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The Dragonball Thread - It's Over 9000 Posts!

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
It's an aspirational title.

Anyway, decided to watch Dragonball from the beginning. I don't know if I'll stick through it to Z but knowing me, probably, even though I've seen it all. I've also read all the manga but missed a lot of the original Dragonball anime. When I was a teenager, OG Dragonball aired for one story arc and then the next year they skipped right over to Z, because let's face it, that's the one that had the fights that kids will get excited about, even if they where thrown in knowing nothing about these characters.

I'm watching this on Crunchyroll in the original Japanese and I'll say the subtitles are interesting. It's not exactly full of translator notes but they also don't bother explaining certain terms and onomatapeia, making the assumption you can guess by context.

I thought it would be fun to break down the series by story arcs (meaning later on there will be some big breaks between me updating you) and watch the evolution of the show in it's televised form.

So let's begin with the first arc.

The Dragonball Saga
I actually don't know if this arc has some other name but it's the name that makes the most sense in that out of all the arc, it's the one that is the most Dragonball focused and introduces us to the world.

Quick Synposis
In the distant past... well, according to the narrator. It's a weird comment that feels like it is supposed to make it Star Wars-esque but it never applies to a damned thing, actually. Let's try again. In the mountains lives a martial artist child named Goku, a boy with a monkey's tail, who has never met another human apart from his deceased Grandpa. One day, he meets a girl named Bulma who is looking for "Dragonballs" It turns out Goku has one, his last memento from his grandfather. It turns out these crystal orbs can summon a dragon to grant a wish to whoever can collect all seven and Bulma (who has collected two and created a machine to detect Dragonballs) has dedicated her summer break to just that to wish for a boyfriend. She convinces Goku to join her to see the world when she realizes 1) he's strong and 2) he doesn't want to let his Dragonball go. The two begin travelling together and Goku rescues a sea turtle, bringing him to the mysterious Turtle Hermit who possesses the next Dragonball. He also presents Goku with a magic cloud, Kinto Un, which he can fly around on.

Next, Bulma and Goku earn another Dragonball by defeating Oolong, a tyrant who turns out to be a wimpy shapeshifting pig, desperate to get a girlfriend. Oolong joins them, coerced by Bulma, and they run afoul Yamucha, a desert bandit and Pu-erh, his shapeshifting friend. Goku, who loves a fight, and Yamucha fight an even battle (due to Goku being weak from hunger) but Yamucha retreats when he meets Bulma. It turns out Yamucha has a fear of girls and when he learns of the Dragonballs, he decides to steal them to overcome this fear. To this end, he pretends to help them so he can swoop in and take the Dragonballs when they are all collected. Next, the trio encounter the Gyumao of the eternally burning Mt. Frypan, a giant of a man whom even the powerful Goku can't seem to beat. But Gyumao relents when he realizes Goku's grandpa and Gyumao were both students of the Turtle Hermit. Goku agrees to collect the Turtle Hermit so he can put out Mt. Frypan in exchange for a Dragonball. Goku does so with the help of Gyumao's daughter Chichi and the Turtle Hermit puts out the mountain (well, destroys it) with his signature technique the Kamehameha Wave (which Goku is quick to learn). During this time, Yamucha also learns Goku's tail is his weakness, which he plots to use against him later.

After an encounter with a rabbit crime boss, the trio end up teaming with Yamucha and Pu-Erh but in seeking the last Dragonball are caught by Pilaf, an "emperor" of dubious note who takes their Dragonballs. Pilaf attempts to use the Dragonballs to conquer the world but Oolong happens to escape and when Pilaf summons the dragon, Shen Long, Oolong simply blurts out a minor wish first, scattering the balls. Oolong is recaptured and Bulma reveals it will be a year before the balls can be useable again. That night, Goku makes the strange claim a monster comes up every full moon and it must not be looked at. He also says the moon monster killed his grandfather the night he looked at it, making the rest of the gang concerned Goku IS the monster. Sure enough, he looks at the moon and turns into a 20 foot tall ape, freeing them by threatening to kill them in a rampage. Using their wits, the gang manages to cut off Goku's tail, weakening him and turning back to normal. Yamucha and Bulma fall in love with Yamucha overcoming his fear and while Goku flies off in search of adventure, Bulma decides to return to the city with her new friends. And Oolong.

Story
Right off the hit comedy Dr. Slump, this is Dragonball at it's wackiest, still bringing that Slump energy. It's much more serialized (though Slump had quite a few "arcs") but it really does feel like their no overarching plan and Toriyama was just playing by ear, which makes sense. Animated, the first arc actually has a bit of bloat that the relatively punchy and fast-moving manga doesn't. It's clear to pace the first arc to 13 episodes and to make each one a full half hour, they padded it significantly and often it hurts. It's not without charm in this regard but those early issues are very quick reads and it works best that way. A lot of it is to also build up Pilaf and Co but I feel like they don't really need it, mostly they are goofy antagonists and they are fun but more of them doesn't make it better.

Animation
The animation is fairly weak at this stage, with few interesting decisions. It's clear at this point they are hitting while the iron is red hot.

Themes
I feel the more interesting stuff I'll get into when I get to characters but mostly "adventure and discovery" are fun, both the discovery of stuff and people and places but also of what happens next in a wacky wild story.

Jokes
Early Dragonball is joke central but frankly there are two problems; one is that a lot of it is about how funny it is people want to grope a 16 year old girl and the other is some of the jokes I think are great from the original just aren't working when translated, treating them more like texture to this wacky adventure rather than hitting the punch the way the manga does. My favourite gag where the heroes fall for a very easy trap, causing Pilaf to be struck speechless with how easily it worked isn't given proper time to hit as a real joke. There's also less meta stuff, which is probably because the meta-Slump like humour was disappearing from the manga by the time this anime was coming out (even though Slump and Arale actually appear for a quick story).

Characters
This is by far the best part. Yes, Oolong and Muten Roshin's bullshit is pretty unpleasant today but I love the cast dynamic at this stage. I think everyone forgets that pretty much everyone in the cast is kind of a shithead. Even Goku, albeit he's a purehearted shithead and everyone is kind of goofily corrupt. They are horny (especially Bulma) and liars and jerks. Gyumoa has killed countless people and he's let off with a scolding. I like that Goku is the only "innocent" and he's still an annoying brat who will laugh at other's misfortune. I remember reading that Toriyama didn't like that the history of the anime made people forget Goku's "poison", likely referring to the fact that Goku isn't to him an active hero of justice, he's a kid who likes fights and food and doesn't like bullies. He's purehearted but more like an animal is purehearted rather than a saint. This is also Bulma at her best. More than in the rest of the series, she's kind of a shitty jerk but in a way that is a delight and she and Goku make a great comedic duo. I feel like there have been characters filling her role in shounen series, the "straight girl" who is more worldly and maybe a bit greedy (Lucy in Fairy Tail, Nami in One Piece), but I really think even though it isn't a "deep" character, this early Bulma is a very rich character with lots to mine out of.

Action and Adventure!
Going to the animation, most of the fights don't look particularly good. It's still perfectly watchable with some moments but it feels more about the gags and the original fights largely just feel like they need to fill up time. But Toriyama flying by the seat of his pants can create some fun story beats and it's nice to see Goku both a world beater and a guy falling into wacky situations. It's refreshing for the series to be about finding new fun and excitement in the world and discoveries rather than a hit list of dudes to beat up or as it is in the last arcs, one guy to beat up multiple times.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I’m also watching OG Dragonball for the first time (not counting the early original dub), but I’m not through the first arc yet.

Sure are a lot of jokes about groping people!
 

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I can't believe Oolong wasted his wish on a sandwich
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
I really like, how the world at the very start is this weird, quasi-mystical place, where regular people live along talking animals, and all kinds of wacky nonsense can happen every moment. It's a shame, how the world will become more mundane, as time goes on, or at least when we are at Z.

Also, I still find it interesting that, despite Z being the one with all the fights, the big ones in the OG Dragon Ball are way more interesting to watch. In Z, you very often have one overpowered character beating up the other, except if that other guy is one of the good ones. Then, that one will get a powerup, and the situation is reversed. It is way too rare, for opponents to be at least kind-of equally strong.

But here, the first tournament? I mean, maybe my memory is faulty, I haven't read/seen this in years, but I remember stuff like Goku vs Muten Roshi, Goku vs Krillin or Muten Roshi vs Tenshinhan to be some of the best fights in the original and Z.

Thanks for the write-up, looking forward for more.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I really like, how the world at the very start is this weird, quasi-mystical place, where regular people live along talking animals, and all kinds of wacky nonsense can happen every moment. It's a shame, how the world will become more mundane, as time goes on, or at least when we are at Z.
Never forget, the president of Earth was a dog.
But here, the first tournament? I mean, maybe my memory is faulty, I haven't read/seen this in years, but I remember stuff like Goku vs Muten Roshi, Goku vs Krillin or Muten Roshi vs Tenshinhan to be some of the best fights in the original and Z.
They are some of the funnest and in large part because it feels it can be sillier and it's not about power scaling. Goku doesn't get to fight Krillen until the second tourney though, where Tienshin is the main antagonist.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
They are some of the funnest and in large part because it feels it can be sillier and it's not about power scaling. Goku doesn't get to fight Krillen until the second tourney though, where Tienshin is the main antagonist.
Yeah, I mixed that up (hence the mention of Tien), and then decided it doesn't matter, all three tournaments are really fun. Ranging from goofy nonsense, like the gross guy that smells awful vs Krillin, or the one were Goku fight a Dragon Quest monster, up to the the best straight-up fights in the series. I just reread Goku vs Krillin and Goku vs Tien (the first one), and they are just nicely matched fights without too much gimmicky stuff and nearly something like a choreography. Good stuff. I really liked Tien as an antagonist. I wished he hadn't been outclassed so fast.

My main go-to for battles that annoy me, due to one character being completely in a different league is the fight against Nappa. Like, no one has even the smallest chance of hurting him. At all. Even when first reading it with 13, I disliked that Chao-Zu blew himself up, and it didn't even hurt him at all. Felt like too much. And then Goku appears, and demolishes him. Dunno, I wished the others were shown to be able to actually win, when fighting together, instead of making their resistance so completely pointless. Especially with Vegeta afterwards.

