairly underwhelming. Still, what action is present is solid and the film looks fantastic when it’s not trying to use CG effects.

bjoack group shot

Some cool guys and Yamcha.

4. Bojack Unbound – The first movie that did not try to rely on Goku, Bojack Unbound put Gohan in the spotlight in a bit of rehash of his fight with Cell and the awakening of his Super Saiyan 2 powers. It could have been a bit lame, but it’s anchored by some character development that works and the introduction of one Mr. Satan who never fails to be amusing. The entire film takes place on an island as the Z fighters have entered a tournament for riches. There’s plenty of humor to be found at the expense of both Mr. Satan and Krillin, and also plenty of action. The part of the film I liked most was the little peak at a post-death Goku Vegeta, who is essentially depressed about the loss of his rival. The film maybe could have been better if that had been its primary focus, but instead it chose to just make that a small piece. The actual villain, Bojack, is kind of boring to be honest, but we get a good series of fights out of him and his minions. It’s also fun seeing the Super Saiyan 2 moment rehashed, and the film just looks fantastic.

vegeta cries

Tears in Hell.

3. Fusion Reborn – Probably not surprising, but a film that spends quite a bit of time devoted to exploring the relationship of Goku and Vegeta is going to rank high on my list. These films often don’t go for character development, instead choosing to just capture the essence of the main characters and sticking that on-screen. For Vegeta, that typically means you just get a cocky jerk who is only fighting because he wants to be the one to defeat Goku instead of the villain of the moment. In this one, both fighters are dead, and they need to not only team-up to stop the Buu-like Janemba, but literally become one fighter via fusion. Vegeta can’t stand the thought, but Goku proves persuasive. The two seem to develop an understanding of one another and have a bit of a quiet reckoning leading up to the big moment, and it’s very rewarding and very sweet. In addition to that, the movie combines impressive visual flair with a ton of funny bits including Goten and Trunks taking on a resurrected Hitler. This one distills the qualities of the Buu Saga that I actually like into a tidy 52 minutes and it’s arguably the most “fun” of all the Dragon Ball Z movies.

goku vegeta bicker

Play nice you two.

2. Resurrection ‘F’ – The most recent film may actually be the only one more fun than Fusion Reborn and that’s because it’s very much a fan-servicey kind of movie. It brings back Frieza, the most hate-able of all of the villains, for another round. Now he’s powered-up to a new form, but so are his chief rivals Goku and Vegeta. Debuting their new Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (Super Saiyan Blue, for short) forms, the two Saiyans are basically on equal footing for the first time since their inaugural fight way back on Earth during the Saiyan Saga. In addition to watching them pummel Frieza, we get to see the other, lesser, fighters square off against Frieza’s minions including Master Roshi! Krillin shaves his head, Gohan gets angry, it’s basically all here. Beerus and Whis also return and they’re just as amusing as before and the film’s visual style is truly stunning. This may be the best looking DBZ film so far as it dials back on the crude CG from Battle of Gods. I think I still prefer The Tree of Might’s look to this one, but it’s close. Ultimately, this one works because we get to see that jerk Frieza get bested once again, and Vegeta even gets a little revenge. It also further adds to the Goku/Vegeta dynamic in a worthwhile way, something that Dragon Ball Super will continue to explore.

tapiotrunks

This is a sweet one, right up until a child is asked to execute his buddy.

1. Wrath of the Dragon – I guess when it comes to these movies, I’m more of a “plot guy” than an “action guy.” Wrath of the Dragon doesn’t feature a ton of fighting, but it does spend a long time on the quieter things. I enjoyed the introduction of Tapion and his story, and seeing a different side of Trunks felt very rewarding. We’ve seen Goku take on all kinds of crazy beings, so it was nice for a change to just spend a lot of time looking at a character that’s mostly been underserved by both the films and the series. It gives the film a different mood. It’s a bit sad, but also endearing, and it still packs in some moments of triumph. Some of the early plot machinations are a bit silly, and the almost total absence of Vegeta felt puzzling, but Wrath of the Dragon still manages to tell the best story of all 15 films and that’s primarily why I placed it here.

In truth, the top 5 films felt pretty interchangeable for me. Bojack Unbound is really watchable because of the action pieces, while Battle of Gods feels the most dense because of all of the new lore introduced. Fusion Reborn and Resurrection ‘F’ bring a lot of humor and silliness to the table, making both very re-watchable, while Wrath of the Dragon just seemed to strike a nice balance for me. Hopefully, the upcoming Broly can match the best Dragon Ball Z put out. It’s basically guaranteed to look amazing, and I’m sure we’ll get some flashy action sequences no matter what. I’ve had fun revisiting these films. I never held a high opinion of them, but I think I had more fun with them now than I did when I was younger and a bit more cynical. They are what they are and they exist simply to entertain for 45 minutes or so (and make money) and as long as they don’t betray what the series stands for then that’s good enough for me.


Dragon Ball: Season 3

Dragon Ball:  Season 3 (2010)

Dragon Ball: Season 3 (2010)

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.

Sometimes Master Roshi's perversions can be useful.

Sometimes Master Roshi’s perversions can be useful.

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.

Chiaotzu, Crane, and Tien Shinhan are the main foes for Goku and his friends during the final act of season 3.

Chiaotzu, Crane, and Tien Shinhan are the main foes for Goku and his friends during the final act of season 3.

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.


