Catching Up With Dragon Ball
So, hell froze over and Akira Toriyama is cranking out Dragon Ball again. Barring the reveal that this was all just a giant practical joke, Dragon Ball Super is airing in a week (July 5), and America is getting the Resurrection F movie in August. Crazy, right?
A lot people are excited about this, especially people who grew up with the series. Thing is, a lot of those people haven't seen Dragon Ball in a while, so they may go in a little confused. Not anymore! Here are some handy things to know about the state of the franchise so you can be ready and get hyped. I know I am.
Dragon Ball GT Doesn't Matter
Ah, the early 2000's. You were a simpler time. Dragon Ball Z was winding down, and Toonami announced that there would be more, in the form of a new series called Dragon Ball GT. Everybody was excited. Who wouldn't be? It was more Dragon Ball! Without the Internet really being a major thing yet, we didn't know anything about this new stuff, and just took it all at face value. We didn't really know that Dragon Ball GT would actually be a resoundingly disappointing series that pretty much culminated in an unnecessary wasted opportunity.
But now, we do, and there's a reason nobody talks about it much today. Because, well, uh... it wasn't that great. It felt soulless and pointless and pretty much every possible kind of "-less." Actually, that summed up the whole show: less. Less of what we loved about the franchise in the first place. I'm not saying it was totally awful, of course, because it had its moments. But we could spend ages talking about this. Maybe I will at some point soon. Point is, Dragon Ball Z already has a follow-up, and it's not very good.
And it's especially not important, because it's totally non-canon. Akira Toriyama has come out and explicitly stated that he considers it an alternate continuity. Which is both a relief and a bummer, because it's pretty fucking dumb and adds in a bunch of new elements that didn't need to be there, but also introduced some pretty cool stuff that I liked. For example, SSJ4 Goku is my personal favorite Goku form, and to be honest, Pan is one of the best characters in the whole franchise. But the Black Star Dragon Balls were the actual worst idea to ever be introduced into the series (outside of Buu,) Lord Baby was a flatout shitty villain, and the expanded focus on Vegeta's insecurity issues was just boring. And there was just so much stuff that didn't matter, and... again, I could talk about this all day.
The takeaway, if you grew up with GT and are confused about it not being a part of Super, well, this is why. At least, though, we can remember it for its awesome music.
Battle of Gods Is Super Important
A year or two ago, there was a new Dragon Ball Z movie called Battle of Gods, and it had a mixed reaction among a lot of people. Some people liked the silliness of it, some people didn't. Some people liked that Toriyama picked up where he left off, some people didn't. So on, so forth. Point is, a lot of people were divided on it. Me? I loved it, I thought it encapsulated most of the things I love about both Dragon Ball and Toriyama's stuff in general. It was just a non-stop riot, and I mean that in the best way possible. Some people will still tell you, though, that it's not worth watching.
Please don't, under any circumstances, go into Super or Resurrection F without watching Battle of Gods first. From all of the early trailers, they both make full use of new canon established by that movie, complete with returning characters and a whole framing device that Super will inevitably use. While I won't spoil it for people who haven't seen it yet (which, really, get on that right now,) I will say that there's a big reveal near the end of the movie that explicitly sets up a massive story arc. While I personally thought that it spelled "sequel," I now see that my wishful thinking about it leading into a new series has come true.
So, yeah, if you haven't seen Battle of Gods, you absolutely have to. It's the most important piece of Dragon Ball since the end of Z.
Get Familiar With Jaco The Galactic Patrolman
This pertains more to Resurrection F than Super, but it wouldn't surprise me for a second if it shows up somewhere in the series as well. In the former, we already know from trailers and people who have watched the movie that a character from Toriyama's latest manga shows up and lends a hand in battle. Of course, the extent of his importance is up in the air, but he's still a canonical part of the Dragon Ball universe now, in the same way that the Dr. Slump characters are, perhaps to an even greater extent. For starters, he even has a pretty in-depth entry on the Dragon Ball Wiki. Yeah, I know, serious stuff.
But really, the character of Jaco is pretty integral to Dragon Ball as a whole. A huge part of his character arc is his reason for coming to Earth, which is to stop a Saiyan invasion. This is ten years before the start of Dragon Ball as a whole. If you'll recall, Goku was sent to Earth to destroy it, and it was only by sheer happenstance that he hit his head on a rock when he was a baby and became the lovable doofus we know today. Jaco, for all intents and purposes, was supposed to stop this "invasion" to begin with. Right from the get-go, we have a character totally steeped in series lore. There are also other little things, like the whole Dragon Ball Minus chapter collected with the paperback release of Jaco, which gave us the first look at Goku's mother, Gine. Which, granted, was hugely disappointing, but hey, it's something.