That said, I remember the fight against Vegeta being better and more interesting. More in the vain of "he is way stronger, but together, they can still pull off a win, without any kind of asspull transformation".
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The 21st Tenka'ichi Budōkai Saga

AKA the World Martial Arts Tournament AKA The Strongest Under the Heavens Tournament

Quick Synopsis
With the Dragonballs unfindable for a year, Goku decides to take up Muten Roshi, the Turtle Hermit, on his offer to train him. However, while he meant it, he is bummed Bulma isn't with him to harass so he orders Goku to find a cute girl before he trains him. With "cute girls" being a foreign concept to Goku, he has little luck but things change with the arrival of a Shaolin Monk named Kuririn, who wants to master martial arts to impress girls. Both are sent to find a girl and succeed in finding a cute, sweet girl named Lunch. Lunch decides to stay on Roshi's island because she's actually wanted by the police due to having a savage split personality.

The Hermit gives the two boys extremely strict training of the body with seemingly no techniques. He also promises if they keep with it, they'll get to take part in the world's greatest martial arts tournament, the Tenka'ichi Budokai. The two boys train and eventually learn that with both having the basics of martial arts, the Hermits training is merely meant to train the body to superhuman levels and allow them to grow their own way with their abilities. After 8 months of training, they truly are superhuman and join the tournament. While there, they meet Yamucha, who has also been training. Meanwhile, Roshi enters the tournament in the guise of Jackie Chun, with the express purpose of defeating his pupils to prevent them from winning and becoming complacent or arrogant.

Chun, Yamucha, Kuririn and Goku all pass the preliminaries with ease. In the first match, Kuririn defeats the foul-smelling Bacterian while in the second Yamucha is completely outclassed by "Chun". Goku wins in the fourth match where he also discovers his tail has regrown, much to the horror of his old friends, fearing he may once again become a monster. In the semi-finals, Kuririn fights valiantly but is defeated by Chun while Goku also advances, being an honorable opponent named Namu. In the last round, Roshi and Goku fight to a standstill, with Roshi using any and all tricks up his sleeve, only for Goku to find a way to overcome each one. Things escalate when the long fight extends into the evening and Goku sees the full moon, turning him into a monster. Rather than cutting off Goku's tail, Roshi unleashes a massive Kamehameha that destroys the moon itself. When Goku is returned to normal (still unaware of his monstrous other side), Goku and Roshi resume, both pushed past conventional exhaustion and running on fumes. Roshi manages to win the fight just barely by using Goku's short limbs to his advantage. "Chun" wins the fight and Goku is simply grateful for the good time.

Story
It's funny to say this considering how light hearted the initial arc is but this is easily the lowest stakes of all the major Dragonball arcs. There's a fighting tournament and the consequences for most of it are... losing a fighting tournament. But for the most part, that's a lot of the charm. It still thinks of itself as a "gag" series, albeit serialized, and that means the training arc, which is actually quite longer than it in theory needs to be, is more of a series of sketches. Unfortunately, it means a lot of it is Roshi being a creeper shit but it also invests in the development in our heroes. From then on, there isn't deep depth in the fighters but there's a lot of fun and the last battle is really well constructed, a mix of genuine fight fun and a series of sketches as Goku uses his wits or comical misunderstanding to overcome the next trial. I'll also say this section handles the filler a bit better. It could be punchier but there are fewer "the penalty is pinball" style stuff that makes it clear it needs to fill time. Ironically, I think it is less content-y but adds more texture and mood (Kishi pointed out on Discord they give the rather goofy monster villain Giran a fairly cool Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone-style build up in what is essentially stalling for time).

giranmilk.gif


Animation

Things are getting better. It's still mostly cheap-ish but there's a bit more style and direction that I feel is more assured. Not super-stylish (save making Giran look kind of cool).

Themes
Mostly self improvement and the joy of seeing the fruits from the eternal journey to get stronger and better. This is when it first establishes Goku, who is trained but undisciplined, as a training sponge, eager to soak up lessons to get better.

Jokes
Oof. This is Roshi heavy, so yeah, just a LOT of "dirty old man" jokes that sit grosser with each viewing. Bulma's 16 dude, leave her alone. I will say, my favourite Dragonball jokes was better translated in the Viz manga. In this show, Goku explains that he's 12, not 14 (his previously stated age) because Roshi taught him 12 comes after 11, not 14. In the manga, I like it better. "The Hermit taught me 12 comes after 11... every time!" I like this view of math from Goku. When it gets away from the problematic stuff, there's some fun stuff but there's also some very 80s gag manga stuff that doesn't work for me, like Chun having a wacky musical number and making faces. Much better is the final fight where it plays out like a series of sketches as the two try to outplay each other. I will also say, Bulma gets a fucking great face in one scene. I don't like Roshi's bullshit but I love Bulma's reaction.
aj4tGdj.png


Characters
With most of the original cast put on the backburner (and even when they appear, they mostly act as commentators), Roshi is given a bigger role and some more characters are added. Roshi's crappiness aside, the dynamic isn't bad, especially when Kuririn/Krillin begins his life as this little shit.

dragon_ball___krillin_first_appearance_by_dlee1293847_ddp0o7v-fullview.jpg

Krillin becomes more of an everyman character in the series. Early on, he's a shitty little brownnoser who thinks Goku is a hick and is about as sleazy as Roshi (saves he doesn't act on it as much). There's a point where he just up and pisses on a frog for fun. This little fucker sucks and Toriyama knows it because he knows it's fun to team the innocent Goku with less-than-innocent characters whom he can stymie with his guilelessness and strength. But as the arc goes on and Kuririn undergoes training, the two really become brother in arms. Arguably, it makes Krillin and little more generic but it somehow works for Goku to have a real friend where the two share real joy in what they do and childlike excitement for each other when they win fights. My favourite moment is Goku realizing how powerful the Turtle Hermit's training is, begins to tell Krillin to hold back in the prelims... then some bullies from Krillin's old school come to mock him and Goku is like "Forget what I said, go all out." It's obviously a cathartic and funny moment when he does but I think it also cements something about their friendship. Krillin kind of stops being an overtly unique character with his quirky shitty behaviour being dropped but I think it makes for a weirdly richer experience. The edges are sanded off quickly but he becomes booster that kind of humanizes the bratty Goku.

And it's interesting because I like the character dynamics of the first arc but there's only a slight emotional connection between Goku and the other characters. They are all working on different wavelengths and while they kind of get to like each other and work as a comedic union, Krillin is really Goku's first emotional connection we see.

On the other hand, Lunch is the other big introduction and one that completely falls away by the time we get to DBZ. She has a gimmick and it's kind of fun (she gets a legit cool introduction made for the anime that is another Spaghetti Western pastiche, which makes me think I know what kinds of movies the director likes). She's not necessary but she herself is a fun character I wish they could have found more to do with.

Action and Adventure!
The fights are a lot better now since so much is focused on the specifics, though still not as fluid as when it becomes more actiony. Goku and Krillin end up getting drawn with longer limbs for this reason when the tourney actually starts. What's fun about this era is it hasn't fallen into the formula of raw power yet. Yes, Goku is a world beater but there's less "muscling through" a given fight as before and it makes the fights more fun as a result.

Other notes
The music choices are a bit odd. The theme for the tournament every recap is a weird march that feels more like it should be the theme for the Red Ribbon Army.

It's an odd musical choice and I'm wondering if it will be reused in the next arc.

And when the tournament starts, it also begins with the symbol of the tournament with a weird sounding tune that feels like it's a series of tones that feels like I'm about to see a promotional video from a corporation.

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Red Ribbon Pre-Amble (Filler Arc 1)

Quick Synopsis
After the tournament, Goku goes off in search of his grandpa's Four Star Ball. Along the way, he meets former opponent Namu, still struggling to find a consistent water source for his people. He and Goku learn that the draught was in part caused by an army of monster people to whom Giran, the opponent Goku defeated in round 1 of the tournament. They created a dam and Giran challenges Goku to destroy it, which he does and proves himself to Giran once again. However, the river is destoyed in a sandstorm. Thankfully, a mysterious moving oasis decided to appear near Namu's people, which he takes for a divine sign.

Goku continues and finds himself crossing paths once again with Pilaf, now equipped with a giant floating fortress. But a mysterious third party is also searching for the Dragonballs; the Red Ribbon Army. Pilaf, Goku and the Army's Colonel Silver all compete for the ball, which lands Pilaf in the Kingdom of the Gyumao. Pilaf disguises his henchman Shu as Goku in order to get in with the giant, who wants to celebrate Goku and Chichi getting married while the real Goku runs into Chichi and they hang out with Goku unaware of Chichi's crush on him. Pilaf manages to get the ball and proves his fortress is a match for the Red Ribbon Army at first, but soon he finds himself defeated and surrenders his Dragon Ball to Silver. Goku later ends up in the forest befriending monkeys but when Silver finds a Dragonball in the area, he tries to take it, and in trying to rescue some monkeys, Goku ends up going downriver. Also, Roshi explains to Kuririn that the Dragonballs were once one ball granting wishes willy-nilly until people got greedy and heaven scattered them to the four winds.

Story
Mostly bad. Filler isn't known for being good. The first of the four episodes is pretty bad. I appreciate they want to bring back Goku's foes as friends but the story doesn't make them more interesting of give them great chemistry. The middle batch of episodes is better, giving Pilaf a cool floating fortress and smartly trying to be farce-focused, as opposed to the other two episode, which is more dull, but it doesn't compare to the original material. The last part with the monkeys is... also there. Whatever. Basically, it's mostly pretty dull but the Pilaf bits at least seem to be trying.. The origin of the Dragon Balls presented here is completely ignored and rightly so (though Roshi himself states "this is just legend"). (Also, pretty sure Roshi states in his first appearance he has no clue about what a Dragonball is). The best we get is the show trying to be clever with a reveal where one Dragonball really is... hidden on the roof of some guy selling fake Dragonballs.

