Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thoughts on Dragonball GT


I recently finished watching the entire series... all 64 episodes of it. As a fan of the awesome Dragonball Z, I wanted to check out the "sequel" that got so critically panned by Everyone Who Ever Watched It. I did, with an open mind and a legitimate desire to enjoy it. The show made it pretty difficult for me, though. Here are some of my thoughts as I went along, mostly stream-of-consciousness. Tons of spoilers, if that matters.

First and foremost, I need to say something about the sole DBGT movie, A Hero's Legacy.




Hooooooly shit.

Well, it's actually pretty good.

But.... hooooooooooly shit. That is one depressing movie. It takes place a hundred years after the end of GT. The whole cast of Dragonball is dead except for Pan who is quite old. She's raising her grandson, Gokou Jr. He looks just like...yeah, Gokou. Who were his parents and what happened to them? Who knows... there's no sign of anyone else. It's just him and Grandma Pan, who is trying to raise him to be a strong boy. Unfortunately he's THE WIMPIEST KID IN THE WORLD and can't really do anything.

Then Grandma Pan has a heart attack right in front of Gokou Jr, who sits on the kitchen floor weeping and trying to wake her up. Next thing we know he's having flashbacks to all the times she tried to teach him stuff but he wasn't listening because he was playing video games and doing his own thing, causing him to feel deep pangs of regret.

I mean...holy shit, it really surprised me how this movie is actually kinda serious and meaningful on a human level. Yet at the same time it was just way too said. The whole movie was dark like that, with bad thing after bad thing happening to poor Gokou Jr. Pretty much everyone betrays him in his travels, a theme that continues throughout the GT series. I'll get into that more later.


At least things largely worked out in the end, and we got a cameo appearance by Gokou's Spirit. He didn't play Deus Ex Machina, he just gave Gokou Jr a pep talk about believing in himself and it was cool. And Vegeta's descendant shows up at the end. Which is also kinda cool. I have a hard time considering this movie to be canon and I wouldn't watch it again, but it's respectable.

Weird to see a DB movie with basically no fighting in it.

Onward to the actual DBGT series, which I have less good to say about. Let's start from the beginning. Episodes 1-19 were Dragonball 2.0, with Kid Gokou and friends hunting for Dragonballs. "That's gross!" say the eight people who don't know anything about the series. Thing is, this isn't Dragonball, this is Dragonball GT! Instead of searching Earth, they're searching the whole cosmos! How could this go wrong?

Very easily, as it turns out. Simply put, those episodes are really boring. They reminded me of the Fake Namek Episodes of DBZ (i.e., a couple episodes that were total filler) except far longer. There were no compelling villains until like episode 16, when Dr. Myuu (basically a pallette swap of Dr Gero) and his general (who is referred to as being "just as strong as Buu") showed up. Those two were pretty badass. Before that, every villain the heroes came up against was WAY too easily dispatched by Gokou, who would usually fight at like 1% capacity just to make the fights last for an episode and, apparently, kill time. Yeah. There's some variety in the adventures the heroes are going on (as opposed to nonstop fighting) but it somehow all manages to be pretty uninteresting. The lack of any major antagonist contributes to that. And the heroes seem to keep forgetting that they can fly, what with all the LOTR-style walking they're doing. Why didn't you just summon The Eagles from the beginning, Gandalf? Damn it, Boromir died because of you, you sadist!

So while Gokou went around doing everything and being completely unchallenged by any foes, most of the cast was left behind on Earth, totally unused. Popular characters like Vegeta, Gohan, and...well, almost everyone, get a grand total of about five minutes of screentime in the first third of the GT series, which is more or less inexcusable. Trunks tags along with Gokou on the adventure but he's reduced to the role of mere sidekick, rarely solving any problems himself. Gokou's granddaughter Pan is cool at times but manages to come off as annoying more often than not. Finally, Gokou himself, being inexplicably transformed into a kid again, isn't really the Gokou we know from DBZ. So on the character front, GT has very little going for it. This might be the biggest fundamental flaw with it right out of the gate. It's bad form to do a sequel to a beloved series and basically cast aside most of the established characters or change them beyond recognition.

