Dragon Ball Revisited

Welcome back to another edition of Dragon Ball Revisited. Where we last left off, Goku and his friends had just defeated the infamous Emperor Pilaf. With the hunt for the Dragon Balls over and a whole year till they could be found again, the gang decided to part ways. Goku was to train with Master Roshi, while Bulma, Oolong, Yamcha and Puar would return to the city. Before saying their final goodbyes, they promised to meet again at the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. With that promise kept, we arrive at…THE TOURNAMENT SAGA!

grand tournament sagaThe Tournament Saga is considered by many, to be the first true saga in the Dragon Ball franchise. I would have to agree, simply, because of its grand nature. The first 13 episodes, as I said last time, were very episodic, and things were usually resolved in each episode and stood on their own. In this saga, a whole different approach was taken. We now have a long plot line that is directly continued from episode to episode. Jump in at any episode and you could be lost or a bit confused. Not only is the story bigger, but so is the world itself. The tournament brings in competitors from various walks of life and even gives us a glimpse into those worlds. For the first time, it feels like this cartoon is part of something gigantic. The animation also seems to keep up with this sense of hugeness. Before, we had a minimal amount of locales and barren landscapes. Now, we have giant cities and jungle islands that seem to go on for days. It’s at this point where Dragon Ball went from normal cartoon, to full-fledged epic.

Master Roshi Training

What’s interesting about this Saga is how it starts. The first 5 episodes are made up entirely of training sequences and downtime, something that would later become a hallmark of the show. It starts off simple enough with Goku seeking out training from Master Roshi. It’s here where Goku meets the boy who will end up becoming his best friend, Krillen. Both he and Goku seek the great fighting wisdom of Roshi, which he gladly accepts in return of naughty mags and a date with a beautiful girl. What I find really fantastic about these training episodes is how imaginative they are. Instead of seeing the boys learning how to fight, we see them doing the most insane and bizarre tasks ever. It’s like the Karate Kid kicked up to 11. Everything from carrying milk jugs for 10 miles, weighing 50 pound turtle shells, and being chased by sharks is what Master Roshi puts these boys through; and it’s hilarious! The light hearted fun is never lost throughout Dragon Ball, and I, for one, am happy about that.

Krillen AttacksAfter all the training and the introduction of the mysterious Bi-Polar vixen, Launch, we now enter the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament. At this point, the series enters a new phase and sets the standard of fighting for everything after. When I originally started the Tournament Saga, I was worried that it would get repetitive seeing 10 episodes of basic martial arts. You have to remember, this is pre-DBZ, ki blasts and explosions were not really a major occurrence at this point. I was surprised to find out that the fights shown were not only exciting, but very original. Attacks that seem to be taken for granted in DBZ, are shown to their full potential. The fighting is animated so masterfully, that it puts many other cartoons to shame. From what I understand, Akira Toriyama actually instructed animators to study different forms of martial arts, just as he did when illustrating the manga. The best way to make martial arts interesting in a cartoon is to actually show real martial arts, and Dragon Ball exceeds at that.

Goku Vs. Jackie ChunBeyond all the martial arts and crazy antics is something that should really be stressed, the story. The Tournament Saga is far more than just a reason to see Goku and his friends kick all kinds of butt. It has many different aspects to it, all equally important as the other. The first, being Goku gaining experience in the big world that he just now learned existed. Master Roshi makes it clear that Goku has to prepare himself for what lays ahead, a dangerous world with people who are stronger than him both in mind and body. On top of all that, we have the mystery of the man named Jackie Chun, the emotional story of Nam and his people, the struggles that come with fighting your friends, and the importance of not losing your fighting spirit. For many, cartoons are viewed as childish, but for Dragon Ball fans, that sentiment couldn’t be any more wrong.

Is he dead?
In my last entry, I summed up the entire saga, but I feel doing that here would be a great disservice to those who have not seen it; as with everything else that follows. The Tournament Saga is, by far, one of my favorites, maybe even favorite saga in all the Dragon Ball mythos.

With that we come to my favorite part of this column, The Good, The Bad and The Weird!

The Good: 
-Goku and Krillen’s competitive friendship
-Master Roshi being a complete bad ass
-Turtle shells can make you jump really high
-The various fighting styles shown in the tournament
-The always hilarious announcer
-Nam’s story that will cause man tears
-Yamcha being the greatest man in the world
-The last two episodes, that fighting, that insane action
-Launch shooting up everyone and everything

The Bad: 
-Giran, I really dislike him and the rest of the Giras
-Obviously not enough Yamcha, the greatest man in the world
-See above

The Weird: 
-Sneezing can turn a nice young woman into a homicidal maniac
-Krillen has a huge collection of naughty magazines
-Ranfan fights with lingerie!
-The Moon…it uh…it gets blown up.
-Krillen actually doesn’t have a nose. It’s also an advantage
-Yamcha, the greatest man in the world not winning.

Goku Happy
We now come to the end of this week’s Dragon Ball Revisited. Join me next week, as I venture into the beginning of a saga that would have ramifications on the future of the Dragon Ball Universe, The Red Ribbon Army Saga. What new tasks must Goku and his friends overcome and who, exactly, is this Red Ribbon Army? Find out on the next DRAGON BALL REVISITED!

-Aaron “yajirobe” Alvarez