Animation
Unmemorable

Themes
Greed motivates evil actions and also the Red Ribbon arc maybe didn't finish as these episodes were being released.

Jokes
Oh, that's what we forgot. Like, even adding Pilaf and fact, very little is good here. Heck, it's like they got the idea of a joke but forgot how they work.

Characters

They are clearly trying to give a little more personality to minor villain Silver, who is quickly beaten when the Red Ribbon arc REALLY starts, but it's vague menace and his physical accomplishments pale in consideration Goku just fought a man who blew up the moon to a standstill. Other than that, it feels like trying to bring in some characters we haven't seen in a while and Pilaf and co get the closest to being interesting throughout while I could give a toss about how the rest come across.

Action and Adventure!

There but perfunctory. I'm not trying to be cruel but it;'s just so generic, I don't care.

Other Notes
This few collection of episodes really is kind of a drag. Again, it's not the worst filler I've seen but I can easily go make some tea or something even though this is the story I affectively DON'T know, since I'm real familiar with the manga. The Pilaf stuff isn't funny but it at least tries for fun with a big fight against his Death Star by the Red Ribbon and some farce at Mt. Frypan.

It will be interesting to watch the Red Ribbon arc animated since I know there's some filler throughout. The structure of this arc is similar to the first, very episodic, except it's closer to the shounen formula of "series of fights". Still, it's designed so I feel like it is easier to slip in other smaller adventures, since the Red Ribbon Arc takes us to some fun and interesting locales in the Dragonball World, including one of it's most iconic.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
And when the tournament starts, it also begins with the symbol of the tournament with a weird sounding tune that feels like it's a series of tones that feels like I'm about to see a promotional video from a corporation.
Pretty sure that’s just playing on old studio logo jingles. Both this and that March have some Gojira-era energy.
 

Alixsar

The Shogun of Harlem
(He/him)
Krillin becomes more of an everyman character in the series. Early on, he's a shitty little brownnoser who thinks Goku is a hick and is about as sleazy as Roshi (saves he doesn't act on it as much). There's a point where he just up and pisses on a frog for fun. This little fucker sucks and Toriyama knows it because he knows it's fun to team the innocent Goku with less-than-innocent characters whom he can stymie with his guilelessness and strength. But as the arc goes on and Kuririn undergoes training, the two really become brother in arms. Arguably, it makes Krillin and little more generic but it somehow works for Goku to have a real friend where the two share real joy in what they do and childlike excitement for each other when they win fights. My favourite moment is Goku realizing how powerful the Turtle Hermit's training is, begins to tell Krillin to hold back in the prelims... then some bullies from Krillin's old school come to mock him and Goku is like "Forget what I said, go all out." It's obviously a cathartic and funny moment when he does but I think it also cements something about their friendship. Krillin kind of stops being an overtly unique character with his quirky shitty behaviour being dropped but I think it makes for a weirdly richer experience. The edges are sanded off quickly but he becomes booster that kind of humanizes the bratty Goku.
Re: the Goku/Krillin friendship. Even though Krillin gets pushed to the wayside like every non-Saiyan in DBZ, it's worth noting that Krillin's death (which at the rules at that time is thought to be permanent...of course this gets handwaved away fairly quickly but at that exact moment, Goku thinks this one is For Real™) is the catalyst for Goku to go Super Saiyan. Goku loves that lil' guy
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
Krillin's death in the original Dragon Ball (dude dies a lot) is also a big moment and turning point in the series
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Red Ribbon Army Arc
Quick Synopsis
Goku is on the hunt for his grandfather's Dragonball when he runs afoul the Red Ribbon Army, the world's most evil military organization, who are also looking for the Dragonballs. Red Ribbon tries to take him out and steal his Dragonball and radar (as it is far more precise than their own) and Goku ends up in the frozen North where the Red Ribbon has taken control of a small town by kidnapping the village chief. Goku attacks their base to save the town and acquire their Dragonball and defeats every threat in the tower, including a robot, a ninja and the giant monster and also manages to befriend an android named #8.

Goku then realizes his battle has broken his Dragon Radar and he visits Bulma in the city, where he meets her rich family, as it is revealed her father is the genius behind Capsule Corps, the company that makes Hoi Poi Capsules. Bulma decides she wants some adventures fixes Goku's Radar and joins him. Bulma and Goku then get help from Kuririrn to find a Dragonball, only to run afoul General Blue, one of the Red Ribbon's most feared Generals. Even Goku struggles against Blue due to his psychic powers but manages to defeat him and acquire the ball. However, after the adventure Blue steals the balls and the radar and ends up in Penguin Village a small town that is home to scientist Senbei Norimaki and his creation, a super-powered robot girl named Arale. Arale and Goku team up and defeat Blue with ease and Arale and her friends' strength impress him. Goku gets back his balls and his radar is rebuilt but Blue ends up with the original, allowing the Red Ribbon to track Goku and the balls.


Fed up with being unable to defeat Goku, Commander Red, leader of the Red Ribbon, calls in Tao Pai Pai, the world's deadliest assassin. Goku, meanwhile ends up tracking a ball to Karin's Tower, a tower said to hold the secret to super strength to those who can scale it and are guarded by its indigenous defender Bora and his meek son Oopa. Tao arrives and kills Bora with ease and seemingly kills Goku, who is shockingly outclassed in every way. Goku survives by luck and decides to use the Dragonballs to wish Bora back to life for Oopa. Goku, deciding he needs to get strong and quick, scales Karin's tower and plays a game of keep away with Karin, a chubby white cat who guards the super water that would enhance his strength. Goku manages to acquire it after three days only to be told the water is just water and his strength has increased manifold due to the high altitude games and learning to read his opponents. Goku has a rematch with Tao and Goku triumphs, resulting in the apparent death of Tao who is killed by his own bomb.

Finally, Goku decides simply to charge into the Red Ribbon base and rip apart the army to acquire their Dragonballs and avenge for Bora. Goku's friends here of this and decide to rush to help, fearing Goku will get himself killed. Goku trounces the army while Commander Red is killed by his underling Black after learning Red isn't planning to wish for world domination but simply to increase his height, of which he is incredibly insecure about. Black tries to convince Goku to join the Red Ribbon Army, even promising him to let him use the Dragonballs to save his friend but Goku has no interest and defeats a tenacious but outclassed Black. The Army is destroyed and Goku's closest friends are shocked by Goku singlehandedly defeating an army. But with Goku only one Dragonball away from resurrecting Oopa's dad, the Dragon Radar seems like it might be in the fritz, as it seems incapable of finding the seventh and final ball.

Story
The Red Ribbon arc isn't without it's flaws, which I will get to, but it is an extremely fun Dragonball arc and one of the last major arcs all about collecting the balls. I guess it plays a big role in the Frieza saga but that's not usually what comes to mind when I think of it. But like the inaugural arc, we get to see lots of wild locales and meet crazy characters and there's a lot of variety to it, which is good. The series is still very humour focused but the threats are bigger and Goku ends up sweating a little more, even before meeting Tao Pai Pai.

The big problems are the pacing and BOY DID A LOT OF THIS SHIT NOT AGE WELL. Let's start with pacing; in it's comic form, each chapter is about 14 pages and that MIGHT net you a minute a page if you are lucky. But the fact is, Dragonball in it's early iteration zooms along so trying to stretch it out often does it a disservice. It's not all bad. Some of it is good tone setting and some of it is simply creative character stuff that tries to add rather than stall. Like, what if Tao Pai Pai tried to get himself some of that super water isn't a bad idea for a digression in the story. While not my favourite part, Goku vs. Husky the thief at least is an original adventure that doesn't feel like a retread of things we've seen. But most of it really reminds me that it works so much better in the comics. It's one thing to slow things down in Dragonball, which is more serious and can allow for dramatic pauses of characters staring each other down but slow down comedy and whimsy at your peril. And a lot of it leads nowhere. We are given the original character of Colonel Violet and she steals some money and escapes the Red Ribbon and she never amounts to much (part of me wonders if we will see her in an upcoming filler arc or if she will be simply forgotten.

The other notable thing which originated in the comic and is worsened in the anime is the... bad stuff. Notably this is the arc with the most black characters, mostly Red Ribbon also-ran soldiers and it's the unfortunate "big lip" design that looks so very bad. It's a style that took far too long to be abandoned by Japan. As much as I don't recommend the new Shaman King, at least Chocolove (a character named... that) looks better. It's a shame because as far as minor Dragonball characters go, I had a soft spot for Black, Red's right hand man who betrays him the second he reveals his petty intentions for the Dragonball. The dude even goes toe-to-toe with Goku AFTER he levels up and kills Tao and that's not nothing, even though Goku is clearly the more powerful of the two. Also bad is Blue, the "gay" villain. In the comic, it is merely conjecture and Blue is heavily coded gay in his fastidiousness and dislike of girls. It was bad there and here it is worse, with bad looks from Kuririn and Bulma who insult him based on being gay. Not cool dudes. Worse is when Blue meets the Dr. Slump cast, including Obotchaman (Arale's little boy robot friend) Blue falls in love with what is clearly a little boy and it's very "ew".

On the plus side, the show is still doing some great stuff. The fights with Tao are fun but for me, the high point might actually be fight against Murasaki, a ninja both talented yet incompetent, challenging Goku to hide and seek and insisting on fight rules which the naïve Goku agrees to because he's a dumb kid and Goku wins anyway. Goku is still the toughest character for most of this arc but more than that, the show really leans into the comedy. Having Goku hang out with the Dr. Slump cast is a fun point, too, driving home the differences in styles and even a return to a show with a smiling anthropomorphic sun. Again, though, this could have been a lot shorter as an adaptation.


Animation
There are a few really good looking fights in here but mostly it's not particularly impressive, sadly. And, again, slowing things down doesn't help.

