The State of DBZ in America, Part 1
As Dragon Ball Z's third year in the US begins, the fans are a little... restless. Not to mention confused. It seems that everyone is asking the same questions, and the answers just aren't available. Then anxiety, wishful thinking, and misinformation take over, and rumors begin to spread, leaving everyone more confused and frustrated than ever. As usual, FUNimation is doing little to remedy the situation. The latest, long overdue, update of their badly mismanaged and underinformative web site is sketchy at best as far as real, useful news and information is concerned, and isn't nearly as satisfying as many were waiting for. The "answers" given only lead to more questions, and the frustration continues.

Many people have come to me with their concerns, and I see the same questions being posted over and over again to web sites and newsgroups. And so, I've decided to dedicate this editorial to the subject of Dragon Ball Z's past, present, and future in the States, in an attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions, and make at least a little sense out of the madness. Part 1 of this editorial will deal with the status of DBZ as of this Fall, including some news about the third season. Part 2 (which I'll put up within the next two weeks or so) will deal with several very important late-breaking revelations and news items relating to the troubled existence of our favorite show.

Unless you've been living under a rock since August, you know that DBZ now appears on Cartoon Network, that's the good news. The bad news is that it appears on Cartoon Network, and nowhere else. Those of you who watched the show in syndication got a rude awakening this fall when it suddenly disappeared from the airwaves without a trace. Many angry viewers thought it was a personal decision by their individual TV stations, but what really happened is much more fundamental: Saban, the company that syndicated DBZ across the country, got out of the syndication business, leaving FUNimation without a distributor for their show. The ball was fumbled, but luckily, Cartoon Network came along to pick it up.

And, since we're on the subject, I thought I'd say a few words about how they're doing. First of all, as with all shows placed in the "Toonami" programming block, the original openings and eyecatches** are replaced with new ones, custom made by Cartoon Network. In most instances, this really bothers me, since I think that the overall presentation of any show is very important, including these seemingly insignificant segments. But in this particular case, I am all for it. We don't have to listen to "Rock the Dragon" anymore! What they're using now is cool, although still far from what I would call an opening deserving of DBZ, but it sure is a whole hell of a lot better than FUNimation's. And the eyecatches are just damned nifty! They take little clips and dialogue excerpts and show them out of context, often with clever and/or hilarious results. Freeza: "Having these balls makes me feel something that resembles joy... I want to caress them!" I almost fell off the couch.

And then there's the time slot. How many of you had to wake up at 6 a.m. Sunday mornings to watch DBZ when it was on in syndication? A whole bunch of folks, from what I gather. But now... who could ask for anything better than 5 p.m. EVERY WEEKNIGHT? That's only an hour earlier than when it was shown in Japan! If Sailor Moon proved anything, it's that even the best show desperately needs a good time slot to become a success. SM was struggling in syndication, going through the cancellation/second chance/cancelled again grinder for two years, but now that it's being shown in the choice 4 p.m. slot, it is finally getting the unprecedented attention and ratings that the fans have been swearing it would if given half a chance. The popularity of Sailor Moon has actually shocked CN execs, they had no idea it was going to be this big. Call it wishful thinking, but I have a feeling we're about to see the same thing happen with DBZ, perhaps to an even greater extent.

And ratings success will have a profound effect on the future. Not only will we be assured of new episodes for many seasons to come, but perhaps even a return to broadcast television. And this time on nationally-blanketing network TV, without the limitations of syndication or cable. For those of you who don't have Cartoon Network, all is not lost. DBZ may again see the light of day on "free TV" at some point.

Ah yes, and Cartoon Network aired the "lost" English Episode 10, and I'll get to that comparison in the coming weeks. By the way, thanks to everyone who e-mailed me letting me know that it was indeed shown, all 200 of you! (Jeez, people, do you think that a guy like me wouldn't be watching for it with baited breath??)

The next Big Issue at the top of everyone's mind is, of course, "Is there going to be a third season, and if so, when will the new episodes be shown?" Reports on the amount of episodes CN actually bought range from the first two seasons (53 episodes), to seasons one and two, plus a partial season 3 (60 episodes), to the now disproven rumor of a full seasons one, two, and three (82 episodes.) At this point, sadly enough, I have no choice but to believe the second option. The following is an excerpt from FUNimation's recently added FAQ:

Q: Will you make new episodes?

