When you talk about anime at length with anyone in their mid-20s to mid-30s, you will without a doubt hit upon the subject of Dragon Ball. The saga of Son Goku and his friends, which started as a nod to the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West (Son Goku being the Japanese version of the name Son Wukong, a main character in the story), has grown from a Japanese manga phenomenon to a part of the global pop culture. With the original Dragon Ball comics, anime, TV specials, movies, the re-cut and cleaned-up Kai series, countless video games and fan projects such as Team Four Star’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged, the world of Dragon Ball has remained extremely popular, even though the creator, Akira Toriyama, wrapped up the series way back in 1995.
It is this devoted worldwide fanbase that has kept Dragon Ball alive. The continued interest in the property brought about the return of the film series after a 17-year hiatus, and now we will see a new anime series starting this summer with the recently announced Dragon Ball Super.
I first became aware of the Dragon Ball universe back in 1995 when the 13-episode Ocean-dub of the first season came out. A bored, barely a teenager John still loved cartoons and enjoyed the long since forgotten tradition of getting up early and watching them on Saturday morning. Chomping away on cereal at 5 a.m. I happened upon the very first episode and was instantly hooked. There wasn’t anything out there like it on American screens and it was so fun that I found myself getting up extra early just so I wouldn’t miss it. I watched all thirteen episodes and was excited and hoping for more… and then the program dropped off the face of the earth.
Fast forward to about a year and a half later, and well into his teenage years, John still enjoys occasionally getting up and checking out the Saturday cartoons. Channel-surfing around once again at 5 a.m. I hit upon a show that caught my eye due to the art style as it seemed rather familiar. Once again captivated I started watching this crazy show with the name of Dragon Ball Z trying to piece together if this was actually some sort of continuation of that old show I enjoyed or of it was all a strange coincidence. This was early in the Namek storyline where Goku takes a backseat for awhile so you can forgive my confusion, but as soon as I saw that ever so distinct hairdo attached to that adult dude they were calling Goku I knew it was the same show. I didn’t understand how or why this show was the way it was, but I had Goku back and I was happy to see him.
Alas I was once again to be disappointed as the series was building up to this major confrontation with main baddy Frieza as soon as they made it past the Ginyu Force and then just stopped and looped back to the beginning of DBZ. I was baffled as to why this was happening to this show once again and I hit up the internet for more answers. It was here I learned about all of the censorship the show had went through, what fansubs were, and all the epic battles I would never see From DB and DBZ unless I plunked down some serious coin to some dudes I ‘d never meet online for one of the fantapes (a risk I was not all that keen on) as I lived in the North Dakota, which back then might as well have been the Gobi desert when it came to anime.
Finally, American audiences caught a break in the late 90s as the series moved to Cartoon Network and Funimation decided they would dub the rest of the series in house. Thus began the run of new episodes on Cartoon Network’s Toonami, and you can bet your sweet bippy my eyes were glued to the set every day when it came on. I became super involved in the show and also got serious about collecting the manga. Dragon Ball really was the base of my anime/manga education and I loved every second of it.
I was excited for Kai when I heard about it, but I didn’t have cable when it first hit, and since I don’t have any legal way to stream it (yes, I’m big on that), I haven’t been able to spend any real time with it. It bugs me a little that I haven’t really seen this version, but I’ve been able to console myself as their goal with the show was to follow the manga as closely as possible and I already have read it.
This is what excites me most about Dragon Ball Super. This is all new content and something this big demands a simulcast, which means streaming. Now I don’t mind if I have to throw Funimation a few bucks to watch the show. I’m a fair guy, but if they stiff us on simulcast streaming, or even day or week later streaming options, I may damn well riot. Like the latest two movies, Akira Toriyama is deeply involved in the production, making the series a must see as he is the guy that makes Dragon Ball, well, Dragon Ball, and will keep the series from becoming another debacle like the piece of ass that was Dragon Ball GT. Dragon Ball has a special place in my heart and was an important component in my geek education, which is why these new movies and Dragon Ball Super fill me with so much joy. I get to go visit some friends I thought I’d never get to see again, and that makes me a happy guy.
So are you as excited for Dragon Ball Super as much as I am? What was the first anime you obsessed over? Let us know in the comments below!