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Dragon Ball – Adaptation Analysis Part 3: The Training of Kame Sen’nin

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21st Tenkaichi Budokai arc Part I

Chapters 24 – 54, Episodes 14 – 28

What are the similarities and differences between the anime and manga iterations of Dragon Ball? Renan dives deep to discover which format of Akira Toriyama’s masterpiece reigns supreme in ‘Adaptation Analysis’.

The 21st Tenkaichi Budokai is one of Dragon Ball’s most important story arcs for two key reasons: it establishes a clear-cut motivation for Goku while providing the series with its three core themes. As charming as the Hunt for the Dragon Balls is, it can be argued that the story does not begin in proper until Goku flies off on Kinto’un to train with Muten Roshi. Of course, this is not an attempt to invalidate the first arc as it provides crucial context and characterization for both Bulma and Yamcha along with establishing the Dragon Balls themselves, but it is not until the second arc where the series’ themes are made clear and Son Goku finally begins to show depth as a character.

There are specifically three themes that define Dragon Ball’s narrative, and each one is tied into the Turtle School’s teaching in some regard. These themes are: self-betterment for self-betterment’s sake, acceptance that there will always be someone better, and passing the torch onto the next generation. The 21st Tenkaichi Budokai is as strong an arc as it is in large part due to how it weaves the series’ core themes into the plot, while expanding on each one in a narratively satisfying manner before the arc comes to a close.

Although Akira Toriyama reportedly developed Goku with the idea that his desire to become stronger would be his driving force, this motivation does not appear until Goku finally begins training with Muten Roshi. Self-betterment for self-betterment’s sake is a core tenet of Kame Sen’nin’s training, to the point where he lambastes Kuririn for coming to train with impure intentions. For as perverse as Muten Roshi can be, his philosophy is sincere and it is ultimately this sincerity for martial arts that rubs off on Goku. To overcome one’s natural human limits is what it means to be a student of the Turtle School.

There is not a single quote in the series that captures the essence of Kame Sen’nin’s philosophy as well as “Work well, study well, play well, eat well, and sleep well!” Dragon Ball immediately works to dispel the idea that strength as a martial artist comes from raw power. Goku undergoes studies, he takes breaks from training to relax, and he makes sure to have a hearty meal ready for him at the end of the day. It is important to break past one’s limits, but never at the expense of the body, a concept the series would go on to examine more closely during its last four story arcs.

Goku and Kuririn train with Kame Sen’nin, Viz translation

With the desire to become stronger, however, comes the threat of ego. Rather than allowing Goku to become the strongest, both Akira Toriyama and Muten Roshi actively work against said concept by hammering in the idea that Goku needs to accept that there will always be others stronger than him in the world. It is this reasoning that drives Roshi to enter the Tenkaichi Budokai as Jackie Chun in an attempt to ensure that his students lose, thus sparking a desire to always grow stronger. This is a theme that follows Goku for the rest of the series, tying into almost every major decision he makes starting with this arc.

The idea of passing on the torch does not become specifically intertwined with Goku’s character until the series’ last two arcs, but it nonetheless plays off of Goku in that Kame Sen’nin is looking to hand over to the next generation, allowing Goku and Kuririn to lead the charge in the world of martial arts. While said theme is not resolved in the context of Kame Sen’nin’s arc until later in the series, it is here where the seeds are planted for Dragon Ball to reap the rewards down the line.

For both the anime and manga, the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai marks a stark jump in quality for the series. Goku is a better-defined character, Kuririn and Kame Sen’nin round out the cast with more grace than Goku’s previous cohorts, and Toriyama’s focus on theme building leads to a narrative that flows naturally in both mediums, all leading up to one of the most personally charged conclusions to an arc in the series.

Notably, it is with the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai that the anime begins its trend of inter-arc, transitionary filler. Rather than immediately cutting focus away from Goku’s supporting cast the moment the new arc begins, as is the case with the manga, the anime uses its first episode to transition Bulma, Yamcha, Oolong, and Pu’er out while transitioning Kuririn in. There are effectively three plots going on at once in this introductory episode: Goku preparing himself to train with Kame Sen’nin; Bulma and company finding themselves stuck after their vehicle breaks down; and Kuririn, a previously unseen character, mysteriously traveling towards an unspecified location, only to intercept with Goku at the end of the episode.

