|Ranting and Raving, Part 2: Rave!
|So last time I told you what I didn't like about Dragon Ball. Just thought I should get the bad out of the way first. This time, I'll do the exact opposite and explain why I have become such a devoted fan of Akira Toriyama's odd little creation.
In the most fundamental non-specific sense, I guess that I love Dragon Ball because of the series' overall message. I take this to be that everyone evolves, and that even when you feel that you have reached your absolute limits, that there is nowhere else to go, nothing new to be found, you must push yourself just a little further, and you will realize that there is always a new level to strive for.
Someone e-mailed me and asked who my favorite character in DB was, and I said what is probably the most obvious response, Goku. He's my favorite mainly because he exemplifies the idea above. I don't want to embarrass myself here, but I'll admit it: The guy is my hero. I'm 21 years old, but I become a starry-eyed little kid again when it comes to Goku, I idolize him. Walk into my house and you'll see wall scrolls of him hanging all over the place, pictures of him drawn by me, you name it. It's not just his ability to kick major ass either, it's the way he continues to train and improve even though he is the most powerful being anyone knows of, and the way he remains humble in spite of that fact. It's the way he accepts and respects everyone and every situation for what it is, his just and trusting nature, his ability to inspire all he comes in contact with to greater heights, and his faith and ability to give anyone a second chance, and to turn them from the depths of evil to the furthest heights of honesty and goodness. He inspires me to all of those things, and to try and find that unlimited source of strength within myself that he seems to have.
And I love how Toriyama uses all the rest of the cast to support and clarify the main themes of the series. Kuririn shows that rivals can become the best of friends, Piccolo shows just how much someone can change for the better, and I have always seen Vegeta's place in the story as a reminder that pride and arrogance will always keep you one step below those whose minds are clear, pure and humble.
So, yes, Dragon Ball's theme and main character are the main reasons why I like the series, but there are of course, many others.
The aesthetic factor is a big, BIG consideration for me. I may have never even gotten interested in the series if it wasn't so engaging to simply look at, and I'm sure that many have become fans in the same way. I absolutely love everything about the way the series looks, feels (and in the case of the anime) sounds. The heroes, villains, clothing, architechture, EVERYTHING is so unique and well conceived, I could just stare at Toriyama's brilliant designs for hours. The Dragon Ball world is a fascinating mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Western influence, so incredibly distinctive overall, that it is unmistakable; all of it rendered in Toriyama's flowing, graceful art style. From Kami's palace, to the Tenkaichi battle arena, to Vegeta's samurai-like armor, to the eerie beauty of Freeza's 4th form, it's all just so incredibly unique and pleasing to look at.
And then there's the storyline, which is based on such a simple overall idea (guy meets stronger and stronger villains as guy gets stronger and stronger), but has such an epic scope at the same time. We literally follow Goku for most of his life, from early childhood to late adulthood, watch him gain and lose frieds, get married, have children (and grandchildren), and then watch THEM grow up and get married... it's just amazing, I can't think of anything else like it.
And the story goes in such unpredictable, creative, and exciting directions, you never know where it will take you next. Who could guess in those early Dragon Ball episodes that Goku was from a race of planet pirates, and that he would one day be fighting his brother to defend his adoptive homeworld? Or that the mysterious Trunks, who comes out of nowhere, is actually a warrior from the future who came back in time to save Goku's life, and who turns out to be the son of... (well, I won't spoil that one for those of you waiting for the NA version, heh heh!)
One thing I was careful to avoid mentioning in my list of complaints against DB is something that many fans and non-fans seem to have a problem with: that the series just goes on for far too long, and it gets boring and repetitive. I didn't say that this was something I disliked about DB because I don't think it's true. In fact, one of the series' greatest strengths in my eyes is that it went on for so long and still managed to be interesting. I did say that the pacing of the anime is pretty bad at times, but in an overall sense, there was not a single point in the series where I felt that it was going stale. I have always been amazed at how Toriyama was able to totally reinvent the story and give it a shot in the arm when it started to show signs of wearing out. The Super Saiyan thing, Trunks and all of that time travel stuff, Goten, the Fusion Dance, etc. Something, either new characters, a plot twist, whatever, would always come along to make things interesting and new again.
When I think about Toriyama ending the series at any one of the several places he had originally planned, I realize how much I would have missed out on, and am really glad he decided to continue. Even if he did keep going for "economic reasons," you can still see his heart and soul in the series all the way through, and that he is still interested in what he is doing. I don't care what anyone says, there was still a great deal of imagination and inventiveness in the series up to the very end, and I don't understand how people can say that it "got boring."
And last but definetely not least in my reasons for loving this series is that Dragon Ball is itself so humble, Toriyama could see that his creation had become astonishingly successful, but he never allowed it to start taking itself seriously. Sure, it became less comedic in an overall sense, but he never let it stop being lighthearted, silly, and fun to some degree. He just did whatever the heck he felt like, no idea was too outlandish, no plot twist inappropriate. Why not name every character after a food or a musical instrument? How about I give this guy 3 eyes for no other reason than because it looks cool? Or introduce a pro wrestler into the story? Or make the afterlife a parody of Buddhist and Christian imagery? A true artist is one who does not allow himself to stifle his own ideas in order to attain some level of "respect" from the public, and it's clear that Toriyama never came close to doing that. He did what he wanted to do, which was have fun, let loose with all of his creative ideas, and allow others to have fun with him.
Some accuse Dragon Ball of not being a great work of art because it is so campy and unrestrained. But the fact that it became so beloved, so able to invoke strong emotions, such a "serious" thing to so many people, while still remaining true to it's original, wacky, irreverent roots, is what makes it great in spite of itself, as far as I'm concerned.
I could go on, for quite a while in fact, and I know there's a lot of important stuff I'm forgetting here, but I'm satisfied that I touched on most of the main points of what it is about this series that I find so compelling and endearing. There are many things that I can't quite put into words anyway, but I suppose the very existence of this site says a lot by itself.
NEXT TIME: This site has been open for about three months now, and I've reached a transitional period. I want to take some time out to review how things have gone so far, where we should go from here, and a few other miscellaneous site-related topics.