Dragon Ball – Season Two

Dragon Ball – Season Two

Last Summer I acquired the entire series of Dragon Ball on DVD when amazon.com was having a big sale on anime.  I had seen some of the series, but not all of it, and what I had seen was edited for television.  I had always wanted to revisit the series as the little of it I saw was charming, but just never got around to it.  That sale presented the perfect opportunity and by summer’s end I had seen every episode.  In December of last year, I made my first entry on the subject and promised to review the entire series on a season by season basis.  My initial idea was to post one review a month, but as is plainly obvious considering it is now past Memorial Day, that didn’t happen.  Better late than never!

Season one ended with Goku striking out on his own to find his grandpa’s four-star dragon ball.  By taking Goku and sending him off on another adventure, it brings the series back to how it started, only this time Goku is flying solo.  Let’s get it out of the way up front:  season one of Dragon Ball is the best season.  Everything is new and fresh from Goku’s indomitable will to Master Roshi’s inappropriate advances towards the show’s female characters.  That’s not to say the rest of the series is lackluster, not at all, but some of the shine does ware off.  Akira Toriyama must subscribe to the theory that you should stick with what got you there.  He’ll re-use a lot of the same gags and gimmicks, and while Roshi’s perverted nature is usually pretty funny, the more dramatic elements become tiresome (such as when a villain disappears in a cloud of smoke and the heroes foolishly think it’s dead, oh yeah, that one will be used a lot).

While Toriyama is comfortable sticking with what he knows, changing the show’s focus to just Goku is a pretty bold move.  He has essentially removed the entire supporting cast from season one (I should point out, the “seasons” are pretty much arbitrarily broken out by Funimation for the localization process and DVD releases and aren’t true seasons in the literal sense) and is relying on Goku to carry the show.  That doesn’t mean Goku is going to go it alone entirely.  Along his travels he’ll meet several new friends and many new foes.  Some exist to better serve the plot, and some for comic relief, but there are some pretty good characters introduced in season two that will make a lasting impression on the series and our hero.

General Blue; he’s basically a massive douche.

The major conflict of season two revolves around Goku V.S. the Red Ribbon Army.  The Red Ribbon Army (RRA) was introduced at the tail end of season one and is an organization after the dragon balls(what else?).  Emperor Pilaf was the main villain in the first part of season one and he too was after the dragon balls, but at no point does the audience consider him a threat.  He’s a bumbling sort of villain used mostly for comedic relief.  Even Goku has trouble remembering who he is and clearly doesn’t take him seriously.  The Red Ribbon Army, on the other hand, is well equipped to give our hero fits and is considerably more dangerous than Pilaf.  Early on, that won’t be quite as clear as they feel out Goku and learn (slowly) that conventional means will have little to no effect on him.

While some of their membership is quite nefarious, others are here to make us laugh.  When Goku’s travels lead him to a remote mountain village he agrees to help free their chief, who has been captured by the RRA.  This brings him to Muscle Tower, where he has to work his way from the bottom to the top in true video game fashion.  Along the way he encounters various foes, including the imbecile Ninja Murasaki.  Initially Murasaki seems like a foe worthy to take on Goku, but over the course of several episodes we realize that isn’t the case.  Their encounter is best described as slapstick and there’s some nice visual gags (particularly when Murasaki has a painful encounter with Goku’s power pole).

Along the way Goku encounters his first android.  Dragon Ball Z fans know the androids as homicidal robots created by Dr. Gero with the sole purpose to kill Goku, but Goku’s first android encounters go much different.  One is the Arnold Schwarzenegger inspired Major Metallitron.  He’s pretty much a rampaging killing maching, but Android 8 ends up being a gentle giant.  The Frankenstein-inspired 8 is quickly dubbed Eighter by Goku and they become fast friends.

Muscle Tower ends up being little trouble for our hero (hope that isn’t spoiling anything), but when Goku doesn’t find his beloved 4-star dragon ball, he seeks out Bulma once more.  This brings the old gang together for The General Blue Saga.  This saga further brings along the RRA and introduces the pirate robot too.  The heroes (Goku, Krillen, and Bulma) go on a wild run thru the maze-like undersea base of the RRA and there’s a lot of action and a healthy dose of comedy.  The saga runs perhaps a touch too long but it’s good to have Bulma and Krillen back in the fold for a few episodes.  As the name of the saga implies, General Blue is the main adversary here and he has enough tricks that he can put up a fight against Goku, something few have managed up to this point.  His “threat” is kind of short-lived and he soon ends up as another slapstick villain, especially when he and Goku end up in Penguin Village where things get a bit weird.

Mercenary Tao ends up being Goku’s most formidable opponent yet.

The last part of the season has Goku off on his own once more.  The RRA send the famed Mercenary Tao after him this time, who actually proves to be a very capable opponent for the young hero.  Here, Toriyama will employ an effective tool for the first time to get the viewer emotionally invested in the conflict:  death.  Tao is a cold-blooded killer with no redeeming qualities, and Goku figures this out pretty quickly.  He’s a true threat, and the season ends with Goku setting off on a strange quest of sorts to gather enough strength to make sure he can stop Tao for good.

Season two contains a lot of the charms that made season one so enjoyable.  Goku is off on his own for a large portion of it, but he’s never truly alone as other allies fill the void.  Few of these allies are as entertaining as Bulma or Master Roshi, but it’s nice to change things up.  Of the new characters, I find Blue, Tao, and Korin the most interesting though Korin only appears in the season’s finale.  Season three is probably a little better as Goku’s conflict with the Red Ribbon Army gets ratcheted up a notch and the next round of the World’s Martial Arts tournament begins again.  Season two establishes Dragon Ball as a fun and pretty consistent television show.  Don’t watch it for depth, just watch it for the sheer enjoyment of it.