Themes
Well, good vs. evil. This is a lot of Dragonball stories but the fact is up until now, the most evil villain was... Pilaf and Master Rabbit. Think about that. The Red Ribbon, though, is truly not just threatening, but actually really evil by the time we reach the end, Goku is pissed more than we've ever seen him before. Goku's goals remain selfless and his one selfish goal, get his grandpa's Dragonball, is instantly abandoned when he can help someone. Goku's purity is truly proven, a wall of incorruptibility. He's not complex and that works to the show's advantage. In the first arc, it's fun because even all of Goku's friends are some level of corrupt jerks, even Bulma. Most characters are impure, with Goku as the exception. But even then, Oolong and Yamcha are treated as redeemable and fun. The Red Ribbon are all uniformly evil in different degrees and Red's willingness to murder hundreds because of his insecurity feels telling and depressingly prescient following America's worst president.

But it's also about Goku discovering the world is a big place. By the end, Goku is a force of nature that completely destroys an army but he also faces some humbling firsts. He's met people stronger but to him Arale and Tao are next level and in opposite ways inspire him to become stronger and accept he isn't the strongest and that the world is full of strong people. We get more differing locales and scenarios than ever and it's a shame that there's less globe trotting in the series as it moved to fights in badlands and exploding planets because it was fun to see locales that didn't just exist to harbor explosion fights.

Jokes
Too damn many "Roshi oogles/tries to fondle women, stuff." But there 's a lot of fun stuff. I feel like I mentioned some of the best stuff, like Murasaki. But again , the show also had a habit of slowing down its punchlines and that's unfortunate.

Characters
A lot of new ones but few of them return. As mentioned, characters like Black and Blue are problematic, as well as Bora and Oopa. It's one thing to have indigenous characters in a fantasy world but they are very much treated as archetypes. Bulma gets something of an upgrade, namely though we've learned in the first arc she made the Dragon Radar, now she's a super genius who can make Doraemon-level gadgets like a shrink watch and basically gets to be the smartest person in the Toriyama-verse, save maybe Turbo, who is a super intelligent baby from Dr. Slump. But having Senbei Norimaki, who has made a robot who can punch the world in half and a time machine. say "this is too much for me" gets to establish Bulma is more than Goku's pervy friend who gets in trouble, she get's to be awesome in her own right. I can easily imagine an alternate universe where Dragonball is more an adventure series than a fight-based one where Bulma gets to Scrooge McDuck/Indiana Jones around the world, screaming at people while inventing impossible tools. So despite the fact that the shrink watch is mostly there to create a gag where Roshi falls into a toilet while trying to spy on Bulma, it's a nice reminder that while Dragonball isn't known for having tons of female character, Bulma remains great.

Action and Adventure!
Only a few of the action scenes look great and not repetitive but at the same time as a series of adventures, The Red Ribbon arc has a lot going on. Again, it is slowed down far too much for it's own good but I still feel like some of the decisions to stretch it out actually work OK and on occasion are even nice. And as a whole, Red Ribbon has a lot of variety in tone, which counts for a lot.
 

SpoonyBard

A Bard Named SPOONY
(He/Him)
Good thing there will never be any repercussions for Goku dismantling such a sinister organization!
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
Come to think of it... Is there, like, an "Annotated Dragon Ball" or alike anywhere out there? Or interviews that delve into the details of the franchise beyond the usual light fair? I've heard the story a thousand times about how the DBZ Majin Buu arc was Toriyama throwing anything at the wall to see what stuck, but I have never heard a definitive explanation for things like why he decided to come back to the concept of Red Ribbon/Androids after so many years, or why that was the follow up to "Goku just became his peoples' god in space". Would really be curious on the thinking behind that and various other arcs.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Fortuneteller Baba Arc
Quick Synopsis
Goku is only one Dragonball away from resurrecting Bora, Oopa's father, but even Bulma is stymied by the Dragon Radar's inability to detect it. Muten Roshi suggests getting help from Fortuneteller Baba, who can use her powers to find the ball with ease. Despite expecting a much lower stakes mission, Yamucha, Kuririn, Oopa, Pu-erh and Goku travel with the assumption of dealing with Baba quickly. However, when they meet the old crone, she reviews a purely financial transaction would be far too much for our heroes. However, Baba offers an alternative; she likes watching a good fight and if these five can defeat her five champions, she'll find the Dragonball for free. The rules are each fighter can battle subsequent opponents until they loose, until one side has completely lost.

Kuririn decides to fight first, facing Draculaman, a kick-boxing vampire. Kuririn is humbled when Draculaman takes the win. Kuririn and the rest come up with a plan where Oopa and Pu-erh are allowed to fight as a unit and use traditional vampire weaknesses (and some shape shifting cleverness) against him for a win. The duo bow out for the next round leaving four fighters for Yamucha and Goku. Yamucha fights next against Suke-San, the Invisible Man who causes trouble but Kuririn manages to uncloak him with the help of Goku who brings in Bulma and Roshi to enact a silly plan. It works and Yamucha defeats Suke-San.

Next, Baba decides to move the fight to the Devil's Toilet, an arena suspended above a pool of noxious poisonous acid. There Yamucha battles the Mummy, a goliath fighter who turns out also to not only be monstrously strong but clever and quick. He ends up defeating Yamucha and even Roshi doesn't see much hope for Goku. However, Goku manages to not only over come the Mummy's tricky attacks but manages to fell him in a single punch. From there, Goku fights the Devilman, a literal demon from Hell who was once Baba's top fighter. Goku manages to push him into a corner, forcing Devilman to unless his ultimate attack that causes even an atom of evil within the human heart to expand and kill his victim. But Goku turns out to literally have no evil within him (or perhaps simply wasn't thinking ANYTHING when struck by it) and then crushes Devilman.

To everyone's surprised, the last fighter is an old masked man who moves the fight back into a regular arena. Goku is intrigued by the man, finding his scent familiar and happy and Roshi too sees something he can't articulate. The masked man and Goku have a battle where they are equally matched and goes on for some time, allowing each fighter to show some amazing techniques., including the old man demonstrating a Kamehemeha. It is then when Roshi realizes the masked man is actually Son Gohan, Goku's grandfather. The match ends with Gohan catching Goku's tail and accidentally ripping it off while exploiting Goku's weakness. Ironically, this removes Goku's weakness and Gohan concedes and reveals himself for a tearful reunion with Goku. The two bond a little longer and Gohan reveals Baba allowed himself that he was allowed to return to Earth for the day to fight for Baba, making a vague deal to battle Goku should he ever arrive at Baba's door.

With Baba's fighters all defeated, she reveals the location of the last Dragonball. Goku tracks it down and wins it from Pilaf, who was the one who used a special box to hide the ball, and grants Oopa's wish. Goku returns expecting more training from Roshi, who has also taken on Yamucha as a student, but Roshi insists he no longer train him and instead grow by travelling the world without Kinto Un and wait until the next Tenka'ichi Budokai, in three years time. Yamucha, Kuririn and Goku vow to take part in three years and Goku runs off into the sunset in search of adventure.

Story
I really like this one. It's a big of a palette cleanser after the fairly long Red Ribbon arc and starts as a series of silly fights and actually ends both as a demonstration of both who Goku is and how far he's come, ending on an unusually sweet note for the series. We are invested in Goku because he's a sweet guy and his villains tend to be complete shits but it's rare to see the series have a real sentimental note. We may be shocked or upset when someone dies (despite the narrative reset button) but while Goku can get angry, I can't remember any other story where the big emotional moment involves Goku crying. It's a moment of real vulnerability for the guileless Hercules man-baby as after a bone crunching battle, he embraces his opponent in a loving hug and cries into his chest. It really is a surprisingly rewarding ending for a silly arc.

I also almost feels like it could have been the last arc in the series, in a good way. Yep, Goku is running off to more adventure but it is also "goodbye. we'll meet again someday", which would have been a nice bittersweet farewell. Luckily that wasn't the case because I really like the next arc (I mean, after the filler). But overall, there's less filler and while it slows a few things down, by comparison to the last arc, this clips along pretty quickly.

Animation
It's not the most amazingly animated arc but knowing it is silly, it does some silly and in some cases, well timed gags. My favourite weird little moment is Goku asking Baba's ghost servant a question, which it reacts to with a blank stare, maintaining eye contact with the audience as it backs up into the next room and finally says "follow me."

Then in one of my favourite dumb gags, Oopa fights a vampire by standing straight, arms out, and says "I'm a cross". which affects the vampire hard. And even funnier is this in the anime version.

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Sooo. I guess their was a Jesus in the Dragonball world? OK.

Themes
Mostly, this arc starts being about humbling Kuririn and Yamucha (before it was cool) and showing Goku is on a level shocking even to his friends who tend to take his unbeatability for granted. But it also feels like it's taking stock of the series so far and then going back to the beginning, as bringing in Gohan reminds us Goku is just a kid at heart, even if he's become unbelievably strong.

Jokes
Yeah, we got some "Roshi is a creeper" jokes (including Kuririn weaponizing his nosebleed) but overall, there's a lot of fun silliness to this arc.


Characters
It's not too surprising out of all the new characters, only Baba comes back and in a limited capacity. Most of the villains are arrogant goobers who get creamed and humbled. Baba is functional but she isn't going to be on anyone's list of favourites (though I'd probably put her above Karin). But we also finally get to see Son Gohan. He's both brutal yet has a gentle soul and he allows Goku to have closure, letting him know the afterlife has sexy ladies so don't worry about him and being grateful that Goku still hasn't figured out he killed his own grandpa. We never actually see Gohan again, even when Goku starts hanging out in the afterlife, but he does leave an impression.

Action and Adventure!
As I said, this arc clips along nicely. The fights are fun enough, though there's a little padding, and they get to be silly and the last one is a real fun one, though Goku getting clobbered by the tail in the last section goes on a little long.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Goku Wanders the Earth (Filler Arc 2)
Quick Synopsis
Following the advice of Muten Roshi, Goku trains by wandering the Earth in search of new challenges and training techniques. First he battles two brothers keeping a village hostage with a magic gourd. Then he faces a master martial artist in a small kingdom tournament. After that, Goku travels to the demon realm to rescue a young girl. Then Goku meets two mysterious martial artists attempting to con people out of money with staged monster attacks. Finally, Goku gets mixed up with a sneak thief who sees Goku as his only friend.

