Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dragon Ball: The Right Mix of Action and Comedy

It's not an easy thing to do. But the Japanese can do it. Anime is very good in mixing stuff the right way. This is no exception. This anime is based on the popular manga, written by one of my favourite manga writers, Akira Toriyama, author of the hilarious Dr Slump manga. Dragon Ball is partly based on the old folklore tale of "Journey to the West," although I don't know much about the story, except that some of the characters in Dragon Ball were based on ones from the story. That is all I can really say on that.

The story revolves around a 12 year old monkey boy, named Son Goku, who meets up with a 16 year old girl named Bulma who is searching for seven mystical balls named Dragon Balls, which when gathered together, will summon the dragon god Shenlong, who will grant you any one wish. Throughout their adventures they meet many memorable characters, such as the perverted shapeshifting pig Oolong, the not so good around girls desert bandit Yamucha, and an old martial arts master, who's technique and strength is only matched by his appetite for pretty, young girls known as Muten Roshi. There are many great stories spanning across 153 episodes, including several Tenkaichi Budokai's (Known in the American version as The World Martial Arts Tournament.) An evil organisation bent on world domination (who cares if it's cliché, you can't go wrong with the classics) called the Red Ribbon Army, An ancient evil known as Piccolo Daimao, and many more. It's an excellent show because you also get to see the steady transformation of a gifted, and pure child into a martial arts genius. The show has lots of strange talking creatures and a an awesome item called a Hoi Poi Capsule, which store every day items in pill sized capsules to be used whenever you decide you want them. Even items such as houses and cars are often stored in these cool little inventions.

People who are more used to the non-stop action of its successor Dragon Ball Z should be warned that this series focuses a lot more on humour on most parts, until later in the series. There are many great fights in the anime, they just aren't as frequent as Dragon Ball Z. But if you are a fan of action anime, I would still highly recommend this to you.This show was taken to America and turned into a kids show, which is not how it should be seen. If you want to watch this anime, watch the DVDs with Japanese dialog with subtitles. I'm sure you will enjoy it. Masako Nozawa is great as Son Goku, and captures his personality perfectly. Even if you do want to watch it, you need to watch it on DVD, as the television version edits out anything that is even slightly adult. It's just way too G rated. The original version (mostly in the early episodes) is filled with toilet humour, sex jokes and nudity.

The animation is nothing really to talk about. It started in 1986 and it was pretty standard animation for that time, in Japan anyway. There is nothing wrong with it, it's just not something to write home about. But in a way, I find that nice because it has an 80's feel to it. It doesn't take away from the quality in the least.
Now to bring up the subject of the new American live action movie that's coming in 2009. How do I feel about the concept? I have made no secret about my disliking for the way the American's have handled this anime. So am I excited about the movie? In short, definitely. Do I think it will be a good movie? Probably not. Do I think it will be a good adaption of the series? Bit of doubt there. But do I think it will be entertaining? Now that I can give a yes to. I don't expect quality cinema from the movie, and I don't expect a reflection of Dragon Ball, I just expect a fun movie that shares certain aspects of it, and from the casting work, I think they could do a pretty good job. I look forward to seeing how they do it, and I am definitely psyched to see a live action Son Goku and Piccolo duking it out, hopefully with some epic ki blasts. A huge Kamehameha wave or Mafuba by Chow Yun Fat should be worth the $10 admission fee alone.

Now to sum up the series. Even if you don't like the start I would recommend that you continue watching, as you may find you like it later on, partly because of the way the tone changes a little in later episodes, where it stops a lot of the toilet humour and sexual stuff (not all of it, just a fair bit) and focuses on more serious stuff, like death. All in all, I'd say this is a great way to introduce yourself to anime, or even just if you want something fun to watch. Don't watch it if you want a series that will make you think, because that isn't what this is for. The show is hilarious, and the action is great.


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