The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.
Share this review on
When I was a child, there were only a few things I could have done to pass the time. Most of it involved playing with my friends in the neighbourhood, and the other was Airfix, gluing bits together in the vain hope of creating a model of something spectacular, but it always ended up being a vast mountain of excrement with my fingerprints all over it. There was Hornby and their trains, but I was never a fan of locomotives.
Today, there is so much for the youngsters to do. They have theme parks with adults purposely in giant costumes. They have video games that allow you to become a member of the SAS to combat terrorism. They also have cartoons and other children’s shows to watch with all their amazing primary colours and horrible theme songs. Children have an incredible array of things to do these days that it should be nigh on impossible for them to be bored, and yet they always seem to find a way to be bored.
Of these new trends there is one that I was completely unfamiliar with, and that was anime. I remember my grandson mentioning anime to me, and I thought it was a French curse word. It was this Japanese style animation that seems to have taken the teenagers by storm. I have seen my grandson and his ninja Naruto t-shirts and I asked him why that was better than, say, those old Tom and Jerry cartoons?
“Because it looks better and it has loads of action!”
Tom and Jerry was still better. Politically incorrect, but still better in my opinion.
That leads to this review, a show called Dragonball Z. I will be completely honest, if my grandson did not introduce this to me I would not have been able to do this review at all. It has taken maybe 2 years for us to watch it all and I have to say that the show is maybe a little violent, but a lot of it involves throwing energy blasts that somehow can vaporise planets, so it’s not something you could do in real life. My grandson brought over the entire Dragonball Z DVD box set that has over 200 episodes, with each episode running about 23 minutes each. My grandson pops over every Sunday, so we spend the day watching about 3-4 episodes a go with me asking what on Earth was going on because it made little sense to me.
When it comes to Japanese imports, he could have done worse. Thank goodness it was not Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh, something he was into as a preteen. This was a chance for us to bond, and it worked as he actually looks forward to popping over to visit grandma and grandpa’s house. I will try to refrain from too many spoilers in case you would want to watch this show.
Dragonball Z itself is a mystery from the start. It stars this strange human looking alien called Goku that has super powers and uses martial arts. He and his friends, the Zee Fighters (Americanism there for the letter Z) fight to protect the Earth or to save other Alien species from evil tyranny because that’s just what they do. The Japanese managed to merge the things that children love the most into one TV series: aliens that know kung fu fighting to save the Universe. All you need is to add in some ninjas and Nazis and the formula is complete.
The show is split into Sagas, and where each Saga begins and ends still mystifies me because it’s not as if it announces when one starts and one begins. In each saga, the main characters fight increasingly stronger opponents that test them to the limit. Whenever all hope seems lost, the main characters always seem to find a way to solve their predicament, be it a transformation to make one stronger or a strategy to win against superior might, which involves something to make one stronger. Sure, this is a children’s cartoon so the plot and story aren’t going to be compelling, but it does get predictable. There is a lot of, “Oh, he is losing this fight, what now? Oh look, he just dragged a new transformation out of his backside and is winning again”.
What I find interesting is that the objects that the series is named after, the Dragonballs, were a very important plot driving device for the first third of the series, but after that the Dragonballs take a backseat and are only brought it later to solve a problem later. There are 7 Dragonballs, these orange orbs of amber with orangey stars in the middle of them. When gathered together, the legendary Dragon is unleashed and he can grant any wish you want, even bringing the dead back to life. At the beginning of the show, the Dragonballs were sought after by the bad guys to obtain immortality or something more sinister. Later, we hardly hear from them, and they are only brought in to repair damage caused by a titanic battle. They should have called the show ‘Big Battles’ and not Dragonball Z if most of the show was not driven around the Dragonballs. And what did the Z stand for anyway?
When you start watching this cartoon and do not have any knowledge of it at all, it will be very confusing. It starts off with this strange green man with antennae and a turban being threatened by this large caveman in battle armour that has a monkey tail, from space! Later on we meet Goku, our main protagonist and it turns out space caveman is his older brother called Raditz, and he asks Goku why everybody was still alive on Earth. That part totally lost me, I had no idea what the heck was going on and why Goku was being asked why everyone was still alive; the show assumed I already knew what was happening. It turns out that there is another series before this called Dragonball (minus the Z) that tells the story before Dragonball Z. So it was expecting me to have seen the first series in order to understand what was happening in this? My grandson had to fill me in on the details.
What follows next is that Goku gets beaten up easily because he is weaker than his older brother, and then he kidnaps Goku’s son, Gohan, to encourage his brother to become evil and kill everybody on Earth. You have to watch the series to find out why. We are soon introduced to the other characters and their significance to the story and watch how humans are so much weaker than aliens when it comes to fighting. Honestly, humans are pathetic and weak; the aliens have all the cool moves and power ups.