Story
The stories here are largely simplistic and not terribly clever, but they aren't completely without merit. I kind of like the penultimate one where they introduce Tien and Chao Zu prematurely, less for how those characters are presented and more for Goku's friendship with the manipulated monster. And I do kind of like that tonally, the stories largely feel like the folk tales that Dragonball did early on before the settings started looking generally modern with fewer remote villages and more metropoli.

Animation
Mostly forgettable BUT there's actually a fight against the king of the demon's where the villain moves in a unique cool way. That episode also has a bit of a low key striking opening in a spooky castle. But other than that, not much to say.

Themes
The stories mostly seem of a piece; Goku uses most of his adventures as an opportunity to grow, whoever Goku meets is changed for the better by his kindness. Goku's never a complicated character and he is always willing to lend a hand but I can see why Toriyama has complained the anime took a bit of the edge out of Goku, even if it seems to be following the manga's lead a bit. Goku is still cheeky from time to time but he's less a mirthful but innocent-hearted troublemaker and more of boring good boy. Outside of this, the stories run pretty shallow.

Jokes
Not very good and they don't happen often.

Characters
Unmemorable mostly. I guess I liked Goku's monster friend who just disappears forever. My theory; Goku just ate him one day.

Action and Adventure!
As mentioned, there's a brief but kind of neat fight against the king of the demon world but overall, these are mostly forgettable folk tales.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
The short arc with Uranai Baba was always one I enjoyed. The fights are, for the most part, simple and silly, yet still not trivial, and then we get the last battle, which I don't remember in any detail, but I remember liking it a lot. Also, was taken very much by surprise. My only complaint is, that it struck me as a bit silly, how easily Goku defeats the mummy. I guess the gap between him and Yamcha is just that big, but still, it feels like a precursor for what DBZ would do later - show us how an enemy completely demolishes one or multiple fighers, only to have Goku save the day by being way stronger than the antagonist (see Nappa).

But that's only a small gripe, on the whole, I enjoyed this arc a lot. But later on, it really struck me as odd that we never, ever see old Gohan again, and that Goku doesn't even care about the 4-star dragonball anymore, after the start of DBZ.

I remember seeing the filler afterwards one time, but only because I was surprised to see Tien and Chao-Zu before the tournament. Elsewise, nothing stuck in my memory at all. But doesn't matter, the tournament might be my favourite of the three, which means a lot. They are all fun.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Goku doesn't even care about the 4-star dragonball anymore, after the start of DBZ
Thematically, I think this makes sense. It is just a bauble to remind him of the people he loves but... then he's surrounded by them. Goku is rarely alone anymore. Not that I think this is an intended reasoning, but I think it does work in a fashion.

But I am bothered that they don't even give a cameo to Gohan in the afterlife. It would be one thing if there was a "we have enough closure" but if death is just a temporary goodbye, I'd love to see Goku bond with his grampa after the Cell Saga instead of hanging out in endless dead people tournaments.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
But I am bothered that they don't even give a cameo to Gohan in the afterlife. It would be one thing if there was a "we have enough closure" but if death is just a temporary goodbye, I'd love to see Goku bond with his grampa after the Cell Saga instead of hanging out in endless dead people tournaments.
Aww, that would have been so sweet, seeing them hugging in the afterlife, or just have a little training battle. Totally agree, that would have been the perfect last panel, as a closure to the series.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The 22nd Tenka'ichi Budōkai Saga
AKA the Tenshinhan Saga
Quick Synopsis
Three years after parting ways, the students of the Turtle Hermit re-unite once again to take part in the Tenka-ichi Budokai. While waiting for Goku, the students meet the Crane Hermit, Muten Roshi's rival who used to study with him. The Crane Hermit is dedicated to evil and has raised two pupils who arrogantly vow to win the tournament while looking down on the students of the Turtle Hermit; the diminutive Chaozu and the three-eyed Tenshinhan. Goku arrives in time and ones again Roshi takes the guise of Jackie Chun, having trained himself to keep up with Goku.

The prelims begin and the Turtle Hermit and Crane Hermit students pass with ease, with Goku even defeating the winner of the 20th tournament, a so-called "God of Martial Arts." The first proper match is Tenshinhan against Yamucha. Though Yamucha fights to the point where even arrogant Tenshinhan admits his strength (including unleashing a Kamehameha to everyone's surprise), he defeats him and needlessly breaks his fallen opponents legs, raising Goku's ire. Next, Jackie Chun battles Manwolf,, a reverse werewolf forever stuck in wolf-form since Jackie Chun destroyed the moon and wants revenge. Jackie defeats him with ease and uses hypnosis and Kururin's head to restore him to normal. In the third match, Chaozu battles Kururin and attacks him with the Dodonpa, an attack Goku recognizes as being used by Tao Pai Pai. Tenshinhan is shocked when Goku relays that he personally killed Tao Pai Pai, as not only is he the Crane Master's brother, he was Tenshinhan's personal hero. Kururin is able to counter the Dodonpa with a hasitily put together Kamehameha and his wits and manages to defeat Chaozu's psychic ability to paralyze using strategy and Chaozu's own stupidity. In the fourth round, Goku easily defeats the hungry and arrogant young kickboxer Panputto.


In the fifth round, Tenshinhan battles Jackie Chun and Ten is impressed with the old man's power. He eventually surmises that he is Roshi in disguise but as it seems the fight is to hit a climax, Chun simply gives himself a ring out on purpose, leaving Ten gobsmacked. When a confused Tenshinhan confronts Rosh, Roshi admits the whole purpose of the guise was to prevent his pupils from becoming complacent but it not confident not only will that not happen but his and the Crane Hermits students represent a new martial arts golden age that he doesn't need to nudge along. Her also urges Ten to give up evil, as he has capacity for good. Tenshin rankles at the idea. At the same time, Goku and Kuririn have their first honest battle against each other. The match is equal with Kuririn countering Goku's superhuman strength and speed with his cleverness and ability to exploit Goku's guilelessness. Goku eventually wins with a clever trick of his own, once Kuririn tells Goku that a real battle entails some trickery.

In the final round, Tenshinhan and Goku battle fiercely, with Tenshinhan releasing a number of strange techniques and Goku finding clever ways to overcome them. as well as revealing "battle strength" a level of strength he didn't access during the tournament for fear of killing up-till-now less-durable opponents. The battle is relentless but during the middle of the match, Goku is suddenly paralyzed and proclaims Tenshinhan a cheater. Tenshinhan dismisses this as sour grapes until he realizes under the Crane Master's orders. Chaozu has been paralyzing Goku. Tenshinhan protest and tells his master he wants to win against his strongest opponent yet with his own power and that he no longer wishes to become an assassin, feeling a kindred spirit with Goku rather than another victim. Chaozu echoes the sentiment, as he's never seen Tenshinhan fight as well as he has until now, causing the Crane Master to try and kill him. Roshi blasts the Crane Master with a kamehameha into the stratosphere and the match continues. After unleashing a strange ability where he grows four arms, Tenshinhan is pushed to his final attack and warns Goku to dodge it, lest it kill him. Tenshinhan uses his power, the Kihoho, a lifespan shortening ki attack to destroy the arena. Goku, having trusted Tenshinhan, dodges it but it seems to be Ten's win as the Crane Hermit students powers include flight. Goku manages to land a body blow with a cleverly utilized kamehameha and it seems Tenshinhan may hit the ground first, but due to bad luck, Goku looses by a hair. Tenshinhan, now humble, is moved by Goku and concedes despite the win that Goku is the more skilled fighter but the unflappable Goku happily declares "a loss is a loss" and looks forward to their next fight.

Tenshinhan, Chaozu and Goku's friends decide to have dinner together but Kuririn, who went back to get Goku's stuff, including his Dragonball, is found dead!

Story
I feel like this is my favourite arc so far in the original series. It both has the hard hitting action that represents later Dragonball but also still a fast pace and sense of fun I equate with the original. As a story, it's pretty bone simple but it's told well and has a lot going for it. I also feel of all the Dragonball arcs, this is the one that reminds me most of Kinnikuman, probably the earliest series to transition from gag manga to pure action (with some comedy) and set a template for popular Shonen Jump series like Dragonball, Yu Yu Hakusho (more prevalent in the manga than in the animated series) and Reborn!. This feels basically like a late stage Kinnkuman story where the hero enters a tournament, faces an arrogant villain who brutalizes his friends, the villain has a ton of crazy bullshit werido moves, the hero overcomes them, the cool bad guy is forced to concede the goofy hero is a badass. The key difference is Kinnikuman is cowardly and doesn't step up until push comes to shove and Goku is pretty hard to phase. It's a simple formula, though I'm so used to tournament saga's just imploding in the middle where "OK now the villains are making their move and seeding and matches don't matter", it's nice to see a traditional one again.

Animation
Though the animation is still just mid-tier anime, the show is definitely going hard. The fights look better than ever and since there's a lot that they need to add that isn't in the manga, they do great work. And the last episode is very well directed in spots, including a great looking first person perspective, sort of, for Tenshinhan as he is plummeting to Earth...
VAtARTs.gif

I mean, it's not mind blowing but Dragonball often has a certain static look to it in the backgrounds and often unmoving camera. But yeah, the way fighting is represented now looks much more like the Dragonball we know and that again is owed to the directors and crew that keeps everything dynamic and exciting.

Probably the moodiest it gets is also the last episode. It definitely leans to hard on implying bad news for Krillin which the manga doesn't. That last episode is great because a lot of it is stuff that isn't in the manga that does work where you are reminded how much Krillan and Goku care about each other without tipping it's hand that tragedy is on the horizon. The last act doesn't tell you what is going to happen but it strongly implies bad news and it's a weird tone for Dragonball.


I should point out in the dub, Krillin calls out Goku's name and he doesn't in the original, which I like a lot better. I think it's a weirdly forboding scene we usually don't see in the franchise or if we do, it might come from a more introspective "serious" character like Trunks. I both really like this scene but also prefer the idea of less build up to make the sudden death more shocking. I appreciate it a lot, even if I would prefer something closer to the original.