Giro The Loveable Robot is...well, I like him, he reminds me of a cat. Problem is, they went out of their way to make him annoying. Same goes for Pan. I want to like her, but she nearly always seems to either be whining or yelling at someone. Giro says "Giro Giro Giro" constantly between sentences and it's pretty grating. The whole section where Giro "turns evil" kinda pissed me off, because I was starting to wonder if the good guys could actually trust anyone. People who seem helpful proceeding to betray the heroes happens OVER AND OVER on this show. Makes me wonder if the creators of GT have trust issues or something. Spoiler alert, Giro turns out to be good in the end. Aside from him, though, my question about trust issues stands.


One of the major problems with GT is the fact that so much of what DBZ established is forgotten or just outright overruled. Let's run down the list:

-Gokou inexplicably seens to forget how to teleport early on. Later, he apparently regains the ability with no fanfare, then later he's back to not being able to do it. Were the creators even paying attention to this?


-SSJ2 is completely nonexistent, except for a two-second appearance before Gokou goes SSJ3. He uses SSJ3 for an episode, but that's it for that form. Other than that, for most of the show we have SSJ4 Gokou and everyone else apparently stuck at SSJ1 - even characters who surpassed it long ago.

-And on that note, Gohan goes SSJ1 when he fights. That's right, Gohan goes SSJ1. I thought his ability to do that was overridden by his transformation into Mystical Gohan... in other words, Mystical is just flat-out ignored. This wouldn't be so bad, but he doesn't even go SSJ2... meaning that is ignored too. Ultimately Gohan is pretty generic and nondescript in this show...and that's kinda messed up. Honestly he's pretty indistinguishable from Goten. They're just "Gokou's two sons" in this.


-There's a lot more but I'm pressed for time here.

At some point, it must have become clear that the show wasn't working too well, because suddenly the formula switches over to DBZ. This takes place around Episode 19. The dragonball hunts are replaced by Mad Fighting 'Yo as Gokou is faced with an actual possible threat and suddenly remembers how to fight. He battles the highly bland General Rilldo for a few episodes, then the real villain awakens.


Episodes 20-40 or so are the Baby Saga. That's right, the Big Bad is a guy named "Baby". Lil' Wayne's manager should sue. I don't think this name could have been any less appropriate. Interestingly enough, in the initial Cartoon Network run of GT, the first episode they aired was Episode 16. ...which is the very earliest point that it begins to be DBZ-like rather than DB-like. Normally I'd say starting with an episode that isn't actually episode 1 is a bad move, but in this case they probably made the right call. I doubt DBZ fans would have stuck around through 15 episodes of Original DB Knockoff that wasn't very good regardless.


I'll give it this: the Baby saga was vastly more interesting than the first twenty episodes. The locked 80% of the cast actually got some airtime finally, and Vegeta got to be the villain (sort of, Baby fuses with him and takes control - spoiler alert). I almost feel like the Jasmine saga in Angel was ripped off of DBGT, because they're very similar right around this point. Baby gets to Earth somehow and proceeds to get the entire planet under his control via mind control, to the point where everyone on the planet worships him and thinks he is Jesus Incarnate. Despite his stupid name, Baby himself is an interesting character who actually speaks and speaks well. That puts him head and shoulders above Buu and most DBZ Movie Villains in the interesting bad guy category, honestly. None of this is to say that the Baby saga is good, though. It's better than the first GT saga, but still not as good as anything non-filler in DBZ (not even the Buu saga).


I did like the Jasmine similarities, and SS4 Gokou Vs. Super Oozaru Baby is pretty cool. Yes, I'm one of the people who likes SS4. It's got this primal, violent edge instead of a magical sense like the earlier forms. The finale of this saga is a battle very similar to the Gokou/Vegeta fight early in DBZ, as SS4 Gokou fights Baby/Vegeta, wins, then has to contend with Super Oozaru Baby. The fight was a definite flashback-inducer.


Also, Adult Goten actually gets some screentime here and fights Baby. That is, while on a date with some babe. She and Goten have the most sexually suggestive dialogue about eating ice cream that I've ever heard in the DB-verse. It's even worse if you just listen to it without watching the screen. (EDITOR'S NOTE: It appears that this scene has made it to youtube, and I'm not the only one who picked up on the dialogue.)
 
Now for some more bullet points of problems:

-Why does Gokou turn back into an adult when he goes SS4, then turn back into a kid when it wears off? This makes no sense, and seems to be just so he can be a kid for the plot (what they wanted) and still be an asskicker for the fights. It's a baffling decision, though. The whole Kid Gokou thing is baffling after the first 20 episodes. I figured he'd go back to his normal adult self by then, but... he never does. It's borderline idiotic.

