Monday, August 10, 2015

Has Dragon Ball gone too far?

Spoilers for Dragon Ball Z and Battle of Gods

Dragon Ball is a series that has taken the world by storm, most notably with the back-half of its main series in Dragon Ball Z, one of my favorite shows of all time and one of the most talked-about and influential anime series for many Western viewers. It's spawned hundreds of anime episodes, over twenty movies, and now, two major theatrical releases for, again, Western audiences. It's a series that proves how capable it is time and time again over in the United States and is one not to be forgotten.

But it's time for it to end. Now, it's getting to be a bit much, and it's making me wonder why this series above all others is getting these huge movie releases compared to others. The reason I come up with is not one I particularly enjoy, either.

DB has enjoyed fame for nearly three decades now, and over here, it's taken off in the last fifteen or so years. As a kid I loved watching some DBZ. It was a crazy intense show, full of action and comedy and memorable moments/ characters, many of which I still remember nowadays. The newer material? Not so memorable, though.

Honestly, by the newer material, I actually mean Seasons 7-9, the Majin material. I mean, how good was Season 7 of DBZ? It mostly filler with Goku training in Otherworld with Pikkon and showcasing Gohan being a dweeb in high school. The highlight of the season, and a highlight of the series in general, was Vegeta's great sacrifice.

I believe that there are two very natural stopping points for the series, and yet both had to be glanced over and continued so that we could have a very predictable continuation or ending.

The first is the more obvious one: the end of the Cell Games arc. There was a clear backbone to DBZ that was Gohan's slow journey into finding incredible power. It pops up time and time again and at each pivotal battle, Gohan was there but could never come through, he was too frightened to take charge or just simply didn't have that right amount of power. This time? Gohan had not only awakened this power, but far exceeded Goku. That is where the series should have stopped.

In the original DB, Goku ends the series being arguably the most powerful being on Earth. He has succeeded all of his other mentors and his greatest adversary thus far in young Piccolo. With Gohan, it's a similar situation, only his adversary was himself. He was his greatest hindrance--though being kindhearted isn't always a bad thing--and only through letting go of his former failures and knowing that he had to step up to fulfill the dying wish of a friend did he find his true power. It came in response to a need, the need to save everyone else, rather than simply a desire, as Cell was wishing for. After Gohan defeats Cell, Goku is dead and has passed the torch onto Gohan for him to become the new savior of the Earth (probably alongside Vegeta), and following the episode with Trunks, the show would have ended on a very high note, probably it's highest note to date.

The second natural stopping point was following what might be the best Vegeta moment of all time, with his sacrifice to destroy Majin Buu. It's the peak of his character, where he fully admits his love for Bulma and Trunks, as well as his incredible respect for Goku. He goes out in a blaze of glory with one of the best narrator monologues of all time. It's a really powerful moment in Dragon Ball history and particularly in the lore of DBZ. After that, you probably could have had one more episode to mourn the loss of Vegeta as he meets with Goku in Otherworld to continue their long standing rivalry there.

Instead we had crazy Fusion-talk and, of course, Goku was the one to save the day rather than it being Vegeta or Gohan, both of whom deserved those moments to be the hero that ultimately saved the day. Vegeta even had a major redemptive moment at the end of the Cell Games arc when he helped Gohan defeat Cell.

And now, well...well now I just don't know anymore. Battle of Gods was a fun enough movie to satiate a hunger we all had for some more DB, and I have yet to see Resurrection 'F' but I'm sure it'll be the same caliber of "well that was fun, I had fun, what a fun time" but it wouldn't necessarily be something I have to see. Something I know I don't have to see, and something that I firmly believe is just Toei riding this wave of hype?

Dragon Ball Super. Not only is it essentially a re-telling of Battle of Gods so far, but it's also something that could just as easily be turned into a series of movies, something that the franchise hasn't seen before, something to breathe life into it. I hate to say it, but Super almost feels like it's a giant money grab. Everyone is going to tune into this series just because it's the new DB series, they need to see what's up. I would have watched, too, until I learned that so far, it's just Battle of Gods, and I've already seen that. What's the point of watching this series over multiple weeks when I have the movie to enjoy already?

It's in this regard, and one other minor thing, that makes me feel Dragon Ball has finally crossed the line. We don't need this series. We didn't need the Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan mode in Resurrection 'F', but again, that's more of a minor thing that I suppose makes sense in the movie but looks ridiculous outside of the movie.

This all just begs the question of when this is going to end? When will we reach the point where enough is enough? What worries me is that we are going to get there and have a sour ending, again, with the Dragon Ball franchise. How much longer can we really ride this train before it comes to a close? Many of the big, ongoing series are coming to a close now, too. Bleach is nearing its final arc, even its final battles, and Naruto is over and done with. Fairy Tail--though yet to be officially announced--is honing in on its final war with Zeref as almost all the big secrets of the series are finally out of the bag. One Piece is still a way's off but after probably around three more years, I imagine the end will be in sight. With these series, though, there has been a natural, almost seemless progression to them.

Dragon Ball has been start and stop for a while now. DBZ ended in the 90s, officially, despite the dub coming out later on. "Kai" was simply a retelling of that, and now we have the newer material. For Japanese fans, then, there was well over a decade-long gap where DBZ was not a thing and there were other series to fill it up, which is probably what allowed other series to take off like they did.

This show is a phenomenom, yes, as I have no idea how it's lasted this long and how they are pumping out new material. I'll never stop loving DBZ, and I hope they can continue adding new material and characters, like Jaco, to the movies. But as far as a new series goes? I think they were a bit quick to pull the trigger on that one. We'll see how it goes, but, as far as I'm concerned, they are on a bit of thin ice right now.

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