These guys all have the same sort of super powers. It’s not like X-Men or the Avengers where each character has a specific power unique to them, every one of the Z Fighters fight the same way. They can punch and kick very quickly, fly faster than the eye could see leaving behind pen lines, blast energy beams that could atomise Solar Systems, split their bodies into multiple entities and, when powering up, look as if they are really constipated with veins popping out of their temples and an aura of energy forming around them. I always laugh at the scenes where these men all stand in a position ready to take the biggest poo of their lives, hunched down slightly and yelling really loudly as their veins throb all over their bodies and their aura of power forces rocks to fly about. And the pay off at the end after all the screaming and shouting? They get slapped into the dirt anyway. It’s not as if these scenes of increasing their powers are short either, they can last 10 minutes, with the other characters explaining to each other, exposition style, how powerful the constipated person is. You hear this a lot: “His power level is increasing! It is very powerful! We can’t stop him!”
A lot of the moves have names in the show, and the characters love shouting out moves just before performing them, especially the energy blast moves. You have your normal energy blast that shoots out a small ball of energy. No shouting there. Then you have your slightly more power energy blasts where the user charges up a bit before firing. Then you have the mammoth, nuclear explosion, death beams that have idiotic names, which have to be screamed before being thrown at the enemy. Many of the names don’t even make sense, you have the ones in English such as ‘SPECIAL BEAM CANNON!’, which, as the name implies, is a beams of energy that is very special. But then we have this technique that is the most used and most screamed in the series. “KA… MEH… HAM… MEH… HA!”, and then a massive blue energy beam appears and turns anything in its path into dust. I only know the name because they keep saying those 5 syllables over and over in the show that I can’t get them out of my mind.
One of the overly used things in the show is the ability to go Super Saiyan. Goku, our alien/human (?) main character, is one of these Saiyans, and he manages to obtain the abilities to transform into a Super Saiyan where his black hair rises and stands on end, turning blonde while his black eyes turn blue/green, and then there is a supremely powerful aura of energy that starts to emanate from his body to show that he is turbo charged. Other characters that are also Saiyans, like his son Gohan, also achieve this ability and they always use it when in peril. The funny thing is that the show likes to bang on how there is one legendary Saiyan every 1000 years that can become a Super Saiyan, which our main character Goku becomes, but after he does it every other Saiyan gets it as well. It kind of makes the legend pretty pointless and removes any mystique behind the awesome power up. To address that issue, they bring in another level, level 2 or Super Saiyan 2 that powers the user up even more after more screaming and constipated churning. However the other Saiyan characters also achieve that power, therefore they had to bring in another level that Goku acquires first, Super Saiyan 3, where the eyebrows vanish and the blonde hair grows really long and lightning comes out of his armpits. Each level increases power to such an extent that it becomes almost comical. Was the show’s creator a supporter of Hitler’s Aryan race utopia?
The animation of Dragonball Z is very random. Sometimes it looks polished and well animated, but at other times the animation looks rushed and very awkward as facial features appear wonky compared to their appearances in other episodes. How can the look of a character vary so much in a show that has over 200 episodes? Anyone would notice it. For instance, the main character Goku looks great in the main fight scenes, but in the episodes building up to the main fight, he looks like they put him through a blender. It goes through the inspired to the inane.
But the most annoying thing of the show, the most irritating thing of this animated series as I watched it with my grandson was the bloody scenes that dragged out with the characters spending 10 minutes breathing heavily. These guys get into massive fights, flying around at the speed of sound, colliding into massive fireball fisticuffs before ending up all beaten up and exhausted. So, to drag out an episode, the show has half of one episode where the characters breathe heavily to catch their breath as another character expositions to us the plight of the good fighter. I could not believe my grandson actually didn’t mind, it was just appalling to sit through. Imagine watching Heartbeat and half of an episode was PC Nick Rowan exhausted after chasing a criminal so spends that time catching his breath as his wife, Dr Kate Rowan, expositions how he will catch his breath and then catch the foul villain soon. No thanks.
Overall, I think it is an okay children’s animation with some questionable violence in it sometimes. How my grandson likes this I can understand since it has a lot of action with energy blasts being thrown everywhere, but if you sat down to really analyse this show, it quickly starts to fall apart. Do the characters all must shout a powerful move to use it? Why is the legendary transformation not that legendary anymore? However, this is a show for children so chances are they won’t even think further on from “bad man, destroy, universe saved”.
I must say, the main fights are rather enjoyable, even if they do drag out for many episodes, but it just gets very predictable very quickly. In the show, it isn’t tactics that win, it is if one person has more force or power than the opposition. If so, that person would win. I don’t know if this is a good or bad show for children, but if it were down to me, I might have not allowed my children to watch it if they were still in their early teens.
I can’t say I recommend this, it has too much stupid in it for my liking. Kids walk away from it enjoying the action, but every time someone asks me about Dragonball Z it conjures up images of screaming, constipation, glowing individuals, veiny complexions and buildings shaking apart. That’s not a good sign for me. The most I give it is average.