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Dragon Ball Z, a review and stuff
Dragon Ball Z is the sequel to the anime "Dragon Ball" that followed the main character, Son Goku, from his childhood to adulthood. In "Z", it follows Goku, along with his son, Gohan, to the rest of his adulthood, along with many of his friends, defending the Earth from very powerful enemies. It ran from 1989 to 1996 and it played a huge part in contributing to the popularity of anime in Western culture. In fact, a lot of people were introduced to anime thanks to Dragon Ball Z, no doubt, it has left a huge legacy that people will remember for a long time.
This anime is considered one of the "giants" of, well, anime, and for a good reason too. It is so famous and recognizable and it has spawned a lot of merchandise, like, video games, clothing, toys, movies and it has been referenced in other TV shows as well and has also been parodied countless times. Perhaps its most famous parody is "DBZ Abridged". If you're a fan of DBZ yet you haven't seen this web series, go look it up on YouTube, you'll love it.
The series has 4 main "sagas" or story arcs:
- The Saiyan saga.
- The Namek/Freeza saga.
- The Android/Cell saga.
- The Buu saga.
One of the strong points of the show is the characters, they're so memorable and instantly recognizable, both the good guys and bad guys.
We have the Z-Fighters, like Goku. The classic "tough guy but with a heart of gold". The good guy that always helps and defends his friends and family from any threat, no matter how horribel it is. He loves eating and can be pretty naïve at times. He's sometimes even merciful to his enemies up to the point where he would rather not kill them and lets them live, or at least tries to. Oh, and he's an alien species called "Saiyan" from another planet called "Vegeta". That got destroyed.
Vegeta. The polar opposite of Goku. A pretty evil guy with an arrogance so huge that he would make Kanye West jealous (yeah, how "original"), always saying how he's the prince of all Saiyans and that he's better than everyone, Goku, of course, always proves him wrong which makes him incredibly angry. He gets less evil as the show progresses though.
Gohan, Goku's half-human, half-saiyan son that has battled evil since he was a little kid.
Krillin, Goku's friend since childhood and who has gotten killed multiple times, still, he's a pretty skilled fighter.
Piccolo, an alien from the planet "Namek" who's a former enemy of Goku, he turned into a "good guy" when the show began and had to fight against the first antagonist.
I could mention more and describe them, but I think I'll stop here. The point is, DBZ has one of the most recognizable characters ever. Each one throughout the show is shown how much they grow and change as time passes and as they face more and more enemies.
They constantly train harder and harder in order to fight against powerful foes, whom are either aliens or androids, that want to kill them and destroy or conquer the Earth.
Now, when it comes to character development, for the most part, it's nothing too complex, the bad guys for example are bad for purely simple reasons, they just want to conquer worlds and become the most powerful being ever with the help of the Dragon Balls, which are 7 magical balls that grant wishes when put together. No more, no less.
I'd say that the characters that had more development and changes throughout the show were Vegeta, Gohan and Piccolo, but we'll get to that later.
We'll now take a look at the story of the show, and by the way, SPOILER alert.
Set 5 years after "Dragon Ball", as the show begins, we see that Goku has grown up, is married and has a son called Gohan, who, unlike his father, doesn't know how to fight and is a scaredy cat (but then again, Gohan was like 3 or 4 during then so that's totally justified).
Goku and family have lived a peaceful life during those 5 years, but then suddenly, an alien arrives on Earth, a saiyan called Raditz whom is searching for Goku. He finds him and reveals to him that he's his brother and are members of an extraterrestrial species called "Saiyans" whom their job is to kill a planet's species so they can sell them with a very high price to other rich aliens. Goku was supposed to kill everyone on Earth, but due to an accident that involved him getting dropped and hitting his head hard, he totally forgot about his initial aggressive behavior and mission and became one of the nicest guys in anime.
Raditz of course, does not like this. Not one bit. So, he kidnaps Gohan and threatens to kill him unless he proves his loyalty to his species by giving him 100 dead humans.
Goku, of course, doesn't take sh%# from no one, so he decides to fight him, but because Raditz proved to be very strong, he needs help. Piccolo, Goku's former enemy, offers to help him due to his plan of conquering the Earth seems to be jeopardized by Raditz.
So, two enemies work together for the first time to bring down an even more powerful foe. This was a great way to begin the series. Not only did this already reveal a big twist about Goku, a character people already knew perfectly, but the stakes were already so high with a new kind of enemy like Raditz that Goku and Piccolo were forced to work together to take him down. This, in turn, added a great build up before the fight scene since both Goku and Piccolo weren't initially sure if they were going to win. And of course, the fight scene was awesome.
Raditz, of course, does end up being defeated, but with a high price (sort of) since Goku also got killed. So now, the plan was to bring Goku back to life with the Dragon balls.
Now, after Raditz's death, a certain pattern began with Dragon Ball Z which would be present throughout the entire series.
Here's the formula:
After the defeat of a powerful enemy, the Z-Fighters now receive a warning that an even more powerful foe will arrive on Earth and the heroes have a few years left to train hard in order to stand a chance against said antagonist. The years pass, the Z-Fighters finished their hard training and go to the place where their enemy arrives and start fighting. They fight, most of them end up getting either killed or defeated and Goku has to save everyone, and for the most part they have to wait for Goku to recover because he was initially defeated or they have to wait for him to arrive because he was somewhere else and always ends up taking too long to well, arrive or recover. Goku then ends up killing the enemy, with the help of some of the remaining Z-Fighters, and saves everyone. Rinse and repeat. And that's pretty much Dragon Ball Z in a nutshell.
