Shenlong has been summoned. The balls are back together. The monkey is returning.
Animated Dragon Ball… is coming back.
It’s like the fuckers knew I just finished a run through “the entire series.” Even GT? Yeah. Even GT. People are pretty excited, of course, because this new anime will begin directly following Goku’s final battle with Majin Buu; maybe it will overwrite Dragon Ball GT, an animation-only series that followed Dragon Ball Z without guidance from a manga and disappointed many western fans (it did have, to be fair, pretty terrible fashion). As we all know, the most sacred concept in this world of ours is: “canon.”
Toriyama Akira, mangaka (cartoonist) behind Dragon Ball, will be the source of the new story: drafting, the Japanese reportage suggests, an original sequel to the story of Dragon Ball Z (still simply named Dragon Ball in the manga), not seen in prior manga publication. How direct and detailed will his involvement be? It’ll be interesting to find out, as the previous adapted animation tended to align very closely with the manga originals—in many places it’s possible to follow the comic side by side with the events on your screen. Of course filler arcs, such as Garlic Jr. or in essence the whole of GT, have less in common with the creative patterns of a cartoonist, as here they tend to provide only character designs and basic event approval (filler is intended to allow the original creator to get ahead of their following recreators, let the manga get ahead of where the anime’s catching up to, so the original team or artist will be busy doing that, rather than contributing to the bites at their own ankles).
Toriyama’s working on new projects of his own this year, following 2013’s Jaco the Patrolman. With previous Sachi-chan Guu and Jiya collaborator Katsura Masakazu, Toriyama will write and Katsura will draw. Something to set off the still-massive presence of his second great success. Because it wasn’t Dragon Ball that made him a manga superstar! That was Dr. Slump, who came after three years of one-shots. You’ll remember an animated cameo from Slump character Arale and friends, back before the Z, when Goku was still a child. Dragon Ball, though, was the series that became so big he had to request to be allowed to step away, and give Goku an ending.
But do we never learn? Goku loves to fight! And he’s fought his way back, blazing, hair as gold as bars and ingots. Goku is money, which is sort of okay, because there’s a lot of good to be said about Dragonball. It’s a pretty good show with decent morals, if you ignore Goku himself, who is the worst. But of course he is, I guess, because he’s Son Goku, Son Wukong, the Monkey King, a trickster-hero who gains enlightenment through being so purely himself that nobody can be bothered to scold him for his foibles. He serves Good, and he’s naughty in his serving of it, but nevertheless that’s his alignment, and Good is Good. It’s not really my comfort zone, but it’s philosophical, which makes it okay to discuss as an audience. I can talk for hours about how much I don’t like Goku as an individual on a human level, but you haven’t asked me to, so I won’t.
The joys of Dragon Ball are elsewhere. Vegeta, the perpetually frowning Draco Malfoy of space whose struggle with his own inadequacy gently subsides as he discovers shared emotion. Bulma, who likes getting laid and being generous and looking at problems and engineering things. Krillin, whose aging process across the series makes me so happy I could dance. Android 18, who is not impressed with anything except genuine charity and the deepest bonds of love. Buu and Mister Satan, living together. Videl’s crash into superhuman society as a peak achiever amongst humans, and her sense of self even as she bunches all of her power into expressions of humility. Toriyama’s establishment of character and subsequent subtle, chronological progression is honestly… quite superb. It took me by surprise too, champ. But every twist in their interpersonal tales pan out, when you begin to consider them.
That’s not to say its pros outshine its cons. Master Roshi is a lech, he’s disgustingly abusive for comedy and I despise him beyond the sun. At their first meeting Goku, not having met a girl before, pats around on Bulma’s crotch and discovers that she hasn’t got a penis (Goku does have a penis, we see it regularly because a child’s penis isn’t a media consumable). He is a child of perhaps eleven, and she is older, and I have heard a lot of excuses for this scene. I won’t take them. It’s not good jokes to tell kids that patting another person’s crotch because you feel like it is alright. It’s not good jokes to have girls trapped on an island with an old man of great physical power, who asks to see their panties and tries to feel their tits. Toriyama cartoons some wonderful woman and girl characters—he gives them inner lives, outer lives, and various interests and abilities. I don’t think he understands, or understood, at least, the repulsive, muscular contraction of NO that scenes of sexual harassment and assault inspire, when he draws them for laughs. I don’t think he knew what he was doing. That doesn’t make it any better at all.
So I hope that Master Roshi is dead, in Dragon Ball Super.
What do you hope?