Pretty sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say the Dragonball series is definitely one of, if not the most important anime in American otaku culture. For many of us growing up in the 90’s, it was one of our first introductions into anime. I mean, who doesn’t remember waking up early on weekday mornings to catch DBZ, Sailor Moon, and Voltron: The Third Dimension? (Although, upon further research, I found it it was actually made in America). Then it made the hop over to Toonami, it was the main thing we all had to look forward to afterschool. (Yup. The real way to keep your child off the streets. New episodes of Dragonball Z.) Lunchtime, I remember it being the only thing my classmates and I could talk about. “What’s gonna happen next?” “Who’s the cooler character?” “When are they going to turn Super Saiyan 3, 4, and 5?” like we were seeing in those pictures online? “Kaaaa meee haaa meee…. HAAAAAA!!!!!!” (We all tried it. Don’t lie.)
Ah, good times. Then the series ended, GT came soon afterwards and disappointed many of us, and a huge part of our childhoods was pretty much gone. When 2012 came and it was announced a new animated movie was coming out, picking up right after the Buu saga, the internet rejoiced. Oh happy day. The part we weren’t ready for though was the announcement after its Japanese release, that series creator Akira Toriyama was actually interested in continuing the series after seeing the movies success. We just survived the 2012 apocalypse and now we’re getting this news!? Heck yeah I was out of my seat rejoicing! Finally! Something to correct all of GT’s flaws and finally erase it from canonicity. (Still not confirmed)
Now we’re 55 episodes in, as of the writing of this article and I just don’t know what to make of it. The series has couple of ups. The universal tournament was pretty neat and had the best fights in the series so far. The current arc reintroducing Future Trunks and the mystery surrounding Black Goku is an interesting twist, but at the same time. It’s also got quite a number of downs, not even counting the infamous episode 5.
I think to start off, we have to address the start of the series. What was the point? It’s just a remake of Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F. Since when was that even a thing for the series? Aside from movies never being canon, the concept is backwards. In Dragonball, they re capped parts of the series for the movies. The changes weren’t even great either. Weaker animation (Still not just counting episode 5), poor choreography, and long drawn out sequences; i.e Vegeta’s reaction to Bulma being slapped by Beerus, and the whole Super Saiyan God ritual.
Some changes that were good though, was the addition of Gotenks to the resurrection F arc. I remember sitting through the movie while it was in theaters, and wondering where the kids were the entire time, especially when you consider the fact that Frieza wanted revenge on Trunks, as well as Goku, for being the ones that killed him. What a shocker that would’ve been to see him as a child. The show never worked on that either but I’ll settle for Trunks’ statement at the end, where he says next time Frieza shows up, he’ll slice him in half with a sword. Then you had the part where Gohan states that he wants to train again, in order to be able to protect his family. Gohan fans rejoice! Mystic Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan confirmed!
Except it never happened. We got one episode where we see Gohan training with Piccolo for a bit and he gets invited to fight in the universal tournament, but declines because he has a meeting… Alright, fine. He’ll just train in the meantime and he’ll show up later on, in tip top form and save the day sometime! Nope. Next we see of the guy, he’s getting out of work, treats Future Trunks to some ice cream, and goes home to be a family man. Gohan fans everywhere let out a loud sigh.
Even Future Trunks himself has been a waste, because despite an entire 17 years later, the guy has not changed (Other than his hair color for some reason). The guy hasn’t even achieved the proper Super Saiyan 2 form, resorting to using the super bulky powered up super saiyan form during a fight with Vegeta, and after learning how powerful his father and Goku have become, is actually content with the fact. Further instating my main gripe with this series. It is strictly about Goku and Vegeta.
I remember my friends complaining about how useless humans and Piccolo became by the end of Z, considering how powerful the Saiyan’s were, even during childhood. I just wrote them off, stating how it’s just the natural progression, since the series is just meant to focus on Goku’s family. Gohan had already surpassed Goku and was set to take on the mantle while he was gone. Then it was to be Goten, and he’d have his own rival in Trunks. Honestly, that’s what I really wanted Super to be about. A sort of passing of the torch to the newer generation, where Goten and Trunks would go off on their own little adventures, like Goku, Bulma, and company did way back. GT was actually on the right track to a similar concept in the beginning, but failed thanks to a boring Trunks and annoying Pan.
Instead we’re simply treated to Goku and Vegeta’s crusade to become the strongest in the universe. Okay in concept, totally fits with their characters but it’s just not holding up the entire series. So far, before Black came around, there has not been a real villain throughout the entire thing. Beerus was just a guy looking for a good fight and no matter how hard the tried to sell it, Frieza was never any sort of threat at all. Sure, he totally owned the lackeys and did give Goku a run for his money for a good minute, but there was not one moment where I actually believed the guy was actually going to be a credible threat. Then there was Champa, who just wanted to switch earths. Yeah, okay.
DBZ, from episode 1 made me worry about my favorite characters. Here you had this guy, claiming to be Goku’s brother, just show up, beat him down, and take his son. He even scared the crap out of the weird green guy. In Super, Beerus just shows up, and destroys some planets. Like we hadn’t seen that done with ease before. Frieza just destroys and island, and Black’s just been terrorizing some cities. To be fair, it looks like Black will achieve a new form next episode, which does seem to be giving both Goku and Vegeta a run for their money, but we already know Goku’s gonna pull something out his butt and win.
What we need is a new focus. Weaker protagonists who’ll actually make me worry for their well-being. If you’re just going to leave Gohan in the back, fine. He’s already done more than his fair share of work and he doesn’t even enjoy fighting like his father. But you know who does? Goten and Trunks. Bare in mind, the current timeline, according to what I’ve been told, actually takes place two years after the Buu saga, making the kids 9 and 10 years old respectively. Gohan was 10 when he first transformed, and reached level 2 just a few months later. To be fair, conditions are completely different. There hasn’t been a catastrophic event that they single handedly needed to take care of themselves, aside from Buu, and that’s the problem. Just let these kids fight for once!
Actually, they did. The “Yo Goku and his Friends” special, which never officially made it to the states, actually did feature them fighting the main villain, but guess who ends up saving the day after things get just a bit too overwhelming for them. Goku. Come on guy. Seriously. Go back to training in other world. Matter of fact, both you and Vegeta. Just leave the planet for a really long time, train your butts off, and don’t come back till the end of the series, when some super crazy threat, that who even Beerus and Whiz can’t handle shows up. Let the kids take care of the earth, and unlock some new and unique forms on their own. Come on Mr. Toriyama and Toei. These ideas are free.