Before Matt, I never watched anime. But that's okay, before me, he never watched Bond movies. I'm not sure at what point he decided to foist DragonballZ on me, but it's probably a good thing that he waited a few years to do so. I vaguely remember him telling me about the show and presenting me with his high school drawings, and I didn't care.
Maybe he sold me using Vegeta. I'm a sucker for complex characters, and bad guys who turn good but retain their attitude are a great selling tactic.
A few years ago, Funimation got the rights to release the DragonballZ Dragon Boxes here in the US. They are a visually restored (but not altered), uncut, original japanese music version of the series, divided into 7 boxes in the states. Unfortunately, they're out of print now - some of the boxes can be picked up for around $30, but Dragon Box 2 is currently listed as low as $615 for a new copy.
After watching the first Dragon Box, Matt decided that we should watch the original Dragon Ball series, which was five seasons itself. So we faithfully spent the next couple of years scraping up our pennies and picking up seasons of each here and there. A quick search told me that we ordered the first Dragon Box in December 2009, so this has been a real project for us.
We finished the last episode of DragonballZ this week, which feels a lot more bittersweet than I expected. We've still got the various extra movies to watch and I suspect we'll pick up Dragonball GT in the near future for one more twirl around the universe with the gang.
But I'd like to spend a post or two talking about the Dragon Ball and DragonballZ series, because I appreciated them both as a viewer and as a writer. The series famously drags out their battles to hilarious lengths - everyone who has seen the series knows about the "5 Minutes" before the planet Namek explodes that took roughly 15 episodes to happen. But there's some really good, and also some really interesting stuff to talk about. Yes, I know that it's a kids' show, and yes, I know the show can be cheesy.
I'l start with a few things that really impressed me about the series.
First and foremost, there is substantial character growth and lasting consequences over the series. As one of the primary characters in both series, Goku is a fascinating study. While many aspects of his carefree, lighthearted personality stay with him throughout the years, there are definite points at which he learns lessons that he carries with him for the rest of the series. During one arc in Dragon Ball, he learns that he can't rely on sight to know where an enemy is going to be, but to sense their energy through sounds and feel. Once that lesson was learned, the show never beat the point in again - it was just something that Goku did.
This happens time and again, and even Vegeta learns, to some extent, not to flat out toy with his enemies after the Cell saga. In fact, Vegeta is another great character to look at for change. He has a lot of psychological baggage and even he manages to have (and love!) a family.
But the show doesn't just cover character growth. At the beginning of Dragon Ball, Goku is a child - by the end of Z, he is a grandparent. The characters grow and change physically - Dragon Ball is particularly interesting, because for most of the series, Goku changes slowly, going almost unnoticed until you watch the opening and realize that his arms are a little longer, his torso a bit less doughy. It's not a revolutionary concept, but watching characters grow up before you and seeing how so much of their lives pan out makes for an interesting experience.
The other thing that stood out to me is how much the show emphasized the importance of friendship and loyalty. There isn't much in the way of backstabbing, which is impressive for a group of fighters. The crew genuinely cares about each other, and even though (particularly after the Saiyan saga in Z) the Saiyans tend to steal the show power-wise, the other characters still support each other, still have their role to play. The "Z fighters" need these relationships to have something worth fighting for, and it shows.
I look forward to going in depth on some of these things in future posts.