-What's the deal with Baby? First, he's this Cell-type being created in a lab by Dr. Myuu. Like, a total ripoff of Cell. Then a few episodes later, he's on Earth and it turns out he's a Tuffle, despite looking nothing at all like the rest of the Tuffles (human-ish people) that the Saiyans exterminated way back when. So he wants revenge for the destruction of the Tuffles, even though he was created in a lab? Either I missed some important plot point, or they just jumped from one idea to the other (either is equally likely, honestly). Maybe Dr. Myuu was a Tuffle who mechanized so he could live onward, and created Baby to take a revenge for his people. I don't know. That's the only thing I can think of that would make sense.

-The whole thing with Gokou's tail. Oh My God. So basically, all this time Gokou had a tail that could "regrow" if it were tugged on hard enough, and with that tail he could surpass SSJ3. Supreme Kai tugging on Gokou's formerly nonexistent tail until it pops out, making him mega-powerful, is possibly the stupidest plot development in the entire Dragonball-verse.
 
Onward to episodes 41-46 or so, the Super 17 Saga. This third saga is a lot shorter than the Dragonball Hunt Saga and the Baby Saga. While the Dragonball Hunt Saga was DB 2.0 and the Baby Saga was DBZ Saiyan Saga 2.0 (except not very good), this one is clearly trying to be DBZ Android Saga 2.0.

Basically, #17 is lurking down in hell. Dr. Gero is there too, and he teams up with Dr. Myuu to create the ultimate android. Funny how Dr. Myuu was way out in space somewhere earlier in the show. I guess no matter where in the universe you die, you go to Earth Hell. Really? In any case, Dr. Myuu seems to be the overarching villain of DBGT. He can't fight at all, but he was the puppetmaster behind Rilldo, Baby, and now Super 17. Dr. Gero doesn't last too long, as after Dr. Myuu gets the info he needs from the guy, he tells #17 to kill Gero once and for all. Gero is all shocked that this would happen again. Basically, their nefarious plan is to open the gate of hell and allow all the villains of DBZ past to spill out into Earth and wreak havoc, distracting our heroes long enough for Dr. Myuu to unleash Super Android 17 who is even more powerful than Baby or SS4 Gokou.

Now, this saga could be really good. The premise is actually pretty interesting. All of DBZ's villains returning to wreak havoc, plus a new super-android that is invincible? Intriguing. When I saw Zarbon and Dodoria appearing in an Earth city and blasting cars, I was all "I never thought I'd see this". Unfortunately, this is DBGT, so of course they screw it up. It took all of one episode for me to go from having goosebumps to being completely bored. Despite that I was watching Adult Goten and Trunks take on a bunch of revived DBZ favorites, something that could and should have been awesome, the fact is that most of it was just reusing the same few frames over and over again of them blasting Saibamen. The good guys basically just one-shotted every villain in sight, and there was no dialogue or anything to differentiate any of the villains from...well, generic foes. Or rocks.


Vegeta had a rematch with Nappa, one that could have been pretty cool, but Vegeta just one-shotted him. I was wondering why all of these resurgent villains weren't beefed up, since at least then this would have been remotely interesting. I guess no one got any stronger in Hell. But wait! A bit later Gokou fights Cell and Freeza at the same time, and both of them were actually more powerful than they were originally, going on about how they'd improved. So...they got stronger in the afterlife, but no one else did? In any case, those two got to have a real fight with Gokou (at least until he powered up past 1%), yet all the other villains were just one-shotted. Okay. And the "real fight" in question kinda sucked since Gokou is still in kid form, which is just... not very interesting for this setting. He's also basically God, and there's never any doubt at all that he'll win a fight on this show. Add all that up, and... boredom.

As for Super Android 17... he's actually cool and badass in a Sephiroth kind of way. He's a fusion of Android #17 from Earth and Android #17 from Hell, and his power is off the charts. On his way to meet Hell #17, Earth #17 runs into #18 and Kuririn and KILLS THEM. Their daughter gets like her one line in all of DBGT at this point. This show really could have done more with her. For that matter, the same goes for Goten, and Vegeta's (hot) daughter, and all the other characters who used to be kids, but instead they just lurk in the background and do nothing. Wouldn't want to upstage the inexplicably kid-ified Gokou!

So... all of DBZ's villains get unleashed on Earth, including the Ginyu Force and Nappa, and it quickly means less than nothing. Kuririn and his wife are viciously killed off, and... I feel nothing. I'm not a heartless person. When things like this happened in DBZ, it affected me. Maybe it didn't this time because it was only like Kuririn's third time on-camera in DBGT, if that.