So, the story is very simple, but it works. It knows very well what it is and what it's trying to accomplish, which is being a very entertaining action/shonen anime with memorable characters and great fight sequences, and it succeeds on that aspect. After all, to quote the great and late movie critic, Roger Ebert, on his review of the movie The Departed, "I am fond of saying that a movie is not about what it's about; it's about how it's about it". And I think that applies to DBZ because, even if it's obvious that the good guys will win, it's always really entertaining and, at times, exciting seeing precisely how will the good guys pull through.
But, of course, the show has flaws and some of them can be pretty annoying. By the time you reach the Buu saga, the formula pretty much gets a bit old and predictable.
The show also has filler episodes. As if those kind of episodes aren't already bothersome, some of them are really stupid, like the time Goku and Piccolo had to take driving lessons.
Another thing is that the pace at times can be VERY slow. This is mostly present before a fight scene happens. A lot of talking and reaction shots happen before the actual freaking fight happens. At first it was okay doing it in order to build up a bit, but after a while it just drags on and on, it just makes you want to shout "Fight already!"
Music is, of course, very important in any movie and TV show as it adds to the emotional intensity or importance of any moment, and DBZ is no exception.
Even if the music isn't really something I would listen to on my iPod, it is very memorable, from the opening sequence, to the recap of the previous episode, to the introduction of an episode and to the fight scenes, it's all really good. Nothing too spectacular, but still good.
As I previously mentioned, when it comes to character development, it's nothing too complex, especially with the bad guys.
The characters are, for the most part, black and white, the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad for simple reasons. Well, except for Vegeta.
As I also said, in my opinion, the characters that had more development were Vegeta, Gohan and Piccolo.
- Vegeta: He was initially one of the bad guys and a merciless killer. He even killed his comrade, Nappa, after failing to kill Goku. All what Vegeta wanted during the first 2 sagas is to find the Dragon balls to wish immortality for himself. He's an incredibly arrogant saiyan always thinking that he's superior than everyone else and always reminds everyone else of that, of course, after being defeated various time by the Z-Fighters, especially Goku, this hurt deeply his pride, pretty much developing a superiority complex. After that, he always wanted to prove that he was stronger than Goku, who he considers a "low-class saiyan warrior".
As the series progresses, after the Namek/Freeza saga, Vegeta begins living on Earth with the Z-Fighters and slowly becoming less of an assh#$le and arrogant. It probably helped having worked together with the heroes and having a son with one of the main characters, Bulma. Vegeta basically became more good after raising a family with Bulma, even finally becoming an ally and finally making peace with himself of Goku being stronger than him (sort of).
- Piccolo: Piccolo, like Vegeta, was initially an enemy, he's cold-hearted and really tough and also wanted to conquer the world with an iron fist, but after having worked with Goku to defeat Raditz, he began having a change of heart. After Goku's death, he trained Gohan in order to prepare for the arrival of Vegeta and his comrade, Nappa, and had no mercy on him. He gave him really tough training that took a year despite the fact that Gohan was a little kid. However, after the training, Piccolo started "having a heart" and cared about Gohan. Pretty much the first time he ever cared about anyone else. So much so, that he even saved Gohan from Nappa by sacrificing himself. He then came back from the dead thanks to the Dragon balls and from there on, Piccolo also became, from an enemy, to a friend of the Z-Fighters, always helping fight against every threat.
- Gohan: Goku's son. This poor kid had a very tough childhood, he lost his father at an early age, was forced to endure very tough training from Piccolo to learn how to fight against an incredibly dangerous threat, has gotten beat up many times by said enemies, has seen a lot of people die and lost his father again.
Fortunately, all of these painful moments that he had in early childhood helped greatly in toughening him up, becoming pretty badass during the Cell saga and helping defeat many tough enemies. However, as he got older, he became a bookworm in school thanks to his mom and, unlike Goku who always trains everyday to improve himself, Gohan stopped training after the end of the Cell saga in order to have a more normal life than his father ever did. At the end of the show, Gohan got married and had a child, becoming a normal, happier man despite all of the hardships that he suffered.
Which is your favorite saga?
Overall, Dragon Ball Z, despite definitely having aged a bit, and it certainly shows, having a very simplistic story, mostly having black and white morals and characters and being at times pretty predictable and repetitive, it still holds up well today.
It is an absolute classic in anime and manga with its awesome action sequences, great and memorable characters and a charm that has touched the hearts and minds of many people around the world, me included.
And despite its simplistic morals, I do think that there is one very important lesson that we could all learn from Dragon Ball Z whether you're a kid or an adult, and that is:
In life, we will all encounter our own "Freezas" or "Cells/Androids", but just like Goku, we should never give up no matter how tough the situation is. We will all have moments of defeat, but that shouldn't stop us, instead, we should let it make us stronger, to "train" harder until we have enough strength to overcome any obstacle in life and, just like Goku, to improve ourselves everyday.
Overall, I give it a 7.5 out of 10.