Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dragon Ball...is Back?!

Part of me is pretty excited for the big news that's been coming from across the Pacific recently while another part of me feels like kind of an idiot. We'll talk about the idiot first just to get it out of the way: last year I asked the question of if Dragon Ball has gone on too long and it seems that nobody really cared and the series has gone on anyway. I also recently talked about "Super" vs. "GT" and how I actually liked the latest arc of "Super," but the follow-up gag episodes have been pretty darn awesome (in particular the Arale and baseball episodes). So maybe it's getting a little more life, but, that was over in Japan. With a bit of a niche Western market. Now, it seems, it's coming back. 
If you haven't already heard, Funimation acquired the licensing rights to distribute the Dragon Ball Super English Dub, as well as finally wrap up Dragon Ball Z Kai with the Buu Saga. The "Kai" thing was a little unexpected, but what was far more unexpected was the BIG piece of news...kind of. It was only a matter of time until Toonami announced they would be airing Dragon Ball Super. I'm actually surprised they haven't shown Battle of Gods or Resurrection 'F' yet.

I'm oddly more excited to see Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters because it's more of what I remember, and it gets to cool things faster than "Super" will. The Great Saiyaman is goofy but we're skipping the filler parts of the series so we can jump straight to the World Martial Arts Tournament. It'll be great to not only hear the old voices, but the better voices. "Kai" is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the original Dragon Ball story in terms of English voice-acting, since the overall quality of the material has improved and the voice actors have just gotten to fall into their characters a little better. 

Plus there's just something great about the older, grittier art and animation that the 90s provided for the series. I like the newer art and animation just fine (well, I mean, besides the obvious hiccups) but I'm more familiar with that and it just brings a smile to my face to see. 

The big thing that everyone is taking away from this is how Toonami is going to be airing BOTH Dragon Ball Super and Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters. It seems a bit like overkill to air "Dragon Ball" back-to-back each weekend, but honestly, it makes sense. Purists of the dub are going to try and check out this series to see what the heck it's all about and "Dragon Ball" is without a doubt the most popular anime right now in the West. Death Note's been gone a while, Ghost in the Shell is still several months out from catching major hype, and Attack on Titan has all but faded from the mainstream's memory. "Dragon Ball" seems to have pounced at the perfect time. 

Not to mention that this'll do great things for the rest of the shows Toonami airs. Hunter x Hunter (2011) is a massively popular show among the overall anime community and if fans see a series similar to Dragon Ball they may stick around. 

In many ways, this iteration of Toonami mirrors what I kinda remember watching as a kid. Back then we had Dragon Ball Z, some other random series, Naruto, and I think even Yu-Yu Hakusho. Funnily enough, now we have Dragon Ball Z  again (kinda), Naruto: Shippuden, and Hunter x Hunter, a series created by the same creator of Yu-Yu Hakusho

The biggest fallacy I see in all of this is just how different the nature of Toonami is. Yeah Tom is still around and he's still super awesome and voiced by Steve Blum, but the airing time is totally different. Back when Dragon Ball Z was the biggest thing around, Toonami was airing on Saturday nights rather than Saturday at midnight, meaning that kids didn't really have to stay up to watch their favorite anime at the time. Nowadays, kids have to stay up until 11:30 the earliest to watch Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters. Luckily, Toonami's been airing the Cell Games arc of "Kai" so these viewers won't be totally lost on the goings-on of the series. 

They'll just be incredibly confused about what the heck this "Super" thing is and why there's a purple cat blowing up planets just by giving it a light touch, but whatever. That's what DVR is for. 

The series will never, in my mind, capture the same level of insane hype and amazement that it had in the early 2000s when kids could just come home from school and watch Goku and Cell beat each other to a pulp. The audience that watches the show are the same kids, but they have real lives now and probably different interests. 

But it's good to see Funimation jumping on this right now. It's a smart move on their part as they kind of renovate themselves (building a new website, somewhat re-branding themselves) and innovate the anime industry in the West with SimulDubs. It's just an appropriate time to do this. 

It's great to see "Dragon Ball" back in the form that it is, though perhaps not the popularity. As a longtime fan of the series, I'm excited to see some older stuff get improved upon while I watch the new material come out in prime form; albeit I'll be waiting a bit, since the first two dozen episodes of "Super" are irrelevant to me. 

Maybe this'll even give them a reason to make a great video-game again! 

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