In any case, the fight between SS4 Gokou and Super Android 17 is actually...really good. It's even better than the Gokou/Baby fight and the final battle I haven't gotten to talking about yet. I'd go so far as to say these three fights are the high points of all of GT, and the Super 17 fight is the best of them. It is the sole part of GT most worth checking out for fans of the 'verse. So of course, it has to be one of the shortest fights in the series, clocking in at an episode or two. Still, this fight, and a couple of other episodes, prove that the creators of GT were capable of making the show interesting...sometimes. Unfortunately, half a dozen good episodes out of sixty-four isn't really a good ratio. For the record... the good episodes are 24, 39, 45, 46, 55, 64. Don't quote me on those though, I'm going from really rough memory and any of them could be off by an episode or two.



With Super Android 17 in the bag, the final saga of GT begins almost immediately with a bunch of shadow dragons being unleashed on the world. Something I got a kick out of here was Supreme Kai telling the heroes that the new threat was created because of their overuse of the dragonballs. "You couldn't even tie your shoelaces without summoning the dragon!" HA! About time someone acknowledged this.

So with fourteen episodes left in the show, Gokou has to fight seven dragons. At first I thought this was an awesome idea. Then, the first dragon showed up. It's basically the creepy Green Dragon from Chrono Cross. No, really. He even uses poison attacks. They proceeded to spend an episode or two having the lamest fight imaginable, as Gokou stands around fighting at 0.0001% power (just like most of GT) and the dragon acts like a retarded muppet. After large amounts of talking about nothing, the dragon manages to basically trap Gokou, Guldo-style, and after more time gets wasted, Gokou breaks free and finally one-shots him.

Yep, these seven (...six) evil dragons sure are threatening now! It's amazing how GT can take cool ideas and then ruin them as much as it possibly can in such short order. Why? The next couple episodes were a little better. The red dragon was a midget (Chrono Cross again!)... Said red dragon was electric-element which was a bit weird. It actually gave them a challenge, again with the immobilization techniques (I guess since these dragons have no chance of matching up to Gokou in a real fight).

After that was the storm dragon, which... was a very Shiva-like woman. This episode was... better than the average. Gokou and Shiva were riding tornadoes and clashing with each other, almost like a joust. Then we have a very weird earth dragon, a respectable fire dragon (Pikon 2.0?) and a vile, cheating ice dragon. The only ones that actually got to pose a threat to Gokou were those last two. They were also the interesting ones. Things certainly picked up after the borderline jokes that were the first couple of dragons. Finally, the seventh and final dragon shows up, the most powerful of the lot, and more battles ensue. None of these villains were particularly interesting or compelling, unfortunately, until the end.

The seventh dragon assimilates the powers of the other six, becoming Omega Shenron (the omni dragon, basically, even though he was more humanoid than dragon). The fact that he had the powers of all seven dragons became particularly apparent when he used fire power to make himself scorching (thus causing Gokou to take damage when hitting him), then switched to ice power and froze Gokou in his tracks. After that he switched to wind power and threw frozen Gokou all over the place. It was pretty crazy. Combine this with him being - get this - an actual major threat to Gokou, and voila, we have an interesting situation. It doesn't take much.



Nearly at the end of the series, Vegeta goes SS4 (completely skipping 3, I guess) after which he and Gokou formed up Gogeta. I was expecting them to waste so much time that the fusion would expire, in typical DBZ hero form, but they didn't...they went right after the Big Bad and actually tried to destroy him. They couldn't get it done, though, and the fusion ran out. This left me wondering how they would win. I have to give the show props for having Gokou and Vegeta behave so much more intelligently here than they did towards the end of DBZ... and for that matter, behave more intelligently than they did earlier in GT as well.

If this were the Buu Saga, they would have messed around for at least three episodes. In this case, for the one episode that Gogeta lasted, they tried their damndest to put Omega away. Unfortunately for them, Gogeta's battery ran out and it was back to their normal forms after 17 minutes or so. From then on, they kept trying to fuse into Gogeta again, since Gogeta's super move was the only thing that might be able to end Omega. Again unfortunately for them, Omega realized what they were doing, and actually TRIED TO STOP THEM FROM FUSING... which he was pretty successful at. It was good to watch a Dragonball fight not populated by moronic characters. Ultimately they couldn't get their Gogeta on again, so the finale came down to Vegeta keeping Omega busy while Gokou hit the Spirit Bomb. Minus points for falling back on the Spirit Bomb yet again, especially after the tease of Gogeta's ultimate Big Bang Kamehameha that we never actually got to see. I really thought the battle would end with them finally getting Gogeta back together and hitting the hyped move, so I was surprised when the Spirit Bomb did it.

