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Dragon Ball

aa-dragonball-1
Genre: Action/Comedy
Company: Toei Douga/Fuji TV/Bird Studio
Format: 153 episodes
Dates: 2/26/1986 to 4/19/1989

Son Goku is a young, and wild, boy living on his own with few goals: eat, sleep, and fight. One day, a young girl named Bulma runs into him (literally) while on the search for the magical, wish-granting “Dragon Balls”. Son Goku joins Bulma on her quest. Little do they know that danger, romance, ancient evil, friendship, perverted old men, and martial arts wait just around the bend.

summary by Ender

Reviewed: 01/26/2010 by
Grade: 84% av-Ender

Highs: Likable and fun characters; simple, endearing premise; fun action and adventure

Lows: Animation; filler; pacing and length can be taxing

Have you ever had a younger sibling? One whom you were always being contrasted against, because they’re smarter, more popular, and much easier to get along with than yourself? I got that feeling while watching Dragon Ball. No matter what the original series does to get itself notice, it will always fall, bloody and face-first, under the shadow of it’s younger, juggernaut of a brother, Dragonball Z. Quite a shame, because Dragon Ball is one of the most entertaining series of this, or any other, era.

Toriyama Akira’s impact on the shounen genre started with a simple idea: take a well-worked formula (men beating the tar out of one another), and make it appealing to those who do not like it. There is no shortage of fighting in this series, but it’s coupled with stories that do not take themselves too seriously, and a cast of unpredictable and bizarre characters who are more comfortable eating, playing, or just loafing about. All right, there are several villains along the way, and some of them are quite scary, but what does it say when a big, demonic creature is most afraid of being trapped in a rice cooker? To be fair, it’s a magic rice cooker.

Many of the battles seem different in spite of going through the same motions. One hasn’t lived until they see a boy with a monkey tail fight against an old, lecherous hermit; or against a cold, mustachioed mercenary, whose primary mode of transportation is a flying tree; or a…you get the idea. The fighting is tied in nicely with the adventure, as villains often tend to be obstacles to a goal, with some funny solutions and consequences — an essence Dragonball Z and Dragonball GT lack – which typically revolve around Looney Toons slapstick and fantasy martial arts. However, aside from Goku’s childish desire for adventure, there isn’t really much of a dire drive to save the world. A problem with this structure is that it does make Dragon Ball susceptible to filler episodes that range from funny to meandering with little payoff. It can feel redundant, but it still seems playful enough that it doesn’t insult. Unfortunately, age has not been too kind to the animation quality. As of this writing, the original Dragon Ball has been off the air for more than 20 years. Other shounen series of the day, namely Fist of the North Star, had harder, streamlined bodies and poses; Dragon Ball’s characters are “doughy” by comparison — not what a fighting anime typically calls for. Perhaps, the designs are what helped Dragon Ball become such a huge hit with a larger audience. The typical animation flaws (re-used cells, limited motion, etc.) indicative of a long-running series are apparent, and the length only compounds the problems. Personally, I did not find too much of a problem with the art and animation, but I have a feeling that most modern audiences would not be as kind.

The magic of Dragon Ball (and folks might say the same about Z) is that it is a grand, silly, innocent, adventure story aimed at the part of brain that still remembers the fun of being a child. Only the worst of cynics will find this anime unwatchable; but who cares about them, really? Certainly, not those who took the time to make this show. That’s something to admire.

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