Anime Reporter squints and grunts in a vain attempt to reach Super Saiyan level one as it takes on the first half (34 episodes) of Dragon Ball GT, the sequel to the wildly acclaimed Dragon Ball Z and the only series of the franchise to be created independently of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga series.
Following on from the final season of Dragon Ball Z (reviewed @ http://animereporter.com/2014/02/20/dragonballzseason9/) GT is based several years later, starting off with Goku looking very much the better for the aging process and more or less everyone else around him looking much older (or in the case of Vegeta just sporting a large moustache.) The first episode starts with Goku testing out his powerful student, Uub’s combat skills at the sanctuary of Dende’s lookout while amid the commotion and chaos of their fight, an old enemy stirs.
Fortunately, that old enemy is Emperor Pilaf, the miniature menace whom Goku used to defeat with little effort as a child and so there’s little threat there. However, Pilaf knows of a secret hidden to Goku and the others; a set of mysterious black-starred dragon balls hidden within Dende’s lookout and which Pilaf can use to wish for tremendous power and gain dominion over the earth. Naturally, as this is Pilaf, the plan backfires when Goku enters the room and after some moments of confusion, recognises the villain and his cohorts. In a moment of panic at seeing Goku as an adult, Pilaf wishes that Goku was a child again so that he’d be easier to defeat and thus begins the show’s premise. Goku is physically rejuvenated to a young age (characters speculate that he could be anywhere between 3 and 10), though with his adult mind intact, as the black star dragon balls scatter themselves across the galaxy and Goku seems content to let himself age naturally rather than hunt them down to reverse the process.
A terrifying, if somewhat plot-convenient, revelation throws Goku a curve ball however as he learns that the black star dragon balls use such negative energy that after a wish has been made, they must be returned to the planet the wish came from within a year or else spell the planet’s destruction. Thus we find mini-Goku travelling with his now grown up ally, Trunks and young teen granddaughter Pan across the galaxy, racing against a ticking clock.
The narrative is something of an amalgamation between the two earlier series, with the ever escalating battles and power-ups of Dragon Ball Z and several elements of humour and character from Dragon Ball. Fans of the original Dragon Ball cartoon will soon see that, once reverted to his younger form, Goku once again sheds any qualms about being naked when the opportunity presents itself much to the shock of his companions (and possibly some viewers as well). Ultimately, the mixture of the two quite different approaches can feel somewhat unsatisfying as light-hearted and innocent jokes and side stories can clash when the time comes for high-stakes martial art throw-downs against demonic alien overlords bent on either obtaining the dragon balls or just wiping out whatever’s in their path.
The animation remains more or less constant with the quality of the Dragon Ball Z series and considering that this series originally aired in 1996 the colours are particularly vibrant and action sequences move quickly and with the expected levels of energy and drama.
Goku’s character remains entirely intact with his love for fighting and food remaining his most common traits, though some aspects of his personality and powers have regressed slightly to their pre-Dragon Ball Z state. Nonetheless, he remains the focus and most interesting character of the series. Trunks, now a grown man, plays the role of the grown up and is generally the most serious of the protagonists, though is generally spoiling for a good fight as much as Goku is. Pan, whose attitude has changed significantly since the ending of Dragon Ball Z seems to have two distinct personality traits. On one hand, she seems to serve as a surrogate Bulma from the original series, embodying her temper and her impatience with Goku in similar vein to Dragon Ball’s earliest episodes. On the other hand, she is regularly portrayed as a young woman struggling to be recognised as an adult who is capable of taking care of herself, explaining some of her frustration with her physically and emotionally stunted grandfather though this is undermined considerably by her tendency to fall into traps and need to be rescued by Goku and Trunks. Also quite commonly the target for Pan’s anger is Giru, a small robot who clumsily eats and integrates the dragon radar, making him the team’s only way of finding dragon balls and, effectively, their mascot.
Ultimately, Dragon Ball GT feels like something that would have fit a little better in between its two counterparts rather than as a final series but fans of either of its predecessors will surely find GT to be well worth watching.
Dragon Ball GT Season One is available on DVD from Manga Entertainment.
For more information, check out the official Twitter (Manga UK): https://twitter.com/MangaUK
And the official Dragon Ball GT website: http://www.dragonballgt.com/
Enjoyable characters: 8
82% “Super Saiyan!” – Dragon Ball GT is a trek through new territory with a good old friend and some hefty volume of mega-violence. Don’t dare miss it!