All in all... good final battle with Omega, a few decent and fast-paced other battles (Baby, Super 17), and a lot of lameness in-between. At least everyone lived happily ever after. I liked the final episode because things ended on a happy note.

That about sums it up. In the very near future I'll be posting more Dragonball Universe related material, so stay tuned.

4 comments:

  1. I actually really hate the last episode of the show.

    I think Goku's leaving is completely unexplained and makes no sense at all. Where does he go, and why would he go.

    The reason why the end of Z was so great is because it stuck to the character. Numerous times throughout the series Goku is offered the chance to become a god, but he chooses not to because he wants to to fight and get stronger. The fact that he would leave at the end of GT makes no sense.

    At the end of Z he leaves spontaneously to train and get stronger. A perfect ending which says that while the greatest threat in the universe may have been defeated some things will never change.

    My biggest complaint with GT is every single bad guy makes sense. Let's look at bad guy progression for the rest of series. Criminals -> army -> Demons -> Aliens -> Robots -> Genetically engineered super guy -> and the embodiment of all evil. At that point nothing makes sense.

    Why is baby so strong. Science can't make things that strong, which is why Buu was a big deal. Also Frieza and his crew ran the whole universe, and you're going to tell me Bulma built a ship that could fly them far enough away to meet people as strong as Buu (Who is called evil incarnate by the god of gods of gods), when before she couldn't even get to Namek. Please.

    Super 17 arc. None of those bad guys are relevent. Arc is bad all around.

    I don't even want to talk about the final arc it's awful in every form.

    All in all GT is in my opinion the worst animated series I have ever seen, and I mean that one.

    Also the Buu saga is awesome. Have you watched the whole thing or only skimmed it? It's really great closure on the series and the situations are pretty great if you're into Dragon Ball. Plus Buu is an infinitly better villain than Cell, if not Frieza as well.

    Next time you're up you should see the Shonen Jump 40th anniversary special. It's made by Akira Toriyama himself, and is basically 20 minutes of him showing why GT makes no sense in his universe.

    ...I think I wrote a blog post as comment :(

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  2. Oh one more thing about that ending:


    Why is Shenlong suddenly treated like a god figure at the end. In Z we already learned how gods work, and Dragon Balls have nothing to do with it.

    Dragon Balls are tools made by regular aliens. They aren't some kind of supernatural force. It's absurd that Shenlong would take Goku away, as if by devine intervention. As far as godly importance goes Shenlong is bottom of the barrel.

    Also does GT really expect to believe that on Namek they would never of had evil dragons. That's straight up retarded.

    Also if the Dragon Balls could have turned into the ultimate super guys the whole time then why didn't they just force them against Buu.

    Dragon Ball was a series was a series that was never meant to continue. To this day there is no villain in any medium as strong as Buu, and it was absurd of them to try and create something better.

    Also Goku won with a Spirit Bomb at the end of a series by using the energy of all the people he met in space. DUMB. The reason why the spirit bomb at the end of Z was awesome was that it was made up of the energy of cool characters from DB and DBZ who you actually felt attached to. No one cares that the homo dancing alien brothers sent their energy to kill Omega dragon.

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  3. Wow, you like DBGT even less than I do. Good point about the villain progression. I never even really thought about it, but it makes sense in DB and DBZ. DBGT, not so much. I'll be the first to admit that DBGT completely sucks, but the battles were cool (the three major ones).

    I thought the last episode was decent because of the "finality" of it, and I appreciated the Gokou/Kuririn interactions. That's about it. Gokou spiriting away to Godhood (or whatever) didn't really do anything for me.

    I wasn't crazy about the Buu Saga because of the sheer stupidity I saw on display by the good guys at times, and the way character death was reduced to the equivalent of a time-out for a few minutes. The battles were good (sound familiar?) but that's about all I liked from the Buu Saga. Maybe I just watched it at a bad time, since I went through it last fall when I was mega-stressed.

    I definitely want to see that Shonen Jump Akira Toriyama thing.

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  4. Morgan, I enjoyed your DB Theory and would love to hear more of your thoughts on the series some time.

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