never had the most positive opinion of Dragon Ball Z. My experience with
the series was initially restricted to the first 16 episodes of
Vegeta’s invasion of earth, at which point I somewhat lost interest.
for no particular reason (that I can remember), I encountered Dragon
Ball, Toriyama’s original series, and loved its quirkiness enough to
give its sequel another go; I went as far as the Freeza saga before
finally calling its quits.
today, my thoughts on Dragon ball as a franchise (precluding the
original Dragon Ball) pretty much aligned with those of the numerous DBZ
haters the internet has been known to produce, most of whom cannot
stand its exaggerated tropes.
that was before today, before I actually saw Dragon Ball Kai, a series
that just might have transformed my entire outlook on Akira Toriyama’s
story, so much so that it somehow compelled me to take a closer look at Fairy Tail.
DRAGON BALL KAI
encounter with Dragon Ball Kai began with Gohan and his journey to
school upon the back of his nimbus cloud. I knew something was terribly
wrong almost immediately.
just the quirkiness of watching Gohan bring justice to the streets in
his silly Saiyaman costume but the miraculous and rather casual return
of the twice (thrice?) dead Goku and even the manner in which the
confrontation with Babiddi and his minions played out.
every thought I had ever had about just how campy, cheesy and cliché’
Dragonball Z could become seemed to manifest in the 17 or so episodes of
Dragonball Kai I watched.
And it was
awesome; a reaction that my brain couldn’t quite explain and which,
even now, I can’t help but presume might have been a fluke on the part
of this specific set of episodes.
from all around the world are summoned to partake in a test of skill and
strength in the World Martial Arts Tournament; when an ancient and
malevolent evil threatens the world, the strongest among them all will
rise to defend their home against the dark machinations of a power
know if that plot description does this series justice, at least as far
as the episodes I watched are concerned; because, to an extent, Kai had
so much more going for it than that particular synopsis describes, even
while doing so little in the same breath.
characters single handedly sold the show to me; I know the series is
just DBZ re-mastered but I do not remember enjoying the DBZ cast this
much in my original encounter with the universe.
is energetic and full of life, bringing less depth of story and more
fun and excitement. I was especially taken by Trunks and Goten, whose
rivalry was an interesting and light hearted take upon the conflict
between their fathers.
was infinitely humorous, not only in his show of cowardice but the
various interactions he had with his daughter Videl and her new
comrades; and Gohan, I was caught a little off guard by his age, seeing
as the last time I saw him, he was off training with Picollo in
preparation for Vegeta’s arrival, and doing more crying than actual
his curret power and age, one does question the decision to bring Goku
back to the fold; with the younger cast finally burgeoning and having
come into their own, it would have made more sense to bury the past and
all its heroes, making way for the new generation (like most shonen
tries to do).
nostalgia among fans that cannot see a dragonball universe without Goku
could have been easily satiated with Goten, a Goku facsimile if there
ever was one and the perfect opportunity to inject the innocence of
DragonBall back into the aging series.
None the less I can’t complain, because even Goku’s presence aided rather than harmed this arc.
Story?"’ is what I would have said about Dragon Ball in the past, and
speaking truthfully that hasn’t changed. That is what my brain is
struggling to reconcile about Dragon Ball Kai.
majority of the elements that this show uses I have spent considerable
time complaining about and raging against in various other anime; these
tropes, the cheesy execution of plots, the somewhat messy pacing, I
should have been screaming (at least internally) at Dragon Ball Kai as I
brain struggled to remind me of how much I hated this sort of story
execution in other anime, how many manga had irritated me by telling the
exact sort of story that was playing out in Dragon Ball Kai.
there is a genius element to all this, a secret technique to presenting
this material in a way that, rather than infuriate, immensely
entertained me. I can’t even compare Kai to the original DBZ because I
didn’t watch this arc in the original format.
means I cannot quite determine if Dragon Ball Kai actually does
something different from original, or if this arc was just as
entertaining in the original Dragon Ball Z.
case, the arc promised a fun filled story told within the setting of
explosive battles at a tournament, followed by the arrival of an ancient
evil, and it managed to entertain in every way.
battles were engaging and the conversations revealed enough snippets of
information to provide an idea of previous story lines and arcs that
might prove relevant at the present.
talk about Dragon Ball without mentioning the action; and for a series
as old as this, it is surprising just how dynamic and not stale the
One of the
reasons that tend to attract me to Naruto is the series’ unique
collection of action scenes, usually so much more than a
punch/kick/punch/kick approach. Probably because their fairly unreliable
levels of durability (at least in comparison to One Piece and Bleach),
fight scenes in Naruto are typically dynamic primarily because of the
caution each character injects into his or her actions on the
And in a
series where a kunai to the throat can bring even the strongest enemies
to their knees, it makes sense that the fights would progress fairly
slowly, with each step planned, well thought out and executed with
Ball Kai reminded me of Naruto, not on its pacing but the variations
that it infused within each fight scene; for a series this old, I
expected several minutes worth of characters blurring about each other,
and throwing endless flurries of invisible fists and kicks at each
As such it
was surprising how almost grounded the fighting was, at least within
the tournament setting, the moves varying with the passing of time,
making even the long winded battles worth watching.
cannot tell if this is the effect of Dragon Ball Kai or if the original
series actually got his good. Whatever the case, I could watch these
aliens beat the daylights out of each other all day.