Themes
This is a show that isn't subtle generally and I feel I usually don't have a ton to say but this is what this has been waiting for. The tournament sagas are still action but they are also comparable to sports anime in a lot of ways with rules. But also people fighting each other not for life or death stakes (even as it comes to it here), but to truly prove and improve themselves. Tenshin is an arrogant ass but the act of fighting becomes an act of communication. If anything, this is more Tenshinhan's story than Goku's. Goku doesn't even really have an arc except getting what he wants. To an extent there is one in the fight between himself and Kuririn but I feel it's largely about Tenshinhan. He looks down on Yamucha but in fighting him, he garners a modicum of respect for his strength. He fights Roshi and begins to respect him and understand him by seeing how he fights, and when Roshi just quits, he's confused, because that approach is foreign to him at this point. Finally, Goku is the one who breaks through because he finds a guy who even in losing cannot be dominated. He finds a playmate, someone who gets him yet is different. And in understanding Goku, he understands himself more.

Similarly, the fight between Goku and Kuririn is pure fun. Their friends worry about friends fighting but both are going hard and there's not so much suspense as pure joy. I've also seen this in a few sports series, where the rivals get to such a high level they can't simply dominate and are just... having a blast. It's like the two really get to communicate by giving each other concussions and it's one of my favourite parts of the series (and makes the cliffhanger so devastating).

Jokes
The series is becoming less jokey, but it's there. I will say, it hasn't come up but I have complained about filler scenes that add little but I think there's very little filler I didn't like here, including some of the gags. My big complaint before was a lot of it was just making room by adding stuff but almost all of it here felt right and there's actually a greatly paced fart joke. No really. Crane Master takes shit about Roshi, Roshi gets up from his seat, backs up near Crane Master, wordlessly sits back down to confusion and it's clear very soon that he just let a silent fart. I'm not a big fart joke guy but the animators did a great job landing this in a low key way with body language.

Characters
There are definitely some new ones and some other simply get to grow. Kuririn finally gets to come into his own and be a more tactical and tricky fighter than Goku, generally using brains over brawns. I mean, it's hard to say if Goku would have been able to overcome Chaozu's paralysis the way Kuririn did.
(again, the dub messed up a fun exchange. Chaozu's the one who asks Kuririn a simple math problem he thinks his hard because it's double digits and Kuririn instantly solves it)

Chaozu doesn't get to do much but I love that we get a fighter even dumber than Goku. Like, if you've only seen him in Dragonball, his thing is... he's very fucking stupid. Tenshinhan tries to mock Goku for not getting why everyone knew why as the guy picking his number last the announcer new what number he would pick and Chaozu also doesn't get it, to Ten's embarrassment.

Tenshinhan is the breakout star but again I'm reminded of Kinnikuman; once the villain turns good, a lot of them don't make as big of an impact in terms of being a fleshed out character again. There's more gas in the tank as we'll see but by Dragonball Z, he's an also-ran, which I think is a shame, because he really gets to develop here. He begins as a one-dimensional villain but while Roshi wants him to be a "good guy", I feel his change is a little left of center than that. He becomes one but it's more about a personal connection than a specific moral and wanting to honor that friend. There's a point near the end where he smiles wide because Goku is still able to fight and it's generally kind of sweet, even though he's looking to deliver more pain. Because he likes this guy. It's just a shame that the two don't get to pair up much, even when he's very present in the next arc of the series.

Action and Adventure!

Again, the fights are really fun. As good as the last fight is, the Goku/Kuririn fight is my personal favorite as it's just a joyful battle. You can just do that and not worry about conventional suspense save for "is this the part where it ends or can they keep this rally going." But yeah, those last three fights are aces. My only complaint in that trying to make Goku OP until his last couple of battles is... he only has two good fights and two fights that tell us the exact same thing. But yeah, this is probably my favourite arc so far. The series is running on all cylinders, even the majority of the original animation from a series that breezes by on the page works in adding action, character and texture and now some very fast moving action.

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FelixSH

(He/Him)
Basically agreed on everything, and while probably repeating myself, I love the last three battles too, some of the best the whole of DB, including DBZ, has to offer. It's great, that they gave Krillin this one chance of having a sort-of equal fight with Goku, while the former is still recognizable as a capable fighter.

Tenshinhan has a nice arc, and I always thought it was a shame, how he stopped being a character in DBZ (but then, the same is true for most of the characters, except for Bulma and Krillin, I guess). He is fun, as a jackass, or even just as a rival with an edge. But that role would be taken by Piccolo and then Vegeta, so...speaking of, from the three, Vegeta is clearly my least favourite, probably because he is always so overly serious, whereas especially Tenshinhan clearly has fun doing what he is doing.

I always wondered about his third eye, but the answer is probably "Toriyama adding weird details to characters, because why not".

I had completely forgotten about how Krillin won against Chao-Zu, which is kind of amazing.

Something about Goku losing, by ramming into a car just makes me laugh. I actually really like, that he loses here, that even regular characters who aren't the devil or space assassins, can still defeat him.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I always wondered about his third eye, but the answer is probably "Toriyama adding weird details to characters, because why not".
It's apparently a reference to a Chinese god, who is also an antagonist from Journey to the West from which Dragonball takes inspiration. Interesting considering how quickly the show seemed to drop its Journey references. But some of this stuff does track but like most Dragonball, in a loose way.

Via wikipedia
Throughout the course of Erlang's duel between Sun Wukong, Erlang had been the stronger adversary though Sun Wukong always managed to stay ahead and at times get the better of Erlang thanks to his quick wits. After many transformations that were performed in their duel (Sun Wukong fleeing as a fish; Erlang and Sun Wukong becoming larger birds, and so forth), near the conclusion of the battle, he managed to see through Sun Wukong's disguise (as a temple) using his third eye. He eventually defeated Wukong through teamwork with several other gods; Laozi personally had dropped his refined golden ring that had hit Sun Wukong on the head, giving Erlang a chance to bring him down, and Erlang's dog bit him in the leg. After Sun Wukong had been captured (to which Sun Wukong retorts that they are cowards for attacking from behind), he and his heavenly soldiers would burn random areas of Mount Huaguo. Erlang is seen again far later in the novel when he assists Sun Wukong through chance by fighting against a certain ancient Dragon King and his villainous son-in-law, a nine-headed demon.[3]
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Piccolo Daimao Saga
(AKA The Great Demon King Piccolo Saga)

Quick Synopsis

Following the discovery that Kuririn was murdered by a mysterious monster who stole both the tournament rosters from previous years and Goku's Dragonball, Goku is on the warpath. Using the Dragon Radar, Goku tracks Kuririn's killer, a flying dragon-like monster named Tambourine but having exhausted himself in the tournament is easily beaten and left for dead. Meanwhile, the Turtle Hermit learns based on a message left behind that Kuririn's killer is related to Piccolo Daimao, a powerful demon the Hermit's master gave his life to seal away 300 years prior. Assuming Goku may have died in his pursuit of Kuririn's killer, Roshi, Tenshinhan and Chaotzu go into emergency mode, and realizing Piccolo is collecting the Dragonballs, start collecting them for themselves. In fact, Piccolo was freed from his prison by Pilaf and his gang, in the hopes of riding his coattails to victory. The aging Piccolo himself has two goals before conquering the Earth 1) collect the Dragonballs to wish eternal youth for himself, cementing his power and 2) kill the Earth's competent martial artists, fearing one may learn the Mafuba, the special technique that sealed him years ago.

Goku survives and and after finding food runs afoul a glutinous ronin named Yajirobe, who is Goku's equal in combat and his superior in food obsession. Yajirobe even singlehandedly defeats one of Piccolo's henchmen (which he produces from his own body by coughing up eggs). After a re-invigorated Goku kills Tambourine in a rematch, Piccolo feels compelled to find and defeat his monsters' killer himself. The two battle and Goku is defeated with ease and is once again left for dead. Yajirobe picks up Goku and at his request takes him to Karin's tower, in the hopes Karin can train him even stronger. Meanwhile, Piccolo tracks Roshi who has a trap prepared for Piccolo, in the hopes of sealing him with the Mafuba. The plan almost succeeds but Roshi fails and dies, along with Chaotzu. Piccolo acquires all the Dragonballs, restores his youth and to prevent anyone else from using the Dragonballs against him, murders Shen Long. Tenshinhan, who was present but paralyzed, learned the Mafuba by watching and begins training himself, believing himself to be the Earth's last hope.

Goku finally arrives at Karin's tower and Karin reveals he has nothing else to teach him. However, he also reveals that while the water he gave Goku as part of his training years before was not really magic, he in fact DOES have divine water that can unleash hidden powers. However, it is also a potent poison and none of the heroes who drank it died in the process. Goku tries it anyway and unlocks hidden powers deep within, making himself stronger than ever. Both Goku and Tenshinhan head toward King Castle, where the King of Earth has been overthrown by Piccolo, who has conquered the Earth with ease.

Tenshinhan arrives first but finds his plans to use the Mafuba stymied by Piccolo's latest monster but Goku defeats it with ease when he arrives. Goku and Piccolo fight and Piccolo seems overwhelmed by his power. But Goku reveals he knows Piccolo has been holding back power and soon the battle becomes fiercer between the duo. Goku has the slight advantage at first, using his nimbleness and wit to outpace the more powerful Piccolo and even manages to barely survive his most dangerous powers due to his endurance and some help from Tenshinhan. Eventually Piccolo uses Tenshinhan as a hostage, leaving Goku with two broken legs and a broken arm but Goku manages to kill Piccolo by using a Kamehameha to propel his body through Piccolo's, killing him. However, in his last moments, Piccolo creates one more monster, his "child", take revenge for his death. Goku survives, barely, and Yajirobe drives him off to see Karin for some needed healing, but with no Dragon, the fates of some of Goku's closest friends seem permanently sealed...

