In Anime Ichiban, we take a look at our writer’s totally personal, totally subjective, possibly biased, and possibly stupid opinions regarding anime associated affairs.
With Dragon Ball FighterZ’s successful launch and awesome gameplay, I figured it was about the right time to take a look at some of the franchise’s most iconic scenes and sequences.
Dragon Ball is one of the most iconic manga series of all time, and its anime adaptation is one of the shows widely credited with popularising the form outside of Japan. It is a series that, frankly, is an ongoing inspiration to me, both as an aspiring author of fantasy and as a human being. The series is a colourful and funny adventure filled with strong-yet-simple characterisation and intense battles. That, of course, isn’t to say that it’s without its narrative flaws–power level overshadowing skills and techniques, non-Saiyan members of the cast falling to the wayside through and after the Android and Majin arcs, bloody time travel. I don’t hold much love for either of its sequel series, either, although Super is definitely preferable to GT. That said, the strengths of the original series outshine any flaws with the franchise.
I’m not saying Dragon Ball is Shakespearean. I’m saying that Dragon Ball is Shakespearean. Wait–
Without further ado, I rank my top 10 moments in the classic Dragon Ball manga!
(Note: this list became quite long in the writing, and I didn’t want to heavily abridge it, so it shall be split into two halves. Expect part two in a week or so..!)
10) The First Wish!! A Lewd Pig Saves The Day?!
Dragon Ball wouldn’t be Dragon Ball without the Dragon Balls. I understand that might seem like an entirely redundant sentence, but if you only ever watched Dragon Ball Z then you might not remember how central they were to the first few sagas of the series, where the adventure was driven by Bulma’s quest to gather the seven mystical relics… so that she could wish for the perfect boyfriend.
That’s a tone setter if I ever saw one. People who only watched Z would have missed the wacky tone of the original arcs, which served as a parody of a Chinese novel, Journey to the West. Sure, the later half of the series wasn’t ever serious, but from the King Piccolo saga onwards the drama and stakes were kicked up, especially after we saw the demon lord level a city with one ki blast. Before that point, the series was consistently light-hearted.
The closest thing to tense drama before that point was, in my opinion, when Emperor Pilaf had gathered the seven Dragon Balls and summoned the eternal dragon, Shenron. Pilaf hesitates in stating his wish to rule the Earth, and the real hero of the saga bursts forth–Oolong, the shapeshifting pig. To prevent Pilaf from gaining his wish, Oolong shouts the first wish that comes to his head…
Panties. The first wish in the series was for panties.
Shenron’s eyes glow red. Everyone is frozen, speechless. Women’s underwear falls from the blackened sky and lands in the perverted pig-man’s face.
9) Gohan’s Anger First Swells!! Uncle Raditz’s Painful Surprise!!
At the start of the Dragon Ball Z section of the series, we’re reintroduced to all of our favourite characters. Five years have passed since the fateful Tenkaichi Budokai where Son Goku managed to best Piccolo Junior, the reincarnation of the Demon King Piccolo. Significantly, within the first few chapters, we’re introduced to two new members of Goku’s family.
Son Gohan, named after Goku’s adoptive paternal figure, is a young hybrid saiyan-human. Despite being the son of the world’s strongest martial artist, Gohan has a miniscule fighting power, and cowers in fear when his uncle, Raditz, shows up. After revealing Goku’s alien origin and lamenting his brother’s lack of mercenary violence, Raditz kidnaps Gohan and, after demonstrating his raw strength, demands that Goku kill one hundred people to show.
Obviously, Goku’s having none of that nonsense. He forms an unsteady alliance with Piccolo Jr, and the two race to challenge the saiyan warrior immediately. Despite the vast difference in raw strength between Raditz and the two Earthly aliens, Goku and Piccolo manage to surprise him with their mastery of techniques and ability to gather their ki. However, Raditz still controls the whole fight, dodging a strong Special Beam Cannon from Piccolo that was our heroes’ last hope.
Or so it seemed.
As Raditz torments Goku, effortlessly crushing his ribs with his boot, a power level radiates from Raditz’s spaceship, causing it to explode. Gohan shoots out of the pod and lands opposite his uncle, his face dark with fury. “Leave my daddy alone!” he shouts, surrounded by thin red aura, before bursting towards Raditz head-first and striking him directly in the chest with his head, knocking him back and distracting him long enough for Goku to place him in the Full Nelson hold that ultimately leads to the end of the fight.
For me, this moment (and sequence) is incredibly Dragon Ball. Gohan’s true potential is a theme throughout the whole of his character arc, and this is the first glimpse of that potential (which was sadly underutilised or even deliberately subverted at times, especially in the Majin Sagas and beyond). We also have Raditz underestimating his opponents, which is a Dragon Ball staple: the vicious foe being surprised by the power or ability of the Z-Fighters, even if they maintain the upper hand.
8) Another Level?!? Goku’s Hair Is Intense And Silly!!!!!
Part of me wishes that Dragon Ball had ended after the Android arcs. Don’t get me wrong; I like the Majin Sagas, and I don’t hate GT or Super (the fact I don’t LIKE Super that much might be controversial, but I’m sure that you’ll get over it). Almost everything that Toriyama did in the Buu Saga feels like a deliberate attempt at self-parody, or a middle finger to his then-editors–both of which might well be true.
The main joke Toriyama tells in the Majin Sagas is to do with power ups. The first one we get in the arc is fairly significant; Vegeta gives in to his prideful nature and willingly takes the Majin Seal power up from the evil sorcerer Babidi, so that he can finally have another good fight with Goku. Much later in the arc, however, power ups become running gags. We get the Fusion Dance, leading to Son Goten and Trunks fusing into Gotenks, a super powerful, immature fighter who… fails to defeat Buu. Shortly afterwards, Elder Kaioshin, one of the creation gods, unlocks Son Gohan’s ultimate potential and he… fails to defeat Buu. I was, and still am, annoyed at that writing choice. Akira Toriyama is on-the-record saying he likes to do things to annoy his fans, but this was a deliberate sabotage of Gohan’s long-running character arc.