And did I mention how awesome Trunks and Goten were.
Ball Kai is fun, and it is the fact that it doesn’t take itself
seriously that makes this arc work so well. Yes, it is silly to an
extent, yet the show chooses to not only accept but utilize that
silliness to great effect.
Ball Kai, or at least his arc, is the sort of show you can watch on a
lazy Saturday, where nothing particular piques you interest and you
simply wish to immerse yourself in a little bit of light fun.
I am still in awe. The idea that I could enjoy Dragon Ball Kai this
much still baffles me. Again, I am not quite certain if it is this arc
in particular that is simply that entertaining, or if the rest of the
series maintains this same quality of fun.
halfway through this saga, I cannot rule out the possibility of finding
disappointment once I finally push through the rest of the arc, Here’s
to hopping that the series maintains this same quality.
And who knows. I just might decide to backtrack and catch up on the entire series, starting from the Frieza finale onwards.
THE FAIRY TAIL COMPARISON
IN the few
short years that I have been reading and watching Fairy Tail, it never
crossed my mind to juxtapose Fairy Tail against Dragon Ball regarding
any of its incarnations; not only because my experience with Dragon Ball
was limited, but the two series, well, they don’t really have anything
in common outside of basic shonen tropes.
Ball Kai didn’t change that perspective; what it did was allow me to
understand the potential that lay within Fairy Tail’s structure, or
rather all it could be.
me wrong; while I am not as big a Fairy Tail Fan as I once was, I have
reached a place where I can appreciate it, where the story telling
decisions made do not infuriate me quite as much.
said, I cannot ignore the manga’s many flaws. Simply put, Fairy Tail
doesn’t know what it should be, or even wants to be; straying back and
forth between light hearted tones and very dark concepts, I have been
accused before of failing to appreciate the story for what it is:
simplistic, comedic, action packed and Ecci.
claim is this: if I could only understand the fact that Fairy Tail
wasn’t the dark and heavy series I want it to be, I would enjoy it.
extent that is true, but the fault for any confusion on my part with
regards to the sort of manga I am reading falls solely on the shoulders
of Hiro Mashima; I take Fairy Tail more seriously than it deserves
because that is the tone the story has always presented mostly dark and
only breaking out the fun and happy stuff at the end of its arcs.
As I was
watching Dragonball Kai I couldn’t help but think of Fairy Tail. Because
Kai knows what it is, or should be, and makes optimum use of its
assets. People like to make excuses for really bad entertainment; think
of all those movies that want us to believe they are terrible on
purpose, just so they can qualify for the ‘So bad they are good’
Ball Kai isn’t bad per say; but it is campy and very cheesy, the sort of
cheesiness that so many tried to convince me was intentional and which I
disputed as desperate excuses until today.
Toriyama knew what he was doing, because Kai spends more time making fun
of itself than I thought possible. There is a perfect balance between
the dark and light elements. And at no point does the story get so
serious that you forget what Dragon Ball is meant to be.
what Fairy Tail should be; if its so determined to follow its
lighthearted side, then why not stick to it, play the strengths that a
story within such a genre affords, the way Kai does its thing.
doesn’t as much narrate its story as it does simply play with the plots,
throwing characters about, the result being a surprisingly fun filled
experience. At the end of the day Kai makes it so it doesn’t matter how
its arcs unfold, how the various battles finish or who wins at the end.
It is all
about the journey. And in that regard it can get away with all the
ludicrous power-ups it wishes to invent. Because, at the end of the day,
the focus on creating a fun filled experience is never lost.
is a somewhat dark and action packed shonen series that wants to do
lighthearted comedy and ecci; and in that regard it fails, because it
creates expectations for plot progressions down the sort of murky paths
that never payoff the way they should.
benefit from not taking itself too seriously. While it isn’t quite
terrible, despite having some terrible moments (Because she’s Erza?
Really Hiro?) Fairy Tail
could truly come into its own, become a true contender for the top spot
if only it was less of an overly emotional series, dark and action
packed, yet sort of comedic and silly, and instead truly embraced its
light and fun side.