Kuririn berates Goku, Clyde Mandelin translation

While relatively harmless when compared to the sheer volume of filler the series would go on to utilize in-between arcs, this first episode does remove one key element of the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai arc’s introduction in the manga: surprise. It is surprising when, after 23 chapters, Goku separates from his entire supporting cast. It is surprising when, upon finally arriving to train with Muten Roshi, a brand new character clearly designed to be Goku’s foil appears seemingly out of nowhere. While there is no build up to said characters being written out and written in, the lack of build up is not inherently bad.

In fact, the element of surprise plays a rather specific role throughout the entirety of the arc. It’s in this story arc where Akira Toriyama begins to play around with his audience’s expectations, a concept the anime is not keen on adhering to save for when the plot absolutely demands it does so. This is best seen in how Yamcha is treated during the first half of this arc. In the manga, there is no inclination that Bulma or Yamcha would ever appear again. Not only did Toriyama complete their character arcs in the Hunt for the Dragon Balls arc, he not once stops to so much as comment on what they are doing while Goku and Kuririn are training with Muten Roshi. For all intents and purposes, these characters have been written out.

This deliberate lack of focus makes it all the more impactful when Goku reunites with Bulma, Yamcha, Oolong, and Pu’er out of the blue once the Tenkaichi Budokai begins in proper. With context that Yamcha is actively training for the tournament, there is no surprise when he reunites with Goku, and the weight of the reunion itself is significantly lessened. This style of filler also began a precedent for the anime where it would attempt to fill in any gaps Toriyama left in the manga, regardless of whether or not it would benefit the story on a narrative level. Although the damage done is comparatively minor in the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai, later arcs would find themselves creating plot inconsistencies through filler material.

The adapted training stands on far stronger legs than any filler content present within the arc, although it certainly does help that the sheer degree of quality present in Goku’s training with Kame Sen’nin in the manga is far higher than anything previously written for the series. Along with establishing the arc’s, and by extension the series’, core themes, Toriyama also uses the nine months leading up to the Tenkaichi Budokai as a means of recontextualizing Son Goku’s character, while likewise developing a relationship between Son and Kuririn.

Rivals, now friends, test their abilities, Viz translation

As previously mentioned, Kuririn is introduced as a foil to Goku. Where Goku’s intentions are pure, training for the sake of training, Kuririn comes into Kame Sen’nin’s school with the desire to strengthen himself in an attempt to pick up women. Immediately, Goku and Kuririn find themselves in an ideological conflict, but rather than play up said rivalry, Toriyama spins their dynamic so Goku slowly begins to rub off on Kuririn. There is a subtlety to Kuririn’s arc where he sheds both his narcissistic desires to become a martial artist while also allowing himself to defrost. By the time the Tenkaichi Budokai rolls around, Kuririn is a fundamentally different character.

As Goku is a pure-hearted character by principle, Kuririn’s presence is necessary for showing just how all-encompassing Muten Roshi’s school of thought is. The art of the Turtle School is philosophically rooted in bettering all aspects of the self. Martial arts is not inherently about strength, and although Goku and Kuririn do desire to grow stronger, they need to accept this concept before they can truly excel as Muten Roshi’s students. For Goku, this philosophy simply reads like a natural extension of his character thus far, resulting in the need for Kuririn, someone who can be influenced by Kame Sen’nin’s teachings. Kuririn’s pretense not only allows the series to organically convey the poignancy of the Turtle School’s philosophy, but also Son Goku’s infectious nature and Muten Roshi’s competence.

In what would quickly become a trend for the series, Goku’s personality and love for martial arts influences his rivals, recontextualizing for them what it means to be a martial artist. Even though Goku’s growth is minimal in the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai, the mere fact that he can influence Kuririn allows for their friendship to grow naturally, along with giving Goku added depth. He may not be a particularly complex character at this point in the series, but the sincerity in his pursuit to become stronger is commendable to the point where it can affect the people around him.

