Way back before I started any of this, I had it in my mind that I’d take an objective look at Dragon Ball GT. I’d try to find the pearls of what made the show memorable, then compare and contrast them with the other shows in the franchise. Specifically Dragon Ball Super. After this week of talking about the Baby Saga, turns out things didn’t exactly work out that way.
In the end, these episodes of GT were so frustratingly written that my hand was forced, I couldn’t really do anything to compare them that didn’t further point out the show’s shortcomings. However, if there is one aspect of the show I did want to applaud, today would be the day to do it.
If there is one thing that Dragon Ball GT does well, it’s an eye for its art design. Thanks to the early parts of the show having more of a focus on adventure than action, it meant that we got to visit all manner of the unique planets and locations during the hunt for the Black Star Dragon Balls.
To actually compare GT to Super for once, the vast major of Super isn’t that much to look at when it comes to its environments. You’ve one barren planetoid with an arena in it, a ruined cityscape, and then a floating cone in a never ending void.
In comparison, there are some really unique and real clever uses of the environment throughout GT. Even its own ruined cityscapes have enough about them to make them iconic and immediately recognisable as being from the series. Like the image above.
Not only that, but GT manages to create shots of characters and the locales that effectively evoke the mood and tone of the series. During the reveal of Baby in Dr. Myuu’s lab, the lab is shot and lit in a away that makes everything feel grotesque and kind of creepy. There really are some Giger-esque approaches to this particular part of the series, before Baby grows and turns into a more generic Dragon Ball villain.
Even when that does happen though, there is a moodiness and tone to the environment that follows Baby wherever he goes. During his battle against Vegeta, when in control of Gohan’s body, the battle takes place on this overcast road, flanked by these disused windmills. The setting gives a grim sense of finality to the fight, seeing as it looks like a setting usually seen in something post-apocalyptic.
I wish my praise could continue from here. But that very battle between Gohan (Baby) and Vegeta ends up letting itself down in many of the same ways every fight in GT lets itself down. While actually one of the better fights of the arc, it ends up being slow, sluggish and ends on an anticlimax, as do almost all fights in this series.
Honestly, I can’t claim to understand the inner workings and process of making a show like this, especially one made in the 90s. But GT consistently comes across as a series that bites off more than it can chew from an animation standpoint.
Great fight scenes can make or break Shonen anime. This year alone we’ve seen Demon Slayer and Mob Psycho 100 provide us with some of the most breathtakingly amazing action sequences I’ve seen. Yet, at the same time, we’ve got a second series of One Punch Man that lacks any of the weight, intensity or scale of the first series. And because of that, my enthusiasm for it has just drained away as if thrown in a sieve.
So I’ll pose this question to myself:
If GT had amazing fight animation, would I have forgiven a lot of its flaws? Answer: Absolutely. Dragon Ball Super is a very flawed show, the further I get away from, the more I realise that. The thing is, even now, I feel like all those flaws with the show can be forgiven based on how good those last handful of episodes looked.
Hell, the final sequence between Goku, Freeza, #17 and Jiren alone made up for a lot of Super’s shortcomings by itself. Because, when it comes down to it; I’m a Dragon Ball mark. So by that same logic, had GT been peppered with moments like Goku’s final Ultra Instinct battle or Goku and Freeza finally knocking Jiren off the arena, I’d have loved it.
But there isn’t anything to love about the fight sequences in GT. They are scenes peppered with great ideas and powerful individual shots thanks to the show’s strong art direction, but overall, the fights lack the impact and hype that you really want from a Shonen action sequence.
One of the words I keep using to describe the action in GT is “sluggish”. Because this is the best way to describe the pace of the action in this show. Despite how insanely strong and fast the series has portrayed its characters in the past, there is never any sense of this during fights in GT.
Moves seem to happen in slow motion, characters hang motionless in the air for a couple of seconds between hits, larger scale changes in the environment, such as during the battle with Rildo literally look like slide shows, slowly transitioning between three or four static images rather than it being a single fluid, animation. Like the title suggests, there is a feel that everything takes place within a vat of molasses.
It’s difficult to feel hyped up and excited about a battle when the series itself fails to imbue it with any sense of weight, urgency or importance. It’s not helped at all by the Dub’s terrible soundtrack that robs any and all moments of any drama or excitement and replacing it with a monotone droning.
Conclusions about Conclusions and a Conclusion
As if to cap off the many problems I have with the fights in GT, I want to finish with my dismay at the series having no idea how to end a fight with any degree of satisfaction. Something I’ve pointed out more than once this week. But ending a fight in this genre should be a crescendo, a final release that makes you want to get on your feet and punch the air.
All Might’s “United States of Smash”, Goku flickering in and our of Super Saiyan along with Freeza as they manage to defeat Jiren, Trunks cutting Zamasu in half. Super, for its issues, knew how to end a fight with a moment you remember. GT by comparison, I don’t remember how any their big fights ended. Because each and every one ended with a whimper rather than a bang.
General Rildo, for all his build-up, ends up getting forgotten in the mix after Baby is released. Subsequently, their defeat of him feels like an afterthought as he tries to prevent the gang from fleeing the planet. Even Baby, the main villain of the series so far, is defeated with a simple, no drama, Kamehameha in which he just falls into a hole and Goku blasts his tail off. Even when Goku blasts him into the sun when he tries to escape, it just feels like something a matter-of-fact. It’s a waste.
So, unlike Dragon Ball GT, I’ll try to end this week long series with something a little more substantial.
Dragon Ball GT is a bad show. I’ve decided that now I’ve seen more than half of it. However, it one with many redeeming qualities. Almost all of which come down to choices in art direction, design choices and the creation of a new transformation whose legacy far outweighs the quality of the show itself.
The sad thing is, when the show transitioned from focusing on wacky antics to a series action show, it suffered greatly for it. However, with only a few minor tweaks to pretty much every aspect of the show, it could have been so, so much better. GT is an absolute treasure trove of potential, which is probably why Super Dragon Ball Heroes gets so much mileage from it, and it in essence the spiritual successor to GT.
I’ll continue to this series in the future and see Dragon Ball GT through to the end. But I feel that this arc was the most important and iconic to the series, and it’s just galling to see how close it could have been to something great had the people behind it had a more united vision.
This is a part of a week long series in which I complain about Dragon Ball GT, if you want to read the other parts, the links are below:
Black Star Dragon Ball Saga:
Day 5: Animation and Battles