Dragonball Season 2 (Episodes 29-57) (Cert 15)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 706 minutes approx.
There seems to be no resting for Son Goku, the pint sized protagonist of this sprawling epic series, as he chooses to spend his free time following the World Martial Arts tournament to resume his search for the four star Dragonball left to him by his grandfather.
Goku’s journey takes him quite literally to the length, breadth and depth of the planet, making new friends and of course new enemies along the way, as well as some unfinished business with some old adversaries. Speaking of which, the first sees Emperor Pilaf once again cross paths with Goku as they both fall prey to a dishonest shop keeper who sells them both a fake Dragonball. Unaware that the other has a fake, the two chase after each other, interrupting the Ox King’s celebrations after his daughter Chi Chi becomes engaged to Goku – not that either child has the first clue about marriage, although we already know from Dragonball Z that this eventually happens.
This minor scrape serves to introduce us to the major antagonist of this collection the Red Ribbon Army, another powerful but nefarious group with an interest in gaining all the Dragonballs for their own dastardly purposes. In solo confrontations and with a little help from his friends, Goku collides with various agents of this evil group and what a bunch of characters they too, with the higher ranked members named after a colour, though there is only one Commander Red.
Having defeated Colonel Silver, who destroyed Goku’s original nimbus cloud, in the forestland outside of the Ox King’s village, Goku is forced to use a robot piloted airplane to travel to the next location the Dragon Radar picks up a Dragonball presence. The wintry climates however freezes up the circuits of both the robot and the plane leaving Goku stranded until he said saved by a young girl named Sonu (or “Snow” if you apply Japanese phonetics). Here Goku learns that the village chief is being held hostage while the Red Ribbon Army search for the Dragonballs, so naturally he volunteers to rescue the chief and kick some butt in the process.
In what appears to be an obvious tribute to the last Bruce Lee film, the piecemeal mess that was the unfinished Game of Death, Goku climbs Muscle Tower fighting different adversaries on each level. One is a large robot called Major Metallitron who bears more than a passing resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator while another is an ineffectual ninja named Murasaki. Goku finds an ally in the unlikely form of a pacifist robot called Android 8, a blue giant based on the Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein’s monster. It seems this whole set up is one big movie tribute of sorts!
Goku is reunited with Bulma and Krillin as they locate a Dragonball in the ocean only to find an underwater pirate’s treasure trove. If having to contend with the various booby traps and other nasty surprises wasn’t enough they are being pursued by the cold hearted but very effete clean freak General Blue. The battle with General Blue spills over into the final arc in this set as they both end up in the unusual Penguin village where the children are much smarter than the adults and have unique powers – although they are a tad on the weird side.
The twenty seven episodes crammed onto the four discs in this set (crammed being the operative word – discs one and two have eight and nine episodes respectively) cover a lot of ground both literally and story wise although don’t necessarily break any new ground. While its successor DBZ featured adult Goku learning of his Saiyan heritage and the various stages of his Super Saiyan powers, young Goku has no such luck, little jumping from one adventure to the next with only the Kamehameha Wave as his most extreme weapon.
But it is all played out with the usual noisy, bombastic verve and energy we’ve come to expect from the show, laced with random scenes of silly comedy. One other prevalent factor which does do a huge disservice to what is supposed to be kiddie friendly entertainment is the more adult, prurient content. While pretty much absent in the follow on series, the perversions of Master Roshi makes for some uncomfortable and inappropriate viewing, both for the young ones watching and the underage girls who are the target of his lascivious behaviour.
In one scene, he borrows a shrinking device from Bulma purely for the opportunity it watch her using the toilet! And later he tries again when he Launch takes a shower; he does get his comeuppance but the whole deal just feels utterly wrong and incongruous. Roshi isn’t alone mind you – Bulma’s father has a dyno cap in which he hides his dirty magazines while Goku finds a hidden stash belonging to one of his enemies during an earlier adventure.
And it seems that being the object of lust for as dirty old man has rubbed off on Bulma, who we learn is only sixteen, when she tries to seduce General Blue with her rather mature curvaceous charms. Not to sound prudish but this spoils the otherwise fun mood of the Dragonball and goes someway to explaining the 15 rating it was awarded, in comparison the PG ratings the subsequent series got.
There is arguably less fighting in this set although by no means is this punch up free. The structure of the mini arcs means more time is devoted to Goku exploring the new locations he finds himself in and the people he meets. But with his limited fighting skills the battles Goku gets involved in are rather pedestrian but nonetheless made more fun by the colourful and varied opponents – especially the Jackie Chan look-a-like street fighter he encounters!
Aside from being a lot to take in for a marathon sitting hardcore Dragonball fans have plenty to keep them occupied in this hugely fun second release.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0
Discs 1, 3 & 4:
Ratings – ***
Man In Black