Dragonball Season 3 (Episodes 58-83) (Cert 15)
4 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 633 minutes approx.
You have to hand it to Akira Toriyama – he’s managed to make a successful and long running franchise based on a single note concept and no matter many times he repeats the same plotlines ad infinitum the fans keep coming back for more.
In other words this third volume of his magnum opus the hugely influential Dragonball delivers more of the same for returning audiences with barely a tweak to the formula, yet somehow still defies the odds by continuing to get such mileage out of it. The locations may change, the antagonists and peripheral supporting cast are a revolving door of the weird and the wonderful but this is still business as usual.
Our pint sized hero Son Goku is once again on another world tour to locate the famed dragonballs for lack of having nothing better to do after having whooped the backsides of half of the villainous Red Ribbon Army. He begins this leg of his journey in the Land of Korin where another colour coded lackey working for Commander Red has located a Dragonball which ends up in the hands of Bora and his son Upa. It just happens to be the four star ball Goku covets which he is given as a reward for saving Bora and Upa from Red’s lackeys.
Frustrated Red sends the reputedly dangerous Mercenary Tao to retrieve the Dragonball, a man so deadly he kills Bora with ridiculous ease and almost kills Goku, but not before he puts up enough of a fight to destroy Tao’s uniform. Having gathered the dragonballs, Tao heads off to town to have a new uniform made, while Goku resolves to climb Korin’s tower, a totem pole that reaches into the heavens which only one man has ever climbed before. The prize that awaits anyone who reaches the summit is sacred water which is said to increase one’s strength.
As you can see the recurring theme of Goku lending a helping hand to innocent bystanders is alive and well as is the by product of these meetings leading to him going on another educational journey of discovery and strength training. And it doesn’t end with this arc which takes up the first two discs in this set. Following this action packed skirmish, Goku vows to Upa that he will collect all the dragonballs again and use the wish to bring Bora back to life.
This means another face to add to the existing central cadre of Goku’s friends but Upa really brings nothing to the table except his androgyny which is helpfully confirmed as he relay does look and sound like a girl. It’s only a temporary arrangement so no real harm down but as characters go, aside from being a Native American, Upa isn’t particularly memorable.
To keep Goku busy next is the second arc which begins with the team heading to find the fortune teller Baba on Master Roshi’s recommendation, neglecting to mention that Baba is his older sister! In lieu of cash payment Baba will tell Goku where the last dragonball is if he and his comrades can defeat her five horrific fighters.
Horrific is truly the word as Baba’s men are figures from the legends of the damned. First up is Fangs the Vampire (or Dracula Man in the subtitles), followed by the Invisible Man, Bandages the Mummy and a demon named Spike. The fifth man is a true mystery and a pivotal figure in the entire story. Perhaps the rationale behind his actions and participation in this gauntlet match leaves a lot to be desired but anime and moral boundaries aren’t always compatible bedfellows.
This set concludes with a series of standalone adventures set after a three year time leap to fill time before the next major arc begins which will take the form of another Martial Arts tournament. The pretence is that Goku is sent to travel alone to improve his training and fighting skills, and he certainly gets to do both against a myriad of foes, including a pair whom we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future.
As contradictory as this may sound, the infuriating thing about Dragonball is how the repetition of the story set ups suggests the show is in a state of inertia bereft of new ideas yet confounds us all by still moving forward without any discernible signs of treading water. The pattern has been established: Goku locates the dragonballs, makes a wish then participates in a tournament in the year it takes for the balls to be scattered then starts all over again. Yet Toriyama seems to land on his feet and inject something new to make us stick around and watch with eager eyes like we’ve never seen it before. Witchcraft or genius?
In between the fighting the now familiar puerile toilet humour or Goku’s toiletry habits or the unabashed perversity of Roshi towards the female cast rears its ugly head but thankfully in a reduced capacity. In what will probably be the anime equivalent of the infamous leg cross scene in Basic Instinct, a brief flash of Bulma nudity which results in a ridiculous assist to the fight with the Invisible Man will assuredly have many fans ready with the freeze frame button. It was inevitable I suppose even if the end result is rather unspectacular.
This third Dragonball release is everything you’d expect to see from the series which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on how tolerant one is towards repetition. Some of stories are too eked out for their own good, while the one shots are rather random. Devoted fans however won’t feel short changed by this hearty and action heavy ten and a half hour ride in the company of Goku and friends.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0
Ratings – ***
Man In Black