|Ranting and Raving, Part 1: Rant!|
|It doesn't matter who you are or what you're a fan of, there will always be SOMETHING about your passion that you have a problem with, weaknesses that keep you from loving it just that much more. Sometimes it's interesting to explore that side, because knowing what you don't like about something can clarify and solidify what you do.
So, what bugs me about Dragon Ball? There are a few things, which I shall mention in no particular order.
I guess my biggest overall problem is with the anime series as compared to the original manga, and how much more effective the comic is in some ways because of the comparatively brisk pacing. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a 14-page weekly manga can't possibly keep up with a 24-minute weekly anime, and I don't think it would be unreasonable to say that nearly half of the TV series is filler material, existing solely to keep the TV series from getting ahead of the manga. A great deal of that filler is incredibly boring, extraneous, and pointless. Don't get me wrong, if I had a top ten favorite episodes list, there would be at least 4 fillers up there, I'm sure. But overall, all of this "extra" stuff makes watching the anime very frustrating sometimes, as it causes everything to move along painfully, achingly, excruciatingly slow, especially when you're waiting for something big to happen. Stretching the series out like this has the effect of diluting its overall power and focus, and making it seem like it is simply wandering aimlessly. This is, in fact, one of the things that non-fans dislike about the series the most, and the source of the unfortunate nickname "Drag-on Ball."
Problem number two is the way in which Toriyama treats his characters, which can be quite shoddy. It almost seems like he gets bored with many of them, and simply tosses them aside for no reason. And by tossing them aside, I don't necessarily mean writing them out of the story, I mean that he will develop them to a certain degree, then just leave them languishing in the background, never allowing them to develop or change.
A perfect example of this is Tenshinhan, who I always had a burning desire to know more about. What's with that third eye? What about his "closeness" with Chaozu? (is there something we're not being told here? heh heh...) What exactly is he after? When he was first introduced in Dragon Ball, he had a story, and a motivation, things happened to him, and he made things happen back. But by the time Z came along, he was just a guy who showed up every now and then to help fight, and he had no personality whatsoever. By the time Z ended, he had disappeared altogether, except for a brief period near the end where he showed up just long enough to get his ass kicked by Ma-jin Boo.
Yamucha is another prime suspect, who was so damned INTERESTING when he was first introduced in Dragon Ball, but who became static, lifeless, and totally useless as Z went on. Is there anyone out there who can honestly say that Yamucha was developed in any way once Dragon Ball ended? He, like Tenshinhan, just faded into disuse.
And it's not just these two, either. Toriyama seemed to develop a real "Saiyan prejudice" as the series went on; things increasingly became more and more focused on Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, and the villains, and everyone else got pushed out of the series little by little.
The marketing, while not really a direct aspect of the series, can be very frustrating too, and I thought I'd mention a few things since I'm griping already.
First, let's talk action figures. I don't know about you, but nothing makes me angrier than the astounding non-variety in the Super Battle Collection series. Why, someone please tell me, are there about 50 different Gohans, and NOT A SINGLE YAMUCHA, KURIRIN, OR TENSHINHAN? God forbid they'd even consider making one of the female characters. It just doesn't make any sense, and the North American figure line is even more baffling. They made a figure of Ginyu, yes GINYU, and still, not one of the much-neglected characters.
And the video games are the same way. I'm not into video games so much anymore (they just don't make 'em like they used to!) but I've tried many of the DB games to come out in the last few years. I have noticed two things almost universally: one, the games really aren't that good, and two, they have the same Saiyan prejudice exhibited by the figure line. There's like five different versions of Goku alone in DBGT: Final Bout, four of whom should have been other characters as far as I'm concerned. MY KINGDOM TO PLAY YAMUCHA IN A DBZ GAME! Tenshinhan at last got some exposure in Ultimate Battle 22, but that was a rare case.
Last but not least in my list of gripes against Dragon Ball is the way in which Toriyama himself treats his property. I am not about to call him a "sellout" by any means, but it seems that so much of the existence of DB revolves around money, and Toriyama does not seem to care very much about where his creation ends up, and how it is treated by others.
My case in point is the English dub, and I am very angry that Toriyama, Toei, and whoever else is involved with the licensing did not ensure that Dragon Ball Z was presented as it was meant to be seen. I go into more detail about this on my opinion page, so I won't reiterate here, but anyone who says that "it wasn't up to him" is wrong. Hayao Miyazaki was approached by many distributors who wanted to market his films in America, but none of them were willing to go by his strict guidelines for how his films were to be presented, so he refused offer after offer, until Disney came along and agreed to his conditions. Why couldn't Toriyama have done the same? How could he allow FUNimation to get their dirty hands on his masterpiece and almost completely ruin it? Did he simply take his paycheck and forget about his artistic integrity? I sure hope not, but I don't know what else to think. I would be appalled if I were Toriyama and saw my work being contorted in this way.
Dragon Ball GT is another controversial issue in my eyes, which would certainly have never existed if it wasn't so marketable. I can't say that the show isn't good in itself, but it's painfully obvious why it was created in the first place. I find it very symbolic that the one and only reason the series was extended beyond its planned original run was to give the video game Final Bout time to be released.
Of course, one could say that the last third of the original manga existed solely for economic purposes, it was Toriyama's original intention to end DB after the Freeza saga, but pressure from his publishers forced him to keep going. Don't get me wrong, I love the whole series, but I can't have full respect for the latter part if I know that it's only there to turn a profit.
Well, that about does it, I suppose. Many of you probably don't agree with a lot of what I just said, and I can understand that, you're all Dragon Ball fans! I'd like to hear what some of you don't like about DB in fact, I'm a little curious.
NEXT TIME: Part 2 of this editorial, why I like Dragon Ball. (Better to get the bad out of the way first, right??)