Dragon Ball is once again at the forefront of my mind. Once something that felt like a nostalgic curiosity, now there is a Goku balloon at the Macy’s thanksgiving day parade. Ever since Dragon Ball Super ended earlier this year, I had been plagued by a nagging curiosity. While I did watch bits and pieces of Dragon Ball GT back in the day, It never gripped me in the same way Z did. It’s been a stark gap in my fandom of the franchise ever since.
With the Dragon Ball Super Broly movie on the cusp of coming out and the manga starting to tell the story that follows that, there’s no better time to go back and do a deep dive on Dragon Ball GT. With two different sequel series to Dragon Ball Z now available, it’s a unique change for me to compare and contrast the two series and see which exactly what better.
I had originally intended to watch each of the “sagas” and write about them in a single post. How did I decide on what these sagas were? I just used the Wikipedia page. The first of which is titled the Black Star Dragon Ball saga and runs from episode 1 to 16. As I started to write about these first chunk of episodes, and I realised the post just got longer and longer, I realised that this was going to have to be split up into multiple posts. Not just two or three, but five. So, welcome to the first day of Dragon Ball GT rematch week.
The Series’s Setup
As things kick off, I actually enjoy the setup premise to the series. Right away, we learn of the Black Star Dragon Balls and how a careless wish on them meant the Earth is suddenly in sanger of being magically destroyed by them. Creating a situation in which Goku and the gang need to travel the universe and collect Dragon Balls, it was obviously meant to hark back to the days of the original Dragon Ball. It was a return to the show being more about adventure and hi jinks than the battle shonen that is became during Dragon Ball Z.
Honestly, this seems like it was a risky hugely risky move on Toei’s part. Fans were coming off the back of Z expecting another high octane battle show. From watching these first handful of episodes, it is not that at all so far. Compared to Dragon Ball Super, which made any excuse to show of some kind of fight or super transformation in every episode, it starts with a much slower pace.
Like Dragon Ball, we have a kid Goku, a bratty teenage girl and a goofy sidekick with a marketable floating familiar off in search of Dragon Balls. Only this time, the scale is the entire universe, and there is a one year time limit. It recreates the events of original Dragon Ball while also giving some degree of peril to events, to actually force them to search out the Dragon Balls. But without using their regular Dragon Balls to assist in anyway. We’ll just ignore that little plot point.
Along with an adult Trunks, his granddaughter Pan and the little robot Giru they find along the way, Goku travels from planet to planet. With hi jinks and misadventure aplenty to be found along the way. It really does feel like an adventure show. The opening, Dan Dan Kokoro Hikareteku (which I really do like) shows this off really well, filled with beautiful visuals of alien landscapes and seems more fantasy than science fiction.
Again though, this is supposed to be a sequel to Dragon Ball Z, and for these first sixteen episodes, most of the main cast were absent from the majority of it. I was kind of excited by the concept of having Goten and Gohan accompany Goku and Trunks into space, as Goten especially never really got any growth in Z, nor Super for that matter. Alas, it was never meant to be, as the trio we get is already well documented.
It’s surprising how few of Dragon Ball’s extended cast even appear at this early stage. Vegeta (whose redesign for this series is terrible by the way) shows up in the first episode to drop some great Vegeta lines (“dating is for the weak”) and is not seen again after that. Vegeta, the guy who is basically the secondary protagonist in Super. It’s a bold move to be sure, but with the different tone and goals of this series, Vegeta would have been wildly out of place with the cast we already have.
In these first 16 episodes, the stories are mostly broken up into a handful of almost standalone plot lines. Each feature the gang’s exploits on a variety of planets, from their voyage getting off to a rocky start, their collection of the Dragon Balls after that and then the introduction of Dr. Myuu. This saga specifically feels like a slow burn leading towards introducing the series first major villain, who doesn’t become a known factor until around episode 9.
It mirrors the beginning of Majin Buu arc of Z, in which the first few episodes had more of a slice of life feel to them before the tournament went sideways. What makes it odd though, is despite the threat of the Earth being destroyed and the pressing time limit of finding the Dragon Balls, most of these episodes are very low stakes. While the heroes find themselves in some degree of mild peril from time to time, there is never any real danger, which contributes to the more adventurous tone.
Many of the situations they find themselves in could easily solved through brute force if they wanted to, but Trunks often brings up some reason or another not to go and beat up the problem in front of them.
Trunks even goes as far as to indirectly quote Star Trek’s prime directive, something that they eventually ignore anyway when they feel justified in just beating people up. It creates this strange contraction within the plot in which they are on this merry old adventure and feel okay simply wasting days on planets for the sake of playing nice with the locals. Despite the time constraint, it never really feels like an issue within the show itself.
It’s not until the Lord Luud story line kicks in towards the tail end of the arc that things start to feel engaging. Pan is turned into a doll and taken hostage by some weird monkey dude who is a also a massive creep. The Buu looking robot seems like the most dangerous opponent they’ve faced so far in the series, which isn’t saying much. But even then, the show struggles to inject any real tension into anything that happens.
Dragon Ball Super suffered a similar problem. Because it took place before the time skip at the end of Z, viewers knew things everything was going to be okay by the end. That being said, it still managed to invite tension and stakes more so than Gt does in these first episodes.
Most of the enemies they face feel trivial, it never feels like Goku has to put any genuine effort into a fight, rarely using Super Saiyan. It makes it slightly difficult to feel invested in the peril of the events when, for the most part, it feels like Goku is just dicking about. Goku’s character in GT is something I’ll be talking more about in the coming days though.
As this arc ends, the series does seem to be on an upward curve. So many fans became invested in the franchise through Z, which was a much more action orientated show. The slow and leisurely pace of GT feels like a step backwards, especially in comparison to Super, which was an escalation in all regards.
As this arc ends, Dr. Myuu feels like a genuine threat to the heroes. Who himself seems like an homage to Dr. Lychee from the Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans special. Things are just now starting to feel more like Z than original DB, so I feel like the tone going into the next arc is going to change.
Tomorrow I am going to talk about one of the most contentious things in GT and the thing that made me realise this topic was going to have to be spread out over the course of a week: Pan.
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