Point is, Jaco is an intergalactic cop that looks sort of like Ultraman, and is now a relatively important figure in Dragon Ball lore, even if his role in Resurrection F ends up being "he shoots a few dudes." He's still a cool character, it's still a fun manga, and I still wouldn't be shocked if he wound up in Super at some point down the road.
Gohan's A Nerd And Also Kind Of Useless
It never gets old.
Gohan was kind of awesome, and even in the Buu Saga, he got plenty of chances to shine. Even if, you know, he got nerfed and overshadowed by the introduction of Goku's SSJ3 form and the fusion shenanigans. But I digress. Fast forward to Battle of Gods, Resurrection F and apparently Super and... well, Gohan's a bit of a useless nerd now. I'm writing this because it's just now accepted as fact that Gohan probably won't do anything remotely useful ever again, but again, it may come as a shock to those who remember him being rad. Like, we see him go Super Saiyan in the trailer, but I wouldn't be surprised if that lasts for about five seconds.
The Original Movies Probably Don't Matter, Either
While it's pretty understandable that GT, as a non-canon sequel, won't be factored into this series, there is something a little less predictable that'll probably happen. Or, more accurately, won't happen: any element from any Dragon Ball Z movies being implemented in any way whatsoever.
Why? Because Akira Toriyama never had anything to do with them. The movies introduced new characters and even new story arcs into the continuity that ultimately didn't effect the main show nor the manga. Which, to a lot of fans (including myself,) is a massive disappointment. Personally, I feel like some of the best stuff came out of the movies. For example, Broly is one of my favorite characters in Dragon Ball history, considering his interesting, dynamic character arc that got fleshed out through three movies (although, really, we'd all be better off if we forgot Bio-Broly existed.) And Frieza's brother, Cooler, is also a really cool character who showed up multiple times. And that's not even mentioning other awesome movie villains, like Bojack or Android 13, that will probably get the shaft.
So, yeah. Any old-school fans who fondly remember Broly or Cooler shouldn't hold their breath for their glorious return here. It's probably not happening.
Please Taper Your Expectations For Super
Real talk before we part ways. I grew up with Dragon Ball. If you're reading this, you probably did too. I'm just as excited about this as you are. But... Toei? The company behind it all? They've kind of fallen apart in recent years. A good portion of their output is pretty terrible. They've basically become a licensing mill; that is to say, they make shows for children specifically made to sell merchandise. Which isn't to say Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon didn't do that in spades, but now, that's primarily all they exist to do, as an entity. They crank out kids shows, either formulaic magical girl programs or shows specifically created to sell video games/trading cards/junk.
Worse? Their revivals of beloved properties have ended up becoming hot garbage. For starters, Saint Seiya Omega was a steaming pile, eventually disowned by the original creator of the franchise. The animation was gutter trash, the plot was painfully formulaic, and it was horribly disrespectful to what came before it. And then they made Sailor Moon Crystal, which is perhaps some of the worst trash to come out of the modern anime industry. The animation is beyond horrible. The "faithful adaptation" of the manga makes me long for the huge liberties original series took. The implementation of CG looks absolutely terrible. I mean, hell, there's a whole blog dedicated to how abhorrent it is. Seriously, dig through that blog, it's a treasure trove of horribleness.
My point is, modern Toei is not up to snuff as a good anime producer. A lot of their animation is outsourced more than it ever has been, and a good portion of it is to Toei Phillipines, who probably couldn't animate themselves out of a paper bag. I'm not saying Dragon Ball Super will be awful. I'm excited for it, absolutely. But I am saying that it's made by a studio who let themselves go after the 90's ended, seemingly, and it's probably a good idea to keep your expectations relatively low. That way, if it's good, you'll be surprised; if it's bad, the disappointment won't hurt that much. And either way, Resurrection F is probably going to rock.
I mean, it is... right?
Either way, I'm glad Dragon Ball is back in the public eye, and hopefully, it'll entertain a whole new generation of kids all over again... as well, as you know, keep all of us grown-ass children happy. That's important too.