There is one transformation in the Majin Sagas, however, that sits perfectly in between meaningful and ridiculous. That transformation is Son Goku’s Super Saiyan 3.
Goku faces off against the newly awakened Majin Buu. He does so to buy time for Trunks to grab the Dragon Radar, a device used to track Dragon Balls. Rather than just fighting the pink gummy djinn outright, he further stalls for time by rattling through his Super Saiyan transformations, talking about each formbefore revealing his ability to go even further beyond [a Super Saiyan 2].
He powers up for what felt like entire episodes, which is itself a great stalling tactic. Once his transformation is complete, what we get is a complete, ludicrous badass. The Super Saiyan 3 form is one of my favourite designs in the series, in part due to how silly it is… and yet it’s still cool. Goku’s golden hair now reaches down past his waist, and his facial features have now gained a similar shape to the original Great Ape transformation.
And then Super Saiyan 3 Goku proceeds to beat the crap out of Majin Buu. Unfortunately, even a Super Saiyan 3 cannot cause any permanent damage to the obese bubblegum monster.
Regardless, though, this sequence gave us one of the most visually interesting transformations in the whole of Dragon Ball. Self-parody or otherwise, the transformation scene is very much a culmination of everything Dragon Ball had become renowned for.
7) A Future Swordsman?! Frieza’s Toast!!
There is no better way to establish a character than by having them face-off against an already existing character (or transformation) and completely wipe the floor with them. Toriyama uses this trick plenty throughout all of Dragon Ball, but never as effectively as when he introduces the character of Trunks, a purple-headed warrior from a devastated future.
We are introduced to Trunks immediately after a bombshell revelation; Frieza, space warlord and businessman, is alive and well after his defeat on Namek, and he’s on Earth seeking revenge on Goku and the Z-Fighters along with his father, King Cold. Goku, however, is nowhere in sight–he’s been training on distant planets for over a year, as is his way.
The Z-Fighters are panicking. Frieza seems as strong as ever, possibly even stronger thanks to his new cyborg modifications, and his father holds a comparable strength. No-one on Earth can stand up to him, not even Vegeta; their only hope is that they can hold him off long enough to allow Goku to reach Earth.
And then Trunks arrives, clad in a blue leather jacket bearing the Capsule Corp logo, a broadsword hanging from his back. He faces off against the alien tyrants, showing no fear. Frieza thinks that he’s a fool. Only a Super Saiyan has a chance at defeating hi-
Trunks ascends into the legendary golden form. Oh.
Frieza makes multiple attempts to kill the teenage warrior, and fails miserably. The future warrior then proceeds to cut the warlord in half… and then many, many smaller pieces, before blasting away the pieces with a wave of energy. Frieza is definitely dead now, and his father soon follows him to Hell.
This is an amazing way to establish a character, and the saga to come. Frieza was the focus of such a long arc, and the fact that he survived his fight with Goku felt like a betrayal. To have him beaten with ease by this new warrior, who needs Goku’s help to fight even stronger enemies, is a fantastic bar setter.
6) A Monster Redeemed, A Monster Destroyed?!
Damn, I love this version of the character. Vegeta, prideful prince of all saiyans, has been living on Earth for ten years. He doesn’t have much purpose, now that Cell has been defeated and the world is at peace. All Vegeta really wants to do is fight Son Goku… who is now seven years dead and training in the Otherworld. Despite his relationship with Bulma and training with his son, Trunks, he is incredibly frustrated. No-one on this world can offer him the challenge he wants; Son Gohan has wasted his potential to become a bookish high school student, and not even he could currently offer Vegeta a challenge.
Only, Son Goku is coming back to Earth for one day. He has been given permission to participate in the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai. Vegeta was supposed to face Goku in the 6th round, but their fight was postponed after another Z-fighter, Videl, was brutally beaten by lackies of a new wizard villain, Babidi. This frustrates the saiyan prince.
Skip forward a few hours and the Z-crew are running a gauntlet of warriors in an attempt to stop the revival of Majin Buu. Vegeta expresses frustration about Son Gohan’s fight with Dabura, a demon king, saying that he could handle the demon easily. Babidi, overhearing this anger, uses his magic to mentally enslave the saiyan prince.
Vegeta allows Babidi to do this. He wants to fight Goku without restraint and prove himself as the strongest living saiyan, and he needs the Majin power-up to strip away his weaknesses (or so he believes).
And, in a way, he does. The rejuvenated prince kicks the crap out of Goku… but the energy generated by their fight revives Majin Buu.
Confident in his ability to beat the monster, Vegeta proceeds to fight with the jolly Majin. However, despite landing punishing heavy attacks, he can’t seem to deal any lasting damage to the regenerative monster. It’s only here that Vegeta realises what a dire threat Buu is.
In a brief pause in the fighting, Vegeta says goodbye to his young son, Trunks, before softly knocking him out so he doesn’t get hurt. Vegeta than faces off against Buu. He begins to convert his own life force into raw, powerful energy. Golden light begins to drift from his skin like embers.
He says farewell to his family, and to Goku. He releases a scream.
All of his energy explodes into a miles-wide detonation, and Prince Vegeta turns to ashes.
This is Vegeta’s first selfless act in the entire series, and comes after a subtle realization of the worth of his friends and family. From this point onwards, Vegeta is one of the good guys, even if he still has a bit of redemption left to do.
And that’s all for my first half of the top 10 moments in Dragon Ball! See you soon for part two!