Despite being both loved and loathed by an ever collecting legion of frothing fans, the various anime derived from Japan’s own Shounen Jump are undeniably the flag bearers of anime to our mainstream generation.
As much as I like to think of myself as a serious anime fan, I must now confess that I happen to enjoy the uniquely derivative delights of the SJ adaptation; indeed, my TV recorded VHS tapes of all 261 episodes of DragonballZ attest to this horrifying affliction- intending never to watch them again, I still keep them close by as a reminder of what once was.
Alas, as a means of clearing my heavy conscience, we reach the point at which I introduce this series of articles, my “memoirs of a shounen jump fan”, so join me brave reader as we sink ever deeper into the bowls of these forbidden anime series.
Dragonball Z – My confession
Back during the desolate days of the year 2002 I wasn’t an anime fan but being your typical lazy student and all, I still had a lot of spare time on my hands. One fated summer’s afternoon, I just happened to flick past Toonami on TV… and weeks later, I realized I was addicted to Dragonball Z. That’s literally how it happened, there wasn’t some moment of divine realization, rather I just woke up one morning and subconsciously decided to become a DBZ fan.
To my unfettered eyes, it offered something new. For a start, it was my first true serial story in animated form- I loved tuning in everyday and being able to watch the next part of an on-going story. The characters too were a big draw for me; we see Goku and Gohan grow up, develop and suffer in realistic ways, being affected by everything going on around them. It had just enough maturity to hold my interest, something I can’t say for the majority of teen-aimed American toons.
For that summer, I loved Dragonball Z. It got old for me around about my third time around the block; now it’s drawn out and boring, but for those precious 3 to 6 months, I really loved it- enough to sit through several whole day marathons!
Why people hate DBZ (and subsequently, why I love it!)
As popular as Dragonball Z still is, there’s no point in trying to convince anyone its high art. Its main problem is pacing; DBZ lasted 261 episodes for a reason, the story moves so slowly that (and this is a fact) that when we are told that a “planet will explode in two minutes”, the action is still stretched out over two episodes.
After around about 90 episodes, Dragonball Z has reached its zenith. Goku has completed his fated transformation into the legendary Super Saiyajin and Frieza meets his grizzly end. The series should end here, with everything tied up- but it doesn’t, for whatever reason it lasts for another 170 episodes. Basically, Akira Toriyama’s universe wasn’t built to last this long- and the cracks start to show.
The action, if we can call it that, consists of the now familiar SJ-style face-offs in which opponents spend more time trashing talking each other and trading “power levels” than actually fighting. Characters in battle take on the look of someone squatting with violent constipation, muscles bulge and hair colour changes.
- At an emotional highpoint- Goku, mourning the death of his best buddy Krillin, goes Super Saiyajin for the first time and humiliates the previously untouchable pride of Frieza.
- Gohan inheriting his father’s legacy by saving Earth from Cell.
- Vegeta finally acknowledging Goku and his loved ones by sacrificing his life- blowing himself up- to halt the universal destruction expected of fat villain Majin Buu.
The most revered Shounen Jump anime ever, Dragonball Z set the standards for long running “fighting” anime. Despite being hopelessly stretched out over an amazing number of episodes, the story retains its power as a weird blend of science fiction and traditional martial arts. Time traveling, androids, space ships and exploding planets are but a few of the many delights DBZ offers and as much as it now looks like a blatantly tired old series, it will always have my respect!