Story
I don't like this one quite as much as the previous arc but there is a lot going on that is great and a lot that also cements some Dragonball formula that works great for this story but loses power in repetition. This is one where the stakes are appropriately higher than ever. If you look at Goku's villains up till now, only two of them are serious threats physically; Tao Pai Pai and Tenshinhan. Piccolo isn't just more powerful, he's clearly a higher villain in every respect. It makes him a bit shallow but Dragonball villains aren't known for complexity. Still, this is a much darker story and while Goku's has had to lick his wounds and train before, he is taken off the board and while that happens Piccolo kills more beloved character and destroys the narrative reset button, raising the stakes big time. The show would do this gambit again in the Saiyin Saga and The Freiza Saga but was never quite as effective simply because this is the first time and it seemed like it was a point of no return. It, of course, is not, but it feels big in the moment and having the villain just kill the series initial narrative hook is pretty good.

Taking Goku off the board became a mixed blessing going on because, on the plus side, it allows other characters to shine but it unfortunately often feels like now we are just killing time for Goku to arrive and clean shit up. Some time back I read a manga about Go Nagai creating Devilman and there being a chapter or two that's just after page after page of destruction with the hero failing to show up and things getting worse to drive home how bad things are and to an extent, this feels similar, if not as ambitious, with us waiting for our hero to get back in the game while things just get worse and worse. It's satisfying to see Goku win but as much as I like it and as big as it's going, perhaps knowing the series would have to get more and more over the top until "the universe will end if characters punch each other wrong", it's easy to see this as one sweet era's end to another ambitious and less comical era's beginning.

I'll also say the filler material isn't as strong as the last time, though there's some good stuff. I like 8 returning for a while and there's a wholly made-up quest for Goku to get the water that I mostly don't like but has a "last temptation of Goku" moment that, yeah, he'll never be tempted but seeing his "friends" trying to manipulate him is rather effective. But there's just too much "the criminals are going wild" stuff that doesn't work for me. I guess I just believe the world of Dragonball is actually rather peaceful and even the criminals would be hesitant if a demon said "crime is legal now, go kill everyone" though it leads to a cute moment near the end where a pipsqueak cop is like "crime is illegal again, come with me" to a giant convict, who turns around to the guy's fear and is like "oh, thank goodness, Piccolo is gone. Arrest me please". That seems more in line with my view of the series world than the Purge.

Animation

In all honesty, I think this is another step down. The fights are often too one sided for really kinetic battles and the one big one that isn't just isn't as good as Goku vs. Tenshinhan. Mostly, nothing really sticks with me to comment on except it is all servicable.

Themes

This is a dark one. It really is about a disruption to the fun comfort of the series from the get and Goku is running on rage. People are afraid and desperate and make reckless moves. Goku is always reckless and it leads to him getting his dick knocked in the dirt twice. That said, I really don't think Goku learns anything except how to get stronger and insight into strength. But while giving into those strong emotion leads to some well intended tactical errors, it also allows Goku to reach new powers so maybe... these same emotions can lead to good things and bad. If that's an intended message, it's kinda murky and not in a way that feels appropriate. But this is also the series moving from folk tale to full on myth, with Goku actually reaching a sort of a divine status through suffering while Piccolo, who makes people suffer, ends up too complacent and loses because of it.

Jokes

I'll get into this later but while there is some humour, most of it is through Yajirobe, a character who seems created to bring some lightness to the arc and in all honesty, kind of doesn't quite land for reasons I'll get into.

Characters

This version of Piccolo is very different than the Piccolo Jr. we are all familiar with. Conventional evil villain, he is basic as can be but he really does work, a physically imposing monster who has probably NEVER faced a real challenge except once again believes being beaten to be impossible, which.... it's basically all the Dragonball villains (except Buu, I guess, who just don't care) but they end up coming in more nuanced (if still broad) shades. Still, he works very well, really relishing his cruelty and evil once rejuvenated and it does work.

latest
latest


Ass for Yajirobe... I churned in my head why this character doesn't work for me and what the intent was. Obviously, one problem is he kind of never amounts to much, despite a key role here and at the end of the Saiyin Saga. Toriyama might have had bigger plans for him but mostly he exists for Goku to have an equal that he can quickly surpass. It's weird at this point to have a rando as powerful as Goku for no reason while Goku, already practically a chosen one, needed training from a magic cat and the God of Martial Arts but that's OK. If I had to assume Toriyama's intent, I realized he needed someone for Goku to play off of and I realized that Yajirobe is... ALL of the Dragonball leads so far condensed into one character. He has the surliness and cynicism of Bulma and Oolong, Oolong's cowardice, Kuririn's nearly equal strength and the competitiveness of their early relationship and Goku's own gluttony. I think he wanted to create a character to fill a narrative hole to the point that the anime uses the same voice actor as Kuririn, which is 100% trying to tell you despite his crabbiness, he's a good guy and treat him like Goku's bestie, audience. BTW, I didn't realize it but Kuririn's voice actor is the same as Luffy's from one piece, which seems kind of perfect in retrospect as a passing of the torch. But I think in trying to design Yajirobe to be a perfect replacement companion and kind of amusingly cowardly, he somehow misses. I often like characters who are cowards who make good by the end but I guess Yajirobe's sticking his neck out is never big enough for me to work like a character like Kinnikuman or even Mr. Satan (say what you will, the guy is even more pathetic but does even better things and does even better by Goku).

Action and Adventure!

This is still great despite some of my complaints and the last big fight is really satisfying. It's just unfortunate there's a big of drag due to some of the filler than slows down one of the manga's less zippy arcs (though still not nearly to the degree of DBZ) but that last three episode fight is very satisfying overall, though perhaps maybe Goku crawling out of a crater twice is a big repetitive.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
This really is the arc that all the ones in Z are based on, isn't it? By now, I'm not sure how to even think of it, considering that I really like the earlier, goofier, lighter DB more. I guess it was an unavoidable development, as soon as Toriyama made a tournament arc, putting more emphasis on battling. From then on, the stakes increased every arc, including the power of the villains.

I never realized, that this also was the first arc where Goku is gone for most of the time, only to save the day at the end. It works here, I think, but feels off. In Z, Goku never really feels like a part of the group, because he never does much of anything (at least I remember it that way, it's certainly a thing in the whole Freeza arc).

Yachirobi, similarly, doesn't work, because he is never made into part of the group, never interacting much with anyone, except for Goku. At least that's the reason why he feels so off to me.

I do like, how when Goku drinks the true holy water, he seems to invoke his true power. Like, this dark side of him, the Oozaru - Goku finally manages to use this power in a regular way. That was at least my read, when seeing him fighting the poison, and seeing the Oozaru scream in the background.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Kami-Sama Training Arc (Quasi-Filler Arc 3)

Quick Synopsis
Following his victory over Piccolo Daimao, Goku meets Karin to heal up who tells him there might be one person to bring back the Dragonballs; God himself, Kami-sama, creator of the Dragonballs. Using his Nyoibo, Goku ascends to the top of the Earth and meets with Kami's servant, Mr. Popo, who proves as strong as Goku is, he could be more powerful. Kami finally reveals himself and to Goku's shock, he looks identical to Piccolo. Kami reveals that the role of God is actually passed down and he truly wanted to be God but the previous God, sensing a small capacity for evil, denied him out of fear of corruption. Kami managed to remove the small pebble of evil but it came to life as Piccolo. Kami also reveals Piccolo is still alive through the clone he made following his defeat. Kami promises to recreate the Dragonballs immediately (ready to grant wishes) on the condition that Goku train in the upper world with Kami to prepare for battle with Piccolo's "child". Goku happily agrees and Bulma and company resurrect everyone murdered by Piccolo and his people. When they learn Goku will return in three years after being trained by God, Yamucha, Kuririn, Tenshinhan and Choazu all vow to train to best him.

Mr. Popo begins training Goku, focusing not on physical strength but his mind and ability to clear it and use his chi, including lessons that involve sending him in time and to different places, having him fight a clone and playing blindfolded hide and seek. Meanwhile, Tenshin, Kuririn, Yamucha and Chaozu decide to head to Karin's tower to begin their training, finding some trouble along the way.

Story
Not great. To be fair, the first part is basically setting up the Piccolo Jr. saga that ends Dragonball and then sticking a lot of filler in the middle but I'd figure I'd get that out of the way. But even then, the build up isn't my favourite. New, important characters are added to the mythos, which I'll get to, but mostly it's a bit of tying up loose ends and setting the table for the last arc. The original material... I feel like there are good ideas in there but the story lacks fun and interest.

For example, I like the idea of us getting to see our also-ran heroes train and deal with the idea that they want to try to keep pace with someone who has basically just been chosen by God, but even then they don't spend much time on that save for a desire to keep up with their rival/friend. Goku spends most of the arc trying to learn a new way of fighting beyond the physical into something more spiritual and having a hard time. But in doing so, the show keeps re-stating it's point and gets into a weird formula I don't like of Popo just shit talking Goku and being a bit obtuse because that's what sensei's do sometimes. It's dull and charmless and occasionally clever but mostly the worst kind of Dragonball filler where it feels like some of the plots could have been plucked from a dozen different shows (particularly the two parter at the end involving the volcano.

Also, to my memory, the spiritual aspect of Goku's training doesn't reflect what happens in the arc it is leading up to, where Goku is... just stronger again.

Animation
Some of the filler fights are pretty good but mostly this looks like they are holding onto their money for the final arc, which is understandable but makes for tedious TV.

Themes
Goku has to take his fight game to a spiritual level. Great idea, dull execution.

Jokes

Practically non-existent and when there, who cares.

