Features

Reggie’s Love Affair with the Dragon Ball Franchise

Readers: “Reggie, come on! This is a blatant stretch, masking this article as gaming related just because of a few beat em up titles”

Reggie: “Kaaaaa….meeeee…..haaaaa…meeee”

The Beginning of the Rest of my Life

On March 5th 2000, a round, yet anxious 12-year-old discovered ‘Dragon Ball Z’. DBZ provided this writer and his school friends a gentle come-down effect from the hype train that was (and still is) ‘Pokémon’. With a month’s worth of build-up, seeing anime fighters shooting energy beams from their hands and flying in the air was way cooler than ANYTHING at the time. Readers may forget that most people were dealing with 56k/128k dial up internet connections in 2000, and most news / hands on experience came in the form of magazines, demos and hoping a Sky channel would pick it up.

Toonami and Cartoon Network are solely responsible for one of this writer’s most passionate fandoms. From the first look of Radditz, right the way to Goku’s Goodbye Salute at the end of Z, Dragon Ball doesn’t just show fans how to power up for a super long time, it teaches morale values and that failure leads to success. The UK release schedule however was a pain. Due to rights issues, the re-dubbing of the original Ocean dub (“Kuuuukuurrriiiiinnnnn”) and the shear amount of filler between the Namek Saga and Android saga, this fan boy’s enthusiasm for the series almost ran out.

Then, out of nowhere, Toonami adverts started to roll for the next instalment of DBZ. The android saga introduced UK fans to SSJ Vegeta, time travel and forms above the vanilla Super Saiyan state. It was mind blowing! By this time, DBZ specials and Movies were beginning to air on weekends which whilst non-canon, were epic none the less.

By the time the world tournament and Majin Buu sagas were airing on the newly established Toonami / CNX with other hit anime such as ‘Cowboy Bebop’, ‘Tenchi Muyo’ and ‘Gundam Wing’, the UK was blessed with Broadband connections. This lead to an explosion of fan websites on platforms such as Geocities and fan-made FMV’s of Dragon Ball clips timed to Nu-Metal, An abnormal hunger for DBZ Gif. Files and most importantly, Japanese subbed episodes and movies that hadn’t aired yet.

Whilst one is against piracy, Funimation surely couldn’t blame fans for wanting to watch ahead of their current region due to endless delays and the most ridiculous release record of a series to date. How the hell did Spain get dubs before us!?

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The Rise of the ROM Nerd

Broadband connections also allowed die-hard fans to get hold of region exclusive Dragon Ball Z games such as 1993s ‘Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiya Densetsu’ on the Super Famicom in Japan. This is actually the third entry in the ‘Gokuden Series’ of games and a solid remaster of the first two titles: ‘Dragon Ball Z: Kyōshū! Saiyan’ and ‘Dragon Ball Z II: Gekishin Freeza’. Bandai actually had the brains to cut filler content that wasn’t needed to create a streamlined narrative and gameplay experience.

Based on a card battling system, players made their way through key plot points in a sandbox Earth and Namek whilst encountering random battles with Saibamen, Freezas henchmen and relevant villains of said arcs. On each turn, a card would be pulled which would represent various attacks and defenses. Just imagine the potential of this engine on current gen hardware. Move over, Jump Force!

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Whilst I’m sure readers and Reggie Reviews very own Mikein2D can vouch for the fact that fan translations of these titles were incredibly poor. With no local release on the horizon, myself and my friends persevered and created a cognitive FAQ between ourselves. Bandai Namco began to realise the potential market for Dragon Ball based titles in the west, bringing the series to the gamer mainstream in 2002 with ‘Dragon Ball Z: Budokai’. Whilst some would argue that the Playstation 1 release ‘DragonBall: Final Bout’ paved the way for the Budokai and Tenkaichi series of fighters, Budokai 1 put Dragon Ball games on the map.

The Budokai series would take three installments before a masterpiece was born in November 2004: ‘Dragon Ball Budokai 3’. Regarded by most as the definitive Dragon Ball game, Budokai 3 drew from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon ball GT and their specials / films to fill its total roster of 42 characters (not including various transformations). One will leave the rest to Mikein2D in his retro review for the title.

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Dokkan Dokkan!