In regards to Muten Roshi, Kuririn’s role is equally important as he works to contrast the persona Toriyama crafted for Kame Sen’nin in the first arc. While Roshi was ultimately portrayed positively as a master martial artist, he nonetheless held the stigma of being an oafish pervert first and foremost. In many ways, this is part of his charm, demonstrating his hidden depths, but Kuririn’s contrast allows his better traits to flourish more clearly, transitioning his hidden depth into simply genuine depth. For as lecherous as Kame Sen’nin can be, he does not let his vices interfere with his actual teaching.

Valuable wisdom from Kame Sen’nin, Clyde Mandelin translation

Of course, Toriyama does not drop this side of his personality entirely, even going so far as to have Goku and Kuririn find Muten Roshi a female companion before he agrees to train them, but his philosophy remains completely unclouded by the extremities of his pre-established characterization. In a sense, Kame Sen’nin is almost the real main character of this arc in the same way Bulma was more a protagonist than Goku was during the Hunt for the Dragon Balls arc; at least as far as the manga is concerned.

In the manga, Kame Sen’nin’s training is relatively short, with the majority of the focus being on Muten Roshi himself. Toriyama emphasizes not only his background, but another side of his personality. Roshi does not so much grow as he does allow his students to see another side of himself. As a result, Goku and Kuririn change subtly in the background while Muten Roshi takes the foreground. Readers still experience the story through Goku’s eyes, but there is a clear emphasis on who Kame Sen’nin is, directly leading into the tournament portion of the arc, where Muten Roshi’s story shines all the clearer.

Since the anime gives Kame Sen’nin’s training more screen time, the focus is more evenly split between Goku and Roshi. The content itself is near identical to the manga without straying too much, but the mere act of elongating stretches of the training ensures that the spotlight never leaves Goku for too long. The anime also emphasizes Kuririn’s less savory personality early on by specifically having him cheat in a portion of Muten Roshi’s training outside of the rock toss contest.

Narratively, disallowing the focus to stray from Goku does not do much to actually harm the arc, but it does negate some of its charm. Although Dragon Ball is not an ensemble story by any means, given that Goku’s arc is implicitly the driving force for the entire series, it does not shy away from giving the supporting cast their moment to shine. Toriyama placing Kame Sen’nin front and center of the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai’s narrative and thematic progression is part of the arc’s charm. Dragon Ball is ultimately the story of Son Goku, but his story is not the only one being told.

The Turtle School prepares to register for the tournament, Viz translation

It is worth mentioning that Kame Sen’nin’s role is not being diminished in any way, just that Goku’s and Kuririn’s are being expanded. The problem itself comes from the fact that the latter two characters’ roles are not expanded meaningfully. If anything, the manga’s more succinct approach results in a more nuanced arc for Kuririn, where his development is shown to the audience without ever the need of being commented on.

Regardless of the anime stretching out the training, its core principles remain the same. In both mediums: Kame Sen’nin’s training recontextualizes Goku and Muten Roshi’s characters; introduces a literary foil for Goku; and establishes core themes for both Dragon Ball and Son Goku. While the anime perhaps pads out more than it should, it translates the manga’s material well, properly building just how monumental the Tenkaichi Budokai is about to be for the series.

Part One  |  Part Two  |  Part Three |  Part Four  |  Part Five  | Part Six  | Part Seven  |  Part Eight

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and pretentious French lit, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball on the internet and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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Anime Ichiban 24: Forecasting the Anime Awards

Matt and Kyle have some fresh hottakes on Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, Weathering With You.

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Weathering With you

Matt and Kyle have some fresh hottakes on Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, Weathering With You. The Crunchyroll Anime Awards are also a thing happening which means it’s time for the crew to demonstrate once again how off their tastes are.

TIMESTAMPS

13:41 – Satoshi Konposthumously honored
18:14 – TRIGGER’s Brand New Animal project
28:20 – Netflix adds the entire Ghibli library to their catalog!… in some places
31-37 – Weathering With You impressions and thoughts
1:02:33 – Crunchyroll Anime Award Predictions
1:38:36 – Closing remarks

TRACKS

Intro – “Kiss Me” by Vo.Nai BrXX&Celeina Ann (Carole & Tuesday opening theme)
Outro – “Drown” by milet (Vinland Saga ending theme 2)

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‘Weathering With You’ Isn’t Quite the Storm It Wanted to Be

Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You delivers a gorgeous film that doesn’t quite resonate as much as it wanted to.