A: The issue is that we require broadcasters, such as Cartoon Network, to order new episodes so that we can afford to make them. It is very expensive to make each new episode of the series.

That's not very specific. It doesn't say "we have not gone beyond episode 53." While not confirming anything, it hints. But consider this, part of a message sent to me by Adrian Saavedra, who received a VERY interesting e-mail from FUNimation:

Q: Even though your FAQ clearly states that no new episodes of DBZ will be shown, the Cartoon Network keeps telling me they have episodes 1-60. What does that mean? FUNimation only made 53 shows, but Cartoon Network says they will show 60. Who's right?

A: I don't know where Cartoon Network gets 60. They will show our 53 episodes plus the 3 movies. (The Tree of Might, The World's Strongest, and Dead Zone). I think Cartoon Network is trying to break the movies down into episodes in their # of 60.

So, that's it. Season 3 is not going to be happening, at least for now, and we have it straight from the horse's mouth. I felt this was important to point out because you'd be surprised how many people out there are just assuming that new episodes will be shown starting November 12th. Most of this is no doubt due to the report on Suushinchuu: Latest News, which states that Cartoon Network bought 82 episodes from FUNimation. This obviously isn't the case, since we're hearing directly from FUNimation themselves that not only has CN not bought the rights to anything beyond what has been released, but that new episodes haven't even been produced yet. I'm not sure who Wuken's source was, but he or she was obviously mistaken. It's too bad that so many read about this "82 episode deal" and took it as gospel. There's going to be a lot of disappointed (not to mention livid) fans come November 12th, the day the nonexistent episode 54 would have aired. (And incidentally, I am not blaming Wuken for the disinformation in any way- he just reported what he was told.) I for one am more than a little peeved about it; I'm familiar enough with "promises" to have been cautiously skeptical about the third season news from the very beginning, but there was, of course, that part of me that was hoping. It seemed too good to be true, and it was.

So bad news about season 3, but let's back up before I forget about that other little detail: According to the answer, "Dead Zone" and "World's Strongest" will be shown on Cartoon Network! A 3-episode butchered, rescored TV version of "Tree of Might" was produced and shown during season 2, but the other two movies were released to video only. I guess this means that now they will be broadcast as well. Interesting! I certainly didn't see that coming. Will they be edited, or will Cartoon Network let them be shown as-is ("Hell," "Die," peeing and all)? Will the background music be changed, or will the general public get their first taste of the original score? How about the inserted songs "Tenkaichi no Gohan" and "Piccolo-san Daisuki"? Remember, even in the dubbed videos, these songs went unchanged from the original versions. Wouldn't it be insane to witness Masako Nozawa's voice being beamed all over the country! Anyway, they will most likely be split into two episodes each (53 episodes plus 3 for Tree of Might plus 2 for Dead Zone and 2 for World's Strongest equals 60.) I'll definetely be keeping my eye out for the CN airings of these movies.

But aside from that minor bit of good news, there really isn't anything to be too happy about. We, the fans, have been disappointed once again. I'm just hoping that this editorial can be read by a good number of the fans before the fateful Thursday comes and rabid viewers start killing their families in sheer frustration. I just wanted to be here to soften the blow, because most people do indeed think that the third season is just around the corner. Sure, it's possible that all my sources are wrong and new episodes will indeed start next Thursday, but given the current situation, I would be very surprised if they did.

NEXT TIME: Part 2 of this editorial, which will focus on some recent developments, and a bombshell which was dropped that will forever change the way I look at FUNimation's involvement with the U.S. production. Stay tuned!

** - "eyecatch" is an industry word for the "we'll be right back" and "now back to our show" blurbs that they play as an intro/outro to commercials. So now that you know the word, use it! Not enough people do, and it's a lot easier and faster than fumbling around and saying "You know... um... those things that they put at the beginning and end of commercials"

Isn't English fun? We can come up with a word for just about everything.

 Past Editorials