Yes, I know this has nothing to do with The Adventurer’s Daughter, or any of my other books, but hey, it’s my blog, so clam up. Clammy.
If you know me, then you’ll know I’m a massive DBZ fan. Have been since way back in 2000 when it first began to air on NZ’s TV3. Don’t believe me? Here’s my ludicrously awesome figure collection to prove it:
If you’re of the same generation, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Racing home after school to guzzle three litres of ice-cream (or the sugary treat of your choice) while drinking in the pure hedonistic, epileptic fit inducing scenes of the most mind-blowing cartoon ever created. Anime? What is this? Dudes fighting each other and screaming and flying…it just never stopped getting better.
But I digress slightly. What has DBZ got to do with writing fantasy books? Well funny I should ask myself. Watching DBZ sparked in me a passion I would later hone and tend and nurture to produce works of my own. I wrote (on paper, with an actual pen) a kind of DBZ themed spin-off story about a secret mountain clan full of dudes who had radical powers, and who powered up and protected the earth from terrible threats and such. I even went so far as to draw covers for my books, see:
Yes, I am a massive geeknerd, don’t judge me.
Basically, I couldn’t get enough just by watching the show. I had to create it myself. And this is where my love of writing began. I have, almost exclusively, DBZ to thank for creating things like Serabella and The Adventurer’s Daughter. I even have my old paper tomes stashed away safe and sound. Don’t read them anymore obviously because they make me cringe, but anyway, enough of that, the title’s got Super in it, and I suppose I should crack on with the review.
Not that there’s much to review yet, just the first three episodes. Let’s set the scene for those a little rusty or hazy on the details of the show. It was penned by the inimitable Akira Toriyama in the same year I was born: 1984. And would go on to, pretty much, become the world’s best known and loved anime/manga. The show ended in Japan in 1995, when the studios, wanting to ride the hog’s back all the way into glory, conjured up, from hell, the abomination that is DragonBall GT. Dead horse. Flogged.
We won’t get into that. Suffice it to say the series was done. Ended. Finished. That is, until America found out about it. And like everything ’Murica gets its greasy fingers on, it went MEGA INTENSE AND HUGE! Since then, years after DBZ had been put to rest, its popularity has soared, so much so that people like this guy can make lots of money philosophising about it. And rather than slowing down and sputtering out into the miasma of today’s glittering CGI anime cloud, it’s only become more loved and watched and loved and watched and loved and stuff.
So much so that a new movie (Battle of the Gods) was launched, with Toriyama providing the characters and the basic story. That was so popular the studio went ahead and made another movie (Resurrection ‘F’, which I’ll review once I see it later), and in addition to that, a whole new series!
Which leads me neatly into the review. Clever. Yes! DBZ Super! It handily sidesteps the thorny GT issue by ignoring it completely and taking place in the ten year gap between the end of Buu and the final scenes at the World’s Martial Arts Tournament. In that time, Beerus and co. arrive on the scene and cause mischief and yet more power-ups. You get a little cameo of this cat-dude in the first Super episode, being a harsh food critic and blowing up half a planet because the meal he was eating was just a little too fatty. He is, after all, the God of Destruction.
What’s Goku and his family up to while there’s nobody to fight? Farming, buying wedding gifts, winning some kind of peace prize, going on vacation…What’s happened? Has it suddenly become a reality TV anime? Yes it’s all very routine for a first episode. After all, there’s only so often you can start a series straight into the action.
Now, if you’ll allow me to venture down a side-street for a moment, I have to say I haven’t watched DBZ Kai and nor will I. Ever. If you’re a true fan then you don’t just watch the show for the fights, the explosions, the blood, the death and the outrageous action. You don’t skip out on the slow parts and whinge that the action is all repeated frames and panning across backgrounds. This was the 80s and 90s, first off, and yes, every single frame of the show was drawn. By. Hand. In order to keep within budget, all manner of sneaky cartoon short-cuts were employed. Remember in Scooby Doo how they’d just have the characters running in front of a looped background for twenty minutes? Well DBZ wasn’t much different. That’s just how it was back before computer wizardry. If you’re in the camp that complain that DBZ was chock full of fluffy filler and not enough fighting, then go read the Manga. If you can’t read, then by all means, whinge and complain and watch the abridged versions. Philistines.
That said, Super is a far cry from gritty, grainy cell animation. It’s slick and polished and smoooth and crisp. And I have to say it left me somewhat unsettled. Not in a ‘oh em gee, this is sssoooo lame’, kinda way, I guess it just took me a little to reconcile the DBZ I’d come to love with these flashy new characters. Battle of the Gods hit me in the same way as well. It seemed to lack a little of the blood sweat and tears of the original cell animation style. Back then you could see where colours had run, or they’d got the costumes wrong, or there was a rogue hair plastered to one cell which would blip on the screen for a nano second. DBZ had a team of animators all going at it at once to produce the show, and it’s telling when you watch a lot of it back to back. There are several styles, and not all of them were consistent, see:
Incidentally, if you want to know more on this topic, check this out.
Today’s animation has bigger budgets and vastly better science. You end up with better consistency, but lose out on good old fashioned hand drawn authenticity. Still, people complained to Toriyama about the evolution of his artistic style, how it went from rounded forms to angular and jagged edges, and he basically said, ‘screw you, it’s my story, I can make it look how I want.’ Case in point, here’s DragonBall in the early days:
And here’s his style a decade later:
Innovations in animation aside, Toriyama’s signature wacky humour is still apparent, and by the end I felt like I was a spotty sixteen year old again, face stuffed full of ice-cream, eyes shining with excitement, and an almost bowel-loosening anticipation of what will happen next. Despite how they look, there I was watching characters I’d grown up with, doing new stuff!
By episode two, it became apparent that the series is a longer version of Battle of the Gods. Disappointed? You shouldn’t be. The other movies ran parallel with the series, wrapping each one up with all the main plot points and so forth. It shouldn’t be any wonder that they’ve done the same thing, only backwards this time. But still, there’s some unknowns in there, like Beerus’ fat counterpart. Who is he and what does he represent? Only time will tell. Personally I’m impatient to get to the bits we haven’t seen, but that’s just the 16 year old in me coming out. On the plus side, it does mean we get to see many of the characters fleshed out in ways that you just can’t do with a 90 minute movie, especially the bad guys, who usually exist only to have their own asses handed to them and die. As we saw in BOTG, Beerus isn’t exactly bad, he’s almost half and half, which makes him far more interesting. And then there’s Vegeta’s story to continue with, who to my mind is the most well rounded character in the series. The anti-hero, like Wolverine and Jack Sparrow and the Punisher etc can be good or bad, and have the best of both worlds. And besides, Vegeta is a plain badass, who doesn’t want to see him get irritated and irrationally angry because he can’t deal with being second best?
As per the standard DBZ conventions, the cranky old bastard neglects his only son and ends up in the gravitron dodging laser beams and sweating a lot and growling about how he’ll be stronger than Goku one day…ahhhh the memories…And speaking of conventions, yup, Goku himself ends up on King Kai’s planet in a sweet matching tracksuit, lifting heavy objects. As per the movies, Beerus gets wind of the Super Soya God and goes to investigate.
Overall impressions? Pants-wetting excitement to see new DBZ material, combined with a little uncertainty about the new, somewhat sterile animation, sprinkled with impatience at having to wait for the BOTG storyline to play out before we get to the good juicy new bits, and served on a bed of holy senzu beans it’s a new DBZ series! Ahem.