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Weathering With You Hina

Climate change and global warming have been topics of concern and discussion for years now, with melting ice caps and rising ocean temperatures being some of many signs. Director Makoto Shinkai — acclaimed the world over for his 2016 work Your Name — aims to show just how at the mercy humans are to the weather with his newest animated film, Weathering With You. Although he presents a visually stunning depiction of Mother Nature in all her various moods, Weathering With You ultimately lacks the storming power it seeks to bear upon its audience.

Tokyo has been having a particularly rainy year, seeing precipitation almost every day and nary a sight of the sun or clear blue skies. It’s during this unusual time that high school boy Hodaka arrives in the metropolis seeking escape from the suffocating life he had on his island. The young teenager naturally has trouble finding his bearings on his own in the oftentimes unforgiving hustle and bustle of the city. It’s in these early scenes that Weathering With You has some of its strongest moments, depicting the uglier side of Japanese society not often seen in anime, while also highlighting Hodaka’s strength of character to make it on his own. 

Weathering With You Hodaka and Hina

As Hodaka gradually carves out his own place in the city, he eventually has an encounter with a young girl named Hina. Matching her sunny and cheerful disposition, Hina has the ability to make it stop raining and have the sunshine in very localized spots by praying to the sky. In a place where the rain never ceases, it’s easy to see why Hodaka latches onto Hina to use for the greater good (while also making a little pocket change along the way).

“The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air caught by the leftover humidity.”

Gloomy skies and damp grounds can take their toll on one’s mood and psyche, which someone who lives in such a climate can surely relate to. Even the briefest moments of sunshine revitalize us and give a glimpse of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Hodaka and Hina’s “100% Sunshine Girl” services to those in need of that light boldly underscore that fact, and make for a strong argument for how the weather affects us all beyond its objective physicality, along with providing some much-appreciated levity to the story. 

That power of weather is beautifully illustrated by CoMix Wave Films’ stupendous animation efforts. The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air, caught by the leftover humidity. Tokyo itself isn’t to be outdone either, with its streets running the gamut between peaceful neighborhoods to grimy and dark back alleys with dilapidated buildings. The animation is punctuated by the return of Japanese band RADWIMPS, who create numerous memorable tracks to complement the wild swings in mood that weather can elicit.

That makes it all the more unfortunate, however, that the greater narrative is so weak.

The progression of Weathering With You is made painfully obvious right from the outset of the story — so much so that it’s hard to wonder if it’s actually the set-up for a bait-and-switch. As a result, much of the first half of the film is simply waiting for the other shoe to drop, making it difficult to really settle in and become intimate with its characters. 

Weathering With you Hodaka and Hina

This would be less of an issue if the cast had smaller interactions that were a delight to watch, but they fall short in that regard as well. All of the characters have a charm to them for sure — with Hina’s younger elementary school brother, Nagi, putting modern playboys to shame being a particular standout — but the story never quite makes a compelling case as to why they are as close as they are, especially Hina and Hodaka. They’re fun enough to watch be together, but don’t quite make that emotional attachment with the viewer that the story wants to create.

That lack of an emotional connection is distinctly felt in Weathering With You’s second act, when unnecessary confrontations and bizarre plot directions converge to create an artificial sense of stakes amidst a central conflict that would have been fine on its own. What’s meant to strengthen the impression of the characters’ bonds instead cheapens it, undermining the already faulty progress the first half did make. The result is a narrative that’s hard to care about, although its ending does leave the viewer with some potentially interesting questions to ponder.

Weathering With You is far from a bad movie, however. It has a clear direction and vision with a message to say about our climate crisis. The characters are endearing enough, and there are a handful of heartfelt scenes because of that. It also cannot be understated just how drop-dead gorgeous the animation is. The story, however, is simply too straightforward for its own good, resulting in an experience that is at times enjoyable, and at others plain boring.

And that’s only when being judged in a vacuum on the movie’s own merits. When compared to Shinkai’s recent masterpiece that is Your Name, it’s hard to see Weathering With You as anything but a disappointing follow-up. That’s perhaps the film’s greatest weakness, but fortunately, it’s one that Shinkai’s next work won’t have, and we can still look forward to it because of that fact.

