By: Jre Best
I’ve been stuck staring at a blank text document for nearly an hour completely stumped as to how to write the opening paragraph of a review for Dragon Ball Z. How does one write an introduction do a show, no, a franchise that needs no introduction. Dragon Ball Z is unquestionably one of the most influential pieces of fiction of the last 50 years. It’s the second-highest selling manga series of all time, the fifth best selling just comic of all time. Its inspiration can be felt everywhere from Hollywood Blockbusters, to gangster rap, to even professional sports.
Since its initial chapters released in 1984 it became the face of the Shonen Jump magazine, a cultural phenomenon in Japan. However, it would take more than a decade for Dragon Ball fever to hit us in the West with the airing of the Dragon Ball Z dub in 1996. Dragon Ball was a major part of the late 90s anime boom. As such the original DBZ anime has a special place in many anime fans’ hearts as one of the first major works of the industry easily available legally here.
However, despite original Dragon Ball Z’s status as a fan-favorite classic, most wouldn’t be eager to recommend it to non-fans. Dragon Ball is afflicted with something long-running Shonen anime adaptations have only recently started to combat. Copious amounts of filler episodes of dubious quality and massive pacing issues. Of the original 291 episodes of Dragon Ball Z a solid 14% of it is filler episodes that can be completely skipped. But not only that, anime original scenes and storylines will be injected into plot-relevant material as a form of padding. This issue has haunted Shonen adaptations since before Dragon Ball, since these adaptations are usually being produced as the manga they’re adapting is still being released, and have a tendency to overtake said manga. Until recently these shows ran year around instead of the seasonal approach that is more common in America, so these series have to find creative workarounds to not outpace their Source material.
Which is why, in 2010, for Dragon Ball Z’s 20th anniversary, a remastered version of the show called Dragon Ball Z Kai would start airing. The goal with Kai was to take the original show and cut it to be more faithful to the manga experience. Cutting the filler, re-editing the episodes to fix the pacing, remastering the footage to make it look more vibrant, rerecorded music and voice acting which includes some translation alterations and limited amounts of new animation.
In the west it aired on Nickelodeon which is how I watched it as a kid. In all its bloodless, profanities-less, plagiarized music glory. I was entranced and enthralled by it and waited with bated breath for every episode. For a while Dragon Ball was all that I could think of, watching it every week leading up to the end of the Cell Saga where Kai ended for reasons we’ll get into in later entries. But as my passion for the larger world of anime widened, I found new favorites and the more distance I got from Dragon Ball the more visible the flaws of the series became. And within my circle of wonderfully
pretentious thoughtful peers, we started to regard Dragon Ball not as a well enduring classic deserving of its popularity and influence. But more as an outdated relic, influential for sure but too archaic and one dimensional to be enjoyed with the same sincerity we did as children.
Don’t we sound like a fun group of high schoolers? I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that we were also “Too smart for parties.”
But eventually, once I grew up and found out that “watches video essays” isn’t a personality along with becoming just old enough to start experiencing nostalgia, it began to feel like I needed to reevaluate my relationship with Dragon Ball as a franchise. Something I used to write off as a shallow thing from my childhood continued to not just endure but expand. Not only did we get new movies but they were actually able to release them in theaters and these movies led to a new anime series, a sequel to DBZ. With the release of Dragon Ball FighterZ, Dragon Ball became the main topic of conversation in a scene I was just starting to get into: the fighting game community. It felt like the franchise was following me. But what really made me change my mind was the continued growth of teamfourstar’s Dragonball Z abridged. Dragon Ball Z abridged was something I watched back when I was still a massive Dragon Ball fan but just like with the series itself eventually lost interest in. But upon discovering how much the project had grown in both scope and quality since I actively followed it was truly humbling. A silly internet show based around its love for the Dragon Ball franchise that became so successful that it eventually started to influence the series itself. There’s no way a series that has inspired so much from so many could be as one dimensional as my tragically hairless High School self thought it was.
So, for a few years now I’ve wanted to do a Dragon Ball Z Kai re-watch. A proper chance to reevaluate the full series and to finally see the final quarter of it that I missed as a child. And it sure is convenient that I write for a website purely for nerds like me to navel-gaze about media with no limit. Seriously you just read nearly 1000 word introduction that’s also partly a rant about how embarrassing I was in high school. I’ll be re-watching Dragon Ball Z Kai and writing reviews for each of the show’s major arcs. It’s going to be a fun ride and I hope you enjoy taking it with me.
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