Characters
OK, Kami, kinda dull. The build up to Piccolo Jr.... maybe some of the best, most interesting original material. But the elephant in the room is Mr. Popo. Wow. WOOOOW. Like, I remembered him as being bad, but he's SOOOO much worse and I knew he was bad. Look, if you aren't that familiar with original Dragonball and barely remember his appearances in Z, I won't even post him because... he's simply a genie-like golliwog, a doll based on a 19th century racial stereotype ragdoll that had a resurgence in the 70s because... *exasperated shrug*. When he opens his mouth, it just gets worse, a weird husky talking style. There is nothing about this character that isn't troubling. Like, it doesn't help that he's constantly shit talking Goku and for that reason alone is my least favourite Goku sensei but... fuck, even if you want to analyze him in ANY other capacity, the wall of racial representation is too fucking high. This character is a hate crime. And it must fucking hurt because I know there is a very large, proud black audience for Dragonball that has to contend with shit like this. The show already has some un-good "big lip designs" but this is beyond the pale. Mr. Popo fucking sucks and is just hurtful. And this arc... is chalk full of him. So much of him. God-damn it.

Action and Adventure!
Sorry, I still can't get over Popo. Mostly bad. Now I'm going to wash the taste out of my mouth with what I remember as being a really fun arc and a great victory lap for the series with the last time the Tenka'ichi Budōkai is actually really important to the series. Then a couple more. Then I'm done. I think I'll only do DBZ is the Japanese audio is available, I'm not really in the mood to watch the dubs again.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The 23rd Tenka'ichi Budōkai Saga
AKA the Piccolo Jr. Saga
Quick Synopsis
After completing his training and having gotten a conspicuous grown spurt, Goku arrives at the 23rd Tenka'ichi Bodōkai where he meets his friends who have been training tirelessly not only not to get left in the dust but to finally beat their friend in combat. In fact, Goku is expecting a certain competitor; the reincarnation of Piccolo Daimao. Sure enough he arrives, in a smaller body than his predecessor, plotting to win the tournament and publicly kill Goku, the only opponent strong enough to threaten him. Piccolo enters the tournament in a disguise and a pseudonym; Ma Jr.


Everyone expected to make it through does except for Chaozu and a disguised Yajirobe. Yajirobe is defeated by a seemingly incompetent middle aged man named Shen while Chaozu is defeated and nearly killed by Tao Pai Pai, who in fact barely survived his last encounter with Goku and used all of his money to turn himself into a powerful cyborg. The passers of the preliminary include Kuririn, Yamucha, Goku, Shen, Picccolo, Tenshinhan and a young woman named Anonymous. In the first round, Tenshinhan easily defeats Tao Pai Pai, and warns him and the Crane Hermit never to appear before him again. In the second, Goku fights Anonymous, who is furious at Goku but not nearly strong enough to beat him. Eventually, Goku realizes his opponent is Chichi, the little girl he promised to marry without even knowing what marriage is (he assumed a food). Goku defeats Chichi and agrees to marry her as per his promise.

The next battle is Kuririn vs. Ma Junior and despite being defeated, Kuririn manages to admirably fight and even makes Piccolo question how easy world conquest is going to be. Finally the first round ends with Yamucha Vs. Shen. First Shen humiliates Yamucha but despite some early naivety, Yamucha shows an amazing skill: a devastating ball of ki he can control with his mind. Shen still manages to win the fight the two walk off amicably, while Goku realizes Shen is Kami having possessed a human. In the semi-finals, Goku and Tenshinhan square off with Tenshin unleashing amazing techniques. Goku reveals that he's been right the tournament with 250 Kg of weighted clothing and afterwards proves inhumanly fast even for the superhuman martial artists of the tournament. Tenshin reveals his trump card, an ability to duplicate himself, but Goku still manages to defeat him and with ease. Afterward, Piccolo and Shen battle and Kami finally reveals himself in trying to use the Mafuba to seal him. But Piccolo was ready and in fact had a way to reverse the ability, trapping Kami in a tiny jar which he swallows to keep out of enemy hands.

Finally, Goku and Piccolo fight in the final round. The two seem evenly matched at first during an intense battle that turns out to be the rivals merely sizing each other up. As the real battle wages on, Piccolo's identity is revealed, causing a panic and mass evacuation except Goku's friends and the referee. Eventually, Piccolo uses his latest trick, the ability to change size, but Goku uses it to his advantage to literally enter Piccolo and free Kami. Pushed to the brink, Piccolo unleashes his most devastating attacks, one that destroys most of the island (Goku's friends manage to escape destruction in a hole). the fight is held in. Goku merely withstands it and manages to seemingly defeat Piccolo. However, as the referee is counting down, Goku is hit in the chest by a ki blast from Piccolo. On the brink of death, Goku battles on but eventually Piccolo gets the upper hand and seemingly destroys Goku, whose limbs are all broken. In fact, Goku mastered the art of flying and hurls his limp body at Piccolo, delivering the final blow. But more importantly, Piccolo is also knocked out of the ring, meaning Goku finally won the tournament.

Goku heals himself with a senzu bean from Yajirobe and to everyone's shock does the same to Piccolo to both ensure Kami does not die (as the two have a linked life force) and to ensure he has an opponent worthy of him. As Goku is offered the position of God, Goku declines the "boring" job and runs off with Chichi on their next adventure.

Story
I don't think this is as good as the previous tournament arc but it is good. It's easy to forget with Goku power ranking far above his friends but even those below get moments of victory even in their loses. Kuririn impresses the arrogant Piccolo in a way that somewhat hurts his pride and though Yamucha gets some humiliation in his match, he proves a creative fighter and impresses God. But more importantly, he's at peace with how he lost and accepts it with humility and happiness. It's weird to see a tournament arc where the hero completely breezes through it until the end as most of it is just setting up the last fight and establishing Goku's ties to everyone. Despite the fact that Z is around the corner, this was clearly conceived as a final arc and a victory lap for the series. Seriously, Goku is told "you are good enough to be god" by God, at the end.

More than that, even with the long final battle and some filler elements, the series really does good by the tournament arcs in terms of pacing and it really does move pleasantly fast and is simply fun to move through.

Animation

Great. While I prefer the Tenshinhan arc, as Piccolo Jr. has a much more meager character arc (gets humbled, swears revenge, bye), the animation is stronger than ever and the fight scenes are impactful and furious. It's basically what the series is known for but primarily less repetitive than it often is (and this has Goku and Piccolo erroneously reported defeated like 5 times each). It's not just animation, there's some great stuff going on with sound (when the show knows to get quiet) and light. It gets very striking in the last fight.

Themes
I remember reading something about Akira Toriyama not liking to think of Goku as a conventional hero and felt him in animation robbed him of his "poison". I definitely see what he means. I feel like a lot of anime protagonists are very Goku-inspired, young sexless men who only want adventure and to prove their worth. But beyond that, the best evolution of Goku might be Gon Freecs from Hunter x Hunter. This is because it makes it much clearer what some might miss about Goku. He isn't "pure/innocent" (as we see when a devil tried to kill him with his own evil and nothing happened) because he is "good and just" but because he is sort of like an animal and isn't conventionally moral. Here, the theme is that while Goku's friends love him and trust him to save the world, it's clear Goku is thinking in different terms. Everyone hopes the world is saved from Piccolo. Goku wants to win a fight. Goku saves Piccolo not just to save Kami but to have someone to fight, even if he's a killer (it's weirdly not clear if Piccolo actually killed anyone after being resurrected. He fucking blows up the island and it CAN'T have been evacuated by then but... no one talks about the loss of life?) Goku would like to be this guy's friend because Goku wants friends he can punch for fun and will do the same it him. Goku rejects godhood, not out of any moral concerns or humility but because he just does not care. This guy wants to prove something to himself and then look for the next challenge. It's a weird kind of protagonist to have and not make him some kind of antihero but Goku is full hero. Just one with some poison and weird priorities. As an ending, this is really about that, about the connections he's made and the people he touched. He doesn't quite have the same "fight conversation" as he does with Tenshinhan (it would risk repitition but it might have made Piccolo more compelling than "the worst") but the whole thing does feel like both a retrospective without getting bogged down in nostalgia and rapping this whole thing up with Goku's favourite thing, a fight tournament.

Jokes
Far fewer but I feel like the MVP of "fun" is Lunch. The show became less interested in "good Lunch" and realized bad Lunch is fun not just as someone constantly harassing the cast but a Bender-like no-goodnik friend who is invested in this shit and these people in spite of herself. And I also kind of like how sometimes Piccolo will say something evil and she's be like "right on!" Lunch leaving the cast is the greatest crime, especially if Puar and Oolong get to hang around long after they provide anything.

Characters
Piccolo Jr. is the only new character and even then questionably. It's not super clear how much of this clone-like dude is just original Piccolo in his own body or his own man. When he first appears, he seems a bit cooler headed but is it that he has a slightly different personality or if he's humbled a bit and just excited to fight. I wish he had a bit more of an arc and even if he stays evil has more to say to the man who beat and save him than "ur dumb, I kill you tomorrow, bye". Frankly, the character really doesn't come into his own until Z and it doesn't take him long to barely resemble the bloviating villain he was. I do like the meta-arc over the series is essentially he ironically gets his wish and becomes master of the Earth and by then he isn't evil anymore and does the job responsibly.

Action and Adventure!

Some of the best fights in the series. Again, some repetitive "Guy gets hit hard but gets back up." But with continent destroying explosions, yet, we are basically at DBZ now, save that, again, it moves more swiftly and is narratively simpler. It is weird to try to shock us with such big explosions when, again, ROSHI BLEW UP THE MOON IN THE SECOND ARC! I feel like Toriyama did that and then had to scale everything back to build up to that kind of power again but I never forgot.




But what else can I say. Good last arc, Yajirobe is still kind of a bust of a character, the other ones seem to get treated OK. Bulma, sadly, is relegated to bystander and we need to wait till the Freiza arc to give her more to do. I am sad it's the last REAL tournament arc (not counting Super). There are tournaments but it isn't about them any more, things just get too big. I love Goku treating this high stakes battle for everything as a match. An entire island is destroyed and he is still very careful about a ring out. Part of me wonders if Piccolo got a ring out while he was healthy if Goku would start cheering at that point. I'd believe it.

Well, I considered watch Z but its only dub and I felt like I wanted to watch it subtitled for the first time. So I'm done for the foreseeable future. So it looks like I'll hang up my hat and... ONE MORE FILLER ARC? Ugh. OK, I'll be back in a couple days to discuss that, I guess.
 
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