And then… silence. No more arcs to pour over, no more special or movies and a s**te live action film. Bar game releases such as ‘Infinite World’, ‘Budokai Tenkaichi 3’ and ‘Raging Blast 2’, the latter half of 2000’s was a pretty empty time to get into the franchise. At one point, this writer thought ‘Dragon Ball GT’ was good. As this writer started to re-read his Dragon Ball Z complete manga box, appreciating the original flow and scenes of the almighty Toriyama, something magical happened. on April 5th 2009, ‘Dragon Ball Kai’ was released!

Never one to shy away from subtitled content, this writer sat in complete awe as he watched his beloved ‘Dragon Ball Z’ arcs flowing true to the Akira Toriyama manga. Later known as ‘Dragon Ball Z Kai’ in it’s western dubbed release, the series remastered the original film frame by frame and even re-animated corrupt parts of film. The best part of this new release? No filler! Setting a trend for the anime world, Dragon Ball Kai cut any additional content Toei Animation added whilst waiting for the latest Manga to release. Seeing Bulma, Gohan and Krillin travel to Namek in two episodes nearly brought me to tears. This is something the entire community have been asking for.

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Then, Dragon Ball Kai was brought to an abrupt end following the Cell Games saga. Whilst composer Kenji Yamamoto took the brunt of the blame by plagiarising portions of the DB Kai soundtrack from well known films such as Avatar, it just didn’t provide the jump-start the franchise needed in Japan. Whilst also factoring in the devastation of the 2011 Earthquake in Japan, Toei animation decided to end the series in a massive blow to fans; the evnets leaving this writer yearning for a complete product.

News later surfaced that the original Japanese voice cast were back in the studio, recording for the Kai Kid Buu saga in 2012, thanks to Krillin’s voice actor Mayumi Tanaka. Oddly enough, this was to target western audiences only and didn’t air in Japan. This would have obviously been due to the success of the series over the pond, compared to its lackluster performance on its home turf. The series would be known as ‘Dragon Ball Kai: The Final Chapters’.

A New Beginning

From 2013 onwards, one felt the excitement for the franchise one felt as a Schoolboy. 2013 saw the return of the Z Fighters (so, Goku and Vegeta by this point?) take on the God of Destruction in ‘Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods’. This DB nerd has never been so aroused by the franchise in witnessing a new transformation: Super Saiyan God. That’s right, the first cannon Dragon Ball film where Goku has the literal power of the Gods. The 2015 follow up ‘Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of F’ gifted us with even more transformations in ‘Golden Freeza’ and ‘Super Saiyan Blue’ (Originally known as Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan… for f**k sake).

It was obvious that Toei animation was building up to something big with the Dragon Ball franchise, especially after acquiring 20th Century Fox’s distributing buff in the West, resulting in cinema releases in the UK. Surely they wouldn’t do another TV series after axing Kai 2/3 of the way through? Then, this fans dream came f*****g true!

 

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The first two story arcs of Dragon Ball Super cover the lastest two cinematic releases, ‘Battle of the Gods’ and ‘Resurrection of F’, which one found to be a bit of a cop-out but entertaining all the same. Then, Super began to grow into its own and be a true contender for one of the best Dragon Ball series to date in this ‘ballers’ opinion (baller? Yes? No? [Ed: No]).

With some awesome plot twists in Future Trunks return, Goku Blacks true origin and the possibly one of the best animated and written ARCs in anime history in The Tournament of Power saga, this writer was blown away by the presence this series had. With that being said, there are some pseudo-filler episodes with some terrible drawing on display. This is for literally for a handful of episodes, even Dragon Ball Z was guilty of that.

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The present day

As a Dragon Ball fan, one is incredibly happy with the amount of new (ish) content at my fingertips. ‘Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’ is a masterpiece in itself, ‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ has answered the call for a competitive Dragon Ball fighter, a Dragon Ball Heroes miniseries is currently airing (Crap), ‘Jump Force’ is looking incredible and we have a new film to look forward to at the end of the year…

Broly is finally becoming cannon! Akira Toriyama has addressed the character’s popularity over the years and decided to give him the treatment he deserves.

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The future is looking as bright as my nostalgia for the ever-expanding Dragon Ball series. With no end in sight, this writer can put money on a new Dragon Ball Super ARC following Broly and who knows what else!

 

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