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How Rimuru Tempest Changed the Game for Isekai Protagonists

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime shines within the vast sea of generic isekai thanks in no small part to protagonist Rimuru Tempest.

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that time i got reincarnated as a slime

The core premise of the isekai genre–a character being transported from their everyday life on Earth to a parallel universe–has become wildly popular for a reason: it’s an immensely appealing fantasy. Just as audiences everywhere fell in love with the seminal Spirited Away in the early 2000s, it’s still exciting to fantasize about discovering a new world and going on all manner of crazy adventures. However, the incessant flood of new isekai every season to capitalize on this trend has resulted in some of the most generic, overly-manufactured protagonists in any genre.

Though this sea of formulaic main characters is vast, it makes it all the easier to recognize when one bucks the typical conventions and actually proves that there’s room for unique takes on the genre. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime adheres to a few cliches, but it also manages to set a new bar for what a captivating isekai protagonist can be.

Rimuru in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Breaking the Mold

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as wholesome and optimistic an anime as they come. The tone can be deceptive at first; when Satoru Mikami is suddenly stabbed when trying to protect his junior, his dying wish is for his computer’s hard drive to be destroyed. But after being reincarnated as a slime–and gaining the new name Rimuru Tempest–his true desires become clear: world peace and a simple, comfortable life with friends.

What’s immediately striking about Rimuru as the main character is that he starts off as an average 37-year-old man. He spent his life working hard and appeasing his higher-ups to climb the corporate ladder. Shady hard drive aside, he lived a respectable and long life compared to the vast majority of protagonists in the genre. This significant age difference is evident in nearly every action and major decision Rimuru makes; he looks at situations practically before jumping headfirst into conflict.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

When Rimuru gets a drink poured on him by a noble in a bar, for instance, he quells his anger in consideration of the bar and the friends around him. When someone asks for his aid in an impending battle, he pauses to go over all the available information and reaches a consensus among everyone before agreeing. And when protecting a goblin village from a pack of wolves, he doesn’t just mindlessly slaughter all the wolves; he looks for the way of least resistance (killing the leader of the pack) before ultimately integrating them with the goblins as equals. Though his human form looks young, it’s the wisdom behind his actions that makes those around him respect his leadership.

This is especially impressive considering just how overpowered Rimuru is. His transformation into a slime came with resistances to fire, cold, electric currents, pain, paralysis, and the ability to absorb, analyze, and take the form of anything he wants. In other words, he could go down the path of the typical shounen protagonist and solve his problems with his fists, but he never lets his overwhelming power dictate his decision-making process.

Rimuru meeting with his commanders.

Leading a Nation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as much about Rimuru’s adventures as it is about the rise of the independent monster nation he helps establish. Instead of running off in search of adventure, the little slime decides to nurture the goblin village he protected at the outset. He helps the goblins and wolves “level up” by naming them, shows them sustainable ways to gather food and build makeshift defenses, and even brings back dwarves to introduce blacksmithing and carpentry.

Through expansion, industrialization, and conflict, Rimuru manages to orchestrate the creation of his country in a way that’s genuinely believable. His ambitions for a peaceful and integrated world play out in his willingness to accept other goblin tribes, ogres, lizardmen, and even friendly humans in his country. Being able to rationally read situations makes forging alliances and negotiating with neighboring nations possible. When a major calamity threatens all life in the forest, Rimuru wastes no time in holding a summit and allying with other forest dwellers over a common interest.

None of this would be possible without the uncanny, Luffy-like ability to inspire a sense of trust and reliability in those he comes across. Just like the members of the Straw Hat Pirates follow Luffy out of respect and loyalty, Rimuru’s commanders follow him because of his sound judgment and dedication to seeing everyone in his nation be happy. It’s satisfying seeing members of Rimuru’s guard take personal offense when others talk poorly of him because it’s clear that he’s earned the respect he’s given.

If isekai is to continue growing in popularity and thriving long-term, room must be made for different types of protagonists. Be they depraved, refreshingly honest characters like Kazuma or upstanding yet easygoing leaders like Rimuru, both demonstrate how valuable it is to shake up the formula and try new approaches to the genre. If the constant barrage of isekai has bittered your tolerance to it as a whole, That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime is well worth giving a shot.

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